My Hair is My Name Tag and I Don't Want to Be Called 'Brown'.
February 22, 2014 11:50 AM   Subscribe

I have long, fine hair that I've been bleaching and dyeing at home, with Special Effects, for over a decade. The dye always lasts beautifully, fades minimally and gracefully, and I only have to redo it when my roots grow out - about every 3-4 months. I get a huge number of compliments on my hair and have no desire to switch to anything less vibrant for the foreseeable future. Special Effects hair dye isn't available now - - and I need another option!

Due to the shortage that apparently started in late 2012, my local store is now fully out of all of the Special Effects colours and there's nothing available online. There have been no updates about when, or even if, the dye will return to the shelves and it's time for me to start looking around for another option. I don't have the budget to get my hair done professionally every few months, and I like the convenience of doing it at home.

I'm obviously comfortable bleaching my hair to get the right results and I have help (my husband) to make sure it's all done properly. I normally just bleach the new growth to help the dye adhere and then refresh the rest of my hair with the colour (and no bleach).

I tried Ion Professionals Color Brilliants and they were awful - it took forever to get the dye on (the texture is like thick frosting), and the end result was dull. Making matters worse, it didn't adhere to my hair well and the roots didn't 'stick' at all. It was a complete waste of money for me.

I then tried using Manic Panic - it looked great for a few days and then started to wash out and look much less intense. I'd need to redo it every 2 weeks to keep it vibrant. That's a far cry from Special Effects lasting months on my hair!

I want to find a vibrant purple dye and I'm considering using Goldwell Elumen (in VV@all) - anyone have experience with it?

Alternately, have you tried something - ANYTHING - that works as well as Special Effects and is bright and vibrant (and available in purple)?
posted by VioletU to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I've never used special effects but I have used manic panic and this stuff lasts much longer. I can get it at Walgreen's. I don't bleach my hair and I have to redo it about every two months.
posted by missriss89 at 11:56 AM on February 22, 2014

Have you tried ebay? Here's one seller selling lots of Special Effects colors, although you didn't specify which exact color (Pimpin' Purple, Purple Smoke, Deep Purple, etc).
posted by bluecore at 12:01 PM on February 22, 2014

Crud, I knew I was going to miss adding a few things.

I am particularly fond of Pimpin' Purple and, in second place, Virgin Rose. I'm looking for something either available in Canada or that will ship to me (without the usual over-the-top shipping rates that a lot of places add on when it comes to shipping here).

I am concerned that SE might never come back - which is why I'm also looking for other long-term options.
posted by VioletU at 12:04 PM on February 22, 2014

I've used the 'N Rage turquoise and purple with long-lasting results, although I have only done streaks or tips, not an entire head. On me the purple came out more like cobalt blue, but I probably didn't bleach it white enough. The turquoise came out as expected. It is a little thick to work with but shaking the bottle well for a few minutes before using helps with that. I tend to leave it in for hours, wrapped in plastic to trap in heat if I can.
posted by misskaz at 1:17 PM on February 22, 2014

I used to use Punky Color ( in the 1990s, on brown, bleached hair. I used the lagoon blue, it was very vibrant and i redid it every 4-6 weeks. However now they look to be made by a different company, so i cannot vouch for current formulation.
posted by holyrood at 1:18 PM on February 22, 2014

(If you absolutely can't find anything, maybe contact that eBay seller with your story and an offer to make a bulk purchase if they'll ship to Canada? I sell things on eBay (not hair dye, sadly) and also buy things on eBay, and people are often amenable to special requests.)
posted by Frowner at 1:21 PM on February 22, 2014

Have you tried Directions (I used to use their dye but it's been years) or maybe Pravana (never used it myself but the pictures look good)?
Maybe you could take a look through the gallery here to see if you come across anything that looks to be similar.
posted by eendje at 1:23 PM on February 22, 2014

PRAVANA. It's a professional dye, but it seemed easy to use. The purple was PURPLE on my (undyed but gray) hair. It lasted quite a while. I plan on using red next.
posted by bibliogrrl at 1:31 PM on February 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Pravana is my favorite dye (you can get the best deals on eBay).

I've also tried Punky Color by Jerome Russel with good results.
posted by fireandthud at 2:38 PM on February 22, 2014

It's been ten years, but Manic Panic is what I used to use. The trick is that they've got a "clear" dye that you put on (directly? a day?) after your color dye job. It lasted a very long time for me.
posted by cmoj at 2:53 PM on February 22, 2014

I have a purple streak in my hair from using Punky Colours. It's stayed vibrant and true purple for about a month for me, but I'm not really diligent about trying to keep it from fading as I like the way it looks when it tones down a bit - right now it's faded down to hot pink and I haven't dyed it in about 4 months.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:58 PM on February 22, 2014

I dye my hair solid blue and have gone through all the blue options available, including the elumen stuff. As you might know, blue fades fast and poorly. Finally my stylist got her hands on the Pravanna Vivids stuff and WOW it WORKS. This is the longest lasting, brightest-staying, nicest toned blue ever, and after a couple months it's stopped running in the shower but there is still almost no perceptible color fade.
posted by Mizu at 3:12 PM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have been using Punky Colour for around 8 years now, and I like it. It fades gracefully, and I touch up my colour every 6 to 8 weeks. However, it fades badly in the sun, so if you spend a lot of time outside without a hat I don't recommend it.

