Founded July 1995_____Last updated: 10/18/2018

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redSo, you are thinking about dyeing your hair?

.....Well, you have come to the right place! The following information will help you through the pain and bloodshed of getting wicked hair. I've been dyeing our hair for over sixteen years solid, and we (my little sis' and I) have learned a lot of the nitty gritty about how to get what you want from your hair dye. And, to tell you the truth, a good hair dye-job is a not as difficult as you might think!

Incidentally -- I've officially been dyeing my hair for more than half my life!



Equipment Needed

  • Crummy Clothes (one's that can get bleached and dyed)
  • Rubber Gloves (the ones they supply don't work and are too small)
  • Bleach for un-dyeing hands and grout (dilute before using on hands)
    • Note: Styptic pens and rubbing alchohol can remove some non-permanent dyes from skin.
  • Good music
  • Scrappy comb/brush/hairpick
  • Aluminium foil (optional, can help separate colors from one another)
  • Plastic grocery bag or grimey baseball hat (dyed hair control)
  • Hair dye (of course!)
  • Sacrificial towel (just in case the dye isn't completely washed out when you dry it).
  • A place do do it.... expect a mess and be rewarded for your caution.


  • Experiment, have fun, it's only hair, it grows back, and if you can't wait that long, dye again
  • Prepare yourself for the worst, or most unexpected results, it can be difficult the first time around to get exactely what you want
  • Dye your hair in a damageable zone or outside
  • Be patient, good colors come to those who wait


  • Don't do anything you might regret, ever
  • Don't pick a color drastically different from your current hair color, unless you are prepared to work harder for better results
  • Don't ever believe what the product labels tell you, experience will prove otherwise
  • Don't trust the color samples on the product labels, but you should know this already
  • Don't get dye or bleach in your eyes. Duh!

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Take 'em or leave 'em and do at your own risk. None of these tips/tricks are professionally recommended but they were experimentally determined through a decade of hair-dyeing. In fact, you should see some of the hate mail that I get from professional hair stylists who are either jealous or just plain old jealous that their $40 dye job business is threatened by do-it-yourself types.

Bleaching Tips & Tricksnolan

  • Be careful, don't get the stuff in your eyes. about having a bad day.
  • Be careful, bleach on the skin can equal a bad sunburn. I'm not kidding...been there done that. Some 40 weight developer on your scalp for 30 minutes and you'll know what itchy flaky pain feels like.
  • Bleaching strips the hair. If you do it a lot, expect your hair to be a naked frail thing that doesn't stick to the top of your head very well. (I try not to bleach more than once every 3 months).
  • A professional beauty supply store will have 2 products that you need, Developer and Lightening agent.
  • Developers come in weights (typically 20, 30, 40).
    • 40 is extremely aggressive and you need to be careful not to burn your scalp.
    • 20 is slow-acting barely working.
    • I tend to stick with either 30 or 40 (with care), since my hair has gotten darker over the years and I prefer quicker action to caution.
  • Lightening agents/powders come in many different product lines. I have used them all, but am slightly partial to the Loreal Quick Blue powder and the BWFrost stuff. A lightening agent with a little blue/green will counter act the red-hair-effect of bleaching out dark hair.
  • Mix the bleach/powder in a non reactive bowl (NOT metal) with a non reactive (NOT metal) implement. I go for a thickness that isn't drippy (think mayonnaise), because it is easier to apply by myself.
  • You can use your fingers or a plastic brush for applying bleach. (I recommend NITRILE gloves for this. Nitrile is a better chemical barrier than latex)
  • Do your best (impossible to be perfect) to keep the bleach off of your scalp.
  • Leave in until and keep moist (plast bag works well) until lightness is achieved (20 minutes to 1 hour). For Asian-black hair, you may want to think about a second bleaching the following day/week. In some cases, 2 bleaches is better than 1.
  • To speed things up, some hair stylists will apply heat (a.k.a. a blow dryer), but I have found a plastic bag wrapped over one's hair keeps both the moisture and body heat contained (speeding things up).
  • Rinse out carefully and thoroughly.

Applying Semi-Permanents

Not all semi's have instructions for use. If you bleach your hair first, be sure to rinse the bleach out really well (and possibly even shampoo once to be certain). I typically slap the dye in (most semi's have the consistency of mayonaise) and work the product into the hair in clumps at a time.

To avoid the need to change or wash gloves, start working with the lightest color first and move gradually to the darker colors. This will typically take 5-10 minutes (depending on number of colors and my level of patience that day). I then will leave the colors in for anywhere from 30 minutes to hours and hours. During this time, the plastic grocery bag wrapped around my head keeps the dye from getting all over the place and keeps it moist while also retaining body heat to help(?) the reaction. I have heard of some people even adding more heat to the equation for (supposedly) to speed the dye job up (unconfirmed).

