I am curious, pink
September 24, 2013 6:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm having a tiny nervous breakdown and I think one thing that might help me feel better would be to make a radical change to my hair.

My natural haircolor is very, very dark brown. I have a lot of grey, and usually self-color with the very darkest brown from L'Oreal. Over the last few years I also had to switch to L'Oreal's Preference or Excellence -- I forget, but whichever one says "superior grey coverage." But even that doesn't always do a good job of covering.

So I've got some dark brown bits, and some non-covered grey bits, and right now I also have a solid two inches of regrowth because I've been preoccupied with some extremely stressful shit in my life. (Short summary: friend with cancer, death of son's classmate, cats with worms, mother-in-law's health crisis, etc. Read my last few AskMes if you need sordid details.)

So I want to get a short, punky hairstyle, with my hair sticking out all over. I also want to dye it pink. If I cut my hair to, say, two inches or so, then I'll have a little dark brown and a lot of grey. Can I use the Manic Panic-style color to cover that grey? So I can end up with some brown and pink? Is that a thing? Or will that pink not cover this grey? Do I need to bleach it first? (That's sort of a non-starter for me right now - seems way too difficult for what I can handle.)

Any advice in this area would be appreciated.
posted by BlahLaLa to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, if anybody has any suggestions for the proper place to go for such a cut in L.A., I'd appreciate it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:37 PM on September 24, 2013

Where are you? I can rec a place/ stylist in NYC for you, but the gist of what they do is use a bunch of different colors / shades so it all blends in well.

I'm not well versed in grey, but from your question it sounds like you are open to just having some fun with it, so maybe a big glass of wine and whatever colors suit you fancy to start with? Good luck, and I'm sorry life is soo stressful right now.
posted by cestmoi15 at 6:39 PM on September 24, 2013

So I can end up with some brown and pink?

Most hair dye like Manic Panic is normalized for bleached and tinted hair, so depending on how light or dark gray you are, you could get exactly the sort of pink you want. The lighter the hair to begin with, the lighter and brighter the pink comes out.

If you have some gray on a longer part of your hair that you could cut off without it being noticeable, test it on that. You'll also get to see what happens when you mix brown with pink. Depending on how very dark brown you are, it might not even be noticeable unless it is in direct light.

Also, bleaching hair short hair for dying (as opposed to for wearing bleached blonde) is not very different from dying it. You mix the stuff, throw it on your head, wait a little while, wash it out and if it isn't light enough for you, repeat. Bleach kits sometimes have tinter (which is just very light purple dye), but you'll probably not need it. That's it.
posted by griphus at 6:39 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I used Manic Panic red on my daughter's chestnut brown hair over the summer. I did not bleach it first. And it just barely have it a reddish glow. And it washed out after a week or so. So I think you'd need to bleach it first.
posted by dawkins_7 at 6:58 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you can afford it, get it done at a salon (cut and color both). I get my hair dyed a couple-three times a year just for the hell of it and man, grey hairs are just weird. Their texture is different, they take color differently, and so on. I can't help but think that doing it at home (especially without bleaching at all) will end up with you having sort of brownish-pink hair with electric pink grey hairs. If what you want is HEY PINK HAIR OVER HERE then I think a salon would be well worth it. (I have friends who have gone with the HEY PINK HAIR look and they totally rocked it.)
posted by rtha at 7:10 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

You do need to bleach first to get pink to stick, and even then, keeping the color is a royal pain in the ass. (Think cold showers, as infrequent shampooing as you can possibly stand, frequent re-dying, etc.) Bleaching isn't just about lightening; it opens up the cuticle of the hair, so that the dye can penetrate into the shaft.

Source: I am 31, about 1/3 grey, and have been dying my hair bright unnatural colors for 18 years.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:17 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I haven't tried Manic Panic, but I've successfully used Splat lavender (from Walgreens) to cover my white hair with purple that fades to pink (they have a pink option as well). The brown hair around it is somewhat purple for the first week or so then it fades so only the white hair is vibrantly purple.
posted by kbuxton at 7:18 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

oooh! I can totally answer this! I have brown hair with a lot of grey in it, so I can help you - I dye mine blue and purple.

