How To Keep Your Hair Healthy While Dying It

Will your hair still grow if you dye it? People who want to grow their hair long and healthy often wonder if it is possible to do that while still dying their hair. Is damage to hair with color treating inevitable? And will it prevent hair from growing long?

From my personal experience dying your hair won’t necessarily stop it from growing

And let me clarify that nothing is stopping your hair from growing. Unless you burn your scalp to a significant degree somehow your hair will still grow. But you may not see new length. That’s an issue of your hair being damaged enough that it is breaking off at a certain length. We call that length retention.

I am known for my healthy thigh-length hair and I make no secret of the fact that I dye it very regularly. The reason for that is I went completely gray at about age twenty due to my genetics. I’ve been dying my hair back to close to its natural color for the last eighteen years.

Why I’m Able To Dye My Hair Without Damage

There are a few things that I’m doing to keep my length retention good while still dying my hair.

  1. I’m focusing on the roots. I don’t dye the full length of my hair over and over and over, I only dye the roots as the gray/white appears
  2. It’s just one “hair sin.” My personal theory is that we have to still enjoy our hair and its okay to choose one thing that the experts tell you not to do as long as you are good everywhere else! I’m being very careful in other areas so I can get away with dying.
  3. I’m dying my hair darker and not lighter. When you need/want to dye your hair to a lighter shade than it is you need lift. And lift is achieved with bleach or hydrogen peroxide, which are very harsh substances. If you can dye your hair without needing bleach that is going to go a long way in keeping your hair healthier. If you do want to go lighter, I highly recommend going to a professional hair color stylist. They are trained to know the best ratios to use to keep your hair from falling out. If you bleach yourself at home you are courting disaster! Also be aware that it may take several sessions with the hairstylist to get to the color you want. It’s best for them to go slowly. If you move too quickly in the bleaching process then you will damage your hair and struggle with length retention.

Your Dye Options:

Semi-Permanent Color v.s. Permanent Color

A semi-permanent hair color is less harsh because it does not penetrate into the hair shaft. It will eventually wash off your strands because it is only coloring the outside of the strand. That said, I do use a permanent box dye (about $7) on my own roots every five weeks or so.

Color-Depositing Conditioners

Color-depositing conditioners like Overtone are similar to semi-permanent dye. They are like doing a deep conditioning treatment on your hair while it also happens to leave behind color on your strands. Because it is a conditioner it is hydrating to your hair and because it is not penetrating the hair shaft it is non-damaging. It will shampoo out fairly quickly but is easy to maintain with regular treatments. It has a strong smell, which is fairly pleasant but I found overwhelming.

If your hair is light enough to begin with you can achieve fun colors with Overtone. If not you would need to bleach it first, which again you can do with a trained professional!

One word of warning if, like me, you are coloring your hair to hide grays. Gray hair is very stubborn and doesn’t always take dye well. A permanent dye might be a necessity. The color you’ll get from Overtone on your gray is not what the product promises. I’ve tried several of their colors in the past and they will turn out drastically different on the gray hair parts v.s. bleached parts. I also recently tried their new black color-depositing conditioner and my roots turned very distinctly purple.

Henna

If you want permanent non-damaging color then henna might be the right choice for you. Henna is a type of plant common in India and across the middle east as well. It has a powerful stain that is used both to dye hair and for temporary “tatoos” on skin. If you’ve ever seen mendhi art, the beautiful designs on Indian, Pakistani, and Middle Eastern brides’ hands and feet, that is achieved with the same henna powder as is used on hair.

While henna stains the skin for several days or even weeks, it will stain your hair permanently. It is impossible to lift or get out of your hair (though of course your hair keeps growing so if you want to get rid of it you can trim off the dyed parts of your hair as it grows out).

I did use henna for a couple of years for my gray roots issue. There’s a couple of things that caused me to return to using box dye. First is that you cannot control the color as easily and second is that it’s a very intensive process to color your hair with henna.

Pure henna plant can only dye your hair a shade of red/orange. You can use indigo mixed with the henna to achieve brown, or indigo as a treatment after the henna to achieve black. However, the indigo does fade unlike the henna so you have to keep doing more indigo treatments if you don’t want your hair red.

