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The Beginner’s Guide to Brightly Colored Hair

The Beginner's Guide to Brightly Colored Hair

Beginner’s Guide to Brightly Colored Hair

I’m updating my Beginner’s Guide to Brightly Colored Hair. I’ve really changed how I treat my hair since 2013 and this really needed a refresher so that you can learn from the new things I’ve tried. Many of you have told me, ‘if I only knew how, I’d have brightly colored hair’ or ‘I wish I could have rainbow hair but I don’t know where to start.’ So this beginner’s guide is for you!

Pr + Purchased by me.

3 to 5 Days Before You Want to Dye

EVA NYC Hair Therapy Session Hair Mask
3 to 5 days before you want to dye your hair, I recommend using a deep conditioning mask like the EVA NYC Hair Therapy Session Hair Mask. I use this hair mask every 2nd or 3rd wash when I wash my hair, depending on how my hair feels to me. While I’m slack about using facial masks, I take my hair masking very seriously.

1 Day Before You Want to Dye

One day before you dye your hair with rainbow colors, wash it with a clarifying shampoo to remove any build up in your hair. Don’t put any product on it after you do this!

Malibu Un-Do-Goo Clarifying Shampoo
I love the Malibu Un-Do-Goo clarifying shampoo. I bought one of the huge bottles and I use it only when I need to remove buildup. It’s great at removing my pomades, hair wax and hairspray that builds up on my hair. It’s cruelty-free and vegan.

Dyeing Day!

This is the day you’re going to dye your brightly colored hair! Now the question – to bleach or not to bleach?

If you want a subtle pop of color, you can avoid bleaching. The color you choose will likely only be visible in direct sunlight if you do this However, if you want to go all out with rainbow hair, you’ll need to bleach first. I recommend one of two bleaching methods.


Pulp Riot LightenerLightener
Pulp Riot Lightener comes in 6, 10, 20, 30 and 40 volume developer. Many people have told me that the new Pulp Riot Lightener is amazing, along with their rainbow hair dyes.

Manic Panic Flash Lightning Kit
If you don’t want to have to worry about measuring out the correct amount of developer and lightener powder, you want the Manic Panic Flash Lightning kit. It even comes with a tint brush and gloves. This has been the kit that so many of my friends have used for the past 20 years.

You can also buy bleach and developer from Sally Beauty directly.

After you bleach your hair according to the directions with the packaging, wash your hair thoroughly, don’t condition it, and dry it.

Coloring Equipment

Before you start coloring with brightly colored hair dye, make sure you have the following:

Salon Care Black Vinyl Gloves
If you didn’t pick up the Manic Panic Flash Lightning kit, you will need gloves – both for bleaching and later for coloring. This is the brand I buy (in size medium). You can pick these up at Sally’s Beauty Supply.

Salon Hair Mixing Bowl, Comb and Hair Tint Brushes
You’ll need a plastic (not metal) bowl to mix dye in, as well as tint brushes to apply the color and possibly a comb, to make sure the brightly colored hair dye is evenly distributed throughout your hair.

Colortrak Tools Ear Protector Caps
These keep brightly colored hair dye off of your ears. I find them essential. Put these on before you start coloring. Ray always makes jokes about these being ear condoms to protect you from aural sex.

Hair Color

There are several different brands of cruelty free brightly colored hair dye available. The easiest to get your hands on is Manic Panic. I also highly recommend Pravana Vivids, because that’s my favorite. I’ve heard great things about Pulp Riot and Arctic Fox. Check out my cruelty free hair dye brands list for more recommendations!

Pravana Vivids
Pravana Vivids are my go-to brightly colored hair dye brand these days. They give me long lasting results. Sometimes I mix them with Manic Panic to create custom shades.

Manic Panic Amplified Cream Formula
Manic Panic doesn’t offer all of their colors in the Amplified Cream formula, but the ones that they do are awesome. I’ve used these for decades.

Manic Panic Semi-Permanent Color Cream
The rest of the Manic Panic shades that are available are pretty extensive, and they even include some that glow under blacklight.

Jerome Russel Punky Color
I’ve had good success with the Punky Color line, though it tends to bleed a lot on me.

Special Effects Hair Dye
I’ve only tried one color of SFX and didn’t have much luck with it, but what doesn’t work for me may work for you. I find the semi-permanent dyes tend to vary on which brands work best for people based on their hair type.

How to Apply Color to Your Hair

Apply your brightly colored hair dye in one to two inch wide sections so that you can fully saturate the hair. If you need to, carefully use a wide tooth comb to distribute the color. I usually get Ray to help me with the back of my hair since it’s difficult to color your hair in the back.

Leave Your Color On and Apply Heat

There are many schools of thought about semi-permanent dye but I’ve had the most success with leaving it on for 1 to 2 hours and I often use heat. If I’m not going to use heat, I put a processing cap on my hair and wrap a towel around my head while I wait for it to process. Sometimes I will apply heat with a soft bonnet dryer.

