I don't know if it's the fall season's vibrantly colored leaves that makes so many of us wanna switch things up or, it's because autumn kicks off the holiday season and we wanna look as fly as possible (that's our true motivator). But there's something about the here and now that inspires a lot of us to change our hair—more specifically, our hair color.
I totally get it because I've done it. But with age and experience come wisdom. So, now that I'm just as interested in maintaining length (check out "This Is Why Your Natural Hair Ain't Growin'" and "7 Tips For Getting The Edges And Nape Of Your Neck To Grow Faster"), as I am in throwing some color in, I wanted to share some tips on how you can get the bold and beautiful hue that you want without totally wrecking your tresses in the process.
Have You Considered Taking an All-Natural Approach?
OK, so when it comes to going the all-natural route on hair color, I'll be real with you—unless it's something like hair wax (which is dope but it only lasts a few days), natural options tend to lean more on the subtle side. Even henna (which is wonderful at also conditioning your hair) typically doesn't end up being as bold and brilliant as you might like it to be. But, if subtle is what you're aiming for, there are some things that you can add to your hair that are virtually damage-free. Coffee can create a brown richness to your hair (there's a DIY video here). Or, if you want a subtle red tint to your mane, beet juice can typically do the trick (check out a DIY video for that here).
If Louder Is What You Want, Assess How Healthy Your Hair Is First
If you don't want anything subtle or a hair color option that won't last more than a few days, before you decide to dye your hair, take it from someone who has failed miserably at this particular point in times past—you really need to assess the state of your hair before doing anything drastic to it. What I mean is, you need to check it to see how healthy it is—or isn't—first.
If you've got split ends, your hair is extremely dry, if it lacks elasticity (it breaks easily), if it seems extremely frizzy or won't hold a style or your ends are raggedy AF—these are all indications that color is the last thing that your hair needs right now; especially since inclement weather will only dry your hair out further.
For the moment, focus on restoring your hair's health by deep conditioning it for a couple of months, trimming your ends and, giving yourself a protein treatment if it needs one (Naturally Curly has a good read on how to know if you need one of those. You can check it out here.) Yes, all of this might delay the time that it will take before you can get the color that you want, but it's better to have healthy locks with beautiful color than beautiful color that will result in you having to big chop because of how damaged your hair was before you actually dyed it.
Then Determine How Dramatic You Want Your Color to Be
Once your hair is in a good and healthy state, the next thing to ponder is how dramatic you want to go, on the color tip. This consists of factoring in personal preference, trends and also what will stress your hair out the most. As far as trends go, colors that are popular for winter 2020 and spring 2021 include deep burgundies, rich and smokey shades of blue (midnight blues are super dope on us, by the way), caramel hues, sombre highlights (which is basically a technique that puts two shades of highlights over medium brown hair color), deep brown, cinnamon and even silver is still hanging in there.
One of the reasons why it's so important to know how light (or dark) you want to take it is because certain looks need peroxide to lighten your natural color so that drastic hues will take properly. When the pigment of your hair is stripped, that automatically damages your cuticles to a certain degree, which means that you'll have to "baby your hair" so that you don't experience a lot of shedding or breakage. Plus, based on what you desire the end result to look like, you might need to seek out a professional's help 'cause listen y'all—I don't care what those box brand commercials tell you, sometimes you can't get the results you want without significantly lifting your natural color and oftentimes, that requires a pro to make sure that your hair stays in good shape once you do it. Always keep in mind, the lighter the shade, the more vulnerable your hair will become. Vulnerable hair is fragile hair. Factor that in as you're making your decision.
Will Semi-Permanent (or a Rinse) Do the Trick?
When I was in my 20s, my hair color was all over the place. Because I rocked a short 'do, pretty much most of the time, it could easily be blonde one week, red the next and then some shade of brown the following month. In my 40s, I like jet black a lot. But because I've known that dark hair dye has a breast cancer link, for a while now, I've been going with a black hair rinse which is basically a lower level option of semi-permanent hair color. How is that the case?
Well, while semi-permanent hair color can last through eight or so shampoos, rinses sometimes go away after only a couple. A plus with rinses is, since rinses coat but do not penetrate your hair shaft, they are considerably better for your hair.
As far as semi-permanent hair colors go, because they don't contain the bleach or ammonia that permanent dyes do, this makes them a much gentler option for your hair that permanent dyes are. Does semi-permanent hair color pose the same amount of a health risk as permanent dyes do? From what I've read, not exactly. But there is still some risk. Anything other than an all-natural hair color option poses at least a little bit of one.
Anyway, the main thing to keep in mind when it comes to going with a rinse or semi-permanent hair color is it's not permanent. You will have to apply more color, more often. A good maintenance hack is you should wash your hair with cool water so that your color stays longer. Personally, because I don't shampoo my hair any more than twice a month, rinses are just fine for me. Plus, I've only seen my hair thrive since I made the decision to leave permanent hair color alone.
If Not, Go with a Gel Color and Get More than One Box of It
If after reading all of what I just said, you still wanna go with something permanent and you still wanna do it at home, make sure that you go with a gel color. Why? It's honestly the kind of dye that will give natural hair textures the type of coverage that we truly need (a good runner-up is liquid hair dye). Also, make sure that you purchase more than one box. I don't know one person, pretty much regardless of what their hair length is, that is able to fully cover their entire head with just one bottle of hair dye. And again—and it really can't be stressed enough—if you want to go significantly lighter, the box alone is probably not gonna do it. You will need to lighten the base of your hair first. They sell them at local beauty supply stores. (Although I've watched a couple of naturalistas offer up a few non-lightener hacks. You can check out two of the videos that I've seen before here and here).
Prep and Maintain Your Hair with Wisdom—and Consistency
Once you've decided what kind of dye you want to use, it's equally important that you have a hair prep and hair maintenance play in place. As far as hair prepping goes, while I hope that you're already doing this, please make sure to deep condition your hair, every week, the month prior to coloring your hair. The more moisturized your tresses are, the better they will be able to handle the stress and strain that dye can cause your cuticles. Also, shampooing your hair with a clarifying shampoo, about a week before adding color, is a good idea because it will remove any product build-up that could make it challenging for your color to fully take.
As far as maintenance on the backend, it's important that you use a color-safe shampoo because it will help your color to last longer. Definitely do not slack up on your deep conditioning routine. Make sure to seal your ends with Jamaican black castor oil or something like avocado oil (you can watch a video on how to do that here). Try and rock protective styles at least four days a week (to protect your vulnerable ends). Oh, and since we are headed towards much cooler weather, make sure to line your fly hats so that they don't dry your hair out.
If you are diligent in doing all of these things, I have no doubt that you can end up with the color that you want without sacrificing the health of your hair. You will be looking amazing all fall and winter with extra inches to bring about, come spring. Dope, right? I know.
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