Rinsing Tips & Tricks

  • TIP: As you wash/rinse out the dye, be wary of run-off staining your skin. The number one problem that most people have is getting dye on their skin as they wash the dye out.
  • TRICK: Lay a lawn chair out on the grass on a sunny day. Lie on your back and have someone use a hose to wash the dye out....never touches the skin this way.
  • TRICK: Get on your hands and knees outside the shower and use the detachable shower head to rinse the dye out as you lean over. Make sure your chin is tucked and the rinse water will follow your bangs to the floor and not your skin.
  • TRICK: If you must, stand in the shower but bend as far over as you can. Be cafeful not to let the rinse water splash too much or your ankles and knees (instead of just your feet) will become splatter dyed.
  • TRICK: If you have a swimming might want to use it! Dive on in, for the amount of dye is far too little to harm the pool and the amount of water is enough to quickly rinse it away from your skin.

Other Notes

  • NOTE: Some hair products (gel, mousse) are acidic and tend to bleach out your hair (even when not in the sun). This will tend to lighten the dye faster.
  • NOTE: Sweating with a hat/cap/helmet on will also pull out dye faster. Wearing my hockey bucket for a few games is enough to significantly lighten up semi-permanents.
  • NOTE: Swimming pool water + sun will pull out most semi-permanents in a week or so.

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Before dyeing your hair, there are some variables to consider. These variables make hair dyeing as unique as the dyee (if that is even a word). In other words, everybody is different and so is their hair.

Hair Color

Duh! If you wish to acheive a perfect result everytime, one must bleach it platinum blonde. On the other hand, if you wish nothing to happen, dye your hair black first. In other words, the darker the hair, the weaker the result. Even if you have black hair, there are other cool hair dyeing options (if you are willing to work for them).


They usually take the colors out in non-permanent dyes. A good gentle shampoo is important for before and especially after dyeing. We have found from our experience that a GOOD shampoo and conditioner are the primo factors in having healthy hair. I bleach my hair, yet because I use a good shampoo & conditioner, I have nicer hair than your average Joe with a head.


Typically you do NOT want to condition before dyeing your hair, as the color will not take as well and will come out quicker. Usually, we only use conditioner (no shampoo) after coloring our hair to rejuvenate it. This is especially important following heavy bleach jobs and permanent dyes. It also helps to keep the semi-permanent dyes in longer. Conditioner can be used prior to dyeing to shorten the color lifetime. A good conditioner is probably the most important thing for healthy hair, and can make even heavily bleached hair healthy looking!


The longer the dye is left in the better it will take (think asymptotically). Through experience we usually double the maximum time written on the package. This tends to work pretty well.


By putting your hair in a plastic bag and heating it with a hair dryer opens the hair shaft more, asorbing more dye and speeding up the reactions.


Obviously, hair is easier to work with wet hair. Don't allow the dye to dry out. Usually, you can just add a little bit of water to moisten things up and keep the reactions going.


To get to a platinum, you'll have to REALLY work on your hair. We recommend several shorter bleachings spread out over the span of a few days. This *will* damage your hair no matter what you do, but if you spread the bleaching time out and condition in between, you might just have better luck.

Color Fastness for Semi-Permanants

This is another often asked question. As we've noticed, reds tend to last the shortest amount of time. Next are greens. Dark blue and purples last the longest. So far, violet has proved to be the most colofast. OTHER HINTS: (we've gotten these from various folks, all will help the color take.) #Shampoo/bleach your hair just prior.# Keep hair moist.# Put developer in your hair to soften it for 15 minutes then towel out all the developer.# Brush color through your hair every 15 minutes.# Put hair under plastic or foil and heat.

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Permanent vs. Semi-Permanent

(Contrary to popular belief permanent dye does NOT last forever. As your hair goes out, so does the dye. You can always re-dye it.)


It opens up the hair shaft by using chemicals. The dye does this to strip color away so it can add new color in. This explains why it is difficult to drastically change colors. The dye molecules are smaller so that they can bond to your hair, therefore, the dye does not wash out when you SHAMPOO your hair. The old color of your hair is being mixed in with the new color. To avoid this, the only choice is to BLEACH you hair before dyeing it. Permanent dye usually DAMAGES your hair due to the Ammonia and Peroxide it contains. Permanent dyes are more natural looking than semi-permanents. The non-"natural" shades usually be found in metallic and brassy colors.


