10 things to know before you color your hair a bright color!

The first time I ever colored my hair was in fourth grade. I had a babysitter who was in hair school and decided she was going to practice doing highlights in my hair (with my mother’s permission, of course!). She gave me big chunky highlights, similar to Kelly Clarkson, circa 2002. The highlights looked so bad, my mother took me the next weekend to have my hair colored back to my natural color, dark brown. Over the next few years, I had my hair professionally colored in various shades of brown and occasionally some caramel highlights, but it wasn’t until my eighth grade year that I figured out what I really loved — drastic change.
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My mom let me color my dark brown hair a natural red, similar to Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls. The attention I got was tremendous. I loved it! It was then that I started changing my hairstyle in drastic ways. I would dye it all black, put a huge blonde stripe in the middle, bleach only my bangs, or cut off 10 inches. I started to experiment with unnatural colors when I was 15. I bought some very semi-permanent dye from Walgreens and colored my bangs a firetruck red. And here, my obsession was born…

It’s been more than ten years since those bright red bangs, and I think I’ve had an unnatural color in some part of my hair ever since. Over the years, I’ve learned some important things about coloring your hair unnatural colors. Some were learned from trial and error (BIG ERRORS IN SOME CASES!), and some were taught to me by my aunt and my best friend of ten years who are stylists.

The following list is by no means meant to turn anyone away from coloring their hair. I love having brightly colored hair, and I think everyone should do it at least once. My goal is to provide you with the little bits of information that you won’t find on Pinterest.  I am not a professional stylist in any way, but here are some things I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way!) in the 10 years I’ve been coloring my hair unnatural colors:

1. You’re probably going to have to bleach your hair.
4Unless your hair is naturally platinum blonde, chances are you’re going to have to bleach it. Most unnatural colors are semi-permanent, which means they will not lift the color of your hair any lighter than it currently is. It’s only depositing color. So if you try to put purple semi-permanent dye over your dark brown hair, it will not work. Your hair needs to be very light in order for it to show up and stand out. Pastel colors are very popular right now. In order for you to achieve a really nice and true pastel color, your hair needs to be as light as possible. Any hint of yellow that can be masked with a darker color, is going to tinge a pastel color. This can require that you bleach your hair multiple times, sometimes causing a lot of damage.

2. This is going to be a process. It won’t happen overnight.5
Bleaching is extremely damaging, therefore, your hair needs to be in the best possible condition. Because of the damage caused by bleaching, you’re going to have to be prepared for it take a while. You may have to bleach it a few times (waiting a while in between sessions!) before it is the right shade of blonde. This is very hard on your hair. I would suggest that you stop flat-ironing it, or curling it a few weeks to a few months in advance. Use good conditioners and stop coloring it for a few months before you want to start the process of bleaching it. The healthier your hair is, the less dead ends you’ll have to cut off after bleaching it.

3. Have a professional bleach your hair for you.
I highly recommend going to a professional to have your hair bleached, whether you’re wanting your whole head bleached or just a small chunk. I was fortunate enough to have an aunt who would bleach it for me when I was in high school, but after learning some things from her, I started bleaching it myself. I can’t tell you the number of times I totally destroyed my hair. The bleach damaged my hair so badly that it would completely break off a few inches from my scalp or feel gummy and stretchy–NOT what hair is supposed to feel like. If you’re comfortable enough with doing the semi-permanent colors yourself, then go for it. I always do mine myself. And after you do it a few times, you get the hang of it and you won’t always end up with purple ears and a pink neck. With the growing popularity of unnatural hair, I think a lot more salons are offering a selection of colors. So if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, have a professional do it for you.

4. Invest in some awesome (and sometimes expensive) products.
Once you’ve bleached it, and even colored it, you’re also going to have to be gentle with it. You’re going to need to use special products and shampoos to help heal your hair and make it healthy again. Ask anyone I’ve gone on vacation with. I have an entire bag dedicated to hair products because I am not as willing to cut my hair as some people are. If you’re okay with cutting off the “dead” parts of your hair after you’ve bleached it, then by all means, do so. It will definitely make your hair healthier and the color will last longer. If you’re not so willing to cut off the bad parts, definitely invest in some nice products. They may be expensive, but trust me, it’s worth it in the end.

