10 Things No One Ever Told You About Coloring Your Hair (But Probably Should Have)

This just in: Ladies be dyeing their hair, all kinds of ways, all the time. Between highlights, dyes, single process, and double process color, there are so many very options out there for getting your hair just the way you want it—but you still don’t always know what you’re getting yourself into, whether it be at the salon or at home.

Like, um, should you wash your hair before you dye it? Should you … warn your friends and family that your appearance is about to change dramatically? (For the record, the answer to both is no.) Here, ten things no one will ever tell you about coloring your hair, even though you should definitely know them.

If you look closely at photos of most celebrities, their hair isn’t just one shade: Universal hair-crushes like Miranda Kerr and Julianne Hough have multi-tonal dye jobs, which highlight their faces and give the illusion of more movement and body in the hair.

Whether it’s directly after or within a couple of days, a keratin treatment should be done right around the time that you color your strands to seal in the color.

Yes, you should be using color-treated shampoo and conditioner formulated specifically for your hair color, but you should also be using a color-protecting styling spray and a UV spray. Harmful UV rays can fade the color of your hair, making salon trips more and more necessary.

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Whether you get a kit for root touch ups or simply use a touch-up pen, stretch the amount of time between salon visits with a quick fix of your own.

Dripping dye onto your skin is a good look for no one. Use your regular moisturizer on your face, then apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly around your hairline before coloring—this way, your skin is protected and you’ll be able to wipe off the color immediately once you’re done.

Not that we recommend messing up, but it’s comforting to know that with products like Color Oops, your hair color catastrophe can be washed out completely if absolutely necessary.

There are a slew of gnarly ingredients that can hide in at-home hair color products, so you should be looking out for all of them. Ingredients like ammonia (which can completely dry and fry your hair) and lead acetate (uh, lead poisoning?) should be avoided like the plague. If possible, try to use the most natural hair color you can find, and talk with your colorist about which products they’re using.

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Single process is exactly like what it sounds like: applying one color to the hair at one time. A double process requires bleaching out the hair—the first process—and then toning the color—the second process—to get the desired result. Double processing takes longer and is harsher on your hair, so you should be aware of that going into it.

Going lighter means stripping hair of some color and moisture, while going darker means depositing color into your hair. It’s the basic laws of subtraction and addition: Adding color is less damaging, removing your color is more damaging.

Color not only holds better to dirty hair—clean hair can be too slippery—but if you wash your hair before coloring, the dye or bleach may burn your scalp since it won’t have the natural oils to protect it.

Originally published April 2016. Updated June 2017.

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