Semi-permanent dyes can last from one day to one month (sometimes 3 months, depending on your hair and the dye color). They tend to contain lower amounts of Ammonia and Peroxide, or none at all. Most of them work the way permanent dyes do, while others coat your hair with color. The dye is not designed to lock into the hair shafts, therefore washing out every time you SHAMPOO. Semi's come in a wider variety of colors. Unfortunately, the results tend to be more unpredictable. It is debatable if semi's cause more or less damage than permanents.

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Permanent Products & Reviewsred


  • Miss Clairol
  • Miss Clairol Ultress
  • Clairol Nice & Easy
  • Loreal Preference
  • Revlon Colorsilk

Permanent Hair Products Review

.....Rating System 1-10 (10 being highest)

Miss Clairol .....Score: 8
Honestly, we can't tell the difference between Miss Clairol and Miss Clairol Ultress, except the packaging. Miss Clairol's colors tend to be wimpy and it still damages your hair significantly. It is rather consist and predictable.

Miss Clairol Ultress .....Score: 9
Excellent product if you want to go blonde. Other colors turn out great too. Doesn't thrash hair like some others. Highly recommended

Clairol Nice & Easy .....Score: 8
Not as good as the Ultress. Is a little more damaging to your hair. The conditioner they provide is not as good. Not a bad product if you want to change your hair color drastically.

Loreal Preference rating
Only used this product once.

Revlon Colorsilk .....Score: 5
It works, but the colors they show were not the results we got. The colors were also to flat. We used it once to try and get a blonded, but it tinged the hair orange.

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Semi-Permanent Products & Reviews


  • Punky Color
  • Glintz
  • Clairol Natural Instincts
  • Clairol Brights
  • Loreal Accenting Highlighting Duo
  • Exuberence by Loreal
  • Kool Aid / Jello
  • Food Coloring
  • BodyFX
  • Aussie Color Enhancing Shampoo
  • Fudge
  • Jerome Russel
  • Manic Panic
  • Color Jamz

(Carolyn in SpecialEffects Electric Blue)

Semi-Permanent Products Review

.....Rating System 1-10 (10 being highest)....rating is a cumulative score on all sorts of factors....

Punky Color by Jerome Russel .....Score: 9 to 11
Also known as Manic Panic. However, I still find it has an edge on Manic Panic because it is thicker and easier to use (about the consistency of mayonnaise). It's a vegetable dye and only comes out bright in blonde hair. Most colors won't even highlight dark hair, except for Violet, Plum and Midnight Blue. It's awesome cause you CAN mix (we just did this and it was extremely successful!!!) the colors before you dye. Punky Color does not have your "normal" color selection, but the colors are bright and beautiful. The reds wash out the quickest, 1-2 weeks, looking the nicest as they fade. If you want a true red, we recommend Pillar Box, Fire, Flame. The blues are next in the fading factor, 2-4 weeks. The lighter blues will tint to the greener side unless you bleach your hair first. The Purples tend to stay in the longest. Violet stains everything, you must be extremely careful! The only cool green is Alpine Green, Spring Green comes out kinda of weak and neonish (or you can mix your own!). Yellows and Greens depend on your color choice, we tend not to use them.

Glintz .....Score: 4
Tiggerr used it once and will never touch it again. Her blonde hair was supposed to be highlight with lighter blonde streaks, but the result was orange. Glintz tends to only work in the darker shades. Results are unpredictable.

Clairol Natural Instincts .....Score: 8
Evi-Lynn and her roommate Uma love this product. Clairol designed it with a different Fragrance, so it doesn't stink up your bathroom like pure ammonia. They have used it four times so far and have been happy each time. The colors they show on the box tend to be the result achieved. On darker and lighter hair, the highlights they give are great. It washes out between 20-30 shampoos.

Clairol Brights .....Score: 3
Once again, Tiggerr will never use this product again. She bought one that was supposed to give light blonde highlights, but instead darkened her hair to a dirty blonde.

Loreal Accenting Highlighting Duo .....Score: 6
An interesting idea, where Loreal gives you two different color highlights in a box. Tiggerr has tried it once, but her "hair-dyeing helper" was inexperienced. She would try it again. Experience is needed to make the dyeing job worth it.

Exuberence Loreal .....Score: 2
And once again, Tiggerr will never use this product again. It was made to be an easy applying dye (it's in foam form) to give good color. NOT, it sucks. The color tends not to come out even, it spotted Tiggerr's hair, it washes out in a day (not worth $7), and tinted her hair orange.

Kool Aid or Jello (Jell-o) .....Score: 6
Kool Aid may deliver the best brightest blues you'll ever get, but this comes at a price. As the Kool Aid colors wash out they get a dull and nasty look. Your either forced to dye your hair every week or get grungy hair that not even a Seattle teen in the mid-90's would show off in public. To use: thicken with water and saturate hair with it. Jello is the same. the money and get real product.

