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How to Dye your Hair Purple

Published on 4th September 2018

So you want to dye your hair purple but not sure where to start? Let me take you through everything you need to know about how to dye your hair purple.
We’ll cover how to choose the right purple hair dye and how to dye unbleached or brown hair. You’ll learn tips for adding shine, getting the brightest shade and how to achieve specific shades like burgundy, dusky purple and smoky mauve.

Choosing the Right Dye

Have you noticed how many purple hair dyes are on the market? There are many shades to choose from but it’s important to remember one thing:

Regardless of shade, you need to pick the right type of dye for your hair.

Ask yourself this:
Am I willing to bleach my hair?
If the answer is yes, then as long as you’re able to lighten your hair to pale blonde you can have any shade of purple you want.

Reasons why you may not be able to bleach to pale blonde


Lightening your hair to pale blonde can be tricky for a number of reasons:

  1. You’ve previously coloured your hair
    Coloured hair can be difficult to lighten. Synthetic pigments can be removed with a colour remover allowing you to bleach lighter. If there’s a lot of old colour it can be problematic to remove completely, preventing your hair from lightening fully.
  2. You have very dark hair
    Very dark hair can take a few sessions to lighten which is time-consuming and damaging to your hair.
  3. Your hair is delicate
    Whether your hair has been compromised with chemical processes or it’s naturally fragile, you might discover you can’t go light without serious breakage.
  4. You just don’t want to bleach
    If maintaining your hair’s condition is your top priority there are still a few options for dyeing purple. Some colours can be used on unbleached hair to add a tint.

If you can’t or won’t bleach your hair, read on for some methods for dyeing unbleached hair purple, adding shine and restoring colour.

Recently I created this infographic to help you choose the perfect shade of purple. I’ve arranged popular hair dyes on a chart so you can compare shades at a glance. Pay attention to the required base colour. If your hair is darker blonde then you should stick to those deeper purple colours. If you can get all the way to light blonde then you can have anything from pastels to rich, dark shades.

Infographic: Choosing the Perfect Purple Hair Dye

Infographic: Choosing the Perfect Purple Hair Dye

Having difficulty choosing which shade of purple to dye your hair? Use this infographic to quickly and easily locate your perfect purple!

A lighter base colour will give you the most vibrant results.

Think about it: if you used a coloured pen on black paper you can’t see colour well. If you use it on white paper the colour is fully visible. Hair colour is just the same.

In fact, any level of lightening will help you achieve a brighter result as long as you put the right dye on top. Read this guide if you’re new to bleaching. If you can afford to, have your first full-head bleaching done at a salon since it’s a time consuming process and difficult without experience.

Bleaching Your Hair

Bleaching Your Hair

A guide to bleaching your hair for the first time

Can I dye my hair purple without bleaching?

Yes, you can. There are a few options:

  1. Use a permanent plum or burgundy dye and then apply purple on top
  2. Apply a very pigmented dye over your natural hair.

Wait a second: why would you ever bleach your hair if you could dye it purple without going blonde first?

Remember I said that lighter base colours give more vibrant colours? There’s a second element that comes into play: how well your hair can absorb the colour. Permanent dyes – even dark colours – will lighten your natural hair colour. Hair that has been lightened or chemically processed with perms is more absorbent, making it more receptive to colour.

Use a direct semi-permanent dye over faded permanent colour. The result: lush, saturated colour with amazing shine.

Let’s discuss that first option I mentioned; using a permanent dye and topping up the colour.
When you use a permanent dark purple colour the results tend to be beautiful and vibrant for the first few weeks before gradually becoming duller. Most people then reapply the permanent colour to get back that just dyed look. If you’ve been paying attention you’ll know what the problem here is; applying permanent colour over and over is going to accumulate damage, and as we know, damage is permanent and needs to be grown out.

The better option? Use a direct semi-permanent dye over faded permanent colour. The result: lush, saturated colour with amazing shine. The direct dyes we’re all about on HairCrazy.com won’t damage your hair (most will actually condition it). Here are some that we sell but there are many brands to choose from that will add colour without damaging.

