Mishaps in Home Hair Colouring 101

I like doing things myself, and for the longest time, I used to go to hair dressers to do my haircuts, my colouring…etc. But for the last couple of years I have been doing everything myself.  And I’ve learned so much from this.  It wasn’t easy.  Doing your own hair means making a few mistakes here and there, and taking time to correct it. But don’t fret.  Doing your hair yourself also means you get what you want, and you don’t have to pay hefty fees to stylist that sometimes make mistakes too!  They are professionals, but they are not flawless.

Back to Brown

I recently decided I wanted to go lighter than my natural black again.  I used to rock a dark blonde way back when, but this time around, I decided I wanted to do an ashy light brown instead because it is healthier since it is less levels of lightening.  My hair had grown out at the roots and was virgin black hair to my ears, and below was pre-lightened brownish hair stained with a tinge of purple from when I rocked purple hair.  So here begins my misadventures.  I want to tell you right off the bat that if you have hair that is not uniform in chemical treatments, this is where colouring gets tricky. I mean really tricky.  But still, I am not bowing down to the professionals yet.

So I grab the light ash blond colorant I always use when I used to do a dark blonde. It has a base of dark blue toner, to combat any orange colours in hair that arrive when trying to lighten hair.  I know this time I was aiming for brown, but I still wanted the toning effect to get rid of excess brassiness, so I thought the same colorant can be used, but to get brown, I would just use weaker volume peroxide for less lift.  Okay…so guess what?  I was right about using a weaker peroxide, but wrong about the blonde ash toner in my colorant! It saturated the middle shafts of my hair–the parts of the shaft that were the most porous, and when I washed out the colorant, I had stained the mid sections an ashy green!  I also still had some purple tint on the very ends, and my roots were a warm brown colour, because it was healthy virgin hair that resisted the stain of the ash green. I basically had 3 colours in my hair! Not what I wanted at all.

I don't know if you can see it. Photos are deceiving. But my midshaft is green, my ends are ashy, and my roots/top is overly warm brown!
I don’t know if you can see it. Photos are deceiving. But my midshaft was green, my ends were ashy, and my roots/top was a warm brown!

Trying to fix Tri Coloured Hair!

So not happy, I start researching how to get rid of the greenish part in my hair.  I figured that I could live with a bit of uneven hair colour tones, but just not ashy green.  I heard remedies from bleaching again, to ketchup, to salt!  I decided on using a lemon juice soak to get it out.  After an hour of soaking the bottom half of my hair in a mixture of lemon juice and conditioner, I washed it out to find little to no change.The ash colours were still there.  And I was still unevenly coloured.

After the lemon juice to try and fix the green. I still had a lot of ash to my mid section, and if anything, the lemon juice just lighted everywhere. Still tri-coloured! Yikes.
After the lemon juice: I still had a lot of ash to my mid section, and if anything, the lemon juice just lighted everywhere. Still tri-coloured! Yikes.

Emergency Box Colouring:

I don’t usually use box colour kits from the pharmacy, but waking up to tri-coloured hair was bothering me a lot.  Warm roots, grey/green mid-shaft, and greyish purple tips was driving me mad.  I walked to my corner pharmacy to fix this once and for all! Two boxes of colour kits since my hair is long.  I figured where I had gone wrong was in using a colourant with a ton of toner in it to begin with.  The ash blond colourant was made for people who were aiming for blonde, not brown, so there was no darker colour but bluish toner to fill in areas that I had pre-lightened before, therefore staining it green. The science of hair colour finally hitting me in my face.  Every hair color has a tint of either red/gold/green. But there is also a base colour of different concentration depending on how dark you wanted to go.  Ash blond does not have any base colour. Where as if I wanted brown, I would have to use a brown base especially where I had pre lightened before!  Too complicated for words.  After the redo in a light golden brown colour from the store, the green was finally covered.  But then a new problem presented itself. Dull brown hair!

I got rid of the greeny part in the middle, but now the ends were stained by dark colourant, making the colour flat, especially from the bottom half down.
I got rid of the greeny part in the middle, but now the ends were stained darker than the top, making the colour flat. My roots/top was also still warmer than the bottom!

Clarifying to remove the over dye:

I put lemons into my hair again to remove the over-dye.  When hair has over dye in it, the strands are too saturated, they can’t shine because of it and are weighed down.  This is when one can use different remedies and products to remove some of the dye. I used lemons, because I had some, but I think clarifying shampoo works too. After this I shampooed twice.  The result the next day was this:

My ends are still darker, but at least it doesn't look like a different colour in the middle. With more shampooings, I think the colour will lift a bit more to be more even
My ends are still darker, but at least it doesn’t look like a different colour in the middle. With more shampooings, I think the colour will lift a bit more to be more even.

