I want purple hair!
March 17, 2011 3:39 AM   Subscribe

Another noob hair dying question: From dark brown to purple.

The colour I am aiming for is a dark purplish-red. Something like #551033 or possibly #5C246E or even #8B008B (but not as blue-ish as Major Kusanagi's). My natural hair is quite a dark brown.

So far I have only gotten highlights at the stylist's. I really liked what she did last time: She gave me the right colour highlights and contrasted them with black highlights so they would stand out more than with my dark brown hair.

However, my secret dream is to have all my hair that colour. And I'd like to do it myself because I don't want to have to go to the stylist every three weeks to redo the roots.

Is that even possible? The stylist said that it just wouldn't be very visible due to my dark brown hair. And in my experience I can't use dye that bleaches my hair beforehand because otherwise it goes orange in three weeks and blonde in four.

Any advice welcome, I have absolutely no experience in dying my own hair. As for product suggestions: I'm in Germany right now.
posted by Omnomnom to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (31 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I've tried to dye my hair from light brown to purple a few times and it is never very visible - just looks brown/black with a bit of a purple sheen under the light. So I suspect with your browner starting point, you will have similar trouble. If you found the highlights the hairdresser did looked good, though, and she didn't use bleach first, maybe go once more and ask her for the product name that she uses. You can often buy hair products that supposedly only sell to salons online.
posted by lollusc at 3:50 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have long, mid brown hair and years ago I dyed mine Magenta, and it was awesome.

I didn't want the all-over same colour, I wanted depth and graduated tones, so I bought one of those spray-in bleaches, which lightens your hair in the sun. Over a couple of weeks, I lighened my hair a little every day, purposefully unevenly, lighter on the top and leaving it quite natural underneath. Then I found the brightest magenta dye you have ever seen and dyed the lot.

The outcome was really striking - eye-burningly bright locks of magenta on top, graduating to a very dark, rich pink underneath, in a strangely natural looking way. As in, it looked almost like I grew pink hair, not just bleached and dyed it.

Goddamnit I want to do that again.
posted by greenish at 4:20 AM on March 17, 2011 [7 favorites]

Damn, I love greenish's idea. (How did you handle the regrowth?)

I had long pink hair for about eighteen months. My natural colour is mid-brown. I bleached it with stuff I bought at the chemist (peroxide + powder bleach) and then dyed it with Special Effects in Atomic Pink. Between my friends and I, we've used about half a dozen Special Effects shades, and they've always lasted well. I've also heard good things about Manic Panic. I do not recommend Fudge as the colour washed out almost immediately.

They don't sell Special Effects in Australia so I bought it online.

The down side of DIY bleaching is that it's really easy to fry your hair, especially if it's naturally fine (as mine is). Friends who have coarser hair had less trouble with it. After about eighteen months I ended up having about 15cm cut off at the hairdresser and dyed my hair back to brown. Still, it was totally worth it. Pink hair!
posted by Georgina at 5:18 AM on March 17, 2011

If you have Loreal "For Dark Hair Only" by you, that's what you want. I use "red hot" for a vibrant red with violet tones, but my SIL uses the magenta meant for highlights only... it's really vivid!
posted by JoanArkham at 6:47 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hello, you've reached someone who dyes her hair (in streaks) almost exactly that color.

I have mine done by a stylist, because I don't trust myself to NOT dye the entire house.

The first hex you give is, to me, incredibly similar to Special Effects Virgin Rose. That's the dye I've used for many years. The others look similar to other SE Shades, which you can see here.

My hair is up here, but you can see the color - this is about 4 days and 2 washes later. Here is about a month later. It's vegetable dye, so it washes down - when I am trying to maintain my color at all, I only wash every other day, and I use cold water. Very cold.

FWIW to get my color, I used to use Virgin Rose plus a few drops of Blue Velvet. Then, naturally, my local shop was OUT of Virgin Rose, so I used a different cocktail to get the color I wanted - Burgundy Wine blended with Cupcake Pink. The second cocktail shed color far longer and way more virulently than my usual, but seemed to last longer, so there you have it.

My hair is naturally blonde, but my stylist bleaches my hair and then applies the dye. We did it undyed but it's not quite as bright. I don't want to say, go to your stylist, but . . it's your whole head. If you are not confident about the bleaching, bleach is dangerous to your follicles. A friend of mine - who knew what she was doing, even - fried her hair, but she was also stripping color and redying, which is not exactly what you are trying to do, so you may be okay. If you do choose to do your own bleach, get someone to help you do the roots only, but reapply the dye to your entire head, because the color will get tired - mine goes more or less baby pink within 90-120 days.

