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Heather's Helpful Hints for Changing Hair Color

Published on 3rd November 2016

So if you’re reading this you are interested in changing your hair color. I’ve got some helpful hints on how to do it with the least amount of damage incurred as possible. Why do you want to not damage your hair? Other than the obvious “I don’t want to fry my hair” and “I want my hair to look good”, there’s also the fact that you, at some point in the future, are most likely going to want to change the hair color you have at the moment. Having damaged hair will only hinder that process.

I am not a licensed hairdresser, but I have been dyeing my hair crazy and natural colors for many years now. I have been asked, as I’m sure others on this site have, how do I change up colors so often without totally frying my hair off? What is my method?
Well, I follow a few simple rules:

  1. Ask yourself, can my hair handle what I’m about to do to it? If yes, then…
  2. Always use the least damaging methods first
  3. Deep conditioners & oil soaks are your best friend!

The importance of using the most gentle methods applicable first cannot be overstated here. So if it’s a dye that you’ve never faded before, or it’s a medium pigmented color to a lightly pigmented color, start with the shampoo soaks. If its a dye you’ve used before and you know it’s stubborn or you’ve already tried to fade your hair and it’s being resistant, then you’re going to want to start with a stronger method than a shampoo soak but you are also not going to want to reach for the bleach right away. So in that case you may choose to start with a method that is stronger, like Katie’s Direct Dye Fading Treatment. If you’ve used an oxidative dye you need to remove, you are going to want to use a color remover before going straight to bleach.

Where to Start?

First off, there are many types of dyes, some examples are semi permanent, direct, demi permanent and permanent dyes. Non-oxidative dyes are often labeled as semi permanent, direct dyes and some demi permanent dyes, and don’t use developer/peroxide. Other dyes, known as oxidative dyes, are often labeled as permanent (like box dyes from the drugstore) and some demi permanent dyes, which do use developer/peroxide. For our purposes lets just break them down into two groups:

Dyes that use developer/peroxide or oxidative dye
Dyes that don’t use developer/peroxide or non-oxidative dyes.

Color Removers

The first method I will cover is used mainly for oxidative dyes, though I have used color removers on non-oxidative dyes with success. Please refer to the article by Jude linked to below for more information on using color removers on non oxidative or direct and semi permanent dyes:

Colour Remover on Direct Dyes

First off, you need to know a color stripper is NOT a color remover, there’s a very important difference. A color stripper works much like bleach and is therefore not going to remove color in the same, less damaging way as a color remover.

There are different types of color removers, some are extra strength, some are made specifically for fashion colors or semi permanent and direct dyes. Some brands I’ve used and recommend are ColorOops, ColorFix, and ColourB4. Always clarify your hair before using a color remover to make sure there is nothing to create a barrier between the product and your hair, and beware the smell!!!

A color remover works by shrinking the dye molecules within the hair strand enough for the dye molecules to pass through the cuticle. Because of this the most important part of using a color remover is the rinsing. By rinsing you move the dye molecule out of the hair strand. When I use a color remover and it’s time to wash and rinse my hair I will shampoo my hair and then rinse in warm/hot water for about 20 minutes. I do this three times or more over a few days before I do a strand test to see if I’ve gotten all of the dye out. To do a strand test, you take a hidden lock of hair and put a low volume developer/peroxide (like 10 volume) on it and see if it re-darkens. If it re-oxidizes/re-darkens, then you have more rinsing to do and if it doesn’t re-darken you have successfully rinsed out the dye molecules. Some color removers contain a step 3 which checks for the same thing. If you haven’t removed as much of the dye as possible and you then go to use an oxidative dye, the dye molecules will re-oxidize and the color of the hair will darken. A little extra time in rinsing will save you headache down the road.

A color remover can be used up to two to three times before it will no longer be helpful.

After a color remover you are going to want to deep condition your hair or do oil soaks before you move on to your next stage of fading as they are more drying than damaging.

For more information on color removers, please read this totally helpful article by Cid:

Color Oops, Effasol and L’Oreal Color Removers Guide

Direct Dye Fading Methods I use (in order of gentlest to strongest)

Oil Soaks
Oils soaks are very much how they sound. They remove small amounts of color and are more often used to condition hair. Grab some coconut oil or olive oil or argan oil, saturate dry hair, let sit 2 hours to overnight, scrub out with cold water and conditioner (not shampoo).

Dandruff Shampoo Soaks (As taught to me by HairCrazy member Denis)
I like using generic conditioning dandruff shampoo for this method. Wet hair with warm/hot water, towel dry, add shampoo to hair and scrub gently, make sure hair is saturated with shampoo, put processing cap on, cover processing cap with beanie, let it sit for 1 hour. If you are doing more than one of these in a day then rinse out the shampoo in warm/hot water, towel dry, and repeat up to three times a day. Make sure to do either a deep conditioning treatment or an oil soak after doing these shampoo soaks to bring the moisture back to your hair. This method is more drying than damaging.

Using just fading soaks, much of the colour was removed over the course of a week

This fade was achieved with 9 shampoo soaks over the course of a week; 3 per day with a few days of deep conditioning in between

Katie’s Combination Colour Fading Treatment & Katie’s Direct Dye Fading Treatment
I use this method when I have a stubborn color in my hair or my hair is not fading much after using other methods.