Usually I buy it on Amazon (.com not .ca) in batches to save on shipping. Plenty of vendors that carry it ship to Canada for a flat fee. If you live in Toronto, you can get it at the big cosmetics store at the corner of Bay and Dundas. Probably elsewhere too but that's where I used to get it when I lived downtown.

Now that I've read this thread I might have to look into Pravanna...
posted by keeo at 4:22 PM on February 22, 2014

Raw! I think you can only get it at Hot Topic? Sometimes Amazon, too, but it's usually overpriced. I used to alternate between Raw and Special Effects, until I stopped being able to easily find Special Effects, and I never noticed much of a difference--both had great color and lasted about as long as you can expect hair dye to last. I'm a Deep Purple girl, which is a really lovely deep, dark purple--comparing it to what I remember of SE's Pimpin' Purple, it's darker, with more blue than red undertones (but still unmistakably PURPLE). They also have a great bright, shocking pink.
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:37 PM on February 22, 2014

Another vote for the Pravana. I had a few pink streaks once upon a time, and it was definitely PINK!! for well over a month (much to my shock, I had been expecting it to be a softer bubblegum pink). It was awesome, and it even faded beautifully (magenta to bubblegum to a peachy color).
posted by specialagentwebb at 6:26 PM on February 22, 2014

Yes, yes, Pravana Vivids.
posted by houseofdanie at 6:40 PM on February 22, 2014

I've used Adore in both pink and blue and found that it stacked up well against Special Effects (which I agree was the canonical best brand for fun hair colors, pre-shortage). Bright colors, lasts a good while, fades gracefully. I'd definitely buy it again. Haven't tried the purple though.
posted by Scientist at 6:42 PM on February 22, 2014

Punky Color is very similar to the shittiness you observed with the Manic Panic. I wouldn't bother.

Can you find Fudge brand where you are? It's not cheap, but it's closer to Special Effects in quality and lasting effect.

I haven't tried Pravana and now I'm curious.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:40 PM on February 22, 2014

I use Elumen VV@All and I love it! Like you, I also bleach and dye my hair myself periodically. It's been 7 months (winter makes me laaazy) since I last did it, and the purple is still going strong -- it's not as fluorescently PURPLE purple as it was back in July, but it is definitely still purple. I used the associated products (prepare/lock) as well but I'm honestly not sure if they made any difference. I'll try to dig up a few pictures when I get to my home computer.

Further reading: a 52 page-long forum thread about Elumen
posted by btfreek at 10:57 AM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used Special Effects for years, what a bummer that you can't find it!

If you can't find another color that you like other than Manic Panic (I had the same results as you with MP, it just doesn't stick), can you try some color-depositing shampoo to help maintain it? I am dying to a coppery orange right now (well, the salon is), and I use this to maintain between visits. Similarly, when I used MP, I just added some of it to my conditioner so I always got a little refresh to my color. (Just use gloves with the MP in the conditioner)
posted by getawaysticks at 8:58 AM on February 24, 2014

I like punky colour, and found it lasted longer in my hair than Special Effects - I wouldn't be surprised if different brands were more or less effective in different types of hair, so you may want to try a few and see what suits you best.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:37 PM on February 24, 2014

I've just ordered some Pravana Vivids to try and will post an update here once it's on my hair and I've had a chance to see how well it lasts. If the Pravana doesn't make me happy, I'll give the Elumen a shot and report back on that. Thank you SO much for all the advice!
posted by VioletU at 5:12 AM on February 26, 2014

Funny, it looks like we live in the same area.... I have a source who's intimately familiar with the pains of this shortage, and just got an update today that the factory will be shipping out product again very soon. If/when I find out for absolutely sure it's on its way, I'll post something more specific.
posted by Gortuk at 3:49 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Update #1: I purchased Pravana Vivids in "Violet" and applied it today. I am in AWE of how vibrant this stuff is - but will update on the longevity of it soon. So far, however, I like it MORE than I like the Special Effects (and I loved the SE.) It is really, really intense.
posted by VioletU at 1:17 PM on March 23, 2014

Update #2 (and the last update): The Pravana Vivids were very, very vivid for a good chunk of time - and then all-but disappeared (about a month after dyeing, so not terrible). I'm going to be switching up my shampoo to see if I can make it last a bit longer. Still, very happy with the Pravana! Thanks all!
posted by VioletU at 10:07 AM on May 13, 2014

Sorry I forgot to update you earlier... but the Special Effects crisis ended back in March and your local supplier will have a regular stock now.
posted by Gortuk at 8:55 AM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

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