How to Dye Your Own Hair and Maintain Your Colour

How to Dye Your Own Hair and Maintain Your Colour
Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images, Getty Images

Last week, Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani held a press conference and unintentionally redefined the notion of a public meltdown. Facing the cameras, Giuliani began to sweat, causing what many journalists and fascinated onlookers thought to be a torrential downpour of the former New York City mayor’s hair dye.

Brown liquid oozed down his face. Cameras snapped. Twitter was awash with jokes about the man’s shoddy hair treatment, likening it to a burst sewage pipe. Though it was a momentary viral comedy goldmine, a follicular disaster of this magnitude is easily avoided, regardless of whether you’re outside on a warm day or standing at a podium in front of the entire country.

Everyone’s hair is different, but some common rules apply

Of course, everyone’s hair is different, and not everyone dyes their hair for the same reason. But there are a few rules that apply across the board. Since pandemic lockdown measures might be inching closer where you live, it’s good to take stock of the basics, as you might not have access to the skills of a real hair care professional.

As an in-depth look at the process from Men’s Health explains:

  • Wash your hair beforehand, but don’t add any styling product. Colourist George Papanikolas told the magazine: “Wash it the day before and don’t put any styling product in. You want the natural oil on your scalp.”
  • The article further explains that those natural oils form a protective barrier on the hair that guards against scalp irritation.

Know your colour

Are you bleaching your hair because you were inspired by the Slim Shady LP as a youth? Are you concealing the natural graying of your hair because you are American Psycho-vain and want people to think you bathe in the fountain of youth every morning?

Regardless of your reasoning, understanding what colour you want — and that will look good with your complexion — is paramount. Under normal circumstances, a colourist will guide you through the process. As Kara Hoskins of Bumble and Bumble explained to Esquire:

Find images of the hair colour that you like, ideally a few of them. If we know what specific shade and tone you’re looking to achieve, we can figure out the best way for you to get as close to it as possible. And we’ll give recommendations based on this, too.

Perhaps it isn’t safe to sit in a chair with your colourist, though, so maybe you can only get their feedback through video chat, email or text. If your trusted hair care professional is MIA, you can shift this responsibility to a friend whose opinion you value.

Apply the dye

Make sure you’re doing this in a clean environment, preferably your bathroom or kitchen sink. Usually, you’ll have to mix your dye yourself. When you do this, it’s crucial to wear gloves if they were provided in the dye kit.

Men’s Health explains how to physically apply whatever dye you’re using:

Put on your gloves and begin to mix, if that’s what yours requires. Then start applying it to your hair in sections. Typically you should start in the front and work your way back if you’re going full-coverage and back to front if you’re doing a grey camouflage situation. If your hair dye kit comes with a brush, you can use that, or you can use your hands.

Maintenance is key

There are a number of best practices that will prevent you from going the way of sweaty Giuliani. That is to say, using the right hair care products will help keep your colour from running down your face the moment your sweat glands activate.

Especially right after colouring, use a colour-specific shampoo and conditioner can go a long way. As Sal Misseri, owner and creative director of Reverie a Sal Misseri Salon told GQ: “After every colour service, the hair has gone through sometimes multiple processes and needs to be treated appropriately with colour specific shampoo and conditioner.”

And with hair priorities comes sacrifice; there are also a bunch of things you should avoid like the plague. As GQ explains:

As expected, there’s a shortlist of things to avoid when it comes to preserving hair colour. Swimming (chlorine), heat styling (with a blow dryer), and sun exposure (the UV damages) are the biggest culprits, says Misseri, but are of course hard to avoid entirely. This is why heat protectants, clarifying shampoos, and colour conditioners are so imperative.

You’re also going to want to touch up the colour periodically, because sunlight and all sorts of other facts of everyday existence can erode your colour. That’s why people who are serious about maintaining their look usually build relationships with their colourists. In the absence of a trusted professional, however, just follow the steps above and you should be fine.

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