Listen Up: Here’s What Experts Want You to Know About Dyeing Natural Hair
These are the most common mistakes made when adding color to curls.
When I first went natural, I became obsessed with making sure that my newfound curls were constantly in tip-top shape. I avoided heat like the plague, was deep-conditioning at least once a week, and did anything I could to keep my curls flourishing. But one day, I had the brilliant idea to dye my curls at home. Not only that, but I did so twice within two weeks. Before I knew it, my tight and healthy curls had become limp, inconsistent, and drier than ever.
Caring for naturally textured hair is crucial in itself, and dyeing natural hair takes that care to the next level. To help other naturalistas learn how to dye natural hair correctly, I interviewed two experts about what to consider before dyeing your hair, whether or not you should do it at home, and how to care for it after it's been dyed.
What should you know before dying natural hair?
First, let's debunk the myth that naturally curly hair is always strong. Daisy Daze Henson, a curl specialist and colorist, says that while many people make this assumption and therefore think they need to use a strong developer to dye hair, curly hair may need the opposite. "Naturally curly hair, especially curls with a finer texture and tighter curl pattern, can be fragile and prone to breakage," she explains.
To prevent natural hair from becoming brittle, she recommends taking the "low and slow" approach while dyeing—using low developers while the dye is processing over a long time. Henson says that this also includes using high-lift color, instead of bleach, to lighten hair.
Should you dye natural hair at home?
According to experts, DIYing your hair color probably isn't the best option if you have textured hair. "Colorists that specialize in textured hair know to be very gentle with the products they use," says Jaxcee, a New York-based color specialist and founder of The Coily Collective. She explains that professionals have more hands-on experience and can give you great hair color while maintaining its health.
How should you find a colorist to dye your natural hair?
Jaxcee recommends checking out a colorist's Instagram page, website, or any other social media before settling on a stylist. "Lots of hairdressers are intimidated by curls and have no idea how to approach coils at all," she says. "This will give you an idea as to whether or not they're familiar with your texture. If they're not, don't go to them—it's that simple."
What colors should you dye natural hair?
Ultimately, the decision is yours. However, experts recommend steering away from dramatic changes to maintain hair integrity. "Unless a client's hair is chin-length or shorter, I try to steer my textured-hair clients away from double processes," says Jaxcee. "Long, double-processed curly or coiled hair is extremely hard to maintain and keep healthy—it's definitely not for a hair color newbie."
Henson adds that your level of commitment to upkeep should also be considered before picking a shade. "Some colors like reds and blondes require more maintenance than others. Reds require more maintenance as the red molecule is larger than other colors, and it has difficulty penetrating the cortex and therefore fades quickly," she explains. High-maintenance colors will require frequent touch-ups, toning sessions, and the use of pigmenting shampoos and conditioners to keep the dye looking fresh.
The last thing to factor in is how long you're willing to wait to get your desired shade. If you have dark hair and want to go beach blonde, you may have to visit your colorist twice over a few weeks to get your desired results. While waiting can be frustrating, Henson explains that doing so will avoid compromising the integrity of your natural curls.
How should you treat naturally textured hair before and after dyeing it?
Before dyeing your hair, Jaxee highly recommends getting a trim. "This will ensure that the color will not over-process on your dried-out ends," she explains. (Split ends? No, thanks.) Before coloring your hair, Henson recommends prepping it with strengthening, bond-building hair products, such as Olaplex.
After you've dyed your hair, you should also swap out your traditional shampoos and conditioners for ones that are formulated specifically for color-treated hair. "By doing these things, the curl pattern, elasticity, and color can be preserved," says Henson.