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Top Tips For Dyeing Your Natural Hair At Home

by Shellie Reneé

May 2022

Here’s a true confession — throughout basically my entire 20s, I don’t think I went three months straight without changing my hair colour. And although the variety was a lot of fun, like most things in life, when I see all that I was doing to my tresses in hindsight…I really should’ve put more forethought into it.

The main reason why I didn’t (besides free-spirited youthfulness, that is) is because my hair was pretty short. I basically would relax it, color it and then lay it down with gel to create this uber sexy sleek look.

Only, once I decided to go natural (again), there were tiny parts of the side of my hair that were thinner than they used to be, I had grey hair coming in faster than it was supposed to — and now when I decide to either use a semi-permanent or ammonia-free colour, I notice that my hair needs way more TLC than it ever did — and yes, all of this is tied into constantly colour-treating my hair.

All this to say that y’all, there really is a reason why leaving certain things up to the professionals (along with giving your hair a break from chemicals) is a really good idea.

Still, if it’s due to time, finances, convenience or all of the above, you decide to colour your hair at home anyway, here are some tips that I hope you will apply, each and every time that you do.

Go with a Brand That Contains No Ammonia

Again, back when I was out here throwing complete and total caution to the wind, I didn’t read the packaging that my hair dye came in; so long as it was the colour that I was after, that’s all that I cared about.

However, please don’t follow my lead. When you want to dye your own locks, make sure to go with a brand that said that it’s ammonia-free. Not only is it less drying, the pH balance of it isn’t as extreme as the kinds that contain ammonia (which means your scalp and hair will be better at maintaining its growth).

Plus, a lot of ammonia-free dyes also contain oils and conditioners that will help to replenish any moisture your hair may have lost during the colouring process. It’s a win all the way around. Trust me.

Shampoo and Deep Condition Your Hair the Week Before

If you want to make sure that your strands take advantage of all that your colour-in-a-box has to offer, there needs to be as little product and residue on it as possible.

You can make this happen by shampooing and deep conditioning your hair about 5-7 days prior to when you plan on colouring your hair.

As far as this point goes, put a huge emphasis on “deep conditioning” because your hair needs to absorb as much moisture as possible before you colour-treat it. This requires getting a great deep conditioner and leaving the conditioner on your freshly washed hair for now less than 30 minutes (if you can manage to go a couple of hours, even better).

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Also, make sure that the week in between washing and colour, you use as little product as possible. Otherwise, it kind of defeats the process of this step.

Only Dye the Parts of Your Hair That Truly Needs It

One of the main reasons why seeing a professional is a really good idea is because, while it can be easy to colour your own hair the first go-around, the touch-ups can get a bit tricky (because it can be hard to create demarcation lines around your entire head).

That’s why, if you’re just looking to touch up your roots, you might want to get the help of a friend, so that they can see what exactly needs coverage.

Otherwise, if you are permanently dyeing your hair, you could end up over-processing it which could definitely lead to irrevocable damage (and yeah, that’s not good).

Get a Protein Treatment No Less than Two Weeks After Dyeing

Listen, I’ll be the first one to raise my hand in this class and say that, to this day, I am guilty of not getting as many protein treatments as I probably should (hair professionals recommend every 4-6 weeks, for the most part).

What are some signs that you need one? If your hair has a “gummy” texture, if it has a problem holding a shape or style, if it seems to have lost some of its elasticity, is high porosity or you’ve recently coloured-treated your hair — you need one.

The reason why is because protein treatments help to replenish your hair with nutrients and, of course protein, so that your hair remains strong (since it’s made up of mostly protein, after all).

Just make sure that you wait at least a week after dyeing and no longer than two to give yourself one, so that you can stay on top of any damage your hair colour may be trying to do.

Use Colour-Preserving Products

It’s not uncommon for hair colour to fade after several weeks (especially when you opt to use box colour). One way to prevent that from happening is to invest in a few colour preserving products.

Oh, and if you’d prefer to go the au naturel route, cedarwood is an essential oil that can also help to protect your hair colour while keeping your strands strong and moisturized too.

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Remember That, More Times than Not, the Picture on the Box Lies to You

Listen, if you don’t get anything else out of what I said, please get this — 8 times out of 10 (especially if you want to go several steps lighter with your hair), the end result that you see with the model on the box is absolutely not what’s going to happen with your hair, if you only use the items that are inside of the packaging.

That’s because, in order to get our natural hair lighter, oftentimes a bleaching process has to occur in order to strip the pigment, so that lighter colours can take. While you could attempt this at home (check out this video, this video and this video, along with someone who claims to not have coloured her hair with bleach on this video), if you are super serious about avoiding hair damage and keeping some length, you should really consider going with my final suggestion.

What Requires a Professional, See a Professional

There’s a reason why people spend roughly 1500 hours in order to get their cosmetology license and a part of it is so they can do things like colour hair without damaging it in the process.

So, if you want a dramatic colour change, chunky strands or colour or a lot of highlights, while on the front end, it might seem like doing it at home will save you more money, it might not save you very much grief if you notice more of your hair coming out while you’re styling it or even during your next couple of wash days.

Remember, as strong as your hair is, it is also very fragile, so it must be handled with extreme care. This means that when there is something that you want to do that appears to require a professional — it probably does. Please don’t underestimate that. OK?