Should I dye my brown hair blue?
November 12, 2015 6:42 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering coloring the ends of my dark blonde/brown hair a bright shade of blue or possibly green (or both?) But I'm worried about hair breakage - my hair is very fine - and maintenance. And is this look still in style? Please tell me your brightly colored hair secrets. Or do you have other hair advice? Help a bored, tired lady feel more stylish. Thanks!

Let me start by saying that I love MeFi and this is my first Ask MeFi. Thanks in advance! This question is inspired by Marci at Xo Jane and her amazing blue/green/teal mermaid hair. I would love to have it, but I am not anywhere in her hair league. Can it still work for me?
Other details: My hair is slightly wavy and currently right above my shoulders. I'm not even positive what color it is. I used to have dark blonde hair, but it's gotten darker over the years. I highlighted it with light blonde highlights for probably ten years... I also went through periods of dyeing it auburn, brown, platinum and even magenta. I think the platinum was my favorite, but for a few reasons I don't think it would look as good now. After 1.5 years of pregnancy and nursing and thus no hair dye, my natural color seems to be.... light brown, almost auburn? With some light gray starting to show at the roots? But the ends have really held the highlighted blonde, so I guess I have the ombre look going. I think it would be fun to dye my hair a really bright color and I have a bit of cash to afford it. But here's why I'm worried about dyeing my whole head:
1. Post-pregnancy has really thinned my hair. Although my dr. says this is typical, I worry about hair loss quite a bit. Would a bright color mean the hair would first have to be stripped and bleached? I'm not sure if it's a good idea to do anything that could potentially damage the hair I have. The upside is that my post-baby hair is now significantly more wavy. I have soft waves now and I can typically just wash & let my hair air dry - so no heat styling required.
2. Cost. I can afford to color my hair, but it's hard for me to justify paying for frequent touch-ups. This is another reason why I'm considering just coloring the ends.
3. Maintenance: I do not have a lifestyle that can find lots of time for touch-ups. Natural highlights are much easier to work with because when they grow out, the look is not as noticeable. If there was a way to touch-up the blue at home, I could probably do that.
4. Style: Is this look even still in style? I used to love following trends, but I've lost track and I live in the midwest. Is there a different look I should consider? Maybe I stick with a natural color but do something fun with the style or a cut? (But I also don't have time for lots of hair cuts.... I'm wearing my hair longer than in the past because I don't have time to maintain a pixie cut). My daughter would be thrilled if I dyed my hair pink or added a pink streak, so that's another look I'm considering. FWIW my skin tone is quite pale with yellow undertones. So with makeup for instance, I usually look much better with mauves than bright reds and pinks. I really appreciate any style advice you can offer!
posted by areaperson to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have fine, straight brown hair and I've been dying the ends purple for a while.

1. You'll absolutely have to bleach your hair to get bright colors. If you don't, you'll end up with brownish hair that has a blue cast - not blue hair.

2. I got my hair done in a salon initially because I didn't want to bleach it myself. I also wanted to darken the roots to make the color pop. My hairstylist dyed my roots black and then shaded that into the bleach blond, and then she applied the color.

It looks really great until the roots start to show... But root touch-ups are fairly easy, I'm just lazy. Also, it doesn't look bad if I let the black fade entirely (it's just not quite as striking).

3. It's easy to touch up your own color. It takes about $10 worth of product and about 30-40 minutes of your time (including application and rinsing). How often you have to touch up will depend a lot on your hair, the brand of dye you use, and the color you use. I use One 'N Only Argan Oil Violet and I'm really happy with it, so their other colors might be good. Manic Panic fades really fast.

Washing every other day, I've gotten a good solid month out of this color. To touch up, you just use a tint brush to apply the dye to the bleached parts. TBH, having black roots makes this easier - the dye doesn't show on the black, so I don't need to be exact.