5. It’s going to fade.10
Once your hair is bleached and you’ve colored it, you’ll have to be prepared for upkeep. It’s not going to stay that perfect shade of purple or blue. Depending on what color you choose to go with, you may have to color it every other week. Some colors fade and still look nice, but some colors fade and look terrible. I had fire truck red hair that faded to a really ugly coppery orange that I had to color every other week. But, I once used a purple that faded to look like I had purple to pink ombre hair. It was really pretty, but it wasn’t what I wanted, so I ended up coloring it once a month.

6. Wash your hair in cold water.
How do you feel about cold showers? Washing your hair in cold water is one of the best tricks I’ve discovered to slowing the fading process. I don’t know the reason behind why it works, all I know is it could honestly be the worst part about having unnaturally colored hair. But again, it’s totally worth it.

7. Some colors will never come out.
Okay, so maybe not “never.” But certain colors just never seem to come out. It will fade and won’t be that great shade that you had when you first colored it, but it hangs on and turns a horrendous color. You’ll end up with a weird shade of green, or a faint pink tinge. Unfortunately, the only way I’ve discovered to getting rid of this is to either have it bleached again or put a darker color over it. I refused to color my hair dark again now that I’ve gotten it blonde, so I’ve tried many, many different ways to get rid of the color. I’ve tried using dandruff shampoo, and Dawn dish soap mixed with baking soda. I’ve even crushed up Vitamin C tablets in my shampoo. While this does fade the color some, I’ve found that it mostly just dries my hair out really bad, leaving me with crunchy seafoam green hair.

8. Prepare for color to get literally everywhere.14
There’s no way to avoid it. Color is going to get everywhere. For me, because I do my own color at home, it’s all over my sink. I have an old towel that showcases each and every color I’ve ever colored my hair with its stains. I’ve also learned that black towels are the best investment. When you first color your hair, the first time you shampoo it will inevitably be a mess. (Make sure to use gloves for a week or so!) My poor shower has been every color of the rainbow, but thankfully, there is this amazing thing called bleach that they put in shower cleaners. DEFINITELY INVEST IN THIS. I find the Clorox Bleach Gel Cleaner does the best job of getting the color off the tile and the Clorox bleach pens work wonders on the grout. Not only does color get on your shower, but also your pillowcases, hands, neck, and I’ve even stained the neck of a few light colored shirts. There’s just no way to avoid it: unnatural hair colors bleed. Everywhere.

9. You’re going to get a lot of attention, and some of it isn’t so nice. As I mentioned earlier, when I first started coloring my hair I liked all of the attention I rece16ived with drastic changes I made. People comment on my hair at least once a day. Sometimes, my friends will take bets on how many people will say something that day. (The other day I was shopping and five people talked to me about it!) With that being said, most of the time it’s positive. “I love your hair color!” “Wow! Great hair!” But sometimes people do say things that aren’t that nice. Someone will make a joke like, “Did your hair dresser mess up?” And I usually just respond with a laugh and say something like, “Ya know, I went in asking for brown! I don’t know what happened!” Maybe that person was just trying to be funny, and not in any way cruel, but sometimes it doesn’t come off that way. I’ve always been the type of person that doesn’t really care what people think about me. I am unique and I love that about myself.

10. Use your colorful hair as a learning opportunity.
As much as the negative comments can sting, the positive comments are really what 9make it worth it. I love nothing more than hearing a little kid say, “Mommy! Her hair is blue!” I always make sure to smile at them. Sometimes I’ll ask them what their favorite color is and tell them that maybe I’ll do that color next. I feel like sometimes there is the negative stigma that people who look edgy or don’t follow societal norms are bad or angry people. I’ve always tried my best to break those stereotypes by being as bubbly and outgoing as I can. I try to always have a smile on my face and treat everyone with the same amount of respect as I would expect to be treated with. Maybe I surprised that older couple that I helped load heavy groceries into their car because my bright red hair matched my bright red lipstick. Or maybe that man wasn’t expecting me to pick something up that he dropped because my hair was the same color blue as his UK shirt. But my point is, that your hair color by no means determines the type of person you are, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t let anyone deter you from coloring your hair an unnatural color because of some silly negative stigma.