Good luck, this kind of thing is fun - I have a professional job, so I keep mine to the two streaks, and I'm lucky to get away with that. You should do your whole head while you can, just be smart.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:49 AM on March 17, 2011

As someone with dark brown (almost black) hair, I can tell you that if you want all over color like that, it will most definitely be a 2 step process. You'll have to bleach your hair down to blonde, and then dye the blonde hair. This is what you'll have to do if you want to do it yourself at home.

I haven't had purple hair in a long time, but a of 2 years ago I was dying some of my hair red, and it was the same thing. It is a huge PITA, but looks good. Just be careful to not damage your hair.
posted by bibliogrrl at 7:05 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know you want to DIY, but if you want to have *purple* purple and not just dark hair with purple reflects (ie a bit of a purple glint in bright light) you're going to have to see a pro. Don't get me wrong, i'm really pro DIY - I DIY my level 7 ash blonde hair to an 8 coppery-red-blonde (think Amy Adams), but to get dark hair purple you're going to need to bleach it, and that is *not* an at home job, especially if you're going two or three shades lighter on very dark hair.

You could always put a vegetable based semi through and see how it turns out. Worst case scenario is your hair will look the same with a purplish tint, but you won't fry your hair the way you will with a bleach.
posted by nerdfish at 7:28 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for your suggestions! I'll check out the brands.

I really don't want to bleach. Maybe I should reframe my question as "how do I dye my brown hair purple without bleaching first".
posted by Omnomnom at 7:31 AM on March 17, 2011

As a former purple haired person who has dark brown hair, I agree with those who say you'll need to bleach your hair first. I had used Manic Panic in the past but the colour faded pretty quickly.

My old roommate was a hairdresser, so she managed to get me some of the salon stuff at wholesale cost and I think you can probably find it online. I highly recommend Goldwell Elumen. The dye was expensive (you would want to buy the "lock" to seal in the colour as well), plus I bought decent bleach and developer to bleach it out, but the colour lasted forever and remained vibrant for ages. So, the initial expense was a bit much, but nowhere near what I would have paid for even one visit to the salon. I had enough to do my hair with it for a couple of years. Keep in mind, I was shown how to do this numerous times by a trained professional until I was comfortable doing it myself. So, nthing nerdfish's recommendation to leave this to the pros.

On preview, your stylist is correct. You won't be able to get a vibrant purple without bleaching your hair out. Otherwise, you'll just have brown hair with a purplish tint. Trust me, I tried many times to forgo the bleaching in my rainbow haircolour days, but it never came close to what I wanted.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:42 AM on March 17, 2011

I agree with the others: You'll have to bleach your hair first in order to get the color you're looking for.

My hair has been shades of bright red, purple, blue, "sunset", you name it.

I've always just bleached my hair for a bit - usually it comes out orange. (I think if i let the bleach stay on for a few hours, it would be white and broken.) But then when I add the dye afterwards, it comes out whatever color the dye is.

Just for the record... and I know everyone has different hair - but even though I've bleached and dyed my hair various colors in the last 15 years - I've had no issues with hair damage.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:48 AM on March 17, 2011

Response by poster: But my problem with bleaching even when done by pros is that any reddish dye won't stick very long. After a few weeks it fades to blond.

How have you avoided this problem?
posted by Omnomnom at 7:55 AM on March 17, 2011

Part of what bleaching does is roughen up the hair cuticle so that the dye penetrates and lasts longer. My natural color is dark brown--about as brown as you can get without actually being black. My hair's been every color there is, and I can say that without a good bleaching the colors come out muddy and fade faster. It doesn't really seem to matter that my hair bleaches to orange, when I add the color, it's brighter and lasts longer. If you want blue or green, then you'll have trouble with the orange undertones, but it's never been a problem with warmer colors.

A pro might know some ways to lighten your hair with less damage.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:59 AM on March 17, 2011

No non-ammonia based dye will last as long as the "permanent" stuff. I mix up a batch of 1/2 conditioner, 1/2 dye and use that every time I wash my hair to combat fading. Leave it on for a few minutes while you're in the shower so the hair has time to absorb it.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:01 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I went from dark brown to dark blue a few years ago, via a few months of blonde courtesy of my stylist. She put on the Fudge for me and it did fade within about two weeks. I re-dyed it at home with Manic Panic and that lasted much longer and looked great. Some tips - cover your hairline with Vaseline so you don't get purple skin. Also be aware that it will run and stain. Every time I washed my hair for 2 months I had to scrub my hands and scrub the bathtub afterwards. But it did look great, really intense color.
posted by bq at 8:21 AM on March 17, 2011

Mid-brown hair person who dyes purple here. I get mine bleached in streaks and my stylist lays a purple glaze over my hair. When it starts to fade, I use Bella Burgundy shampoo and conditioner by Procolor (available at salons; check at Ulta) to prolong the color. You can see the result here on FB (should be publicly available, sorry if it's not). Hope this helps.
posted by immlass at 8:32 AM on March 17, 2011

If you want anything more vibrant than brown hair with a purple sheen in the sun, you basically have to bleach it. There really isn't any way around it. There isn't a purple pigment (or red, or blond, or even light brown) with enough oomph to really cover dark hair. That's just the state of hair dye technology.