One thing to consider is that these dyes are not exactly colorfast. They will continue to wash out, especially the first few washes - my bathroom always looks like I've murdered a unicorn for the first week after I've re-dyed it.

4. I can't tell you if it's in style or not. I see lot more people with colored hair in the last year or so than I have since I was a teenager. I get compliments on mine a lot, too. But then I'm sure that there are people thinking I'm being a try-hard or that it's a stupid trend or whatever. You gotta do what makes you happy.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:10 PM on November 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I love the sort of neutral/natural/mousy hair with bleached & brightly colored ends. It's super on trend right now and I think it's such a cool contrast to keep your hair natural but add the color at the tips, especially with a short gradient from natural to bleached to colored. So I say go for it, and try the tips first-- if you hate it you can cut them off. And you'll see how your natural hair responds.
posted by easter queen at 7:14 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, I think pastels and the kind of "subtle" but unnatural colors (like the woman you linked) are especially in now. My sister just did her hair silver-y grey and it looks awesome. I think light purple and dark green are especially in, but also blues and greens and pinks in general.
posted by easter queen at 7:15 PM on November 12, 2015

Best answer: I have middle brown hair with light brown natural highlights. I've used manic panic ultra violet and shocking blue over it in the past (no bleaching). The purple pops really nicely in a subtle way; the blue just makes it look dark. They fade quickly but since it's basically just dye in conditioner it doesn't hurt to keep slapping color on it every week or so.

If you just want to try it on a lark and see how it goes, it's a nice, inexpensive, temporary way to see if you like it.
posted by phunniemee at 7:35 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm naturally dark blonde, but I've been dyeing my hair red for a while now. I am currently in love with Feria violet. I don't have time to maintain my hair color at a salon, and it's not that time consuming to touch up my roots every two months. I dyed it over red, so it came out more wine colored, but definitely shines purple in the light. I have a similar skin tone and have gotten many compliments. It has way more staying power than my daughter's Manic Panic and Splat. Again, I just have to the roots. It will likely be more violet on your hair, too.
posted by Ruki at 7:43 PM on November 12, 2015

Best answer: I have dark brown hair and for a while I had bright teal ends. I loved it. I spent about $150 on the initial salon bleaching, which took a few tries on such dark hair, but then I did the teal myself (and touched it up myself). The only downside I experienced was that the color tended to wear off on other things, like pillowcases and towels and the collars of my shirts. As far as I understand it, this isn't supposed to happen, there are tricks to keep the color in better. But either way, it looked amazing, and I'm thinking of doing it again one of these days.
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:03 PM on November 12, 2015

Best answer: I did this this summer, sort of. I was going to do purple tips, but then my fashionable friend did this: she pulled up half my hair into a ponytail and convinced me to dye the lower half. The effect was really cool- when I pulled up my hair or shook my head you'd see definitely purple, but otherwise it was subtle and I really liked it. The best part was when the roots grew out it wasn't immediately obvious because there was hair on top.

(not to say tips aren't cool- but this worked awesome for me)
posted by clarinet at 8:32 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: First thing to know about blue and green hair.

It does not last.

I have light brown hair which bleaches easily and is naturally light enough to show at least a little tint if I dye it without bleaching. If I do this (just dye my brown hair blue without attempting to lighten it at all), I get a few days of green/blue tint. I currently have ombre blond highlights, which I frequently dye fun colors. The longest any green or blue color has ever lasted in my hair was maybe three weeks, and that's three weeks until the very last little eek of pigment is 100% gone.

I'm not sure if getting this done professionally would produce more long lasting results, or if it would just be a waste of your money. I'm also not sure if bleaching all of your hair super pale platinum blond would help the dye take better than it takes in my just regular old highlighted hair.

Re your other questions:

1. It's not going to be the fun colored dye that's going to make your hair fall out. The brands I've used are actually quite emollient and make my hair feel healthier than before, if anything. However, the bleaching that might be required to get the dye to take well in your hair may damage it.

