Tips for redying faded red hair?
February 28, 2012 2:51 AM   Subscribe

I dyed my hair red. Now I'm wondering if the instructions for redying/touch-ups are really correct, even for dye that has faded very quickly.

I dyed my hair just over a month ago with Schwarzkopf "Red Passion (43)", a permanent dye, and as people have warned me is common with red dye, it's gotten pretty faded already. Some strands are completely blonde again, even. I would like to redye it, but I have a couple of questions:

1. The package seems to think that if I've already got dyed hair, I just need to dye the roots for the full time, and put the dye through the rest for 10 minutes at the end. This seems to assume there is little or no fading, since it's the same instructions for other colours besides red, which don't fade so quickly. Will 10 minutes really be enough to make it all vibrant again?

2. Similarly, there were some patches, especially underneath at the back, and at the ends of the hair, that never were as vibrant when I dyed it the first time. Maybe I missed them when I was distributing the dye. So to get those "caught up", don't I need to leave dye on them for the whole 30 minutes, not just 10?

3. What's the deal with using another shade or a different brand? I have heard horror stories ("Your hair will go green!" or "Your hair will fall out!") or even just that the colour will look muddy. I am happy to stick with this brand and colour if possible, but my local shops are flaky. It is not unlikely that they will suddenly be all out of stock of this brand or colour for months on end at some point. Could I just use a similar red (e.g. Schwarzkopf 37?) if that happened or even a different brand? Alternatively, if I stock up on this colour/brand now, will it go off? Does hair dye have an expiration date? How long can I keep unopened dye in the cupboard?
posted by lollusc to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
3. I have red hair at the moment. It does fade quickly. I mix and match dyes constantly, and now mix my own dye and activator (from hair supply shops) rather than buy box ones. I am a reckless hair dyer as I have a lot of hair, and I know it will just grow back. I am 31 and have coloured consistently since I was 14. I think the only way your hair would fall out is if you bleached it until it broke. On top of my red dye I also top up with orange Fudge intermittently.

1. When I touch up now I do the roots first, then add colour to the rest of the hair after 10 or 15 minutes so it isn't in the already coloured part as long. I leave it on for longer than 10 minutes, but don't tend to time it. I'd estimate 25+ minutes.

2. You may have just missed bits, or if you are like me, the underneath-back part is a little darker. This won't show the colour as well.

Consider getting some of that colour booster for shampoo. It is the only thing that really keeps red hair poppin' between dyes. The copper tone shampoo is harder to find than cherry reddish, but it is out there. Good luck, it is just hair.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 3:07 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have red hair, but its in a short pixie cut and fades really badly so I just re-dye it all as normal. I figure the bits that would get damaged by monthly dying are going to get cut off before they cause me bad hair days.

You could always try doing it as suggested on the box, and then if it's uneven re-dye it all in future? Depending on how long your hair is and how often you get it cut. Good shampoo definately makes a difference in how long it lasts.

I also swapped from schwarzkopf to the superdrug brand with no issues, for what its worth
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:36 AM on February 28, 2012

I'm about to strip out three years worth of copper red dye at the moment, actually. I got so good at doing it myself that people think red is my natural colour, so I have A LOT of experience with this.

(1) Your regrowth will need to be processed for more time than your length, so next time you re-colour you'll need to apply the colour to the roots (I highly recommend using a tint brush), let it process, then pull the colour through to the ends. The only catch is repeatedly applying permanent colours to your lengths and ends can be quite damaging over time. I used to use L'oreal dyes, and would alternate between using a semi-permanent version of the same colour and applying it to the length and using a permanent on the regrowth only.

(2) You might want to do another whole head application to even out the missed patches. What application method do you use? It's really important to be methodical with your sectioning and application so you don't miss anything.

(3) Brands of dye don't matter, but colour matters, as does the type of dye. Permanent dyes with high volumes of peroxide in the developer lift your base colour, giving a different kind of colour than a semi-permanent, which coats the hair. In theory, repeatedly using a semi permanent could result in darker-than-wanted colour build up. That said, red fades like crazy, so I found I could repeatedly apply a semi to my very frequently dyed lengths and ends without it going too dark.

Hair dyes don't have an expiration date. I bought professional-sized bottles of developer and stocked up on tubes of colour from a beauty supply store and they always worked.

It would help to know your base colour and your goal. Memail me if you like!
posted by nerdfish at 3:51 AM on February 28, 2012

Thanks, this is all very helpful.

Nerdfish, in answer to your specific questions, my base colour is an ash blonde. Right after I dyed it a month ago, it looked like this, which was, in fact, my goal. I would be happy staying with anything within a few shades of that, but it was pretty much exactly what I wanted. So I just want to keep it looking pretty much like that (plus even out the stuff at the back, which was not shown in those photos).

Ignore the fact that the ends are looking dry and damaged in that photo. I'm well overdue for a haircut, and usually keep it only a little longer than chin length, which is what will be happening again soon.

My "application method" was to squeeze the dye all over my head and run my fingers through it a lot, and then comb it briefly through. I thought it would be even, because I've got very fine hair, and not much of it, and I've managed to get it even that way in the past with wash-out dyes.