Please note, if you are using a permanent hair dye do NOT leave the color in for 2 hours. Follow the instructions on the hair dye that you’re using.

Salon Care Processing Cap
After the brightly colored hair dye is applied, I always use these to keep my hair moist and off of my skin.

Laila Ali Ionic Soft Bonnet Dryer
This is an upgrade from my previous hair dryer bonnet. This ties under the chin and and makes it much easier to apply heat. Immediately after applying hair dye and putting your processing cap on, I would apply heat with this for 20 to 30 minutes. After you’ve applied heat for 20 or 30 minutes, you can wrap a towel around your head to hold in the heat for an hour, or you can set the dryer to low for an hour. Then I would recommend putting it on high heat again for 20 to 30 minutes before you rinse the hair dye out.

Rinse & Wash

After you’ve left the brightly colored hair dye on for an hour or two, you’ll want to rinse it out. Before I rinse my hair, I always make sure I have a clear coat of nail polish on, or I wear gloves to rinse. Remove the cap and rinse until the water runs clear. I would rinse in tepid to cool water. Make sure you rinse thoroughly.

BRÖÖ Thickening Shampoo
Wash your hair with a sulfate-free shampoo. I love the entire BRÖÖ hair care line, especially the Thickening and Moisturizing shampoos and conditioners. They contain shea better, which my fine, thin hair soaks up like crazy. The caffeine in the line is supposed to stimulate the hair follicles. It smells of citrus creme, similar to a dreamsicle.

BRÖÖ Thickening Conditioner
Make sure you remember to follow up with a conditioner. When I’m not using my EVA NYC Hair Therapy Hair Mask, I use this one.

Protect & Dry

After washing the color out, I always want to see how it turns out! Always use heat protectant before you blow dry your hair!

EVA NYC Mane Magic 10-in-1 Primer
The EVA NYC Mane Magic 10-in-1 Primer is my go-to heat protectant before I blow dry. It cuts down on drying time, reduces frizz, protects agains heat, environmental and UV damage. It has nourishing argan oil and sunflower seed butter in it. I love it!


Try not to wash your brightly colored hair for at least 3 days after you color. I typically wash my hair every 4 to 6 days now, depending on how much product I’m using in my hair.

EVA NYC Freshen Up Dry Shampoo
If I need to use a dry shampoo, I reach for EVA NYC Freshen Up Dry Shampoo. It works so well to help refresh my hair for another day before I can wash it. If you’re prone to oily hair, use a dry shampoo like this one to soak up the oil at the roots. Spray it in your hair, wait five minutes, then brush it through your hair. You’ll get some volume out of it, too!


To keep my color vivid after I dye it, I use overtone hair masks or I mix Manic Panic Cream Color into my EVA NYC Hair Therapy Hair Mask. I put the hair mask on my dry hair and leave it on for an hour, then wash it out.

The Beginner's Guide to Brightly Colored Hair - Everything you need to know about dyeing your hair at home and having it turn out fabulous!

 What are your tips for brightly colored hair? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments below!


Join The Conversation


  • Great article! I recommend using a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with approx. a cup of water and either spray it in your hair or poor it onto your scalp (not getting it in your eyes) before your first shampoo to lock the color in and restore your hair’s Ph. Helpful to do about 1 x week to help retain your color. I learned this little trick from a friend who used to be a hair dresser and it’s worked well for me. You could also buy a more expensive version by John Masters Organics (cider rinse of some sort). Also, the Vivids color line by Pravanna is amazing. High quality and incredible color pallet.

    • I switched to the Pravana Vivids color line in 2014 and am in love. I’m STILL using Pravana vivids now 🙂 they blow me away with how long they last and their vivid colors. So impressed! Thanks for the tip about apple cider vinegar

  • I never knew it took that many steps to do hair. Thanks for the great tutorial and for sharing over at the Snickerdoodle Sunday.

  • My hair is currently still red and green from Christmas and I love it! I can’t seem to get the neon colors to show though, pink in particular, any tips for that? Thanks for linking up to Snickerdoodle Sunday.

  • I just wanted to drop by your blog tonight and personally thank you for taking the time to share you wonderful blog post on #PureBlogLove, we adore your blog and really enjoy checking out all your hard work. I am pinning this to our board



    • If your hair is naturally light in shade but unbleached, bleaching it can help, as it doesn’t just lighten hair but also makes hair more porous. All temporary colours will wash out and fade – this has to do with the dye particle size and the difference between temporary and permanent hair colours. Some brands and colours fade faster than others, reds and blues typically fade quickly. You can lengthen colour lifespan by using colour-care products, avoid using any kind of stripping shampoo, washing as infrequently as possible and mixing a bit of the dye in with your shampoo.
      Regarding colour bleeding onto clothes – this shouldn’t happen with dry hair (pillowcase is another matter). It will happen with wet hair because water washes out the dye regardless (use old towels!). This gets better as the dye is gradually washed out, and extra shampooing helps to remove the dye residue left on your scalp. Just try to minimise contact between your clothes and your wet hair, dry it while wearing a bathrobe and get dressed after, for example.

