How to Dye

For those of us who are going gray, or want to jazz-up their color without making a permanent change, today’s post is devoted to semi-permanent dyes. There aren’t too many options out there for ammonia-free hair color, which lasts about six shampoos before it starts to fade. Permanent dyes contain ammonia which can cause breakage, and they they don’t wash out, they need to be stripped out of your hair using very strong chemicals, so you’d better make sure you’re in love with that color before you apply it to your head. Trying a Semi-permanent dye can be helpful since it lets you do a trial run, and if you don’t like it, just shampoo until it fades.

Let’s take a look at three of the options for semi-permanent dyes on the market today.

Garnier HerbaShine Color Creme, $7.99

Herbashine was unfortunately a let down for me. First off, I wasn’t a fan of the smell, maybe it’s the bamboo extract and I’m a crazy person for thinking chemicals smell better than plants, but the scent really got to me.

It’s a cream formula rather than a liquid which is helpful, and the bamboo extract is supposed to make hair stronger and shinier which is also a plus. Garnier is actually describing this product as a “soft lift” rather than a semi-permanent dye, but sorting out the difference between the two gets very chemical, and since I dropped my high school chemistry class (in favor of art classes to the dismay of my guidance counselor) I really couldn’t explain any of it to you.

Herbashine did leave my hair shiny, soft, and bouncy, but it didn’t cover the grays very well, there were more than a few stragglers. I’ve read some other reviews of this and it seems that a lot of people have had bad allergic reactions—so remember to do a strand test before you dye!

Pros: Creme formula, soft hair, comes with nice conditioner packet (which smells much better)

Cons: Uneven gray coverage, strong smell

Clairol Natural Instincts Rich Color Creme, $8.99

I tried Clairol Natural Instincts when it first launched in 1999, I was in high school and I thought the color Egyptian Plum was totally amazing. I hadn’t tried it since then, but when I started dyeing my hair again this year I went back to it. The rich color creme is especially good because you don’t have to worry about dripping. The only problem with the creme is it’s only available in 10 shades rather than the 54 available in the original formula.

I find this stuff covers my gray pretty darn well, the smell isn’t great but it isn’t bothersome either. It also always seem to be on sale at my Stop & Shop so that’s a bonus. This is an ammonia-free dye, and I’ve found it lasts 4 weeks if you wash your hair about twice a week.

Pros: Nice gray coverage, creme formula, shiny, soft hair

Cons: Limited shades in creme formula

Lush Caca Noir Mama, $22.00

If you can’t stand the idea of putting chemicals in your hair, or if you’re vegan, or if you aren’t going for a dramatic color change, you might want to try one of the all natural henna hair dyes from Lush.

I personally can’t endorse this product since I don’t have the time or money for it. In theory it’s a great idea, and I was excited to try it, but I’ve found with Lush I either love their products or I regret buying them. Dyeing my hair with this stuff became a full day ordeal. After researching the proper way to melt it, painstakingly chopping it up as fine as possible, and then trying to apply the gloppy, drippy, muddy substance to my hair, by the time it was ready to wash out I was glad to be rid of it. Sadly, rinsing this stuff out isn’t as easy as one might think. I must have gotten the chemistry of mixing it wrong (maybe I shouldn’t have dropped that class after all?) because although it was smooth when I first applied it, it dried in big clumps on my hair, which not only hurt but also made me fear clogging my sensitive shower drain with mud. This fear resulted in me furiously shaking my head out in my backyard at 10pm, freezing my ass off while my fiance (now husband) alternately cracked up and painfully pulled chunks of henna out of my hair. In the end after struggling to get it all out, I guess my hair was softer, but it didn’t cover my grays at all which was the whole point. These dyes have a very strong, earthy smell, not necessarily bad, but definitely distinctive.

The hair hennas get mostly great reviews on the Lush website, so I have to guess it takes some practice and patience to get the application correct, but I have neither the time nor the money ($22) for this hair dye. If anyone else has tried it and liked it, I’d love to hear about it.