Food Coloring .....Score: 1
Doesn't really count. It comes out as soon as water or sweat touches it. Colors aren't that great. Why bother?

Aussie Color Enhancing Shampoo .....Score: 7
Not really a hair dye, yet performs as advertised. On blonds it provides a soft color, not too brassie. Tiggerr likes it. If you've dyed your hair with a permanent dye and find it brassy, this will soften the color nicely.

Fudge .....Score: 6
Messy messy messy! I did a dye job with this and for a solid week my hair kept bleeding. It was insane. I have never had this much of a problem with the dye clinging to my hair. And to make matters worse, the bleeding got all over my scalp and ears and the colors were not even worth it. You might be better off with something else (if something else is available at your store).

Manic Panic .....Score: 10
The "de-facto" hair dye for most noobs and is also available fairly readily on Amazon these days. My experience has shown Manic Panic to have the brightest and most saturated colors out there. The Flamingo Pink is one of my favorites, with the Purples coming in close second. The problem: Manic Panic tends to be a little more watery and therefore you need more care in applying the colors. I sometimes will use an applicator bottle and lots of care to prevent drips. I used to rate this product as an 8 (because of the messy factor), but they seem to have been improving on their consistency in the last 2 years and the product has gotten thicker and easier to apply. I would give Manic Panic an 11 if it had the consistency of Punky Color. Manic Panic results in some of the best and most vibrant colors out there (similar to Punky Color).

Jerome Russel
See Punky Color for the review. This is the same stuff, only in a tube.

Color Jamz, by Beyond Zone .....Score: 9
This product behaves similar to Punky Color (in consistency), however It seems to bleed just a little bit more. Color saturation is slightly less than Punky Color (not as saturated as Manic Panic). After a bleaching (and thourough rinsing) the Color Jamz colors had a tough time really getting into the hair follicle. The end result is colrs that were a little less vibrant (more washed out in spots). Some of the pinks barely took to freshly bleached hair. However, the reds and blues seemed to do okay. Product came in squeeze bottles which made application a little cleaner than Punky Color, although it takes quite a bit off effort to squeeze the stuff out.

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Places to Acquire Dye

As you've noticed, I simply do not post ads on this page. That's not to say I haven't been offerred money to do so. Rather, I still have the foolish idealistic belief that a little 'journalistic integrity' might still exist in the world. That said, the folliowing list contains places I have acquired hair dye in the past. These places have not paid me a cent, nor am I acting as their agent in any way shape or forms. These are simply my opinions from my firsthand experiences.

Sally Beauty Supply .....Score: 7
This is a chain found around the California Bay Area. They tend to have everything you need (bleach, developer, gloves, combs, mixing buckets, dye and more dye). The reason for the demerits is because in the last few years they have been carrying less and less manic panic / punky color / etc type dyes. Their color selection is lacking, and I have been to several stores in my area. For instance, I can no longer find some of the greens and reds at my local stores.

Peninsula Beauty Supply .....Score: 8
This is where I started getting the stuff do do the dirty work. I'm not sure if they are still around, but they had a great supply of colors, materials and everything else you'd need.

Folica Beauty Supply ( .....Score: 9
They are online, have a HUGE selection of the hard-to-get colors (like the alpine green, etc) and everything else you might need. Why not a 10? Well, I've only ordered from them a few times --- I'm sure they'll get a 10 soon enough.

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About the Authors

Both the authors are/were naturally blonde, but tend to lighten/change their hair on a regular basis. They are both "normal", having graduated from Stanford University. Red was born >30 years ago, and "Tiggerr" came along a few years later. Both are out in the working world doing things that they love. Red continues to dye his hair and manages to stay employed as a full-time senior mechanical design engineer. Customers at one major company (a multinational company with a 4 letter name) were so fond of a particular Red-Green-Blue dye job that they gave Red the nickname "Rainbow-Red-san".

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Hair Dyeing Pictures

Click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Pink & Purple Dye Job 2/2005

Step 1:

Put some bleach in your hair. Try to keep it off the scalp. Use those nitrile gloves and try not to mess up your camera in the process.

Step 2:

Wait a little while and rinse out the bleach. Ooops, guess I was in a rush on this one....there is still a little bit of pink left behind. Let's just call it art and move on, shall we?

Step 3:

No fancy tinfoil needed. Slap that dye in any old which-way and see what happens. This dye application took me less than 5 minutes. Hint: Start with the lighter colors first and really make sure the hair is saturated. Looks like this time I managed to keep the dye off of my massive forehead.

Step 4:

Rinse the dye out (really well). If you rinse the dye out carefully, it won't stain your forehead or ears or neck. The final product is a good mix of highlights and lowlights.

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