If you’re thinking about coloring your hair a bright, unnatural color, I say, go for it! The most common thing I hear is, “I love your hair! I would love to do that… but I don’t think I could pull it off.” My response is always, “Of course you can pull it off!” And in my opinion, anyone can. If you want blue hair, then color your hair blue, and rock it!

Here’s a list of some awesome book characters with unnaturally colored hair:

Nymphadora Tonks, Harry Potter series, by JK Rowling

Ramona Flowers and Knives Chau, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Emma, Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

Lady Fire, Fire, by Kristin Cashore

Karou, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Hayley, The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Clementine, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Christopher Grau

Bertie, Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

–Ally

Ally Doerman has worked for the library for 9 years, currently in Teen Services. She spends most of her time thinking about Harry Potter and waiting for Colleen Hoover to write a new book.

32 thoughts on “10 things to know before you color your hair a bright color!

  1. While I don’t understand why girls today want pastel or unnatural colored hair. On some it does look nice but has to be done properly. My best friend’s daughter does her and does a really good job. It looks nice but again I don’t understand the pastel colors.

  2. Ally Girl!! You’ve always rocked the hair colors you’ve chosen!!! Your hair is as vibrant as your beautiful personality!!! Miss seeing you!!

  3. I see and interact with Ally very often at the school where I work. She is one of the most positive, bubbly, vibrant and most importantly, kind people I come in contact with in my job. I don’t see hair color, I see a young woman who loves what she does, who has a kind heart and truly lives her life joyfully! Thank you Ally for sharing your sweet self with us.

  4. My hair is currently purple and my roots are growing back so my ends mostly are purple, pretty soon I will want to go back to my natural hair color. Do you recommend letting it fade and dying it a permanent black ? I know my hair won’t completely grow all out but any tips ? and have you stopped dying your hair ?

  5. Hi Veronica: It’s up to you whether or not you want to wait until the purple fades out. The black is dark enough that it should cover it completely. But keep in mind that once you’ve colored it permanently black, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to change the color. Black is definitely the hardest color to get rid of. I do still color my hair, though I’ve let my roots grow and it’s more of a balayage with purple tips. I’m not sure what color I’ll do next! –Ally

  6. Loved reading all of this. I recently got blue put in my hair, just peekaboos for now, and I love the color but after one or two washes, it’s all gone. I had it originally done three weeks ago, then had to redo it Saturday and ow after one wash its starting to look ugly. I’m using Privana Vivids shampoo and conditioner and the only thing I haven’t tried is cold water. I’m having it done professionally because I have no clue what I’m doing with it but I’m heeding all of her advice and even got a keratin treatment because she said it might help it hold better. This is the first time my hair has ever been colored. Any tips for a noob to hair color? I appreciate it.

  7. Hi Emily: Unfortunately some color doesn’t last. The brand of dye that your stylist is using could have something to do with it. I would try cold water, but if that doesn’t work, maybe talk to your stylist about the dye she is using. Blue is usually one of the harder colors to get out, at least from my experience. I’ve used Joico Color Intensity in the past and have found that to be the best. Hope this helps! –Ally

  8. I’ve wanted bright hair for several years (like a couple decades) and finally feel confident enough to give it a try. But I hate jumping into something without all the info. I appreciate your honest assessment of the process. Thanks! 🙂

  9. Thank you for such a great read, wish I had done my home work first, I have just descovered the world of fashion colours. I tried a violet purple and because my hair wasn’t light enough it looked very dark and dull then I mistakenly stripped it and it turned bright bright teal! Then I frantically tried to bleach it out which lightened it to a bright grass green! I tried every thing to strip the green out including all the home treatments vitamin c etc then I stupidly got scared of any further damage and put a golden brown over my hair which now not only are my ends damaged but I have moss green ends it looks like cow poop! is their any easy way of getting rid of the green? I was hoping for a more lilac and silver! I have been to see my hairdresser today to test my strands but if I can achieve a silver/lilac or silver/pale pink would you know how this would fade?

