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  • Don't condition your hair before dyeing it.
  • Use a clarifying shampoo to remove product build up prior to dyeing.
  • Do a strand test before use.

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Dyeing Unbleached Hair

5 May 2005

You don’t have to bleach your to use unnatural colours like pink, red and purple. Maybe your hair is too damaged to bleach, you aren’t allowed to bleach it or you just want short term burst of colour.

As mentioned many times before on this site, for the brightest, most vibrant results with unnatural direct dyes your hair should ideally be bleached or very light in colour. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get stunning results without bleaching.

If you hair is dark you’ll have to use a darker shade for it to show up. Using something like a light purple or a pale blue on dark hair is going to do nothing but condition it. Darker shades of dyes such as Directions, Manic Panic and Special Effects usually contain more pigment which will help the colour show up and stay on your hair. These colours will add a slight tint or a highlight in bright sunlight to your hair. You should also be aware that these dyes work by sinking into the hair and so if your hair is natural it’s usually less damaged and the dye will find it more difficult to soak in. For this reason, the dye will probably last for a lot less time than stated on the bottle.

Here are a few suggestions on colours you can use. This list is not exhaustive.

Your hair is: Black/Dark Brown

Try:

  • Special Effects – Blue Velvet, Deep Purple, Blood Red, Burgundy Wine, Sonic Green.
  • Manic Panic – Deadly Nightshade*, Vampire Red*, After Midnight Blue*, Black & Blue, Enchanted Forest*.
  • Directions – Midnight Blue, Rubine, Alpine Green, Plum

Your hair is: Medium/Light Brown

Try: All Above +

  • Special Effects – Cherry Bomb, Electric Blue, Pimpin Purple, Candy Apple, Virgin Rose, Devlish.
  • Manic Panic – Infra Red*, Pillarbox, Purple Haze*, Plum Passion
  • Directions – Pillarbox, Violet, Atlantic Blue, Rose Red, Vermillion.

Your hair is: Dark/Medium Blond

Try: All Above +

  • Special Effects – Atomic Pink, Nuclear Red, Iguana Green, Hot Lava, Blue Mayhem
  • Manic Panic – Ultra Violet*, Fuchsia Shock*, Hot Hot Pink*, Shocking Blue*, Flaming, New Rose, Wildfire
  • Directions – Apple Green, Fire, Flame, Flamingo, Cerise.

* Available in gel form which I think is slightly better for use on unbleached hair.

Paler blonds can use most of the colours in these brands. Of course similar shades in other brands such as punky, fudge and raw should work just as well. You can see from that list that the lighter the hair the more choice in colour there is available. When combined with your natural colour these dyes may produce unexpected results (like golden blonds dyed blue could turn out green). Another side effect can be that the colour doesn’t wash out fast enough so consider it carefully beforehand and always do a strand and sensitivity test.

Here’s an example of some dyeing on natural hair.
Tony’s hair is naturally a medium warm toned brown. You can see he has a few flecks of bleached hair at the tips. We’re going to dye the whole lot Deep Purple by Special Effects. In preparation his hair has been shampooed and blow dried. We didn’t use conditioner as this can prevent the colour soaking in to the hair properly.

Natural brown hair

Here you can see how it turned out after leaving the colour on for about 45 minutes and rinsing. The natural hair is darker with a plum tint. You can’t really see that the tips of his hair that have been bleached are slightly more vibrant. I would expect the colour to last longest on these parts.

So it is possible to dye unbleached hair. The results may not be as predictable, bright or long-lasting but you can maintain your hair’s condition and still have something out of the ordinary. This technique is also a great way to refresh faded permanent hair colour.

Tony's hair now has a purple tint.