So at the moment I am rocking a slight reverse ombre, which is lighter at the crown, and gradually darker in the ends, which is not the worst thing.  If it really bothers me, in a few weeks, after my hair has rested from all the peroxide, I can always lighten the ends and recolour.  But my main point is still true.  DIY hair colour may require tweaks done over the course of several weeks to give your hair a rest. So no, the professional stylists have not won, but I know now to have a bit more respect for how hard hair colour chemistry can be.


I work in the financial district, but I’m still dying my hair purple!

*disclaimer*: This is how I lift and colour my black hair…but everyone’s hair is different and reactions vary.  Before attempting to colour process your own hair, please use precautions like gloves, or sample test hair.  Also, my instructions are for the brands that I use.  Be sure to read the label of your own products for instruction and always consult a professional if in doubt!

I always get people asking me about how I colour my hair to be a such a vibrant colour, (ie. punchy red) without bleaching out my naturally black hair. Most vibrant colour dye such as manic panic, adore…etc will not show up in black hair, not without bleaching out the natural colour first.

I, however, don’t need to bleach because I am not trying to get the bright, or pastel punk colours that “alternative” girls are sporting.  Bleaching is unhealthy for the hair, and because I am modest,  I don’t want all that attention over my hair colour.   Also at my age, it is harder to wear neon bright hair colours because I want a job that is not at a goth store or at piercing/tattoo parlour, no offense to those that have those jobs.  But still, I want to be different. So what I settle for is lightening my hair 2-3 shades to a honey brown colour, and then adding the vibrant colour to that.  That way, I get to stay a brunette, that shines a vibrant colour when my hair hits the light.  This process does not need bleach, but uses high volume peroxide mixed with an ash colour toner that lifts and tones in the same step!  Toning is the KEY.  Toning neutralizes the red/orange tones in dark hair that are in over abundance when one starts lightening hair.  If you’ve ever tried lifting dark hair, you’ve probably been horrified to see that it turns an ugly rusty orange colour when in mid process.  Not pretty at all.  Not only is this orange/red pigment ugly, it interrupts the way we perceive any colour you put on top.  Toner helps mute this effect. I went to art school, so this is how colour works.  Vibrant tones are cancelled out by rusty colours.

This is what you will need to lighten and tone.  Don't forget gloves!
This is what you will need to lighten and tone. Don’t forget gloves!

I do my roots with 40 volume peroxide, which is the strongest I’d recommend, mixed with Wella Colour Charm gel in Ash Blonde.  The ratio is 2:1.  (This combination of gel colourant mixed with peroxide is similar to what you find in the pharmacies prepackaged.  But getting them separately at a barber/beauty supply gives you more control over the performance and quality of the product.  So try not to get those “boxed colours” if possible.  And you save money too.) Then I applied it to my roots.  The dye turned dark blue, which seems odd, but trust me, that is the toning process happening.  In half an hour, I’ll wash off the toner to reveal a beautiful honey brown, almost blonde colour.  Yay, no roots!

Section out hair and apply to those untimely roots!
Section out hair and apply to those untimely roots!

After shampooing the toner and peroxide out, I skip conditioning and lightly towel dry my hair.  It is important to skip conditioning, because most vibrant colours don’t use peroxide to penetrate the hair, but instead use conditioners to.  Leaving your hair clean and thirsty for conditioning makes vibrant colouring stick better.  The brand that I use is Adore.  I’ve been using a bright pinky red the last few times, so this time I changed it up with a redish purple colour called Violet Gem.  I mix the dye with conditioner to get the right consistency and to stretch it out.  Then I apply it all over my hair.  Since there is no peroxide in the colouring, it actually feels nice going on.  And it smells pretty good too!

Purple mess! but after you wash it out, it’s worth it!

I leave it in a plastic cap for about an hour, treating it with heat from a hair dryer occasionally to help it set and absorb into the hair.  After an hour or more, I rinse out the Adore colour and am left with a rich burgundy purple colour!

The thing to remember when colouring hair is that your hair dictates how the results will end up.  Adore’s violet gem colour is actually a very mid toned purple colour.  But I noticed that my hair has a lot of trouble absorbing blues and purples into the strand, even after processing with toner.  Sometimes, to get the results you want, you may have to experiment…and some colours turn out better than others.  My first trial of using Violet Gem disappointed me because it was not as intense as I wanted and washed out quickly…so I repeated the step of using Violet Gem colourant on shampooed hair again the next day with a less diluted, more concentrated colour and got better results!  Always be willing to experiment when trying things at home…and redo if nessesary!

yay, I'm a purple haired goddess now!
yay, I’m a purple haired goddess now!