Growing Out Black Hair Dye

Nightmare, or year long experiment of mystery? You be the judge.

Ok, so, if you’re anything like me (and I strongly suspect you are, otherwise, why are you reading this, really?) you have issues with hair commitment. You become convinced that one color or style is THE BEST ONE EVER, and then you get it and two weeks later, you’re bored, and that slowly eats away at you until you’re cutting it off or dying over it.

My freshman year of college. Alpine green. I'll NEVER NEED TO CHANGE THIS!

Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve had maybe several hundred colors/styles. It’s insane. I have NO ABILITY TO COMMIT. When it comes to hair, that is. I’ve been with my charming guy for 10 years, so, there you go. People = committed. Hair = whore. It’s just the way the cookie crumbled on my head.

Over the years, I’ve gone several routes.

Sometimes, you shave your head and dye the stubble into flame print.


LOVED this look! Maintaining it? Oy. Usually, I just go “normal” which, for me, looks like this:

Hmmm, maybe I should get bangs again. See? This is what happens.

See? It’s regular hair, just really red. After trying every color under the sun, it turns out that red tones are my friends. Also, with red, after the second shower, your skin ceases to look like you’re some kind of sea creature from beyond the grave. No doubt, you blue haired people have more skin dying patience than I do, and for that, you have my respect.

So, here’s the general cycle of things. It’s fall, it’s getting colder. I’m totally bummed that summer is over. I need to cheer myself up and then I realize, hey, sure fire way to do that? FLAME HEAD! Brightly colored hair RULES! It’s awesome and rad and woot. I kiss it. So I follow my usual hair dye rules, and I come out looking like I do in that last photo up there. I’m SO happy. I’m the coolest kid in school. Well, if I were in school anymore, I would be. I KNOW this. Now, winter comes in and I’m deep in red love. I look ADORABLE at Christmas parties. I wear striped thigh high socks to accent just how cute my red hair is. I consider buying a whole new spring wardrobe to match my adorable hair. Sure, I think, I’ll *probably* get a new haircut, the style is getting boring, but no, not the color, I’ll be red forever!

By January, I’m starting to get a little bit miserable. Winter is clearly NEVER going to end. I’m going to be trapped inside forever. I never go outside, so no one sees my awesome hair ANYWAY, and I’m stuck doing all the maintenance. Even though I only have to dye it every 6 weeks or so, it’s just becoming annoying. What if I want to swim in the summer, huh? What if I swim EVERY DAY?! My dye will be a wreck, I won’t be able to borrow random towels because I’ll ruin them, and what if I swim in the ocean (this NEVER happens in reality) and then I want to get into my husband’s car, and it has white leather seats, and I’ll ruin them and it’s a lease!
I’m in hair panic mode. I’m claustrophobic and there’s only one thing that can fix it.

I know, it's black TWENTY ONE, not just 1, which makes it a little more lame.

Yeah. It’s time.  So I buy my boxed dye and hit the bathroom and emerge looking like a secret agent version of myself. I start listening to a lot of Type O Negative. I realize that DUH, black hair is SO superior. It’s SO easy! I can swim all I want, no running hair. I can shower in HOT water for HOURS, no running, no fading. I can wear a pink bunny costume and I’m still rocking the goth thing just because  of my hair, no accessories needed. Fear me, for I am the lady of the onyx locks!

This lasts about 3 weeks. Now it’s the end of January and I’m panicking, again. Oh my god, I’m trapped! I’ve DESTROYED my hair! I’ll NEVER GET IT BACK! I’ll have to be black for the rest of my life because any fun colors need bleaching and to bleach out this black is just doing to wreck everything and maybe I should shave my head. I’ve made a terrible mistake. A huge mistake.

So, what now?
Well. Here’s what now. You (and I) MUST BE PATIENT.

No, no, no. I’m not going to tell you to just wait 6 months until you have roots like kudzu and then get a short haircut. That would be accepting defeat. People who have had ankle length dreadlock weaves DO NOT accept hair defeat, and neither should you.
(A note: the following will work for people partial to red shades, if you enjoy blues, you can try to tweak the colors mentioned, but overall, it’s going to be a tougher row to hoe, sorry kids.)

Step the first: Grow your roots to about half an inch. (And, actually, if you’re like me and you do this pattern over and over and over again, then go back in time to the moment before you dye your hair black and make a mental note to leave SOME hair alone at the nape of your neck. If you don’t/can’t, no biggie, but it helps.) You’re going to want SOME virgin hair on your head when you do this. So, while they’re growing, eat your veggies, tug on your hair, massage your scalp, pray to whatever follicular god it is that you believe makes your hair grow more quickly and try to enjoy your last days as Morticia.

Step two: get yourself some bleach. If you have naturally dark brown or black hair, get 40 volume, otherwise, go with 30, your hair will thank you. Ok, so now, mix up your bleach, get your brush and paint your center (or side, if that’s your style) part. Then, paint some random stripes through your hair. Don’t get all precise here. You want random bleached streaks both on top of your hair and buried in the inner layers. If you have the time, wrap your hair in plastic wrap and keep the bleach in for at least half an hour, 45 minutes if you have strong hair and you’re brave. (If you DO NOT have strong hair, don’t be an idiot. If you do this, your hair WILL BREAK. I have some kind of magical wolverine hair and it takes so much abuse it should date Chris Brown. If you’re not like this, don’t over bleach your hair. You WILL BE BALD and unhappy. Ok? Ok.)

