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20 Things You Should Know Before Coloring Your Hair for the First Time

by Kelsey Stiegman / Monday, 26 November 2018

If you’re a hair dye virgin, taking the color plunge is legit terrifying. If you fail (which you won’t, don’t worry), you have to wear your shame like a crown, because it’s literally on your head. That’s a lot of pressure.

Whether you’re going to a pro or DIY-ing it, here are all the things you need to know before you color your hair for the very first time.

1. Lots of things can make your hair color fade. “Hair will fade faster in the sun, from using shampoo and conditioner not created for hair color, and depending on how often you wash it,” celebrity hairstylist Kari Hill told Seventeen.

2. You will have to get touch-ups. No matter how well you take care of your strands, fading is inevitable, and since hair grows about 1/2 inch every month, you’ll at least have to get your roots redone every 6-8 weeks, depending on what look you’re going for. If you don’t have the time or the money to keep re-doing your look, stick to a color that’s closer to your natural shade, so your roots won’t be as noticeable. Or go ombre so you only have to worry about it once or twice a year.



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3. Bring pictures of the color you want to the salon with you. Hill says you should always bring photos of your desired color. “Sometimes your definition of ‘blonde’ can be different than your colorist’s,” she cautions. “Pictures are a great way of ensuring you’re on the same page.” Telling your colorist you want “Taylor Swift blonde” might get you her golden-bronde shade from 2012 instead of her recent white blonde ‘do.


4. Switch to a shampoo and conditioner made for color-treated hair. “To help preserve your hair color, go with a shampoo that literally says on the bottle either ‘a shampoo for color’ or ‘color vibrancy,'” says Hill.

5. Use a purple shampoo to banish brassiness. Get on board with this miracle product. “Purple shampoos are excellent for blondes and brunettes who have highlights,” says Hill. “It’s great to use as often as you personally feel ‘the need’. I suggest to my clients to alternate their purple or lavender shampoos with a daily shampoo for color treated hair, so they don’t get ‘over toned’ or a ‘smokey’ appearance.”


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6. Highlights are the easiest color treatment to maintain. You can’t see your roots as much when your hair grows out because it’s not all-over color, so you don’t have to touch up your hair as often.


7. Use a clarifying shampoo before you color your hair (NOT after). Clarifying shampoo strips your hair of buildup, so if you use it on color-treated hair, it’ll cause your color to fade. If you use it before you apply the dye, though, it will give you a nice, clean surface to apply your color to, which will help your shade last longer.

8. Pool water can ruin your color. Chlorine really messes with your hair color. Because copper is often found in water, the metal can mix with the chlorine and oxidize your hair, causing it to actually turn green. To protect your strands, Hill advises applying a hair mask before you get into the pool. “You can get it wet first and then apply a mask created for color treated hair that will help fill the cuticle with the conditioner so the water doesn’t get in there and strip the color,” she says. Real talk, most of us probably aren’t going to do this, but even just getting your hair wet in the shower before you jump into the pool will help, since dry hair is more absorbent.

9. You don’t have to wait four days to wash your hair after you color it. Yep, that’s a myth. “It does not make a difference if you wash it the next day. The color is there. The color molecules are in the hair,” Hill says. “Color will fade over the next couple weeks just by default because of the elements in the water.”


10. Do a swatch test first to avoid an allergic reaction. Hill says that allergic reactions to dye are not common, but we’ve all seen the horror stories. To make sure you won’t react badly, swipe some dye on a small patch of skin on the nape of your neck and then follow the directions on the box.

11. Red shades are the hardest to maintain. If you’re looking for a low maintenance shade, you might want to reconsider going ginger. “The red color is the hardest to get, the hardest to achieve, the hardest to get rid of and also has the possibility to fading the fastest. It’s the trickiest color that’s out there,” Hill explains.

12. Your hair health affects the outcome of your color. Brittle, broken hair won’t accept color the same way healthy hair does. If you’ve been skimping on your cuts, get a quick trim before you color to trim away any damaged strands and make sure the new shade goes on evenly.

13. Make a hair coloring kit if you’re DIYing. Hill recommends setting up a work station before you start with a wipe, comb, and a couple of towels (one for around your neck, one for your workplace).”Don’t take your mom’s best towel though. Make sure you have a towel and wear a shirt designated for color,” she adds, as hair dye can stain your clothes and towels.

14. You might not be able to get the color you want on your first try. If you’ve got chocolate brown strands and you’re hoping to go megawatt blonde, it probably won’t happen on the first try. Big changes can damage your hair severely, so most colorists prefer to do it in stages, allowing hair to recuperate for a few weeks between sessions. For this reason, it’s also a good idea to see a pro if you’re looking to do something major.

15. A colorist can fix your hair if you hate it. Aside from maybe a few missed patches of hair, your look should come out pretty similar to what you saw on the color box. But if something tragic does happen, a professional colorist should be able to correct it for you, although they might ask you to wait a couple of days, just to be sure your hair doesn’t get over processed. The end results might not be exactly what you wanted, but at least you won’t be too embarrassed to leave the house. So don’t murder your at home hair colorist/bestie if your hair isn’t exactly what you wanted.


16. Be totally honest with your colorist. If you’re going to a salon, chances are your hair color is going to come out looking pretty close to what you envisioned. But to ensure that, you should always be candid and open with your colorist throughout the entire process. If the red she picked is a little too purple-y for you, ask her if you can see some options with an orange undertone instead.

17. Keep your skin’s undertones in mind when picking a shade. “If you have a pink skin tone, you want to stick with a cooler, ashier tone. If you have a yellow skin tone, you can go with the golds and the warms,” says Hill. If you have no idea what undertones you have, talk to your colorist – he or she should be able to help. Take this quiz to get an idea if you’re unsure. And if you need a visual, try doing a peek-a-boo strand, which is one lock of hair dyed a color that hides under the rest of your hair, to see if you like the color.

18. Protect your hair from the sun, like you would your skin. Sun causes damage to your hair, burns your scalp, and effs up your color, so make sure you protect your precious strands in the summertime. Hats or head scarves and a sun protectant spray are all beach necessities.

19. Ask for pricing when you make the appointment. Every salon ranges in their pricing – one store might charge $350 for all-over highlights (yes, really!) and another salon right next door might charge $80 – so make sure you ask for a quote before you go in. Just call and tell them you’d like a price estimate for [insert hair treatment here]. If their services are in your price range, then you can ask if there are any available appointments. And don’t forget the tip:Just like at a restaurant, you should add on a 15-20% tip when you pay, or give cash.

20. You don’t need to color your eyebrows. Coloring your brows isn’t usually necessary. But if that’s the look you’re going for, then Hill says that it’s best to go to an professional eyebrow tinter, or a colorist. Keep in mind that dyeing your brows is illegal in some states, because of the danger of getting harsh chemicals in your eyes. Because of that, you should never try to color your eyebrows yourself.