I’ve been bleaching and dyeing my hair for five years now so I’m pretty much an expert when it comes to making color last. I think most people are under the impression that colored hair is permanent and it peeves me when people comment on how my hair has faded, has changed or is a different shade of this and that. You guys— I KNOW (I have eyes and a mirror) and THAT’S HOW IT WORKS.
REAL TALK: your hair color won’t last forever, especially if you dye it with fun, fashion colors that are usually achieved with semi-permanent dyes like Special Effects, Adore, Crazy Color, Pravana, Manic Panic, Directions etc etc. However, there are steps you can take to keep it vibrant for as long as possible before it eventually fades into 50 shades of What the F is That?
Here are some tried-and-tested ways you can maintain and keep brightly colored hair beautiful:
Bleach your hair
Semi-permanent dyes won’t work on unbleached or unprocessed hair. It’ll just simply wash off. How light your hair needs to be before dyeing ultimately depends on what you’re aiming for: pastel colors need a very light base while a dark blonde or lightest brown base can work for darker shades.
Keep your hair healthy
Damaged hair doesn’t hold color, so it’s very important that you don’t go crazy with the bleach. I know someone who would use Vol 60 developer on her hair (I didn’t even know they made developer past Vol 40!) and then wonder why the dye wouldn’t take. That’s because her hair has been bleached to the point that it’s too porous to keep color molecules in!
Avoiding heat (blowers, curlers, straighteners) also helps keep damage at bay. I only started heat styling my hair this year and I’ve noticed that my ends fade faster. If you can’t not curl or straighten your hair, a good heat protectant helps.
Wash with cold water
It’s pretty simple: Hot water opens hair’s outer cuticles, rinsing out the dye. Cold water keeps the cuticles closed and the color locked in, making it last longer.
I know what a hassle cold showers are, especially in the mornings. What I do is condition and rinse my hair with cold water under a faucet before throwing on a shower cap to take a hot shower.
The sulfates in shampoo strip your hair off of everything— dirt and grime, products, oil, and yep, dye. I only shampoo twice a week, max (unless I’m intentionally trying to fade it). When I wash my hair, I use a color-safe and sulfate-free shampoo and keep it to my roots and just let the suds flow over the ends during rinsing.
Think twice about diving head first into chlorinated pools or the ocean if you’re trying to make your color last.
I went swimming a couple of days after I dyed my hair with Adore African Violet and Manic Panic Enchanted Forest. I tried my best to avoid jumping in the pool but I couldn’t resist; once I was in, I made an effort to keep my head above water but that’s just not a good life to live. I ended up spending hours in the pool and my hair turned into a faded, splotchy mess after. Bummer. It wasn’t a big deal, though, because it’s just hair.
Add dye to your conditioner
Mixing in a bit of dye into your conditioner means you top up/refresh your color every time you condition. Of course, this won’t work if you have more than one color on your head.
Accept that some brands or colors just fade faster than others
When I first started dyeing my hair, I avoided using Manic Panic because I had read less than stellar reviews. I decided to give them a shot after a couple of years and tried Mystic Heather; sure enough, that didn’t last very long. However, Enchanted Forest was a rich green/teal that stayed the same shade after the initial fade caused by swimming.
Reds and some pinks are notorious for staying forever and staining (Special Effects Atomic Pink is almost permanent). The same goes for blue. I had to endure mint green hair after dyeing my hair with Crazy Color Peacock Blue and Sky Blue! There are exceptions, of course, like Adore— Blue Black and African Violet weren’t as long-lasting as Special Effects and Crazy Color.
Pastels tend to fade faster because they’re technically diluted/faded to begin with. Instead of buying pastels or light colors, I recommend diluting dark colors with white conditioner to get the shade you want. You’ll also save money because you get gallons out of a bottle.