Katie’s Fading Treatment

This treatment works wonders even on colors like Special Effects ‘Atomic Pink’. In this article you will find tons of helpful information. Definitely worth a read:

Katie’s Direct Dye Fading Treatment

Some Helpful Hints on Silicones
Another helpful hint is to be mindful of your silicone use when dyeing your hair and doing conditioning treatments. Silicones can be found in many hair products, from pomade, to gel, to heat protectants, to frizz control products, to most shampoos and conditioners. Silicones can create a barrier between your hair and other conditioning products you use, including non-oxidative dyes. To avoid this happening when you want to dye your hair, deep condition it, or when oil is applied, you simply clarify your hair with a clarifying shampoo first. These types of shampoos can be found at many beauty and drugstores.
There is also quite a bit of more detailed information on silicones all over the HairCrazy site and the internet as well.
Along with either clarifying your hair before using conditioning type products or using products that don’t contain silicones at all (which I tend to do unless I have a big event I’m styling my hair for), there is a method known as Conditioner Only Washing, or C.O. Washing. C.O. Washing in a very basic sense, consists of using non-silicone products, washing your hair in conditioner only, and breaking up the amount of times you wash your hair a week down to a minimal amount.
Again, there is tons of more detailed information about C.O. washing on the HairCrazy site and on the internet.

Moving Through the Color Wheel
So you’ve gotten most of your dye out, it won’t fade anymore, you don’t want to bleach again, and you want to do a similar color to what you had last. Time to move through the color wheel. Say your hair is green and you want it to be blue. How do you do this?
Please refer to this amazing article about Colour Theory For Hair Dyeing by Jude:

Colour Theory for Hair Dyeing

Using a combo of shampoo soaks and careful colour choice

This transition was completed in just one day by first fading with a shampoo soak, and then using color theory to change colours by putting Pravana Violet over faded Pravana Green.

So now, only if you need a lighter base color for your next dye, and after using the methods above until no more dye comes out of the hair and it stops fading, should you move on to bleaching.

Here are some hints for getting the most out of your bleaching session while keeping the damage down to the least amount possible (there will still be damage, it is bleach after all):

  • soak hair in coconut or olive oil 2 + hours to overnight
  • use the lowest volume developer that you can for the amount of lift needed
  • use Olaplex during and after the bleaching process as directed by the Olaplex company (this step can be skipped, though I do recommend using Olaplex)
  • after thoroughly shampooing hair do a protein treatment to replace lost protein in the hair
  • after rinsing out the protein treatment use a deep conditioner to hydrate hair
  • after deep conditioner rinse in cold water and do a vinegar rinse to close up the cuticle

Using a combination of shampoo soaks and bleach, I was able to completely remove Pravana Violet & Wild Orchid

Before: Hair was saturated with dye (including Pravana Violet and Wild Orchid) over a dark brassy base. After: Achieved blonde in about 2.5 weeks using Denis’ fading shampoo soaks and bleaching once. Lots of deep conditioning and Olaplex #3 were used to keep damage to a minimum.

Helpful Hair Dyeing Tips
Here are some hints to what I find works for the best hair dyeing results:

  • clarify hair in warm/hot water
  • use a hair dryer on warm/hot to dry hair
  • put dye mix thoroughly through hair (use a non silicone conditioner for diluting)
  • put on a processing cap to keep the dye damp
  • wave a blow dryer on warm over the processing cap
  • put on a beanie
  • let dye sit for 2+ hours (only for direct dyes, where no developer is needed)
  • rinse dye out in cold water and either shampoo gently or scrub with conditioner only
  • do a vinegar rinse to close up the cuticle

A Helpful Hint About Your Hair’s Cuticles

I’m going to write a little about your hair’s cuticle and the importance of and ways of lifting and lowering it as far as fading and dyeing go. To put it simply, your hair’s cuticle is like a door. When it’s raised, dye, deep conditioners and oils can move through it with the most ease. When it’s closed, it’s going to make moving through it more difficult.

One simple way to raise your cuticle is to add heat to your hair by either rinsing your hair in warm/hot water, or waving a hair dryer over a cap on your hair with a dye mix in it on the warm/hot setting. Another is to pre soften your hair with a low volume developer/peroxide by soaking your hair in the developer for about 10 minutes, then rinse in warm/hot water, which is normally used to pre treat grey hair for non oxidative dyes and is not a method I suggest using for fading.
A simple way to close your cuticle is to wash your hair in cold water, or do a vinegar rinse by coating your hair with a mix of white vinegar and water 1:1, let sit for 10 minutes, then rinse in cold water. I recommend doing this after your deep conditioning treatments at the end of your bleaching routine, or after dyeing your hair with a non oxidative dyes.

I bring this up because often in this article I refer to washing or rinsing your hair specifically in warm/hot or cold water, and waving a hair dryer over your capped hair to warm it, and wearing a beanie for warmth, and using vinegar rinses This is to raise and lower the cuticle, according to what you are doing.
Beginning fading? Starting a deep conditioning treatment? Warm/hot water.
Rinsing after dyeing? Rinsing after your deep conditioner? Cold water/vinegar rinse.

Have a healthy hair adventure!

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My Thoughts

Always do strand and sensitivity tested before trying a new fading treatment and before using a new product. Take care to ensure alkaline or acidic products (e.g. vinegar) are adequately diluted before use to avoid irritation. If irritation occurs make sure to thoroughly rinse off the product immediately and seek medical assistance if irritation persists.