2. See above about the longevity of the dye. I'm not sure what pro coloring costs for something like this, but whatever you spend to have a pro colorist do the blue/green won't last nearly as long as most other types of color would last. That said, I do Manic Panic myself for about $15 per jar and it works fine. You could definitely just get highlights done and add the blue or green yourself.

3. Nthing the insane amount of upkeep this is going to require if you want more than a few weeks of color.

4. Yeah, but a red, pink, peach, or purple would be more on-trend and last longer in your hair. It would also be more trendy to get a pastel shade, which might be worth getting done professionally. (Otherwise a color like this will eventually fade to the on-trend pastel/washed-out shades. I do an orchid shade a lot and have gotten a lot of compliments on my peachy pink highlights after the first month of crazy orchid mermaid hair.)
posted by Sara C. at 8:44 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I pay more money than you're probably willing to to have purple and pink chunky strips done at the salon. I doubt mine is super trendy, but it's mine and I don't care what the trends are. How I maintain color over the intervening periods between getting it done is Overtone conditioner.

My hair is baby fine, short, and mid-brown and the conditioner keeps the colored streaks from going white/grey. I wash mine every day (welcome to Texas) but the conditioner keeps it in good shape.
posted by immlass at 8:46 PM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I did exactly this earlier this year, inspired by the same XOJane article! I have medium brown hair and used cheap 40 volume developer mixed with Kaleidocolors toner for bleaching. It took me two rounds with that to get my hair light enough for the color to work at all, and I probably could've gone three but being inexperienced I decided to stop there. What I liked about doing the ends was that if I REALLY messed anything up, I could just go get a haircut and erase all the evidence. And I actually didn't have to - I really liked how it turned out.

For me, purple faded the fastest so you want to be prepared to re-dye every couple weeks if you want it to stay bright. I say go for it! I have my hair short now so no dyed ends at the moment, but honestly I'm itching for some color again and having taken the bleach plunge it feels a lot less scary now. I think I'd still go to a stylist if I wanted to do anything near the scalp but with just the ends there's no risk that you'll actually burn your skin, which is why I felt comfortable trying it myself rather than go to a pro.
posted by augustimagination at 8:48 PM on November 12, 2015

Best answer: Very on-trend. You'll have to bleach, but you'll probably get a lot of lift really fast -- I have similar hair to yours, fine and used-to-be-blonde-but-now-brown-probably-I-haven't-actually-seen-it-in-a-decade, and it lifts really fast. Worth doing at a salon the first time if you're nervous, especially since they could probably do balayage like Marci has. Then again, if you do it at home and fuck it up, you could always just cut off the bottom of your hair. (IMO the balayage looks better than straight-across tips, but I wouldn't even know how to start doing that at home.)

The fact that you're looking for blue or green is good, because if you go for blue and you haven't bleached to absolutely platinum you'll probably get green as it fades. The trick is always to look for a color that you like in its faded form as much (or more) than you like it bright. That takes some trial and error, though not very painful trial and error since if you find you don't like a color when it fades you just... do it again. (Very simple to do touch-up color at home once you get accustomed to it.) If you're interested in a teal I happen to think Punky Colour turquoise looks good at every stage, plus it smells like bubble gum. It might look or behave differently on your hair, of course.
posted by babelfish at 8:49 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I wasn't clear enough with my wording on this I think: by "you'll probably get lift fast" I mean you'll get the color you want without having to re-bleach or do other things that are likely to damage your hair.
posted by babelfish at 8:53 PM on November 12, 2015

Best answer: 1. To get the best color, you'll want to bleach (possibly tone). The good news is that you only have to bleach once if it's the tips. You won't have to re-bleach since there won't be regrowth. (Until of course you end up chopping off the ends enough that you need to add more bleach, but it's not an every 6 weeks process.) You can go ahead and try the color without bleaching and see how you like it. Worst case it washes out in a while and you can bleach and re-dye.