Comments

  • Excellent article. The color list is really helpful. Report Comment
  • Ok, uhm. I want to dye my hair (or some of it) green. I don't really know where to buy the dye, but I'm about to order some stuff from hot topic so I thought I would just get one of their dyes. I can get Punky Colour Green Apple, or Color Fiend. My hair's kind of medium brown with red tints and a little bit of black. Which one would probably show up best? Report Comment
  • sydneylaine, dark colour will show up best. If I was you I'd go for something like Special Effects Sonic Green. We have it at HairCrazy.com. Dark colours tend to have more pigment so will work better on unbleached hair. Report Comment
  • oh thank you for this article. I'll try it immediately! Report Comment
  • Thank you for this article. This will work on dark hair but would it work on a very THINK DARK hair? Report Comment
  • Great article,now I know which colours will work....thanks Report Comment
  • I'll be utilizing this article while growing my hair out...I can't keep lightening it forever or it will fry ;-) Report Comment
  • I read the article, (great, by the way.:)) And you'v recommended Special Effects Deep purple for black/dark brown hair. But my hair is a blue-black.(It has more dark navy tones in it, though.) I want to dye some of my hair purple without bleaching it. I was wondering, between the two, which one (manic panic's ultraviolet or special effects deep purple,) would show show up?. However, if they both wouldn't show up, what else would you recoomend?. (sorry, I know. Lots of questions and too long of a read.) Report Comment
  • I definitely agree with Directions' Plum for unbleached dark brown hair. :D I bleached a *few* streaks in my hair, but not too light, then just sort of slopped it all over my hair and left it on overnight, and it worked on all my hair, even the unbleached parts which were dark brown. It's almost black, but it's definitely purple, especially at the top where light hits it (this is most lights, not just certain lights). No idea where the bleached parts went, though, haha... This is a really amazing dye, two weeks later there's no fading and I used a really small fraction of the jar. Report Comment
  • Should have looked here before trying to dye my unbleached hair. I tried to dye it super red and it faded to a green that looked like I had too much chlorine damage. Report Comment
  • I have bright red hair, i used directions poppry red over previously dyed red hair, now red is so common i really want bright purple, but i dont want to bleach my hair, plus i dont know how i will cover over the red? someone help please! i was thinking to use a box blonde dye then put manic panic ultraviolet over it? a big no go or should i do it? Report Comment
  • *does this today* Report Comment
  • This looks great on you. Report Comment
  • Hey, I was wondering for orange dyes would do to medium brown hai with ginger undertones? :) Thinking Special Effects Hot lava + Napalm/Atomic Orange :) Report Comment
  • Thank you so much Jude! My friend wants to dye his hair but it a bit scared about the bleaching part! He really wants purple hair and now I know what dyes will work for him! Report Comment
  • hey!! i have kinda of dark blue hair and was just checking! (i dont want nasty hair!) that if i buy burgundy wine dye my hair will in fact be a deep burgundy color thanks! :D Report Comment
  • i have reddish brownish colored hair, but its not super dark or anything and i realllly want to dye my hair purple but i have no idea what color of purple to get, help me pleaseee? Report Comment
  • Directions - Plum is the best Report Comment
  • It would be really cool if there was an "on unbleached hair" section in the gallery! That way everyone could see the possible effects of certain colors on natural hair. ^^; Report Comment
  • So if my hair is natural black, How do I get my hair to a dark green w/o bleaching? And what shampoo & conditioner would I use?? Report Comment
  • Such a brilliant article! It inspired me to buy Iguana Green for my natural hair and it's perfect. Thankyou so much. I'll maybe try one of the purple colours next time, and this article will be where I come to decide! Report Comment
  • I used Violet - Direction over my previously dyed medium ash-blonde hair. It turned out very pretty and quite bright; moreover, two weeks later there was no fading. On the natural dark blonde roots it only added a slight pinkish tint and disappeared after first shampoo. Report Comment
  • Thanks for the article - helped me choose shades that would work with my natural light brown hair. To note: on natural hair, the longer the dye is left on, the better. I put manic panic green envy on my hair overnight - it's exceptionally vibrant, still waiting to see on fading. Report Comment
  • Very helpful to those of us who don't bleach to a level 10. From looking at the swatches alone, it's hard to tell what saturation levels they can achieve. Report Comment
  • Accidentally posted this in the comments box on the Stargazer Rainbow Pack buying page due to over excitement..oops. Sorry!) Oh no, I've got the colouring itch again! Was hoping for some advice for rainbow hair on red-heads. :D I've had my natural hair colour for a good five years now (after turning my back on it when I was a young teen, your average chemists dyes and then henna for a while) but I'm making a full-head set of dreads (varying red, some purple stripes etc). That's still a 'wait and see' to get my technique down and see if I can actually get them in (Houdini hair! Finds it's way out of any plaits within a few hours). I'm thinking of getting the pack for rainbow bangs to go with it (or to cheer me up when all else fails xD) I'm a natural red-head, but there is loads of colour variation throughout going from platinum/white to red-flower honey, I'd like the colour of the dye to vary slightly like in my natural colour (no 'block' colours if I can help it so keeping bleach on the back-burner) but I'm worried any one of my shades might not agree with a colour and I'd end up with just some strands of hair being a colour that just isn't right. The pack is stargazer’s Foxy Red, Dawn, Yellow, African Green, Royal Blue and Plume hair colours. Anyone know how these dyes react to going directly on red/blonde hair? My bangs are pretty pale right now with the sunshine so none of it is 'too' red, but I'm kinda worried of the yellow/green/blues going wrong. :P I'd just grin and bear it and bleach it but I'd like the effect and the last bleaching experience was a bad one (white and manga orange xD) Sorry for the long-winded. I'm very excited and I have until pay-day. *squee*. Report Comment
  • Mine is a totally different type of coloring question. I want to change what is "old lady grey and black" by combing in streaks, without bleaching and the color does not have to last more than one wash. Oh and another thing - my hair is dead straight and does not hold a perm well - it is typically Chinese hair. I use a Karmin G3 curling tong each morning to put a little curl into my hair so whatever you recommend needs to be safe to use with heat! All suggestions will be gratefully received and tried. Report Comment

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