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How To DIY Your Perfect Rainbow Hair Color

For less than $35! Beat that, hair salons.

It seems like every other day someone is dying her hair a different color of the rainbow. From Katy Perry to Kate Hudson to Lena Dunham and even our own editors, the colorful trend has found its way to the masses. After seeing Kylie Jenner’s bright greenish blue hair, I knew that this was the color I’d been waiting for. And though I am embarrassed to admit my new look was inspired by a 17-year-old, I am proud to say that I successfully took my hair from black to ombré to blue all by myself for less than $35. (And I swore I’d never dye my hair again after a professional ombré cost me more than $250 last year.)

This time around, I spent a week staying up late to read every beauty blog and watch every YouTube tutorial I could find before heading to Ricky’s to get started. Now let my time suck be your gain. Here’s everything you need to know to dye your hair at home.

Before you do anything…

Cut your hair: The whole process of achieving the right color requires a few tries and time to let your hair heal from all the bleach damage. By the time you’re done, your ideal haircut could be all grown out. I seriously regret not getting a fresh cut because now I’m dying to rock a lob, so start with the style you want because it will probably be a while before you want to chop off all that hard work. 

Find your lovely assistant: For the most part you’ll be able to do this all yourself, especially if you’re just doing the ends of your hair like I did. But if you’re going for more coverage someone should definitely be there to help you get the hard-to-reach spots.

What to pick up at the store:

Along with deciding on what color you want to color your hair, you also have to decide which brand to go with. I used the ubiquitous Manic Panic in Voodoo Blue, but there are tons of other options which we conveniently have listed out in this handy hair dye guide.

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How to Bleach: 

If your hair is blonde you really don’t need to worry about this step, but some bloggers suggest using a purple shampoo to get rid of any brassy, orange tones in your hair that might muddle the color. Darker-haired folks like myself will need a powder bleach and cream developer to mix together. I used a powder bleach that had a blue tint to it which helped tone my hair while it stripped the color. Cream developer reacts with the powder bleach to help pull color out of your hair; it ranges from 10 to 40 volume. Ten lifts the color the slowest and is the least damaging, 40 lifts the fastest and is the most damaging. If your hair is more fine and thin, definitely go with 10 so you don’t fry your hair. My hair is thick and coarse, but after all the warnings about the strength of 40 developer I read online I decided to play it safe and used 30. 

Warning: bleaching is the worst part: Bless you, blondes, you have it easy when it comes to hair dye. Bleaching can be a true test of patience: depending on how dark your hair is, it can take a few rounds. I bleached my hair three times, waiting about 10 days between each (filled with several deep conditioning sessions). That’s almost a month worth of waiting and dealing with a yucky orange/bleach color. Luckily I avoided any clown jokes by using lots of purple shampoo and the color I wound up with actually looked OK, but it was definitely a hassle. 

Dye Day!

This day was a joyous one after waiting for what felt like an eternity of smelling bleach fumes. The dye process is pretty similar to bleaching — if not easier — but there are definitely a few things you’ll want to do to prepare. I had major anxiety about the blue dye getting all over my white bathroom so I gave my bathtub a good (read: aggressive) scrub beforehand. Removing any dirt build up in your tub helps prevent the dye from clinging to excess residue that’s hard to remove afterwards. It won't completely prevent the paint splatter effect, but it definitely helps.

Once your bathroom’s clean, get into an old t-shirt, wrap an old towel around your neck and finally, put petroleum jelly everywhere. Seriously, it’s your friend. It will ensure that you don’t go to work the next day with blue streaks all over your face and arms. Use it generously wherever your skin is exposed — don’t forget your ears. Also, apply conditioner to parts of your hair you don’t want to get dye on, scalp included. Now you’re ready to grab the gloves and section off your hair. Mix up your dye to make sure it’s smooth and then paint it onto your bleached hair using downward strokes. Honestly, once I got one giant glob painted on I just used my (gloved) fingers to work it through each section of hair. Once your paint job is done twist up your hair with a clip and wait about an hour.

If you have someone assisting you it would be smart to have them wash it out for you in the kitchen sink. If not, I recommend trying to fill up your tub or shower floor with some water so the dye doesn’t land straight on the dry tile, which will make it more likely to stain. Stay as close to the drain as possible when you wash to prevent any splatter. This will probably involve you huddled under the faucet shivering from the icy cold water like I did. It will take at least 10 or 15 minutes to fully wash out the color so make sure that after you shampoo and condition, the water runs completely clear before you finish. If you don't rinse thoroughly, be prepared for everything you own to match your hair. Just to be safe, wear dark clothing and sleep with a dark pillowcase the first day. Otherwise you can dry, style and enjoy your colorful new ‘do.

It’s been about two weeks since I dyed my hair blue and for the most part my hair routine hasn’t changed. However, I’ve found that my dry-shampoo addiction has come in handy so I don’t have to wash my hair (and the dye out) so quickly. Even though I have only washed my hair probably six times since the initial dye, I’m still shocked how long the color has lasted. I only touched it up once the day after I dyed it just to fix some sparse areas. Otherwise, the color is still very strong. Even though I’m a little nervous it’s going to start turning green soon I’m vey happy with the results and get compliments from strangers all the time.