Of course many people love their hair red and it can create incredibly beautiful shades! You just don’t really know until you try. Before doing your whole head it might be worth collecting some shed hair and henna dying it to give you an idea of what to expect on your hair.

It’s important to get your henna from a reputable source. Some henna is mixed with metallic dyes and harmful substances to make it cheaper and those things can give you allergic reactions. I buy from Ancient Sunrise Henna and I am a big fan of all the information they have available on their website www.hennaforhair.com

The process of using henna is this:

  1. mix an amount of henna powder according to how much hair you are trying to dye with warm water and a little bit of acid such as lemon juice until you get a cake frosting consistency (sunrise henna comes with an acid powder that is more gentle than lemon juice)
  2. Leave to sit for a minimum of four hours (btw, it has a very “earthy” smell at this point)
  3. Wear gloves (remember it will stain skin!) and smear over your hair, making sure to coat every strand. Add a little more water as needed to keep the henna moist while you apply. It will be very messy and goopy and thick.
  4. Wrap your hair in a plastic bag and leave on for at least four hours but ideally over night.
  5. Rinse out and shampoo and condition as normal. Rinsing out is challenging because you will find that you have a lot of grit in your hair and what feels like dirt.

Henna can be drying and some people mix in conditioner in the first step as well, though Ancient Sunrise henna recommends against it. Many people find that henna makes their hair shinier, though I did not notice that effect. Because it is a thick coating on your hair it can also make it appear thicker.

Hair Salons

As I said before, going to a professional is wise when you want to protect your hair when coloring. They will know what filler color you may need in between the steps of the color you have and the color you want. They will know how to protect the hair as they are working with harsh substances. They will know the minimum amount of bleach or peroxide needed to get what you want. They will know what color will look best with your skin too. All that said, I’ve never had color done by a professional!

Box Dye

Box dyes get a bad rep but it may not be deserved. Hairstylists have a few concerns with them, top of which are that you don’t know what level developer is being used and second that it’s very hard to undo if a client comes to them unhappy with the color they got from a box dye. Box dyes are not going to give you good dimensional color like a professional. But they are easy to use and affordable. However, if you don’t like the color you’ll pay a high price for “color correction” at a salon (one stylist admitted to me they overcharge for it to dissuade people from using box dye at home).

Are you familiar with Brad Mondo? He’s a famous hairstylist on Youtube with millions of followers. I enjoy watching his videos even though he dislikes absurdly long hair!

Well, he decided to prove how bad box dye was by doing an experiment comparing it to professional color from a beauty supply store. He went into it with a strong bias against box dye but something interesting happened. He finished dying two mannequin heads side by side and declared that the professional color was so much better. More even, better color, etc. But in the comments people had noticed that he accidentally switched the two heads. He didn’t realize it but the mannequin head he was praising was actually the box dyed one. He never acknowledged the mistake or changed his ranting against box dye.

Before you use the box dye be sure to do a couple of tests with it. The first is a strand test to see how the color will turn out. Just as I suggested with henna, you’ll take some shed hair and dye it to see how the color turns out. You don’t have to do this if you aren’t super picky about the result (as I’m not!). The downside is that you may waste a full box on this since you can’t store the dye once it is mixed. A skin test is more important. For that you’ll put a small amount of the mixed dye on an inconspicuous part of your skin and wait to see if there is any reaction. I have had allergic reactions from super cheap box dye (like $2.99!).

You can also try esalon.com, which Brad Mondo is in favor of. They send you professional quality dyes formulated for exactly what you ask for and its a subscription service so it will show up regularly for touch ups. They come with very detailed instructions so if you haven’t dyed your own hair before it can be a good option. I tried it out but didn’t find it any better for me than my usual black box dye.

If your hair is already damaged from dye or bleach

This new product Olaplex is taking the hair world by storm. A lot of people swear by it to bring health back to their hair after damage from too much dye. You can get a treatment at a salon or at home.

A hairstylist friend told me that these products can also help if Olaplex is too expensive for you:

Pureology Hydrate Collection

Lanza Trauma Repair Treatment

And try to keep your hair moisturized because damaged hair is usually dry and that’s what makes it break off. Treat your hair very gently and kindly and hopefully it can be salvaged!

Find me around the web at http://msha.ke/longhaircarolyn

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