How To Keep Your Hair Healthy While Dying It

From my personal experience dying your hair won’t necessarily stop it from growing

And let me clarify that nothing is stopping your hair from growing. Unless you burn your scalp to a significant degree somehow your hair will still grow. But you may not see new length. That’s an issue of your hair being damaged enough that it is breaking off at a certain length. We call that length retention.

Why I’m Able To Dye My Hair Without Damage

There are a few things that I’m doing to keep my length retention good while still dying my hair.

  1. It’s just one “hair sin.” My personal theory is that we have to still enjoy our hair and its okay to choose one thing that the experts tell you not to do as long as you are good everywhere else! I’m being very careful in other areas so I can get away with dying.
  2. I’m dying my hair darker and not lighter. When you need/want to dye your hair to a lighter shade than it is you need lift. And lift is achieved with bleach or hydrogen peroxide, which are very harsh substances. If you can dye your hair without needing bleach that is going to go a long way in keeping your hair healthier. If you do want to go lighter, I highly recommend going to a professional hair color stylist. They are trained to know the best ratios to use to keep your hair from falling out. If you bleach yourself at home you are courting disaster! Also be aware that it may take several sessions with the hairstylist to get to the color you want. It’s best for them to go slowly. If you move too quickly in the bleaching process then you will damage your hair and struggle with length retention.

Your Dye Options:

Semi-Permanent Color v.s. Permanent Color

A semi-permanent hair color is less harsh because it does not penetrate into the hair shaft. It will eventually wash off your strands because it is only coloring the outside of the strand. That said, I do use a permanent box dye (about $7) on my own roots every five weeks or so.

Color-Depositing Conditioners

Color-depositing conditioners like Overtone are similar to semi-permanent dye. They are like doing a deep conditioning treatment on your hair while it also happens to leave behind color on your strands. Because it is a conditioner it is hydrating to your hair and because it is not penetrating the hair shaft it is non-damaging. It will shampoo out fairly quickly but is easy to maintain with regular treatments. It has a strong smell, which is fairly pleasant but I found overwhelming.


If you want permanent non-damaging color then henna might be the right choice for you. Henna is a type of plant common in India and across the middle east as well. It has a powerful stain that is used both to dye hair and for temporary “tatoos” on skin. If you’ve ever seen mendhi art, the beautiful designs on Indian, Pakistani, and Middle Eastern brides’ hands and feet, that is achieved with the same henna powder as is used on hair.

  1. Leave to sit for a minimum of four hours (btw, it has a very “earthy” smell at this point)
  2. Wear gloves (remember it will stain skin!) and smear over your hair, making sure to coat every strand. Add a little more water as needed to keep the henna moist while you apply. It will be very messy and goopy and thick.
  3. Wrap your hair in a plastic bag and leave on for at least four hours but ideally over night.
  4. Rinse out and shampoo and condition as normal. Rinsing out is challenging because you will find that you have a lot of grit in your hair and what feels like dirt.

Hair Salons

As I said before, going to a professional is wise when you want to protect your hair when coloring. They will know what filler color you may need in between the steps of the color you have and the color you want. They will know how to protect the hair as they are working with harsh substances. They will know the minimum amount of bleach or peroxide needed to get what you want. They will know what color will look best with your skin too. All that said, I’ve never had color done by a professional!

Box Dye

Box dyes get a bad rep but it may not be deserved. Hairstylists have a few concerns with them, top of which are that you don’t know what level developer is being used and second that it’s very hard to undo if a client comes to them unhappy with the color they got from a box dye. Box dyes are not going to give you good dimensional color like a professional. But they are easy to use and affordable. However, if you don’t like the color you’ll pay a high price for “color correction” at a salon (one stylist admitted to me they overcharge for it to dissuade people from using box dye at home).

If your hair is already damaged from dye or bleach

This new product Olaplex is taking the hair world by storm. A lot of people swear by it to bring health back to their hair after damage from too much dye. You can get a treatment at a salon or at home.



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Carolyn Choate

Carolyn Choate


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