Pros: Vegan, all natural, gentle

Cons: Difficult application, cost, poor gray coverage

Whatever method you decide to go with for dyeing your hair, here are some essential tips:


1. Do not do your nails first! – It seems obvious, but the number of times I’ve ruined a manicure from dyeing my hair makes me question my intelligence. It’s usually not until I’ve shaken the bottle up that I realize I have pastel nails which will soon be stained brown. Obviously you should be wearing plastic gloves when you apply hair color, but it’s the wash-out process that always ruins my polish.

2. Vaseline – Before you dye, rub some Vaseline all around your hairline, try not to get it on any grays you want to cover, but definitely rub it around your ears and your forehead, it really cuts down on staining.

3. Witch Hazel – If like me, you still somehow end up with dye everywhere (how do I always get it on my forearms?) Witch Hazel is your best friend. After you’ve rinsed out the dye, just dab a cotton ball with some of it on any stained parts of your skin, it really fades the color. You can get it at the drug store, it’s usually with the astringents.

4. Brush your hair – This also seems like a no-brainer, but you should brush your hair before you apply hair dye, especially if you have long locks. Struggling through knots with dye in your hair is not only messy, but can cause your dye job to look uneven when sections of your hair are so knotted they avoid saturation by the dye.

5. Wear a shower-cap – I’m a big fan of shower caps, not just because they protect your hair from frizz in the shower, but also because they trap in heat when you’re dyeing or deep conditioning your hair which supposedly helps penetrate the hair faster and better, it also keeps you from dripping dye all over the place.

6. Shampoo – You may notice the instructions on these hair dyes tell you simply to rinse the product from your hair and then apply the conditioner without shampooing. Some might disagree with me here, but I always shampoo after I dye. Maybe the color doesn’t last as long, but it saves my sheets and towels from turning black (which has happened to me numerous times), so if you have dark hair, it’s something you might want to consider.

If you have any of your own hair dyeing tips and tricks let me know about them! Don’t forget to come back for Beauty in the Movies tomorrow!

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5 Comments

Filed under cosmetics, hair

5 responses to “How to Dye

  1. mkz201

    I tried the Lush Henna long ago and it worked pretty well. I was trying to cover up blonde hair that I was letting grow out in favor of my natural brown color. It covered the blonde with (what I thought) was a pretty red color. The application process is pretty intense. For me, it involved more cooking skills than chemistry. Getting to the right consistency was the hardest part. You want it to be muddy but not so wet that it slides off your head. I found chopping it in the food processor and then dribbling warm water from the tea kettle through the tube was the best method. Then, I covered my head with plastic to keep it from drying out. I don’t remember having any problems washing it out. Justine, maybe you let it dry too much?

    Anyway, this is probably only a good alternative for those in the hippie drippy set with cooking skills/equipment and lots of motivation. I don’t know that I would do it again. Otherwise, go with the drug store stuff – much easier. Though it might be a good alternative for pregnant women because it has no chemicals? Ask your midwives, hippie-drippy-mommies-to-be!

  2. Lizzy

    have you ever seen a place that does the henna dying for you at the salon? i know my friend with dark brown/black hair got it done, but that was in france, so i don’t know if its popular here.

  3. haren

    Sea Breeze is actually what they use in the salon to get the skin stains out and it does work pretty well. Don’t get the vaseline on your hair or it won’t take the dye. I disagree about the nail polish. I leave it on to keep my nails from getting black.

  4. Surya is a henna product that’s way cheaper and comes in either powder or creme form. You don’t have to do any chopping up of anything. They’re usually found in most beauty supply stores, or online.

    Good write up. “Soft lift” is probably a fancier way of saying semi-permanent. It’s the first I’ve heard of that. Reds are usually the fastest fading shades.

    Sincerely,
    a NYS licensed cosmetologist. 😉

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