I now feel like I need an "application method" and a "goal". Any suggestions are welcome.
posted by lollusc at 4:16 AM on February 28, 2012

With red dye, just dye the whole length of your hair.

It's brown dye that needs to go only on the roots. (Have you ever succeeded in getting hair dye on just the roots of your hair and not all over the ends, the towels, the bathtub enamel, the walls, and the furniture? If so, you are amazing.)
posted by tel3path at 4:17 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh and to make sure you cover it all: shampoo the dye into your roots and massage it in small circles all over your head until you're sure you've covered every bit. Then work the rest of your hair into it until all your hair is covered and glopped in a pile on top of your head.

If you've gone more than a shade or two from your natural colour, it's going to make it that much more tricky.
posted by tel3path at 4:20 AM on February 28, 2012

Step 1: go to a Priceline or Price Attack and buy yourself four sectioning clips, a tint brush and bowl (if you go to Price Attack the staff there will help you find everything). Pop in to a health food store while you're at it and buy yourself a tub of coconut oil.

Step 2: Wait 'til you've got gross dirty hair. I mean super oily, super disgusting, holy-cats-I-need-to-wash-this hair. Work a bit of coconut oil into your ends until they look wet. Trust me on this.

Step 3: put on an old shirt. Part your hair down the centre, then part your hair ear-to-ear. Imagine a cross on the crown of your head. Secure each section with a clip.

Step 4: Put on gloves. Dump the developer and colour into your tint bowl and mix it up with the bristles of the tint brush. Brush the dye onto your centre part (I always start at the crown, because it's easy to miss the hair there). Brush the dye on to your ear-to-ear part.

Step 5: Release one of the clipped up sections. I always start with one of the back sections because they're the hardest to do. Using the tail of your brush, 'slice' off a thin section of hair, no more than 1/2 a centimetre thick, following the centre part (for some reason I find it easier to take vertical sections in the back). Hold the section off to the side and brush the dye on to your new part. Continue until you've parted and dyed the whole section.

Step 6: After parting-and-brushing the regrowth in the back sections, do the front. I found it easier to 'slice' off sections following the centre part again. When you've parted-and-dyed everything, thoroughly brush a little dye around your hairline to catch the baby hairs.

Step 7: After your regrowth has processed for as long as you'll process it, let down one section and either brush the remaining colour in the bowl on to that section or use your gloved hands to 'smoosh' it in. Do that with the remaining sections.

This is much fussier to describe than it is to do. Dyeing my hair was my meditation; I'm only quitting because my hair is waist length now and the damage is starting to show.

A final point: if you want to easily refresh that gorgeous copper from the picture, I'd use a direct deposit dye in between permanent dyes, like Goldwell Color Mousse (readily available from Price Attack) or good old Napro Live Colour in Aztec Gold. It'll really help the fade.

Tl;dr - you need to use a tint brush and bowl and be super anal with your sectioning.
posted by nerdfish at 4:27 AM on February 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

For reference, my hair is (was? soon won't be) this colour. Pls excuse the silly outfit, I was dressed as a sexy armadillo for a theme party. I'm a level 7-8 ash blonde naturally, and use L'oreal 834 across a range of their dyes (Majirel, Castings and Excellence, to be specific).
posted by nerdfish at 4:34 AM on February 28, 2012

As an occasional redhead (my longest stint was about six months until I couldn't stand the upkeep anymore, went back to brown last week), I'll add to the chorus of people telling you to buy a shampoo specifically for maintaining red hair. Also, try to wash/rinse your hair in water as cold as you can stand it. I've seen that advice given when it comes to maintaining hair colors, and have noticed that when I would wash in hot water I could see that I was losing a lot of color.
posted by shes_ajar at 5:37 AM on February 28, 2012

I use conditioner only on days when I can get away with it (no-poo) and always use sulfate-free shampoos per my stylist's instruction... and the only red I've ever found that sticks is Special Effects' line (Blood Red is what I use). Of course, it also bleeds all over everything for a few weeks after you apply it.
posted by getawaysticks at 6:12 AM on February 28, 2012

I have very grey thick hair that has trouble taking hair dye, I am lucky in that it holds it once it's in really well. I colour my hair red and most people are surprised to find my hair isn't naturally red. I use a similar technique to nerdfish though I don't clip my hair I use the rat tail point on a comb "flip" sections of my hair over from the centre down one side then down the other.

I leave permanent colour on for 45 minutes or sometimes an hour. I will do the roots for half an hour then the rest for 20 minutes or so up to about half an hour. It does take a little trial and error to find out what works for your hair. My hair is as tough as steel wool, so do some experimenting and work up to your times but you can leave it on longer I just think the colouring companies are protecting themselves in case you have delicate hair and it does get damaged.

If you want to stop the red from fading so fast, there are shampoos for red hair these can help, there are tinting shamoos that will add colour back in. If you are going out and want your colour to pop but don't have an hour to fully colour your hair a quick water rinse temporary colour can bring your hair back to life and is less damaging.

I cross mix brands and shades of red depending on my mood and have never had a hair colour come out green or whatever. I think the main problem is switching from say shades of red to blonde to brunette that sort of thing.