2. Cost. If you're not comfortable bleaching on your own, you could just pay for the bleaching (and initial color depending on what they charge for that.) But upkeep is just slathering more color on, letting it set, and rinsing it out. It's like $15/bottle of manic panic.

3. Maintenance: Again, if you do the ends, it's just re-applying dye and rinsing. You can also do the conditioner upkeep but you'd need to keep that just on the tips to not tint the rest of your hair blueish.

4. Style: I think this style is totally fine. The only other thing you might want to consider is doing the underneath layer as mentioned above. But that's not as easy to just chop off if you hate it.

Other notes: It will leak and bleed on things when wet. It may rub off onto things when dry, especially during the first two weeks. I've never had a problem with rub-off or even wet transfer on my towels not washing out but there's no guarantee. So if you tend to leave the house with wet hair, it may not be the best idea. Blues and greens tend not to stick super well and may need more upkeep. Pigment dyes themselves are usually very nourishing. (My hair has been purplish, reds, and pinkish plus I've done lots of other highlights, blonde, etc.)
posted by Crystalinne at 8:57 PM on November 12, 2015

Best answer: I have medium-dark brunette hair and I had 7 brightly colored streaks in my hair for the past year. I think streaks are another good way to get bright colors without committing to all-over bleaching and coloring. (And yes, you will need to bleach if you want those colors to show up at all!) Bleaching was pretty damaging for my hair, even though I always got it done at a salon and I felt like the girl really knew what she was doing--it's just a harsh chemical process. So I was glad that it was only on some streaks and not my whole head. I also had the streaks done in such a way that they were peek-a-boo and the roots were totally covered by my other hair, so they could grow out quite a bit between bleachings and it wouldn't be obvious.

Re: the color, the salon where I had them done used Manic Panic, but for touch-ups I used Special Effects dye, and it seemed to last a lot longer. Blue faded fairly quickly, purple lasted longer (3-4 weeks each time) and both faded to sort of a pinkish/fuschia color. It definitely didn't fade back to the bleached color, so if you're okay with pink then you can probably go even longer between touch-ups.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 10:53 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Blue hair is a nightmare to keep looking good. It's something to do with the size of blue molecules apparently, they just don't stay in and the colour fades. Blue also fades to a rather horrible colour, unlike redder colours which can still look quite nice when looking washed out. If you want to do blue, bleach your hair to fuckery and be prepared to top up the blue at home. (Also be prepared for a blue tinged bathroom, however much you clean it. I have a friend with purple hair and he basically lives in a purple house).

If any of this has put you off, I recommend you consider red, orange or pink hair, which is much easier to maintain, though you will still have to do a few home top ups to keep it bright.
posted by intensitymultiply at 12:56 AM on November 13, 2015

Best answer: Marci's hair looks like a direct deposit dye (like Manic Panic) applied over a dark ash/light brunette base. I don't think she bleached her hair beforehand, since she wasn't going for a super super bright green look. A friend of mine did something similar - it washed out quite quickly, but looked absolutely gorgeous while it was still green.

You could try getting a half head of very fine highlights - the bleach will likely make your fine hair feel a bit thicker - then apply a direct deposit dye or conditioner like Overtone (mentioned upthread). Either way, I'd find a hairdresser who does similar looks and get their opinion first.

Is it in fashion? Frankly, who cares! It's a gorgeous look.
posted by nerdfish at 1:44 AM on November 13, 2015

Best answer: I'd say go for it! if you are only dying the ends then you won't need to worry about touch ups as your roots grow out. You will need to bleach the ends, but that is really easy to do, just get a box of bleach from the drug store (this is my favourite) and follow the instructions. I have been dying my hair blue and turquoise for, like, 15 years! it's the best!
The bestest-brightest-longest-lasting colour I have used is Punky Color turquoise. The longer you leave it in your hair the longer the colour lasts, which is where doing it yourself ends up being better than going to a salon. Leave it on for hours, while you are doing something else, and then use a lot of conditioner to help get it all out. It will fade over time, but you are unlikely to use up the whole tub of dye for just the ends so when it does, just add more turquoise to touch it up. I also am pale with yellow tones and the colour goes great with my skin, so you should look good in it too!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:54 AM on November 13, 2015

Best answer: How fun! Hair color is great!