      All of that said, some brands that work on some people don’t work on others. For me, Manic Panic has never been very good on my hair, whereas Special Effects dyes my hair much better. Phyrra’s hair is the opposite with those two brands. If you’re having no luck with one brand, try another.

    • There is a product line of colored conditioners in the whole range of bright colors: Overtone. You can buy it online & it really helps. I also use Joico and Ion colors and while they do fade, they fade evenly so they still look good, just different. I first dyed my hair sapphire blue in June and am only just now re-dyeing, pretty much 3 months later to the day. I was more of a bright blue with all the fading, but it still looked good.

  • I like to use WEN Cleansing Conditioner. None of the sulfate-free shampoos I have tried match this one in terms of gentleness — and not fading color.

  • Xero I use half Atomic Pink and half Cherry Bomb! I’ve also found that Atomic Pink just DOES NOT want to come out of my hair, but the Cherry Bomb does fade, so as the couple of months between root bleachings + redyeings progress, my hair gets closer and closer to Atomic Pink. I get comments about it all the time, even when I have unbearably long roots.
    If you’re still trying to get rid of the pink, I wish you luck 🙂
    On an unrelated note, I really want to try the Pravana Vivids! I’ve heard such good things about them. I can’t find anyone in my area who uses them though 🙁

  • Phyrra Joico is a professional brand. There’s a woman on base out here that does hair and she uses Manic Panic and Joico colors. The only website I’ve seen to get Joico Vero K-Pak Hair Color is SleekHair. I don’t know much about the brand, but I like the results so far!
    Oh! Do you use a heat protector? I want to try a nice heat protector for when I style my hair. 🙂

  • kitschvixen I really love the DermOrganic shampoo and conditioner set. I use the Malibu to remove buildup and the Trader Joe’s to balance ph. Those are my favs 🙂 I used to love the Tigi Superstar Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner. I also really like the Marc Anthony sulfate free Oil of Morocco line, and they’re easy to get and very affordable.
    I haven’t tried Joico, tell me about them?

  • I just did a review of La Riche Directions hair dye (spoiler alert: I’m not a fan), but since my hair was re-dyed with Joico colors, I’m not having any trouble with fading!
    Do you have a favorite shampoo and conditioner for aftercare or would you recommend the same ones from the Rinsing & Washing section?

  • I had always wanted to have pink hair and a few years ago I dyed some of it pink with Special Effects Atomic Pink.  I diluted it with conditioner but it was still super bright, from what I’ve heard the color is notorious for being practically permanent.  It’s almost impossible to completely bleach out of your hair.  I’ve given up on having pink hair for now and I’m focusing on growing it really long instead…but I still have an entire bottle of Atomic Pink and when I’m older and have more money maybe I’d consider it again.

  • Good post!! I am really liking the ION teal and aqua. When I use those together I get a nice shade of teal that is a bit bluer and it fades to a true teal. Also the ION brand is the only one that has not faded or rinsed out quickly. I can go up to 3 months without retouching most of my hair. I do retouch once a month around my face because it fades quicker. I think it is because this hair is different in texture because it is going gray. UGHH LOL. I end up bleaching my roots every 2-3 months.

  • Thanks for the post! I’ve been doing research on dying my hair (I’ve done boxed ‘normal’ colors for over 10 years) but I’ve wanted to do something different for awhile and this guide is going to help A LOT. Is it easy to do your own hair or do you usually have someone help?

  • Thank you for the great post! In my experience, being able to not bleach depends on the color… I had issues dying the non-bleached part of my hair black (manic panic Raven), as well as UV violet. It wouldn’t take on my virgin hair. However Vampire red made a HUGE difference on my virgin hair, and completely POPS on the bleached parts.

  • WackyMamaBear Yep, I always bleach, but some people just want a tint and don’t want to ‘ruin’ their hair by bleaching, so I figured I’d include instructions on how to tint, too 🙂

  • Definitely bleach if you want the color to look exactly like the bottle. Obviously hair color makes a huge difference when using dyes. I’ve used the same color for myself (dark auburn) and my daughter (light sandy brown) and it will come out totally different on both. I had bought a purple, might have been FX but I can’t remember exactly…though definitely a cheap brand bought at Walmart. It turned red in my hair and pink in hers. Wasn’t even close to purple for either of us. 
    I do recommend Manic Panic as it seems to come the closest to the bottles color without bleaching in various hair colors I’ve used from them.

  • They make ear caps? Great to know and be on the look out for. I’ve always used Vaseline or a heavy conditioner before dying mine or families hair! It works, but is a pain to get back off!

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