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I’ve been dyeing my hair since the seventh grade. I almost always do it myself and I almost always use—gasp—box dye. I know, I know, sue me for using box dye. I, however, have never had a problem with it, so I continue to use it. Here are some tips on dyeing virgin hair. It’s surprisingly easy and yields great results!

Dyeing Virgin Hair: Tips and Tricks

Tip 1: Don’t stray too far. This has got to be one of the best tips I can give you. Don’t choose a shade that’s too far away from your natural hair color. Don’t go from blonde to black, or blonde to bright red. On your first try, you’ll probably miss some spots, and that’s okay. It’s normal! But blonde roots stick out like sore thumbs when set against black hair. So, ease into dyeing virgin strands and stick with a color only a couple of shades away from your natural hair. After you get the hang of the process, you can experiment with bolder colors.

Tip 2: Do a strand test. This is incredibly important if you’re dyeing your hair for the first time. Cut about three pieces and tape them to an index card or a piece of paper. Take the strands from the bottom layer of your hair. About an inch will do. Mix up about a dime-sized amount of dye product and apply it to the strands. For the first piece, leave the product on for about five minutes less than the suggested time on the box. For example, if the suggested time is twenty-five minutes, leave the dye on for twenty minutes. Wipe off the strand with a wet paper towel or napkin. For the second piece, leave the dye on for the suggested amount time. For the third piece, leave the dye on for five minutes more than the suggested time. Get the idea? You can use more pieces if you want to see how drastic you can make the end result, but I suggest starting with three. Dye your hair according to the color you like best in the strand test.

Tip 3: Plan ahead. If you don’t want dye all over your bathroom, then consider this important tip. Set the dye bottle on some newspaper, wear clothes you don’t care about, and put an old towel over your shoulders. Try not to splatter dye everywhere! Dye is easy to clean off tile or a counter surface, but it’s hard to clean off of wood. Have some damp paper towels laying around just in case, and be sure to clean any messes up right away. Also, grab a plastic chair to sit on in case you get tired of standing. Finally, make sure you have enough dye! I have long, thick hair and I require two boxes for a full dye job. If you have short, thin hair, you should be fine with one box. But, it never hurts to buy extra if you’re unsure. You don’t want to run out of product halfway through the process!

Tip 4: Don’t wash your hair! This is probably the most important tip that you’ll find in the directions of any dye kit. Do NOT wash your hair right before you dye it. Your scalp will itch like crazy when product is applied and it will suck. Dye sets better on second or third day old hair.

Tip 5: Start with the roots. This is key. Professionals always dye hair from the roots to the ends. Follow this tip and you’ll have even color. Trust me! Section off your hair starting from the bottom. For each section you dye, begin with the roots and then move on to the rest of your hair. You want evenly saturated hair.

Tip 6: Wash, but don’t shampoo! The box should have directions on how to wash out the dye from your hair, but I suggest something different. Jump in the shower and get your hair wet. Work it into a bit of a lather, then turn so you’re facing the water. Divide your hair into two sections and pull them in front of your shoulders. Use the water to rinse out the dye. This way, you can see how much dye is coming out and rinse out more dye at once. If you have short hair, don’t worry about doing this. But if your hair is shoulder length or longer, try this technique to easily remove dye. Most boxes will come with a conditioner, but not a shampoo. Why? Because you can’t shampoo your hair after you dye it! Don’t do it! Also, don’t be surprised if more color continues to rinse out for a few days. Continue to use an old towel to wipe off excess product. Just don’t wash your hair the day after your dye job. Bad, bad idea!

Tip 7: Remember it’s only hair. If you mess up, that’s okay. You have options. You can always go to a salon to fix any mishaps. One time, I tried to color my hair red and it turned out purple. Oh no! I decided to work it instead of paying a bunch of money to get it fixed. Remember that it’s only hair. It’ll grow out, it’ll fade, and so on. Don’t worry about it!

Tip 8: Take care after. Finally, use color specific shampoo after you’ve dyed your hair. Any shampoo and conditioner that is made for color-treated hair works. I like L’Oreal’s Advanced Haircare Color Vibrancy Nourishing Shampoo.

Hair can get slightly damaged from dye, so get a good deep conditioner to use as part of your weekly routine. Try the Matix Biolage Hydrasource Conditioner. Although it isn’t labeled as a deep conditioner, it’s great for repairing and hydrating hair. I also like to use argan oil to keep my hair shiny and healthy!

What color would you dye your hair? Comment below!