An exhaustive guide to dyeing your hair in ‘crazy’ colors

About five years ago, pastels, vibrant purples, and neon greens were just hair colors of fantasy characters, or rock stars, or the token ‘cool’ Asian in movies. Maybe you’d see someone with burgundy (but almost brown) hair once in a while, but in general we stuck to our blacks and browns. Fast-forward to today where non-neutral hair color is almost (but not quite) commonplace, especially in art communities and schools that allow it. Lightening and coloring hair used to be really intimidating since products need to be mixed and often had to be sourced online.

Nowadays, we have better access to these "crazy colors", with brands like Sparks becoming available in SM Beauty. If you've been curious to try it out, take advantage of the summer break and this DIY guide to have some fun with color!

Below we outline two kinds of dye jobs: one for beginners featuring ombre purple tips, and one for those with more DIY dye experience and want something more complicated. Pro tip: Grab a friend who also wants their hair dyed so y’all can assist each other and have a good time! 

I’ve been dyeing my hair since 2013 and I actually don’t remember what I look like with black hair, and I’m. Not. Mad. About. It. Meanwhile, Den has never colored her hair. Ever. 

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Things you’ll need:

  • 1 bleach and dye-proof cape, or a plastic trash bag with holes cut for the neck and arms

  • 1 white towel (for bleaching process) and 1 dark-colored towel (for dyeing process), or two towels you don’t mind ruining

  • 1 to 2 pairs of gloves

  • 1 dye brush (preferably dual-ended with a tooth comb)

  • Mixing bowl/s (with the number of bowls corresponding to the number of colors you will be working with)

  • 1 mirror (preferably one that is big enough to see from a distance)

  • Newspaper or plastic to protect furniture (we covered our tables and chairs)

  • Tissue, especially if you lack ear guards

  • Alcohol-based cleanser (in case you get dye on furniture or hands)

  • Hairdryer

  • Conditioner or hair treatment creme

  • Electric fan or abaniko (for calming yourself down during the bleaching process)

  • Patience and a helping hand as needed

Before photos: Den has uniformly dark hair while mine lean towards gray because of previous color treatments

Before photos: Den has uniformly dark hair while mine lean towards gray because of previous color treatments

Preparation

  1. Wear clothing that you are okay with potentially ruining. I once wore a nice-ish top (that can only be worn with its matching skirt) to a salon, assuming nothing would go wrong, but I came home to an unusable garment with bleach blotches. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

  2. Protect all the furniture in your vicinity. You would think that painting hair isn’t that much of a big deal but you will find splotches of dye in the most inconvenient of places. Take care of your chairs as dye may bleed on your back as you wait. Have a trash bag near you as well as tissue and alcohol (which is the best for erasing dye) handy.

  3. Be near a bathroom with a space to wash your hair. Tabo and pail are fine, detachable shower heads are better.

  4. If you are bleaching up to your roots, wear ear guards before application, or cover your ears with a thick layer of tissue to prevent burns.

  5. Place the towel and cape over your shoulders, and maybe ask a friend to help you with application on the back of your head.

Ready? Let’s go!

Bleaching Reminders and Steps

  • Put on some gloves (non-negotiable) to avoid skin damage.

  • IMPORTANT: Read the instructions on the packets of your developer and lightener. The Sparks 20 Vol Crème Developer (P199 for 3oz) and Powder Lightener (P349 for 1.05oz) had clear instructions.

  • Mix the crème developer and powder lightener (in this case one bottle and one pack) in a mixing bowl. Since Den only wanted to dye the tips for a more subtle effect, the concoction was enough for two rounds of bleaching.

  • Paint on the mixture evenly onto the areas you want to lighten with a dye brush and paint upwards a bit so there’s a gradiation of color when the dye is applied.
  • For pastel colors, you must lighten the hair to a level 10 (lightest blonde or almost white, about 3 to 4 rounds) but for a very saturated dye job using Sparks Purple Passion , a level 7 bleach job (medium blonde) is recommended by the brand.

  • Depending on the instructions of your developer, wait the prescribed amount of time (ours was 30 minutes and we increased to 45 minutes to further lighten) to allow the bleach to take. Since this is a DIY process, you will probably not have access to cellophane and heat processing. In our experience, it still worked, although the lightening is not as evenly done as in high-end salons. I have also had bleaching done in cheaper salons and results (even-ness) vary as well.

  • After 30 to 45 minutes of bleach processing, wash your hair with shampoo and blow dry. Some dyes specify that hair needs to be completely dried before application but the Sparks dye can be applied on dry or lightly dampened hair.

We bleached Den's hair twice, for a total of 75 minutes, to get to this level of lightness

We bleached Den's hair twice, for a total of 75 minutes, to get to this level of lightness

If you do not lighten the hair to a blonde or pale blonde, the color will not saturate the hair and you will end up wasting the dye. If you are a beginner, I do suggest starting with coloring portions of the hair that do not reach the roots since it is a painful and potentially damaging process. My hair has been bleached 4 to 5 times, with the roots retouched with 2 to 3 batches of bleaching, (and yes, I have experienced hair breakage) so I didn’t have to do extra lightening to achieve pastel colors.

This is what happens to brown hair when green color is applied on hair that hasn't been bleached to the correct level. Even though Sparks Long Last Bright Hair Color in Green Ivy (P599) is saturated, the color did not show up much on Gett's hair because it hasn't been pre-lightened. You can see a tinge of moss green since Gett has highlights, but that’s about it.