The best crazy-coloured dye, in my experience, is punky color. It is a nice thick paste, and smells like grape candy. The nice thing about that is it's easy to leave it on your hair for a long time. Manic panic smells gross, and I found that when I tried to leave it on for more than an hour the smell made me queasy. the longer you leave it in for, the longer the colour lasts.

Punky colour will adhere to the grey, but it will wash out faster than it does with bleached hair. What I would suggest is get your funky haircut, and then use a dark pinky shade of dye to colour it - red wine would be perfect. It will start out quite dark, and then lighten a bit every time you wash it, fading in a month or so to a lighter pink. Then, you can either re-apply the dye every so often to freshen up the colour, or if you really like it and want it to be more permanent, you can bleach out your hair before dying and the colour will be much more vibrant and long-lasting.

my dyeing technique is to use a dye brush to cover my hair with dye about an hour before I want to go to bed. I'll tie back my hair and wrap the ponytail in saran wrap. In about an hour, it will be fairly dry, so I'll go to bed with it in, covering my pillow with a tea towel.

I rinse it out the next day and use conditioner to get it all out.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:31 PM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]

oh also, a little rubbing alcohol on a cottonball will remove any dye splats that get on your skin
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:33 PM on September 24, 2013

years ago i used to go to a salon in venice that was kind of a rocker place. i think it was paper scissors rock. they were good and if you look at their photos on yelp there are some pink hair folks.
posted by wildflower at 7:46 PM on September 24, 2013

I heartily recommend my beloved Jaz at Vous Hair on Melrose.

She's given me all manner of short, layered, punkish, colorful 'dos over the years.

I'm a dude but she's a unisex stylist.

She'll give you exactly what you're looking for. Crazy tones and shapes a specialty.
posted by mykescipark at 9:07 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have short hair with a bright purple/pink streak in it right now. You need to bleach your hair for the Manic Panic to really sink in, look vibrant, and last more than a few shampoos. Also, it'll just look weirdly stripey if you have grey roots and dark length - you really need the entire strand to be the same base tone to get the color to look right.

If it helps, I did my own by buying a Feria bleach blonde kit from the drugstore. I had to leave it on for a bit longer than expected to move it from the brassy color to the color of, uh, vanilla pudding. Then I globbed on the Manic Panic, wrapped it in foil and let it sit for a few hours.

Memail me if you have questions!

(edit: rinse the bleach out before adding the manic panic/punky colour, obviously)
posted by joan_holloway at 9:08 PM on September 24, 2013

I am watching this with interest because I went to a salon to put a bright purple stripe in my dark brown with some grey, never-dyed hair. The bleach worked. But the purple didn't stick to my hair at all. So now I have a blonde streak where I wanted purple and I am sad.
posted by PussKillian at 9:39 PM on September 24, 2013

i dye my hair unnatural colors on a regular basis. i can't answer all of your question since i have no grey but my natural hair color is a medium brown and i've tried a lot of different dye variants from "no bleach" to "full bleach" to "partial bleach in hopes of attaining stripes"

fwiw i have never had a good experience with manic panic - it inevitably fades much sooner than expected and i have bad problems with it leaching color onto my pillowcases even after multiple rinses (far worse than with any other brand i've tried). the RAW brand from hot topic has worked a lot better, and the SPLAT! brand available at walmart, cvs and other mass retailers is also good plus comes with bleach if you decide you want to use bleach.

from my experience i would say DON'T try and do this with manic panic. i don't think manic panic would end up working well and looking good for what you want to do because of my experiences with its leaching and lack of permanency/difficulty in getting it to even tint my hair to start out with. it might be worth trying it with the RAW brand, which should stick to your grey hair and just tint over the brown the way you're hoping (although you might not be 100% content with the way that actually looks in practice, you can always bleach it after the fact and redye!)
posted by titus n. owl at 10:41 PM on September 24, 2013

I'm an older lady with fabulous funky colored hair, and this can all be done - but do get it done professionally, it's well worth it, and really a nice de-stressing afternoon to boot.