  10. I’m sorry to hear about all of the trouble you’ve gone through, but unfortunately, this seems like it might be beyond my level of expertise. Definitely go to your stylist. Just be prepared that you may have to lose some length to get your hair looking normal again. –Ally

  11. It’s good to know that you need to have a professional bleach your hair. I’ve always wanted to get some cute lavender highlights around my face, but I wasn’t sure if I would need to do any major prep. If possible, I’ll find a professional who can do both the bleach and the coloring. I’ve never colored my hair before, so I know that I would probably botch it!

  12. Such a cool article. I am a natural red head, I am going to do teal streaks in my hair in honor on my Aunt who is fighting cervical cancer. Teal is the color for cervical cancer awareness. Wish me luck. Hope it will turn out well……

  13. You look amazing in all the colors and styles you’ve created. Love your artistry of combination hair makeup—overall look. I wish I could do this. Unfortunately, naturally thick, wavy dry hair. 🙁

  14. I admire your confident sense of self. It’s not the norm fo r someone so young. My 10 yr old daughter just dyed her hair purple. We had a professional do it and she chose a mostly shaved doo with long bangs on one side. I thought your article was really good. I tried to read it to her but she wouldn’t slow down long enough to listen. I was hoping to prepare her to blow off the negative comments from kids when she goes back to school. She is usually thin skinned when it comes to her peers opinions. Im totally supportive that she should Do whatever she wants to with her looks..Do you have any suggestions she might relate to on brushing off the opinions of those that don’t like the dramatic purple hair?

  15. Thank you so much for your kind words. I would say to your daughter that opinions of other don’t matter. The only person who matters is yourself. Learning to love yourself can be difficult, but once you figure it out, your life becomes instantly better. The friends that you have now at 10 years old, aren’t going to be around when you’re 30. And if they are, that means they are your true friends, and they would never be put off or offended by your outside appearance. How you are the the inside, how you treat people, and how you live your life every day, are the things that are important. Having purple hair does not in any way effect who you are as a person. If someone wants to judge you based on how you look, then you don’t need those type of people in your life anyway! Just be confident and be yourself and people will love you for it! –Ally

  16. I recently colored the ends of my hair pink and my mom FREAKED out!! I’m 21 by the way and I felt so bad for doing it. But after receiving so many compliments, I realized that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks and as long as I like it, I’m good. Thank you for the helpful tips 🙂

  17. I’ve enjoyed this thread so much! Ally you are beautiful inside and out! I love your comment about people saying “I wish I could do that” – I’ve heard it so many times regarding hair, makeup, clothes…I always tell them if you love something, rock it and own it! I have dark hair and have done highlights or enjoyed the “sheen” of bright colors…..I’m ready to go all in! I have really enjoyed Arctic Fox color, pretty low staining and makes my hair feel amazing. I’m addicted to Purple Rain thus far but they have several gorgeous shades. Wish me luck on my first all over bleaching journey and keep smiling that beautiful smile 😄

  18. This is so helpful! I’ve always loved unnatural colors but was never bold enough to attempt it… Until the hidden rainbow trend! I already had the future rainbow section bleached once, and am hoping it won’t have to be bleached again before the color application. Now I’m thinking – what to do after the rainbow? Will it need to be bleached again before new color is applied? I’ll probably want to keep it for a while so hopefully touching it up won’t be too difficult for my stylist. Your hair colors look gorgeous on you! I’m a bit afraid of all the upkeep since I’ll have to have it done, but I’m so thrilled at finally feeling like I can indulge this part of my personality!

