*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.
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!
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!
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!