I also have brown/grey hair, and I just had mine done a magnificent shade of turquoise. Any time you want to do a radical color change, get thee to a salon! Look for a punky sort of place where they're comfortable with wild colors - such places will usually have all sorts of color hair on their web page where they show off their hair cuts. An experienced colorist will work with you to figure out what's possible with your hair, and will get the bleaching and color done with minimal damage. If you're going short it's usually pretty cheap as they'll do the cut first and dye the short hair.
Manic Panic only works on bleached hair, I've tried it on the grey and it laughed it off.
Try to find or draw an idea of the cut you want before you go in, that really helps.

Good luck and enjoy the fabulousness!
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 12:00 AM on September 25, 2013

Oh, and after it's dyed:

- wear a scarf to bed and put a towel over your pillow to minimize staining.
- those 3-in1 face/makeup wipes are great for getting staining off your ears and the back of your neck. If they don't work at the beginning, cold cream rubbed in well does.
- for maintenance, wash your hair with conditioner only, in very cold water. Make sure you use a color-safe conditioner. I use a color-safe deep conditioning cream about once a week, first washing with it and then leaving a second application on for a while. The great thing about salon color is that it really outlasts home treatment color by miles, and this will keep it going even longer.
- don't wear white shirts for a while.
- the color might stain your nails; when my hair is funky colored I wear a similar color nail polish a bit darker so the staining doesn't show. I tried a contrasting color but it just got stained. Mind you, I do have turquoise right now - pink should be a little friendlier if it stains, as opposed to my gangrene stains.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 12:13 AM on September 25, 2013

Since this a healing process for a mini nervous breakdown, I think you should have it done by a professional. That gives you a couple if hours where you don't have to do anything.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:11 AM on September 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've used deep red (burgundy-ish) dye kind of like that, and I found that the grey picked it up*really* well. It wasn't Manic Panic, though, but some other brand and unfortunately I can't remember the name offhand.

If you can afford to go to a pro, do so - your nervous breakdown deserves the best work of trained professionals, dammit!
posted by rmd1023 at 6:54 AM on September 25, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the input so fae. I connected with a highly recommended hairdresser who is coming to my house in two hours. YAY! For only $45, which is basically how much (or less than) I expected to spend at a salon. So at least the cut will happen today. She will no doubt have some advice about the color, too, but I'd love to keep hearing from Mefites if there are more suggestions on that end.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:43 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have home-bleached and Manic Panic-ed my hair (and used Directions as well) all sorts of colours, and everything everyone has said upthread I agree with. Bleaching at home is just as easy as dyeing at home, the only difference being that the smell makes your eyes water more!

Maintaining the pink will mean re-dyeing a lot - my mother accurately described my semi-washed-out pink as 'Bagpuss hair', which I think is accurate.

If you do go home dye, vaseline around the hairline after the bleach and before the pink helps the process of getting off the inevitable pink splashage.

There are more interesting colours coming up in 'mainstream' hair dyes as well; I haven't seen any pink as yet, but I've used Schwarzkopf Live Color purple, which is a relatively subtle purple, but stays as long on the hair as any other off the shelf permanent colour. This may be an option if purple was a second choice :)

You have made me want pink hair again, which is a pity as it's against work dress code!
posted by Coobeastie at 11:10 AM on September 25, 2013

I think that they key to enjoying weirdly coloured hair is to enjoy it's randomness - you can't quite predict what colour it will come out, the colour might be a bit mottled, and it will fade over time, but if you are the sort of person who can say, "hey it's a new cool colour today, yay" then it's a lot of fun.

