With the rise of candy-colored hairstyles in every lifestyle magazine and on every Instagram model, you’re going to be seeing lots of hair-coloring tutorials on YouTube, which make everything seem so fine and fun and dandy and exciting — but let me tell you right now, having colored hair is like having a child.
You have to take care of it in a specific way, or else it’ll fade and appear muddy (don’t kids do that too?) you have to be prepared for constant upkeep, constant trips to the salon or your nearest hair care store, and you’ll have to make concessions you might’ve never considered before.
No, wait! Sorry, I’m not trying to scare you away from having colored hair. I have it too, and honestly, I’ve never loved anything more in my entire life. (Once again, akin to a child, kind of.)
But, before you run to the nearest Wal-Mart for a bleach kit, consider these 10 commandments of colored hair:
Hot water will open up the follicles of your hair and therefore allow more color to leak out. Instead, wash your hair with as cold of water as possible, as cold as you can possibly stand. If you’re thinking about bleaching your hair right before a cold winter, good freaking luck. But, if anything, it’ll help cut back on water waste because you won’t be spending six hours comfortably embraced in a hot shower
You can also avoid the pain of a cold shower by simply showering less frequently. While some people might need showers more often than others, I myself shower a few times a week, but only actually wash my hair two to three times a week. This usually depends on if I go to the gym, or if I’d had a particularly gross day.
Even better: no shampoo at all. This is called no-pooing, which I think is hilarious, because I’m 6 years old. Essentially, you use conditioner as you would shampoo, lathering it in and letting it sit. If you don’t naturally experience oily hair or excessive dandruff, no-pooing is ideal for you.
However, if you find yourself burdened with dandruff or an oily scalp, shampoo on your colored hair isn’t the end of the world, so long as you only use one labeled as color-safe or sulfate-free. Honestly, even if you DON’T have colored hair, buy sulfate-free shampoo. Sulfates, bad. Sulfate-free, good.
Keep a tube, cup, bowl, whatever brand of color you use handy, for the days when you notice your hair starting to look a little tired. More than that, hair will shed color at different rates, so you may find yourself touching up ends, bangs, or random spots in the back more often that the rest of your tresses. The overall expense of keeping dyed hair (especially if it’s an unnatural color) bright and vibrant can seem a little overwhelming, which is where some good online-shopping skills come in handy — everything is cheaper online. Everything. Cheaper and usually in bulk.
It’s also suggested to mix some color into your conditioner (assuming the base color of the conditioner is already white) and using that as a mini shower dye. Condition your hair with the mixture, let it sit for 5-10 minutes while you do other shower stuff, then rinse with cold water. While it won’t give you the same intensity as straight color, it’ll help the color hold out for a bit longer.
Whether or not you had to bleach your hair (and I want to say you probably did, particularly if you were going for the trendy pastel colors) your hair is going to be silently suffering beneath all of the sloppy colored paste you’re going to be slathering on every week from now until you die.
With that comes this small truth: deep condition your hair as often as you possibly can*. Whether you purchase (color safe) deep conditioning creams from the store, or you nuke some coconut oil in the microwave, just condition the crap out of your hair. It’ll thank you.
*There is such thing as over-moisturizing your hair, and it’s crucial that you balance the moisture with protein treatments.
How do you know if your hair is oversaturated with moisture? For one, it’ll be stretchy. All hair has some natural stretch of course, but overly moisturized hair will be like stretching a piece of bubble gum. On top of that, your hair might appear limp and lifeless, staticky, and floaty, despite being soft to the touch and in the shower.
To combat this, you have to balance moisture with protein treatments, which might sound like a scary, expensive salon endeavor if you’ve never heard of it before. It’s actually not, so you can relax. Protein- treatments are as simple as leave-in conditioner, and you can buy decent ones from the hair care aisle of Walmart. Keep in mind, though, it’s possible to overdo it on the protein too — so stay vigilant.
If you’ve ever touched a straightening iron, or even been within the same physical vicinity of one, you should already know this. My fellow curly girls will be nodding emphatically right now, reading this. Heat protectant. Protect from the heat. Spray those little anti-heat soldiers through your mane before you even plug your hot instruments into the wall. Please, for the love of god. Not only does it help your hair retain its color, it keeps it from drying out, and avoids the thinning of your hair.
Don’t be like me and bleach your entire head twice in only two days. Honestly. Seriously. God. Just. Don’t. Do. It.
The ideal wait time between bleachings is between 4-6 weeks, unless you want a haystack on your head. Of course this varies between different hair types, some people might be able to get away with 2 bleachings over one weekend, but it’s just not recommended. If you do, be prepared to stock up on hair products to keep everything in order while it heals like badly sunburned skin. Or, most heart-wrenchingly, be prepared for the possibility of having to cut it all off after a bad reaction.
This includes a wide umbrella of chemicals, some we’ve already touched on (I’m looking at you, sulfates), but here’s a quick list of others you should watch out for:
This relates to showering less frequently, but dry shampoo will be your new best friend. Essentially, it’s a powdered spray that you shoot into your roots, where it’ll hang out like a good friend and soak up any excess oils, odors, sweat, etc. between showers. Not only that, but the spray can add life back into your hair by plumping up the roots and giving you some fresh new bounce.
This is particularly important if you exercise regularly, which also benefits both your skin and your mood on top of everything else. Sometimes you work out early in the morning and can’t catch a shower before work, sometimes you just don’t want to witness the impending death of your colored hair as more and more dye washes down the drain. Dry shampoo is your savior.
This seems counterproductive for those trying to grow their hair longer, but hear me out. When your hair experiences damage (which comes automatically with coloring, bleaching, and every day styling) split ends occur. And when split ends occur and are left untreated, they’ll actually creep further and further up the shafts of your hair, eventually splitting completely and breaking off. With all of this breakage and the weakness of your individual strands, your hair is going to take a painfully long time to grow out long and luscious.
So, every month or so, head on over to the salon and get a quick trim, or just trim your hair at home, if you have the guts. (That was not a challenge, please don’t trim your hair if you’re nervous about the idea. While hair does grow back, it’s not like it’s a race.)
All in all, taking care of dyed hair isn’t much different than what it takes to take care of non-dyed, virgin hair — all of the same rules apply to both: the cold showers, the sulfate-free shampoo, the regular trimming of the ends. For those of us with colored hair, though, it’s a lifestyle, rather than just a suggestion. But if you haven’t hopped on the boat yet, or you’re considering taking the plunge into the pastel-hair wonderland, don’t let the need for upkeep scare you away — the fun of it all makes up for the extra trouble!
Guest Blog: Kelsey Morgan