Similarly, fading is just part of the game. For any kind of vegetable pigment like Special Effects, most people just recolor on a regular basis to punch the tone up more frequently than they bleach the new growth at the roots.

Even for non-vegetable (chemical?) salon dye, fading is still an issue, particularly for any tone with red pigment in it, including purple tones. I've died my hair various shades of auburn and red, both natural and quite wild, for years. The one constant with every tone, dye brand, and stylist is the fading. Apparently there's just something about red pigment molecules, apparently, that don't like to stick to the hair shaft as well as other colors.

I wash my hair every other day in the coldest water I can stand with the gentlest shampoo I can find. It fades slower that way, but it still fades. It's just part of the game. For me, and I think a lot of people committed to hair color, it's kind of like a hobby, like crafting or skiing or something. It requires a commitment of time, money, and maintenance, and supplies. It's a lot of effort, but I think it's totally worth it.
posted by mostlymartha at 9:10 AM on March 17, 2011

I am also a mid-brown hair colored person, who has dabbled with dying my hair purple and pink in the past. Unfortunately if you do you do not want to bleach your hair it is very VERY hard to get a striking and bright color. What you will get is a nice color pop in bright lights.

If your complaint about bleaching your hair is that the color comes out quickly, I find that how you wash your hair is very important:
* Reduce how much you shampoo your hair, I would still wash and condition most days, but only shampoo every few.
* Place some of the colored dye in your shampoo and conditioner (I got this tip from a hair dresser). This should help keep the color strong.

Good luck! Purple hair is wicked awesome.
posted by groovesquirrel at 9:15 AM on March 17, 2011

Yeah, reds just fade. There's no getting around it. Back in my Manic Panic days we had all sorts of tricks for getting it to stay longer, but they all involve really frying your hair first.

Now that I'm on a real computer I can include links: this is what I use and this is what my SIL uses.
posted by JoanArkham at 9:17 AM on March 17, 2011

Oh, also make sure you get shampoo and conditioner that is for "colored hair" or is "color safe". It's usually not as harsh.
posted by groovesquirrel at 9:17 AM on March 17, 2011

Seconding groovesquirrel's point about color-safe/color-protectant shampoo. It makes a difference!
posted by immlass at 9:29 AM on March 17, 2011

Thanks for your suggestions! I'll check out the brands.

I really don't want to bleach. Maybe I should reframe my question as "how do I dye my brown hair purple without bleaching first".

Yeah, it doesn't work. Your stylist bleached your hair when she put in the highlights, and there's just no way to get the same color without. Purple and red dyes also happen to be very unstable- I can make mine last longer by: only washing my hair once or twice a week, using a color-safe shampoo from the salon (I resisted expensive salon shampoos for years, until my stylist gave me a sample that really helped keep my hair color), and only washing and rinsing with cold water, which helps keep the cuticle flat and the color in.

The best way to have purple hair by yourself IMO is to do something like greenish suggested. You've got to lighten and damage (lift the cuticle) somewhat for the purple to look purple and stick around. The highlight method makes it look less like Hair by Crayola, and grows out more easily without a harsh root line. It's never ever going to last as long as regular hair dye. Believe me, I've had purple and red hair on and off (the off is mostly due to laziness about maintenance) for 15 years. It's a pain, and I only have it now because I stopped doing it myself and started going to a stylist.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:51 AM on March 17, 2011

You've gotten a ton of good advice here so far. I actually do think you could go purplish without bleach, and basically all you'd need to do so is to dump some purple dye on top of your hair after shampooing (don't condition). Purples tend to stain easily, and it shouldn't have any problem showing up as a sort of highlight on your hair that will show through in the sun.

However, you need to be warned: not only do purple dyes wash out quickly, but they will STAIN EVERYTHING IN YOUR HOUSE. Pillow cases. Towels. Tubs. Way worse than red dye. When I was a teenager, I dyed my hair purple before a mall date. Me and this boy made out on a white sofa at some furniture store and when we got up, there was a huge purple stain on the sofa (being the punks we were, we threw an afghan over it, and ran away).

