If you’ve been keeping up on YouTube, you know that I went on a pretty dramatic hair journey last month. I don’t regret it by any means (yet) but it definitely hasn’t been an easy road. This wasn’t the first time I ever died my hair, but definitely the most drastic since I went with a fantasy color instead of the typical highlights or natural color change.
I knew it was going to be a very intense process, and that maintenance was going to be killer, but honestly every day with colorful hair has taught me something new. If you’re a natural brunette— especially as dark as I am— here are five things to consider before dying your hair from brunette to a fantasy color.
1. You’re Going to Damage Your Hair (duh)
Going from a level 2 brunette (basically brown/black) to a shade of blonde light enough for your desired color to show takes a whole lotta lightening. It’s inevitable that you’re going to damage at least the very ends of your hair. There are a few things you can do to help reduce the amount of damage that happens, though. You can lighten in sessions a few weeks apart to let your hair regain a little strength before processing it again, which is what my stylist at Bombshell Beauty Lounge recommended for me. You’ll also probably want to trim your hair after processing to keep split ends away. After my second lightening session, we took off about two inches of damaged ends. This helps prevent splits from getting more intense, and gives the hair an overall healthier appearance.
2. Your Hair Pattern Might Change
This was something I had no idea about, but my stylist had warned me of. When you’re doing such dramatic lightening, your hair is becoming more porous as the cuticle opens. This results in the appearance of a change in texture. I always had pretty smooth hair with a natural loose wave pattern. After lightening, my hair is straight and poofy. Not my favorite look, but this change also usually lends itself to holding heat styles better. I can curl it once and have a polished style for about 4-5 days as the curls slowly fall.
3. Shadow Roots Will Be Your Best Friend
If you can resist the urge to add color from root to tip, your maintenance will be a hell of a lot easier. “Shadow roots” leave your natural hair color alone at the root, fading quickly into the fantasy color. This is much more low-maintenance as you won’t have to worry about re-coloring your roots every few weeks, and as your hair grows out you’ll be left with an ombre look.
4. Maintenance Looks Different for Everyone
Maintaining colorful hair can be rough. It all depends on the type of color you use, what shade you chose, do you heat style a lot, do you spend a lot of time outdoors… My color has faded pretty quickly even between washes just from the sun, believe it or not!
To avoid fading, look for shampoos and conditioners that are sulfate free (sulfates can strip your color faster), and styling products with UV protection. You’ll also want to ease up on how many times you wash your hair, because that will directly correlate to how fast it fades. I’ve been washing about 1-2 times a week, and only letting luke-warm/cool water touch my hair since hot water can run the color out as well.
Color Treated Hair Care Recommendations:
5. Your Hair Might Not Come Out As Planned
From my own experience and my stylist’s observations, brunettes love hanging on to warm tones. I’ve noticed all the colors I’ve experimented with in the past month have come out far more warm than they were “supposed” to, and have faded into some version of orange. In fact, just last week I put in what was advertised as a plum color and it came out straight up pink. Everyone’s hair reacts differently to lightening and coloring, so I highly suggest strand tests before adding any color you haven’t used on yourself before. Believe me, strand tests have saved me from having bubblegum pink hair when I was going for a dusty mauve.
Basically, the #1 thing to know going into the journey of colorful hair is that you’re about to dedicate a lot of time to your hair. You might find yourself touching up your color once every two weeks, or even correcting colors that didn’t come out right. That can be costly and just overall time consuming.
As my hair fades, I’ve been doing my own color at home to save money— but not with box dye! I’ve been buying products from Sally Beauty to customize mixes so that I don’t damage my hair further. I’ve particularly been liking the Ion line of colors, since they have a lot of fun bright ones you can mix to create a custom shade. Keep in mind, though, coloring over pre-lightened hair is a lot easier than doing your own bleaching of natural hair. I highly suggest you at least do the initial lightening at a salon to avoid disasters. It’s the most damaging part of the process and a stylist can help control placement, evenness and keep an eye on how your hair is reacting.