I've always loved "crazy" hair. Give me a short pink bob à la Natalie Portman in Closer, a Katy Perry purple puff or a Lady Gaga yellow and I'm in polychrome heaven. Way before the pink ombre trend I donned the closest thing to dying my hair that my mom would allow: wigs.
Fast-forward to my last year in college. Charlotte Free's hair is all the rage, and color is cool again. Sign me up!
The only problem is that I have naturally dark brown hair and the bleach-and-dye process at any salon is way too expensive. I yearned for the styles on Bleach London's Tumblr, but winced at the over-$200 price tag. NYC salons weren't much cheaper. So, I decided to take my strands into my own hands and do what most levelheaded people are afraid of doing: I decided to DIY bleach and dye my hair pastel purple.
I scoured the Internet for as much information as I could find about the DIY bleach process (which scared me the most) and was bombarded by hair-care professionals warning against the bleaching process because of how damaging it is to hair follicles (most of them also suggested going in to a salon for your first bleach). I found horror stories of people who describe the bleaching process as akin to having your head set on fire and many who claimed that over-bleaching will make your hair fall out (which is a myth, by the way).
Somehow, I managed to soldier on and tell myself that that was not going to happen to me. I was most concerned about how I could protect my hair and make it look nice (not matted and dry) after the process was finished.
After accepting all the disclaimers about DIY hair bleach, I looked on Youtube for DIY tutorials. At first I was disconcerted by the amount of young tweens with colored hair -- their emo/goth outfits made me rethink my plans for a little bit, but I was determined to rock colored hair while still being stylish. I love a good style challenge.
Helen Melonlady was the best vlogger I could find. Not only did she have bleach tutorials, but she also demonstrated color mixing, how to use toners (to get silver tones) and had amazing-looking pastel purple hair. After watching her "How to Dye Your Hair White/Silver/Grey" video multiple times, I ordered the colors she recommended online. I bought a lilac color from New Directions and a white toner and I also bought the same lilac and toner from Manic Panic. New Directions (from UK) and Manic Panic (U.S.) are famous for their vegan semi-permanent hair dyes. I say semi-permanent because there is no "permanent" pink, purple, blue, green or rainbow-colored hair dye (at least not that you can buy online).
The next day I ran out to Ricky's and bought a tub of powder lightener ($20), a couple bottles of 30 volume cream developer (about $2 each), hair caps, gloves, a brush and a bowl. Once my colors arrived in the mail I set off on the most elaborate and best hair journey of my life.
DIY Bleach Tips
- If you're going for a color with a lighter pigment -- such as purple, pink or any kind of pastel -- you will need to bleach your hair multiple times. Since I wanted to dye my whole head, I bleached my hair six times before all of it became light enough to absorb a light pigment (I learned this the hard way, which means my pastel purple didn't come out exactly how I wanted it to).
- For the best (lightest) results, buy 40 volume developer. I started of with 30 volume and it did not work as well.
- When bleaching, always start with your tips. The hair closest to your scalp will bleach faster since it is less damaged and newer. If you start from the bottom up you will get a much more even bleach job.
- Don't freak out when your hair turns orange. If you're a brunette like me, your hair will go through multiple stages of orange, yellow and blonde. Don't be scared and start crying. Just bleach on.
- Always use lotion or petroleum jelly to protect the skin around your hairline (don't forget your neck and ears). Bleach does and will burn you so take as many precautions as possible. If you get bleach on your skin, try to wash it off immediately or it will turn your skin white -- not permanently but you will be in for a shock. Sometimes, if you don't have someone to help you and if you are not careful, you can get too much bleach on the back of your neck which may result in a chemical burn. This happened to me and believe me, it's not pretty or fun. If you do give yourself a chemical burn, wash your skin off with cold water and go to the pharmacy to see what you can find to help. I used Aloe Vera jelly.
- If you can, get a friend to spot you.
DIY Dye Tips
- Achieving a Charlotte Free-esque, pastel pink look is really, really difficult. I'm not saying it's impossible, but you have to get your hair white before you can even consider pastel. This is one of the reasons why my hair did not turn out pastel purple. The toner I used did not get me silver tones because my hair was not bleached enough (this was after four bleaches). I would, instead, suggest going with a dye that has a stronger pigment, like green, blue or magenta. What I did after I tried purple, and was less than completely satisfied, was bleach my hair two more times and leave half of it blonde (almost white) while I dyed the other half Manic Panic's Atomic Turquoise.
- Like with bleach, make sure you apply petroleum jelly or lotion to the skin around your hairline, neck and ears before you dye to avoid having a blue or bright pink face.
- Leave the dye on overnight. The longer you leave in the dye, the stronger it will permeate your hair follicles. I left it in overnight and was very happy with the results.
- Wash your hair less. Once you've achieved the color you want, do some celebratory dancing because you're awesome. Just realize that now that you've dyed your hair with semi-permanent dye, it will wash off little by little every time you wash your hair. This doesn't mean that if you take a shower once you'll lose half your color, but it will start to fade much quicker if you shampoo your hair daily. Now that I have blue hair, I only wash my hair twice a week and use dry shampoo on my bangs every morning.
However, I have noticed that my hair has become much more dry, which was one of my initial fears. Because of this, I went to Ricky's and bought deep conditioners, which I use once a week to keep my locks looking healthy. Deep conditioning leaves my ends feeling much happier and helps keep my roots healthy, especially since I have to re-bleach and dye them every month or so.
I love having blue hair. Not only have I switched up my look, I've given myself the opportunity to test out hairstyles that I would not normally have tried. Now I love going on Pinterest and browsing looks that would look great with my pop of color. Having half-blue and half-blonde locks makes for really cool fishtail and French braids and an awesome looking topknot. As for makeup, I pair my hair with a bright pink lip and black-winged eyeliner to spice up my normally fresh-faced look.
The best thing about having blue hair is that people find me more approachable. My hair is a subject of conversation which is always fun and I've seemed to inspire quite a few people who have come up to me to ask for dye tips and the brand and color of I used. Hair dying is fun if you have the time and make an effort to do it properly! I encourage everyone to try something new with their 'do, even if it seems scary at first. I did it, so can you!