I have experience with this not on my own head, but on my daughter's. She's 7 and wanted purple hair streaks. She has blonde hair that's a level 8, so the colorist did not bleach her hair before. The purple was vibrant at first but only lasted about 2 weeks, which was surprising. I knew is was semi-permanent but I was expecting a few more weeks out of it considering her hair is so light.

For Halloween, she wanted aqua hair. I am pretty confident in my hair coloring abilities so we went to Sally and selected the Ion Color Brilliance semi-permanent in Azure. It's ready to go right out of the tube, but I mixed in some level 10 developer at the suggestion of the clerk. I think that has made all the difference. The color quality is beautiful. And it has lasted! I used foils and made some bold streaks and let it process for about 25 minutes under a cap. It turned out beautiful.

So, I highly recommend the Ion Color Brilliance line if you do it at home. There's a bunch of beautiful colors. What I would be concerned with is bleaching the tips; unless you're comfortable with doing that on your own, go to the salon for the first go-round, but you should be able to maintain at home.

Have fun!!!
posted by FergieBelle at 6:13 AM on November 13, 2015

Best answer: DO IT! There's nothing like this to make you love your hair again.

A few years ago when I had long (completely natural, dark mousey brown) hair, I dyed the tips and the underlayer of my bangs a turquoisey-blue. I did it myself at home using stuff from Sally Beauty Supply. You have to bleach first to get the bright pop of color. This stuff was I think "N'Rage" brand from Sally and lasted pretty well, but I didn't shampoo the ends of my hair every day when it was that long. Also I leave the color on for hours and wrap the colored parts in plastic wrap or foil to try to keep it from drying out while it sits and absorbs into my hair.

I found it pretty easy to do at home but I had a lot of practice from when the trend was last common in the 90s (back then I used to do streaks rather than tips). If you want to make sure it looks perfect you can get it done at a salon and then just re-add color at home as it fades.

Unlike what others have said here, my virgin hair is really hard to lift so I have to bleach for a long time to get it light enough that it's not yellow-y. That's just a thing you need to know (or will learn) about your hair. If you've dyed it before yourself or at a salon you'd probably know if you have hard-to-lift hair; if the colorist is always having to leave the color in for an extra bit of time after checking progress, you may need to leave the bleach in longer or use a stronger power developer.

(Another option is to do a box color that kind of toes the line between "normal" and "unnatural". My hair is short right now and I'm using this all over and I like it, but it's not as purple as it looks on the box and fades to a light red/auburn almost as quickly as the manic panic etc type stuff. )
posted by misskaz at 7:40 AM on November 13, 2015

Best answer: I have medium blonde-brown hair, which I regularly (erm, every few months) bleach and dye teal, which I allow to slowly fade out until I feel like putting up with the hassle of redying it. Bleaching is essential. Without bleach, I get a couple of days' worth of color, and then it washes out.

I bleach according to the directions on the bleach--an hour or 90 minutes. I use 30 or 40 strength bleach (whichever's available when I go shopping; they almost never have both. I don't care about the difference because my goal is electric turquoise hair, and a little lighter or darker doesn't matter.)

Then my husband puts the color in, which, ugh, takes a long time, and is hard to get through all of my hair. (If you're doing streaks or tips, this part is much easier.) I use Manic Panic or its competitors--Beyond the Zone or Raw Color; I've found no difference between them in duration or other effects. They have different color options available, but I'm not picky about the exact shade, so I mix-n-match with whatever's on sale. (It takes me 2-3 bottles to dye my hair, which is waist length.)