Now, about option 2 Applying dye over natural hair
The honest truth: success rates with this method vary a lot and it depends on your hair type. For the best chances of working you’ll need extremely clean hair and a very pigmented dye. Start by removing any natural oils, styling products and conditioner from your hair, which could act as a barrier to the colour soaking in. Wash your hair a few times with a clarifying shampoo (don’t condition) and dry it fully.
Apply the colour thoroughly and cover your hair with a shower cap to prevent it from drying out. Apply gentle heat with a hair dryer occasionally. If you’re using a direct dye – i.e. one that doesn’t need to be mixed with developer – you can allow the colour to soak in for a few hours, then rinse out with cool water.
Completely natural hair can be tinted with a purple sheen, but the colour will wash out much more quickly than it would on bleached hair. Your hair colour will affect how noticeable the results are; purple on top of natural white or grey hair will be more noticeable than purple applied to brown hair.
Here’s an article where I used this method to tint brown hair.

Dyeing Unbleached Hair

Dyeing Unbleached Hair

If you can't or won't bleach your hair there's still a way to get an unnatural colour.

What about hair that’s been lightened, but isn’t light blonde?

The rules for dyeing unbleached hair apply here, but you have more flexibility on shades. If you stick to warm purples, you can use medium-toned as well as dark colours.

If you prefer violet, aim to use a dyes that are extra pigmented; usually these are dyes with a reputation for being long-lasting. Pravana Violet is my favourite for this. Any of the dyes listed above for unbleached hair will work well.

Still not sure?
Burgundy is a great colour to try on top of brown, ginger or dark blonde hair. These shades of reddish purple give stunning results:

If in doubt, use a dark and very pigmented colour

How to get Bright Purple Hair

We’ve already covered the fact that you need to start off with light coloured hair if you want a bright purple; but how do you get that really vibrant almost glowing purple? Here are a few tricks you can employ if you want something ultra bright.

Choose a medium-toned purple

It seems pretty simple; you need a colour that’s darker than a pastel shade, but not so deep that it looks dark in daylight. I can practically hear you seasoned hair dyers say “well, duh” to themselves but starting with the right tone is vital. Medium-toned purples have enough pigment to give a punchy colour but aren’t so dark as to absorb a lot of light.

The fluorescent properties of a UV-reactive pink will shine through and give your purple an extra kick.

Use a fluorescent colour

Try this trick: use a fluorescent pink as a base for your purple. You can’t beat Atomic Pink for its ridiculous brightness, so borrow its day-glo qualities by mixing it with a medium-light blue to create purple, or a bright turquoise to make violet. The fluorescent properties of a UV-reactive pink will shine through and give your purple an extra kick.

Play with shades

Creating colour variations and contrasts will give your hair the appearance of being brighter. Add some dimension to your hair by using two shades in your hair. For example: add alternating panels of medium violet and a medium pinkish purple.
Try adding contrast by combining areas of very dark purple with bright purple. The dark purple will help the lighter colour to “pop”.

Smoky Mauve, Dusky Lilac and other subtle purples

Ever wanted something a little more subtle? The key to achieving a muted shade is a combination of using less vibrant colours and employing colour theory to move towards a more neutral shade. Allow me to expand on that a bit:

If glowing, vibrant colours were on one end of the scale, muted colours would be on the other end. To get those soft, smoky colours you need to choose colours that are less colour saturated.

For pale hair this can mean using flat lilac and lavender shades to create beautiful shades of dusty pastel purple. Try mixing a warm lavender with dark grey to create a deeper, smoky mauve colour.

How about on darker hair?
On dark blondes, you’ll need to use your knowledge of colour theory to balance the colours. Using the existing yellow tones in your hair, you can create a more neutral colour with medium-toned violets and purples. Adding a pale grey can also help you achieve a muted shade.

So many options for dyeing your hair purple

There are plenty of options for dyeing your hair purple, even if you don’t want to bleach. Use pigmented purples to cover darker hair or add a glossy shine to faded colour. Choose a bright, glowing purple or go for smoky lilac shades; there’s a purple to suit everyone.

Do you have questions about dyeing your hair purple? Let me know below.

Note: this article was completely rewritten and updated for 2018. It replaced the original article from 2012.

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