You can go to stores like Priceline or Sallys and get all sorts of super handy tools and hair colours you mix yourself and the staff at Sallys are very helpful.
posted by wwax at 6:19 AM on February 28, 2012

I don't have much experience with red hair dye per se, but every few weeks I use a red gloss to boost my auburn hair up to red. However, I strongly recommend Aveda's color-depositing shampoos in Madder Root or L'oreal's Color Depositing Shampoo in Red Clover to use as your every day or every-other-day shampoo. Do not be fooled by "color protecting" shampoos, unless they lack sodium lauryl sulfate or similar lathering agents that strip hair of its dyes. They aren't all that different from regular shampoo and will contribute to fading.

If you can, only wash your hair every other day. Since your hair is fine with brittle ends, just shampoo the roots with your fingertips and don't really worry about the rest of it, which is likely not nearly as oily and in need of extreme cleansing. Hair dye damages ends especially, making them extra dry and porous, which is a) why you shouldn't worry about shampooing them much if your hair is dyed, and b) why hair dye manufacturers tell you to only put the dye on your ends for 1/3 the time as on your roots. Slather on conditioner, of course, and think about using a mask once a week, like Ojon's Intensive Hydrating Mask.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:01 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

natural dark golden blonde here. I dyed my hair red pretty much constantly for about 17 years. I never bleached or "lifted" before dying, and used permanent or semi-permanent pretty indiscriminately.

I found I got as intense and long-lasting a color from semi-permanents, with very little damage to my hair. I usually alternated: roots one time, then (about a month later) the whole thing, since my hair was quite long and is very thick to re-do whole head each time...

nthing the color deposit shampoo! ask your hairdresser for a rec, some brands are more effective than others. also, if you can not wash yr hair every day that helps keep the intensity up longer. have fun!
posted by supermedusa at 8:25 AM on February 28, 2012

1. The hair that has been colored has already had the cuticle busted open, some natural color dissolved and the new color molecules shoved in. Re-exposing that hair as if it were virgin, undyed hair causes progressive damage, which some people don't care about, some people do. 10 minutes is the standard prescription to refresh the color, whether it will make you as vibrant as the start again, I can't tell. Part of your specific issue, besides all the inherent red-fadage ones mentioned, is that you are making sort of a lateral shift, and your natural hair color doesn't have as many red-supporting molecules as a brunette lightening-to-red would.

2. Sure, that would be fine. Like I said, it's progressive damage; a couple of exposures shouldn't be enough to make it fall off.

3. Schwarzkopf is very good quality haircolor, so no problems switching shades within the line. The horror stories I have heard have all centered around the L'Oreal Feria line: their "multi-dimensional" ingredient is metallic-based which can be reactive with subsequent chemical services. If they are horror-stories of hue and tonality, though, I would chalk that up to the fact that haircolor pigments do not work the same way color-wheel/paint pigments do; this is why top pros have to spend time perfecting the craft so the results will always be on mark.

+1 on the upthread advice: less frequent washes, coolest water, least sulfate-y shampoo, temporary color refreshers (shampoo + conditioners), using the demi-permanent/semi-permanent/gloss type colors to maintain the haircolor after the virgin hair is colored with the permanent or see whether they will get you red enough on their own and avoid the permanent color altogether. Good luck!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 2:30 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh and haircolor should have a fair amount of shelf-life. Keep sealed, out of light. The most likely thing to happen would be the developer portion would weaken as the hydrogen-peroxide degrades; you could always swap in fresh developer if it was so old that you had concerns.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 2:33 PM on February 28, 2012

I'm a blonde, been dying my hair red for about 17 years (whoa.) Yep, reds fade in such a way that you can't really just redo your roots, you need to refresh the color all over.

When I had longer hair, I found it quite difficult to keep my hair evenly dyed myself. I solved this by getting my hair dyed professionally about four times a year, and then doing it myself in between. My salon at the time used the professional formulation of L'Oreal; I used the drugstore version at home.

Nthing to avoid shampooing -- I wash with plain water every day, but only shampoo once or twice a week. Also, my glosser has sunscreen in it, which helps immensely.
posted by desuetude at 2:50 PM on February 28, 2012

"If you can, only wash your hair every other day."

Ha, I wash my hair with shampoo once a week or so! More often than that and it gets too dry. I wash my fringe every day in cold water, though. I transitioned to using cold water for the once a week washes too after noticing that controlled the amount of dye that bled onto my towels. But I don't think I'll be able to keep up the cold water washes once it gets to winter...

I've marked a lot of best answers here, and even the ones I didn't mark are really helpful. Thanks. I especially appreciate the advice on sectioning, even though I didn't ask about that specifically (only because I didn't know enough to even ask)! And for the reassurances about not strictly following the instructions on the box.

I will try the shampoos suggested.

I have used semi-permanents and colour mousses and wash-out dyes on my natural hair in the past and never got the look I was after, but it hadn't occurred to me that I could use those after using a permanent to keep the colour fresh between redoes. Thanks!
posted by lollusc at 4:52 PM on February 28, 2012

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