The Ultimate Guide To Unnatural Hair Colouring

My hair has been pink, purple, jade-green, red, black & white… & all within the last three years. I’m often asked how do I get my hair so (insert-colour-here) & what products I use, so I thought I would give you some pointers. (Also, yesterday I got my hair cut REALLY SHORT & I am still coping with the SHOCK of looking like a BOY.)

Things to remember:
If your hair is dark to begin with, the colour won’t show. If you’re trying to go darker, it probably will show, but not as vibrantly as if you had started with a lighter colour. Think of it like using a pink pen on black paper. The pink probably won’t show up. The same goes for your tresses.
If you start with yellow-toned hair — as bleached hair has a tendency to go — remember your colour wheel. If you’re trying to go bright red, & you put that over yellow, your hair will be orange. If you put blue on yellow, your hair will turn green. To get rid of the yellowness, get it toned.
If you are going grey or have white hair, know that any colour you put on your hair is going to be REALLY bright. I once read a complaint from a woman who used L’Oreal Feria’s “Starry Night” (which is the best blue-black ever, in my opinion), but because she had some gray hairs, all the gray bits went BRIGHT blue.
For those of us with naturally dark hair (like me), the best bet in terms of lightening is to get it done professionally. Yes, this can be expensive, but they know what they’re doing. When I was trying to get my hair white, I used (on average) two packets of bleach a week on my head trying to get the colour down. I continued this charade for about a month, & my hair was still yellow & nasty. I could have bought toner myself, but I didn’t want to risk it & my hair was already way too brittle for me to want to keep fiddling with it — & I spent easily as much trying to do it at home as it cost to have it done properly. So while this CAN be done at home, I suggest getting it done at a salon unless you feel really confident, or don’t care if it looks manky.
You should always try to go for a colour that complements your skin-tone. You can use my article Fashion Help For Recovering Goths as a guideline. In general, I would suggest that if you have a ruddy complexion (by this I mean you blush or go pink in the face easily) to stay away from pink & red colours. I would also say to stay away from neon yellow or green if you’re a bit on the pale side. It will just make you look sick, & I presume that’s not what you’re going for!
Blue is hard to maintain, probably the hardest of all the colours. Keep this in mind if you want to try it — it will need a lot of touch-ups. If you want to keep it up long-term, make sure the place you bought it from has enough in stock!

Special Effects: I personally like Special Effects, & based on what I’ve heard from most people who dye their hair on a regular basis, it seems like the best dye. It comes in amazing colours — my hair is “Atomic Pink” & I would love to try “Electric Blue” sometime — but beware! It STAINS like CRAZY. My pillowcases are pink. They have been washed, but they’re still stained. Don’t use white towels! After a while, the colour stops bleeding, but generally it takes a couple of weeks. Special Effects tends to last at least a month. A lot of the colours also glow under black-light. Bonus. Please note, I have never seen Special Effects for sale outside of the U.S.A. When I went to New York recently, I stock-piled with pink. Try Ebay.
Manic Panic: I’m okay with Manic Panic. They have a good range of colours & it lasts for a reasonable length of time. Some of this also glows under black-light. Looking at their site, it says their formula has improved (“lasts 30% longer!”), so maybe they’ve improved. Anyway, a good second choice.
Fudge: Probably a good brand to start with if you’re unsure as to whether you REALLY want purple hair. Otherwise, don’t bother buddy! The colours are average at best, & in my experience, it lasts about a week tops.

I’m not going to cover the bleaching stage, since I believe it should be done professionally & if you really want to do it, you can read the directions. I can’t give you any better advice than what is written on the box, unfortunately!

You will need:
Rubber gloves
Hair dye — you can use a couple of colours if you want to experiment or want a more interesting effect. I once used the remnants of Manic Panic’s “New Rose” with Special Effects’ “Cupcake Pink” & the result was awesome.
A tinting brush (looks kind of like a turkey baster), though this isn’t essential, & you can use a soft toothbrush instead if you like.
Old towels
Cling film or an old shower-cap
Vinegar (apple cider is my favourite). Edit: A reader tells me that vinegar stripped the colour right out of her blue hair, so perform this step at your own risk!

Step by step (ooh baby, gonna get to ya giii-iiii-iiirl)
Don’t tell me you didn’t like New Kids On The Block. I know the truth!
01. Okay blondie, wash your hair with shampoo, rinse it out, get out of the shower & towel-dry your hair. Don’t dry it completely, just get most of the moisture out.
02. Put down towels, put on an old t-shirt & read the directions on the bottle to find out the recommend length of time you should leave it in.
03. Rubber gloves please! Apply a thick streak of vaseline across your skin where it meets your hairline. This will stop your skin from going whatever weird colour your hair will soon be. You crazy kid! Put some around your ears too, since blue ears look silly.
04. If you’re using more than one colour, mix it up in a bowl that you never plan on eating from again. You can use the tinting brush for this or you can just use a couple of gloved fingers. Once you’ve stirred it well & are happy with the colour, you’re ready to go!
05. Apply the dye! Use the tinting brush, a toothbrush or your fingers. I use my fingers. Some people say you should colour from back to front, but in my experience this doesn’t make much of a difference. Being able to see the back of your head might be a good thing though — I usually get a chair & prop a full-length mirror on it so I can.
06. Make sure your hair is totally coloured. Comb it through & check that you’ve done the roots entirely. I usually like so much dye in my hair that I can easily twist it into weird shapes.
07. Cover your head with cling film (or a shower-cap). This locks in the heat coming out of your scalp, & helps set the colour better. You can leave this for as long as you want — I usually leave the colour in a little longer than the bottle says (if they say 30 minutes, I leave it 45), but I once knew a guy who would go to bed with cling-film covering his blue hair. Also around now you might like to pour some vinegar into a cup. Fill it up, you’re going to be rinsing your hair with this.
08. Wash it out! Get in the shower & rinse it until the water goes clear (or as clear as it’s going to get). Then shampoo. Tilt your head back & try not to let any of the water coming off your hair trickle down your face, since it can stain! Okay, now for the vinegar. This works best for me when I sit down. Keep your head back & pour the vinegar through, working it through with your fingers. I don’t really know how it works, apparently it raises the pH level of the hair colour, but whatever. The point is that it works — it will stop your hair from staining everything as much. Rinse well, then condition.
09. Get out of the shower, towel dry & admire for at least ten minutes before putting your clothes back on. Yay! Enjoy!

To keep the colour bright & vibrant, & to stop your hair from drying out, you need to use a really good conditioner. I am a huge fan of “Dumb Blonde” from Tigi’s Bedhead range. Here’s their blurb: “Not just for dumb blondes — it’s for racy redheads & buxom brunettes too. Dumb Blonde shampoo delivers mega-moisture, explodes with lather & adds supershine.” The conditioner (they call it a “reconstructor”) is full o’ protein, with soy, wheat, keratin & pro-vitamin B5. They usually sell small bottles (maybe 275ml, I’m not sure) of each for about $16 US, but every so often you will find a litre pump bottle of the conditioner & shampoo together for $30 US. If you come across this, snap it up! It’s a great saving & the products are wonderful.
Of course, you don’t have to use Dumb Blonde, it’s just something I have found which works for me.
If your hair is white, buy a purple shampoo of some kind to keep it toned. I used to use “Daddy-O” by Lush, but it’s been discontinued. Boo!

Send me pictures!

Extra For Experts:
Video of Halcyon Styn dying his hair pink.