Now, you want to rinse your hair and shampoo it and, if you like, condition it. NOW, you’re going to dye it with something like this:


You can usually pick this up for about $5 in the drugstore. The important part is that you pick a DARK  BROWN burgundy. I know, ewww! Brown! Nooooo! Look, shut up and listen to me. Just do this. Dye over the bleachy streaky madness that you’ve created. Dye the WHOLE HEAD (over the bleach, over the black) and let THAT soak in. After that’s done, you’re going to rinse rinse rinse and condition. Rinse THAT out. Now, if you have a brain, and a heart, leave your hair alone. It’s tired. It’s had a hard day. Don’t dry it, DO NOT flat iron it. Just let it rest. For the next week, try to avoid these things. Condition if you want, but anything else should be off limits. After that, it’s your hair again, do what you want with it. Now, in about 3 weeks, step 3 comes in.

Step 3: Get that bleach again! Using the same bleach you used last time, Paint in a couple of new streaks. Don’t go crazy with this. You just want a couple of really bright spots. Maybe 5 or 7. Odd numbers always look best. Ok, done? Now rinse the bleach, shampoo it, and let it air dry.

Step 4: Get yourself some Pimpin Purple Special Effects Dye. Once your hair is COMPLETELY dry, squish that dye all up in it. Let it sit as long as humanly possible, then wash and condition. Your hair is already starting to be fun. It’s mostly black, but it’s got cool purpley burgundy streaks and in the sun, you’re a hero. Also, you’re not making a mess everywhere. It’s great. Once the purple fades a bit, it’s going to turn a BRIGHT red color that will pretty much be stained into the hair. That’s a good time. Now the only thing you’re battling are your roots. You can handle that, you’re a hero.

Ok, so we’re coming up on March now. This is where I am currently in the process. We’re all caught up. Today, the roots were too crazy and had to be addressed. I was enjoying my purpley streaks of yay:


Contrary to what my husband insists, that is not, in fact, my butt in the background, you cheeky monkey.

But the roots, oh my. The lighting isn’t showing it, but there’s grey up in them thar hills, people. So, today came step 5.

And that was this morning. My hair is currently in the “big puffy exhausted just leave me alone” phase, so, no new photos, but I assure you that it’s looking cool. It’s a mix of blacks and purples and burgundy and orangey awesome and I’ll continue using this burgundy until I can slooooowly choose lighter and lighter red shades. I’m impatient, I will rush this, I know, but it’s ok. I’ll get there. And then, shortly after the Mad Men premiere on March 25th, when I suddenly decide that this is who I NEED TO BE:

I’ll be able to have close to natural red hair for a few months this summer, until fall comes and I’m elmo again.

Got a good dye story? Send it in…

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5 thoughts on “Growing Out Black Hair Dye

  1. Madli

    I had black hair for ages until due to big changes in life I felt like my hair needed a change too. So I grew out my roots for 3 or 4 months (luckily I have brown hair so the roots were not THAT noticeable) and decided red was the colour to go. I did my research well and after reading thousands of reviews and forum topics about red hair I ordered two bottles of Special Effects Nuclear Red, because everyone claimed it was the reddest red ever. booked a time in a nice salon and when I went there and said I want white hair the hairdresser just looked and my hair and sighed many times. She told me since I had been using crappy brand black dye for years it would be very difficult to get it out, I would have to get my hair color stripped – many times! The hell with it, I thought. The first color stripping ended with white roots and medium brown hair. Of course it was veeeery damaging to my hair so I had to buy some super repairing kit from Joico to treat my hair. I had to wait at least 3 weeks before another bleaching session. I looked SO UGLY! But I was determined to get it done right and told myself the wait was worth it. Next stripping session I got white roots and reddish light brown hair (my new nickname at the office became Firefox). Another three weeks and I went for the third session. As she was rinsing out the bleacher I was just sitting there fingers crossed that I would leave the salon with some hair still on my head, but all was well and I got almost blonde hair. YAY! The same night my bestie came over and dyed my hair red and I’ve been a (nuclear) redhead for 2½ years now. It was soooooo worth the wait! I know how hard it is to stick to your mission, but once you achieve the result you’re looking for, you realise how it was all worth it.

  2. Megan

    I’ve actually been completely dye free since March 2010 but winter hit some dreary point that I honestly considered going to Jet Black hair. I held off and I’ve still got my natural red. Some white & grey are starting to creep in but I’m trying to ignore them.

    Love these how-to’s for if I do finally crack under hair pressure.

  3. Heather Chapin

    I dyed my hair black over black, twice a month for 10 years. Then I finally decided to grow it out. A year and a half later, I had a head full of shoulder-length honey golden hair. I had just cut the last of the black tips off, and I thought it looked pretty. Maybe 2 weeks later, (if that), I started getting annoyed that my hair didn’t look right with my metal shirts. Ugh. Sooo I went out and got the darkest shade of permanent black the drugstore had. Now I’m back to square one. Well, maybe a bit further. I’ve got 4 1/2″ long roots now. This time I’m actually gonna stick with it.

  4. Carla Moore

    I knew this wasn’t going to be easy I appreciate the experiences here. I feel I need to lighten up literally lol I can’t wait to have my golden locks back

  5. Jess

    I decided to ditch the black dye. I’ve been using black henna so bleach is out of the question. I’m literally going full on ash blonde (my natural colour) on top and black at the bottom as it grows out. I’m looking forward to when I can tie my hair up and the hair attached to my head is blonde and the ponytail is black. That’s gonna look super weird and awesome. I’ve also ditched the heat styling all together.

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