Basics of Dyeing Your Hair Punk or Goth Colors (Part One of Two)

October 8, 2010 by J. Dikes  
Published in Hair

While unnatural hair colors are associated with punk and gothic culture, you don’t have to be either to enjoy beautiful, colorful hair.

Dyeing your hair an unnatural color is not unlike dyeing it any other color but there are some slightly different procedures to follow.  Your goal is to lift enough of your natural color to be able to showcase the color you want to dye your hair, then to dye your bleached hair to whatever color you desire.  I’m going to share some of my personal experience from dyeing my own hair for the last 10 years, and while I hope some of the information is useful, I just ask you to keep in mind that everyone’s hair is different, so don’t just follow my guidelines, experiment and find out what works best for you.  In part one of this series, we will go over the process of bleaching your hair in preparation for the dye.

Before bleaching your hair, you will want your hair to be unwashed, but with no styling product or leave-in treatments in it.  The natural oils in your hair will help protect your scalp from the peroxide.  If you slip up and shampoo your hair on a day you intend to bleach your scalp, all is not lost, massage a few drops of baby oil into your scalp to substitute for your own natural oils.

Choose your lightening products
I personally recommend buying your bleaching products as components at a beauty supply store, and not as a boxed kit at a drugstore.  The reason I say this is because it allows you to mix as much or as little as you want and it allows you to have some control over what ingredients you are using.  The components you need are lightening powder and developer.  The brand of lightening powder that has always been available to me is Basic White by Clairol and I’ve had no problems with it.  I’ve always used Salon Care Developer, but I’ve experimented with different strengths and kinds of their developer.  I recommend sticking to their Creme developer, as it is thicker, drips less, and gives you more control over which hair gets bleached.  The strength of developer to use depends on the hair you are working with.  I would only use 40 volume developer on the darkest browns and blacks.  30 volume is pretty good for lifting color from most brown hair colors.  20 volume works well on lighter browns and blonds.  Finally, 10 volume works if you are just refining already bleached hair, or if you’re working with very fine or fragile hair.  Use the lowest volume you think you can, and remember you can always bleach again, but you can’t un-fry hair.

Mix it up
There is not an exact or perfect ratio that you have to achieve when mixing these two ingredients, as we’re not trying to achieve a specific shade of blond, we’re just trying to lift enough color for the color you’re going to eventually apply to be able to show up.  Even so, the ratio I typically would shoot for was one part powder, two parts developer.  As most of the time I was only bleaching my roots, I would mix a spoonful of powder with two spoonfuls of developer.  Hold your breath until the powder is incorporated into the developer.  Your lungs do not like airborne lightening powder, trust me.

Apply your product
Use a toothbrush or a tint brush from a beauty supply store to apply.  Make sure the hair is saturated, to ensure even bleaching.  Once the bleach is applied to the desired hair, cover it with foil, a processing cap, or both.  If the product dries out, the chemical reaction that is lifting color from your hair cannot continue efficiently, so for uniform color, it is important to keep your hair covered.  I also recommend using a processing cap to limit the mess that you make, and to allow you to pat places that itch without getting bleach on your fingers.  Some itching is normal during this process, as your scalp does not like high concentrations of peroxide.  If you experience unbearable burning, rinse your hair immediately, as you may be having an allergic reaction.  I’ve bleached several people’s hair and have never seen anyone have an allergic reaction, but it is possible, so just listen to your body during this step.

Time it
Timing will vary based on your hair, I always tried to limit my bleaching sessions to no more than twenty minutes.  If you have incredibly dark hair, you may need to leave it on a little bit longer, but do so cautiously.  Also, if you have fine, brittle, or otherwise fragile hair, you may want to limit your bleaching session to no more than 15 minutes.

Once your time is up, rinse your hair thoroughly for several minutes to remove all chemicals first, then shampoo it.  Condition it only if you’re not ready to apply your color yet.  If you need to bleach again, wait a couple of days to do so, if possible.  If you need to re-bleach sooner, do so cautiously, with the lowest volume developer needed, for the shortest time possible.

Keep in mind, your final bleached result can vary, depending on what color you intend to apply.  I’ve had success in bleaching my hair to a light to medium blond if all I’m planning to do is a dark blue, green, or purple.  Darker shades like these are more forgiving, and as such, I would recommend starting here if you’re new to dyeing your hair.  Lighter colors like pink, orange, yellow, and red showcase any imperfection from the bleaching process, and require more careful bleaching in order to look good.  These colors will also generally need more maintenance if your natural color is dark, as your brown roots will be glaringly obvious with pink hair.

Once your hair is satisfactorily bleached, it’s time to apply your color, which we will go over in part two of this series which can be read here.

Liked it
2 Responses to “Basics of Dyeing Your Hair Punk or Goth Colors (Part One of Two)”
  1. Joe Blow Says:

    I thought the only Goth hair color was black. I guess I’m not an expert.

  2. sorry Says:

    My bad, I didn’t notice “punk” in the article title. Sorry.

Tell us what you're thinking...

comments powered by Disqus