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Mixing Colors

When mixing colors for mermaid/unicorn/opal-inspired hair, you can definitely just use dyes straight out of the tube. Personally I like doing a custom blend! For this “mermaid” hair look, first prepare one bowl for the base color.

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  • Mix about 75% pink and 25% blue, and add the mixture to conditioner (about 4:3) to create a pastel violet. The same principles in color theory apply in dyes, and the conditioner acts as the white pigment. Without the conditioner you will get full saturation of the dye (which is obviously not the goal of pastel hair).
  • Just with your fingers, patch test the mixture on an inconspicuous part of your hair. If the color sticks, you can continue, but if it swipes away, add more dye without adding more conditioner. “Pastelizers,” or products that make other colors pastel also exist, but for our frugal pockets, conditioner will do. Just make sure to mix very well in order to avoid patchiness!
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  • Mix 3 more pastel colors like pink, green, and blue in separate bowls. This is a must as having separate containers saves you from accidentally mixing pigments. Sparks Long Last Bright Hair Color in Green Ivy (P599) was the most pigmented, and therefore needed the most conditioner to mix with. Mermaid Blue (P599) was easy to dilute but leans purple when lightened, and Pink Kiss (P599) was actually already too light that I had to mix in some drops of Arctic Fox’s Virgin Pink so that it would color my hair.

IMPORTANT: Even for pastel hair, I actually recommend not to dilute the dye too much because light dyes wash out quicker. With a bit more dye saturation, you can lengthen the life of your dye job and go through a nice cycle of fading.

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Den opted to get brighter colored tips for her hair, so we applied the dye without first mixing it with shampoo. Simply paint the lightened hair with un-diluted dye, and rub in the color with your fingers to help with even-ness of application. Wait at least 45 minutes before rinsing.

For pastel mermaid hair though, use the conditioner-diluted dye. Section your hair into four parts, and paint from the roots to about 30-50% (depending on where you want the base color to end) down. Rub the dye down a bit to avoid a straight, horizontal line of color.

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To create the multi-colored "rainbow" effect, use clean hands or gloves to take a thin section of hair. Where the base color starts to fade out, paint the rest of the length with one of the secondary colors. Rub up to mix the secondary color to the base for a smoother color transition. Continue taking small sections and painting them with a different color each time, making sure not to mix the pigments, else the colors get muddled.

We twisted the strands to keep the strands separate and the dyes from mixing with each other.

We twisted the strands to keep the strands separate and the dyes from mixing with each other.

Washing instructions

Wait at least 45 minutes before washing. In a shower, wash out the dye (shampoo optional) until the water runs clear. Blow dry until hair is mostly dry to see the actual color (since wet hair is often darker).

Voila! Den is now part of the Cool Asian Club. Unfortunately it doesn’t come with coding and hacking skills.

Voila! Den is now part of the Cool Asian Club. Unfortunately it doesn’t come with coding and hacking skills.

How to care for colored hair

After the lightening/bleaching process, it's normal for hair to become really stiff, dry, and brittle. So make sure to be very gentle when handling your hair afterwards! Right after blow drying (after the dyeing process not the lightening process) you may opt to comb through the hair with oil or apply a leave-in crème.

Fading will depend on how often you wash your hair. For pastel dye jobs it might be better to limit washing to 1 to 2 times a week using a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner like the Kracie Himawari Oil in Shampoo Volume & Repair. With a regular shampoo color fades faster and in some cases, completely erases whole patches, and nobody wants that! It is also useful to mix your own purple conditioner (simply by diluting purple dye in conditioner) so that the color fades more evenly and looks less yellow or brassy.

Once a week, or when you feel like your hair is in shambles, use a hair mask with a keratin treatment. Watsons has a lot of generic variants available. I currently use the Tresemme Keratin treatment mask, or Pantene 3-minute Miracle when I find it in the house, or the mask from EVA NYC when I feel more spend-y. Den uses the same Tresemme mask and Human Heart Nature’s Coco Hair mask. I find that, after doing a mask  treatment, my hair goes from a tangled, walis-ting-ting-esque mess to actual human hair.

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This is my first time to do a mermaid look! It took a while to do but the steps were relatively easy. I'm really quite pleased with how the colors turned out, with the green unexpectedly resulting in a rich emerald shade! 

Would you try using a "crazy color" on your hair? What shade/s would you want it to be?


Sparks Hair Dye ingredients:

Water (Aqua/EAU), Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Lanolin Alcohol, Ceteareth-20, Propylene Glycol, Basic Violet 1 (CI 42535), Hydrolyzed Keratin, Ethyl Ester Of Hydrolyzed Silk, Sodium Sulfite, Simethicone, EDTA, Fragrance (Parfum), Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone.

20 Vol Crème Developer ingredients:

Water (Aqua/EAU), Hydrogen Peroxide, Cetyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Stearyl Alcohol, PEG-100 Stearate, Phosphoric Acid.

Powder Lightener ingredients:

Ammonium Persulfate, Sodium Persulfate, Magnesium Carbonate, Hydroxypropylcellulose, Disodium EDTA, Ultramarines (CI 77007).

Sparks is now available in select SM Beauty locations. This is a sponsored post.