  19. I’m a guy, and this is only the second time I’ve coloured my hair. The first time was amazing and people loved it. This second time has been strangely unappreciated. Made me think long and hard about why I do it, and I found your blog – just the kind of positive sentiment I needed.

  20. WOW! I’ve been doing a strip or two of purple in my light red hair and get comments all the time… Guess because I’m almost 60. But I love the colors and plan to go platinum with deep purple roots, so thanks so much for all the great information.

  21. I am about to go blue and have been doing a LOT of research and now thanks to you I am certain I am going to go blue all over. Thanks Ally

  22. You are wonderful for supporting and sharing your experiences. If more people in the world would just focus on a little more self expression in an artist way in place of criticism on how one looks or feels happy, it would be a better world. I am almost 45 years old and have been colouring my hair fire engine red for years. It makes me happy and hurts no one. Also I had worked in a field with children and they loved it. It seemed to brighten their day. I say…rock whatever color is in your soul!

  23. I am 42 and for the first time in my life I colored my hair pink. I have been a dark brown my whole life – and it took 3 years to achieve the ombre dark to blonde. Then yesterday it hit me that I resigned from 15 years of teaching and I guess I felt that I needed to break the rules and used semi-perm pink color….. It was shocking – then at 2:56am I panicked that I would be fired in the last week of school left and never teach again and started scrubbing – only to over scrub and left with that horrid copper/tangerine color. Honestly, I have always wanted to try something bold and creative but I have always been afraid of the judgement of others. Thank you for sharing this – as I looked for ways to get rid of this — I realized that I was afraid of the backlash of negative looks out in public, being judged and people assuming I must be “trashy” and look at my kids – when however I live in one of the most affluent areas of Dallas.
    Thanks for the courage to fix this faded hot mess back to a pretty pink and not going back to jet black cause someone else doesn’t like it.

  24. I thought that it was a good recommendation to have a professional bleach your hair for you. I think that bleach is a tricky chemical to work with when using it to actually bleach something and even more so if you only want a small portion done. It’s good to have someone with experience doing it so you know that it’s going to look good with the hairstyle/color you want to dye it especially if it’s something like an ombre color style where it’s transitioning from one color to another. I think I’m going to dye my own hair the next time I go in to get it cut so this is good advice to remember.

  25. Thank you so much for this post! I have been thinking about dyeing a chunk of hair again I did it 10 or so years ago and it’s good to be reminded of all the cons. Thank you!!

  26. I am a 43 year old (hetero man, just so the haters know) with shock blue hair on top and darker blue below. It is a relatively normal haircut, a taper/undercut with a few inches on top, just enough to lay down and not spike. I am a remodeling contractor, pretty “normal” job I would say.
    I have been cutting my own hair for 5 years now and just dyed it a bright color for the first time in my life 2 months ago. I get more looks than comments, but my favorite response is yes it is blue, I finally washed the brown out to show my natural color!

    Be who you TRULY are. Let the outside reflect the inside and recieve inner peace. That goes for anything in your life, not just your hair color. Happiness is worth wading through the mouth-breathers, it is priceless.

  27. Dead thread, but if you’re reading this, I have advice. I’ve been dyeing my hair for about 10 years and have done every colour. I have brown hair and have lightened it a couple times as well. The only semi-permanent dye that stayed, didn’t leak and actually treated my hair too was Arctic Fox hair dye. That should be your go-to dye if you want to try out colours!

  28. I love how you mentioned that hair bleaching is very damaging to the hair, so you should find a good conditioner to help keep it healthy. When I got my hair dyed, I found that using conditioners with coconut oil really helped keep the hair soft. Thanks so much for all the great hair coloring tips!

  29. Ive been doing my hair funky colors for about a year now (though a few years back I had neon pink hair and it was ridiculously hard to get rid of) and I’m currently bright green. I love this article and actually wish id read it before dyeing my hair. I’m actually about to go a bit more natural for a little bit while I let my hair grow (Well, as natural as you can get with a mowhawk. I’m gonna get some of the bleach damage trimmed off as well to help) and was thinking of doing kinda a dark brown to purple toned brown baylage.

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