Then--this is the key--I leave the color in overnight. Forget that "fifteen minutes" or "one hour" or whatever's on the bottle. Wrap the hair in plastic so it doesn't dry, bundle it up on top of your head in a shower cap, sleep on a towel you don't mind getting stained, and wash it out with cool water in the morning. Don't try to get all the dye out--you want that to stay as long as possible. Instead, wash until you can touch it without getting blue hands. (Washing with gloves isn't a bad idea, if your job can't tolerate a few days of tinted hands.)

I've also found Ion color-safe conditioner to be a great help in making the color last; other color-safe products are likely to be as good; I use Ion because it's available nearby, and it works.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:02 PM on November 13, 2015

Best answer: I just want to recommend Special Effects because in my experience it lasts really, really well. (I have no affiliation with them.)

I have no experience dying my own hair, but I have had pink, blue, and purple streaks in my hair. I wash my head in cold or at least lukewarm water and shampoo every 2-3 days. Every time, Special Effects has lasted upwards of 8 weeks without being touched up. The pink and blue did get noticeably less dark/intense, but the purple I have now is still as dark as it was two months ago. The two times the stylist used Manic Panic instead, the color was completely gone after two weeks.
posted by henuani at 4:10 PM on November 13, 2015

Best answer: Seconding that pastel shades are super popular right now, but you absolutely have to bleach and tone the shit out of it. I'm going to try to get from dark brown to blonde (and then colors) as I'm bored and stuck at home over the winter, and as someone who is super experienced at DIY coloring (thank you, teenage punkdom) I'm pretty scared of it and I would totally pay to have it done if I had the money or if I really cared if I looked for shit for a few weeks here and there (I don't).
posted by Juliet Banana at 6:02 PM on November 13, 2015

Best answer: Oh, I should point out that I'm specifically talking about pastel shades being a tricky thing that require you to tone the yellow and red tones out of your hair with cool blue/purple shades. If you're just trying to get hot pink streaks or a full head of purple, you can totally do hat in your bahroom sink.
posted by Juliet Banana at 6:05 PM on November 13, 2015

Best answer: Adding in my 2 cents, which is mostly nthing what a lot of people have to say above.

I've been running about 4-6 colors in my hair for a couple of years now including blue, purple, red, violet, pink and fluorescent yellow (a color that is much more attractive than it sounds!) I have ashy blond hair and we absolutely have to bleach it before we dye or the color just won't stay.

Out of them all, the blue is the hardest to maintain. (Well, OK, the fluorescent green and the fluorescent pink vanished after about 10 days, but that was just for Burning Man anyway. The blue is the hardest to maintain that I regularly have in my hair.) I'm looking at it right now and the blue panel still has the nice midnight blue tone toward the roots but the end has faded to more of a teal. There's multiple factors, the two biggest being sunlight (I hike regularly and the ends of my hair get more sunlight than the roots) and washing (the less you wash the longer your color stays bright). I wash my hair once a week and the only way to keep the blue from fading is to get it touched up once a month. I have the super-expensive sulfite-free shampoo and it still does a number on the blue. Purple, OTOH, seems to latch on much better.
posted by rednikki at 9:29 AM on November 14, 2015

Best answer: Nthing Overtone! After you get it professionally bleached (or if you're super careful, do it yourself), you don't even need to get it professionally colored, really. Get a Blue pack from Overtone and do the weekly treatment, leave it on for 15-20 minutes.

I've been using Overtone to keep my red hair red (works great!) and am about to go to purple tips. I have been looking for years for a way to keep my dyed red hair actually red, and Overtone is great.
posted by getawaysticks at 9:41 AM on November 14, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks so much for this advice! Each comment was truly helpful! I especially love the idea of the the under-layers and subtle streaks that can be sort of "combed over" to disguise outgrowth. I'm going to start with that, but I bet eventually I'll end up with the tips dyed too. My appointment is booked! Can't wait! Thanks everyone!
posted by areaperson at 5:11 PM on November 20, 2015

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