So use gloves, a dark pillowcase, and be careful about sitting on white sofas.

posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:04 PM on March 17, 2011

After a few weeks it fades to blond
red in particular fades quicker than any other colour - it's the red that is the problem, not the bleach. My solution to prevent fading: I use Punky Color, it's a nice thick paste which will get quite dry in your hair in about an hour, and it smells like candy. I bleach out my hair, wait a day, and then apply the punky colour - the longer I leave it in, the slower it will fade, so I'll actually go to bed and leave it in overnight. I'll cover my pillow with an old towel, but aside from that, as long as I let it dry first, it's not messy. To get the colour you want, I'd suggest mixing rubine and plum - they are both a bit darker than shown in the pictures, and are gorgeous colours.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:06 PM on March 17, 2011

there was a huge purple stain on the sofa
funny! I went on a trip a year ago with friends, and the house we rented had white leather couches - one of my friends' hair left a big pink stain! My blue hair didn't though - so punky colour might be better than special effects in that respect...

pro tip - to get crazy hair colour off of leather, use hairspray
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:12 PM on March 17, 2011

Aw, man, this is where I'm a viking, but the rest of the world has already answered. For what it's worth, I've been dying my own hair for about a decade, and strongly believe that if you just want a solid color (i.e., no fancy highlights or fades or whatevers) then you really should dye it yourself. Seriously, $14 for the dye, $5 for gloves and a plastic cap for your hair, versus $100 or whatever that the stylists charge.

Manic Panic is a temporary hair dye that is (I believe) meant to fade out. Either that or it's just crap, I suppose. I use Special Effects, and the color lasts forever. Their Hot Pink lasts the longest, but the Blood Red lasts quite a while, too. Seconding Medieval Maven's Virgin Rose suggestion.

I more-or-less bleach my hair only once a year (It's healthy and strong and I like to keep it that way) in January. After that, I dye seasonally layering darker colors on top of the lighter ones (I start with pink, and worth up to red in August). The transition from Orange to Red is very smooth, but the transition from my undyed hair color (which I guess was like a dark brown, judging by my roots) would have been pretty drab, I think.

Anyway, I guess my main point is that I think people have had a lot of experience with bad dye brands, and that that's more of a problem than bleached hair--Special Effects stay vibrant for a long time for me.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 12:58 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and Special Effects Pimpin' Purple is kind of a terrible name, but it's just a beautiful color!
posted by Squid Voltaire at 1:00 PM on March 17, 2011

But my problem with bleaching even when done by pros is that any reddish dye won't stick very long. After a few weeks it fades to blond.

How have you avoided this problem?

I had this problem for years until I started using the Elumen dye, which lasted for months and months and stayed vibrant and awesome. Eventually I dyed it a dark colour when I got tired of it and the next time I bleached my hair, it was still under there!
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:08 PM on March 17, 2011

Yeah. Your stylist is right - if your hair is really quite dark, dye just isn't going to show up much if you don't bleach it. To get an unnatural color like this to look great and vibrant, you have to bleach, and you have to maintain it by redyeing it, probably every 4-8 weeks depending on how quickly it fades. You can do a lot to extend the life of the dye (bleach first; avoid UV on your hair; don't shampoo often or go no-poo altogether; let the dye stay on for many hours before washing it out when you do the dyeing).

For what it's worth, I have used a few varieties of Special Effects dye in colors similar to what you want. They tend to fade to pink or hot pink, but it takes months to fade all the way to blonde, at least in my experience. Here's an example of my hair - that's Special Effects Burgundy Wine after, I don't know, two months? (That color goes on like that #55103 hex but becomes pink pretty quickly. On my undyed hair it looks like #55103 but washes out quickly.)

For what it's worth, the dark purple hair in my Flickr icon is Special Effects Deep Purple over unbleached hair, but my hair is naturally more of a medium/light brown. You won't get that good of results on dark brown hair. Also, Deep Purple is so effective on unbleached hair because it's so effective on freaking everything. Like your pillows and your shower and anything you ever lean your head against...

Like Squid Voltaire, I do all my bleaching and dyeing at home. Especially if you want to do one solid color, it's quite easy and so much cheaper than a salon. I always get a friend to help, myself, but some people manage to do it all by themselves. You don't have to bleach your hair all the way to platinum but you do have to lighten it. For what it's worth, it took me years to work up the courage to start bleaching. It is a commitment, but for us non-blondies, it's the only option for really vibrant color.
posted by mandanza at 1:49 PM on March 17, 2011

Can you bleach streaks, then dye, so you get purple streaks and a purple cast?
posted by theora55 at 2:34 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow, so many good answers!
Thank you all so much, I think I have a better idea now of what I'm up against.

I think I'll just try the "muddy" unbleached version first and see if that's enough for my purple cravings. If not I'll have the stylist bleach my hair and dye it and then I'll refresh at home.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:40 PM on March 17, 2011

Hi, you're me. I just had my dark brown hair dyed electric purple just last week. I had it done professionally. My hair was bleached out, then purpled out. I keep the color bright by mixing manic panic's ultra violet color with clairol shimmer lights, a 2:1ratio, then blow dry for twenty minutes once a week or so. Not sure if you have manic panic in your area of the world, though.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 4:57 PM on March 17, 2011

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