I hope that the new style gives you the boost you need!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:29 PM on September 25, 2013

Response by poster: For anyone following -- the haircut went off without a hitch. The stylist was amazing, and we spent quite a bit of time talking about what I wanted. (I had no pictures.) Best of all, she was able to show me why my goal of "two inches all around, sticking up" wasn't the best choice for my hair's texture + how much time I want to spend on it every morning (near zero). And, BTW, she was totally supportive of me doing something radical, and she herself is covered in tattoos and has multi-colored, short hair. So, she steered me to a very, very short, layered bob. I feel lighter, prettier, freer. I have to care for Sick Friend tomorrow, and then I will turn my attention to the color side of this project.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:00 PM on September 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

Should you check this again...

I've been dyeing my hair for, yikes, 19 years now. Some of that was box dye, but for the most part it's been things like blue and purple and bright red. I will share a few bits of my experience.

The best dye brand I have ever found, by a ridiculous margin, is Special Effects. That stuff stays gloriously, and when it does fade it fades nicely (not mottled or going green from purple or anything weird). I don't have to redye until I need to cover my roots anyway, with any colour of theirs I've ever tried. It's miraculous stuff. I used to use Manic Panic and Punky Colors. Used to. (Manic Panic has gotten better in recent years, but it's still not as good as SFX.)

I do bleach. It roughs up your hair and ensures that the dye can penetrate the cuticle as well as lifting colour. Sally Beauty Supply is a great place to get bleach. You probably wouldn't need anything higher than 20-volume developer, as you're not trying to bleach a great deal of colour out. And that shouldn't fry your hair all that much. I have only a small amount of grey (more's the pity), and I have no idea how well the dye would cover it without bleach. But when I do bleach, it looks exactly the same as the surrounding hair. Which is to say freaking awesome, because now it's blue or something.

Do not pay attention to the instructions on the bottle or jar of dye which say that you should leave it on for 15 minutes and then wash it out. I do not know what they were smokin' when they wrote said labels. Leave it on for as long as you can, especially with lesser brands of dye. SFX will penetrate admirably in a couple of hours, but I've been known to sleep with a plastic bag of dye on my head and a towel over my pillow on many occasions over the years. Keeping the dye moist helps as well. I wrap my head in cling-film once I've got the dye in.

To help keep dye from staining your skin, put a fairly thick layer of hand lotion around your hair line. I do this after I have the dye in, and am just careful not to smear it on myself first. Not a gooey layer, but slightly more than you would be able to rub in easily. This is a lot more pleasant than trying to rub a serious stain out with alcohol. (That does work, but it's nicer to use it slightly more sparingly.)

If you're interested, this site has a fairly comprehensive gallery of photos people have sent in of themselves with their hair dyed with various brands and colours. I put you on the Special Effects page because that's the one I've primarily visited, but I believe there are others as well.

Anyway, I know a fair bit about this stuff, and I have a fair bit of experience I am happy to share. Feel free to MeMail me if this isn't enough of a screed already.
posted by Because at 12:25 AM on September 28, 2013

Response by poster: Did I mention how much I love each and every one of you for giving me these answers? So here's what we currently stand: because this is all taking place in the midst of my nervous breakdown, I did go with the "easiest" thing - which meant trying Manic Panic in a bright blue. I tried to cover my whole head, with the theory that the dark brown wouldn't be colored at all, but that the blue would go on my grey hair. (I don't think I ever mentioned that my greys are really, really white.) Anyway, I left it on for two hours and at this point my grey hairs are very, very blue. You have all convinced me that this won't last long, but I'll enjoy it while I can, and then hopefully I can splash out and have a pro help with this project.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:28 PM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

blue is the best haircolour of all
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:11 AM on September 29, 2013

Response by poster: So the first haircolor lasted about ten days. I redid it, blue again. The hitch is that the weather has recently gotten cooler, so it's harder to wash in cold water now. And hot water clearly makes the color go away faster. I have the light blue remnants in there now...and this weekend I'm going to try pink. Having fun with it.

THanks, everybody!
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:33 PM on October 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

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