10 Things You Should Know Before Coloring Your Natural Hair

Are you thinking about changing up your natural hair color?

You can’t afford to dye your natural hair if you don’t know these 10 things!

Summer and sunshine have a way of making you crave a change in your natural hair color. I cannot count the number of times I’ve envied a fellow type 4 natural who has gone blonde or is boldly rocking some highlights. In fact, if you’ve followed the blog long enough, you know just how much I love me some hair color. I’ve colored me type 4 natural hair a couple of times. With experience, I’ve come to learn some pretty important lessons that I’d love to pass down to my fellow natural hair sistas.

1. It is a Chemical Process

Creme of Nature Burgundy dye on type 4 natural hair
Creme of Nature Burgundy dye on type 4 natural hair

The definition of natural hair has evolved over the years. There was a time when colored or dyed hair wasn’t considered natural. This was largely because permanently coloring your natural hair involves a chemical process.

Changing your hair color from black involves a chemical process. Depending on the color that you are going for, you might have to bleach your hair. This helps to ‘lift’ your color to blonde which then forms a base for your preferred color (e.g., blue, purple, brown, etc). This is necessary for two reasons:

  • Your hair will ‘take’ to the color well if you use a blonde base, i.e., you are likely to get more vibrant and rich results
  • Aside from getting dulled hues and tones, you are at a higher risk of damaging your hair if you move straight from black to your preferred color

Whether or not you choose to first bleach your hair, dye lifts the cuticle so that the color pigments can be deposited and permanently alter your hair color.

2. You Have Alternatives

Most people think they only have one option when it comes to coloring their type 4 natural hair.

When it comes to coloring your natural strands, you get to choose as there are various options:

  • Permanent – permanent change. To get rid of the color, you have to: grow out your hair, cut it or dye it a different color. Examples include box dyes.
  • Semi-permanent – temporary change that lasts a few months. The color eventually washes off or fades away. Some popular box dye brands have this option.
  • Temporary option – temporary change that lasts a few hours, days or weeks. The color washes off in one or two rinses. Some examples are: Mofajang hair color wax, hair chalk an hair color spray.
Temporary Hair Color on Natural Hair

You should know the pros and cons of temporary vs. permanent hair color before you decide to take the plunge. Furthermore, even permanent hair dyes are different. Some contain ammonia which is not advisable to use on black natural hair.

3. Your Hair Porosity Will Change

We have already mentioned that dyeing black natural hair involves a chemical process. Once the hair cuticle is lifted, the color reacts with your cortex. This increases your hair’s porosity.

The issue of porosity is critical to the health of your African natural hair. High porosity tends to absorb moisture fast and lose it just as fast. This is why most naturals complain about dry hair after they have permanently colored it. To combat dryness, you need to be prepared to change up your natural hair regimen and up your moisture game. This will help prevent, manage or reduce breakage and split ends.

If you’d like to have better moisture retention, you can consider including these tips that have revolutionized my moisture game (on colored hair):

How to Have Better Moisture Retention on Colored Natural Hair

4. What Look Are You Going For?

Are you thinking about highlights or a full head of blue hair?

If you are thinking of how to dye your hair blue or any other color, you must first establish the look that you are going for. If you are thinking about streaks, then you need to concentrate on how to apply hair color highlights.

Ultimately, getting highlights reduces the volume of hair that is prone to chemical damage. A full head of purple hair, on the other hand, will require some extra TLC before you can consider taking the leap.

5. Choosing Your Hair Color

Braid out done on wet hair using Mofajang hair wax
Braid out done on wet hair using Mofajang hair wax

Choosing your hair color is not just about picking the best professional hair color brand.

Most people think that once they pick the best hair dye without side effects, they’re home free! This couldn’t be further from the truth. Just to prove a point, think about the number of times you’ve walked down the street and wondered if that stranger knew the hot mess that is on their head. 😀 Sure, tastes differ. In all honesty, however, some natural hair color choices and dye jobs are clearly a bad idea.

Before permanently coloring your natural hair, do your research. Do other people of your skin tone have such hair? How do you think it looks on them? Is your job accepting of any natural hair shade, hue or tone? Is there temporary hair paint, wax, chalk or spray that you can try out before committing to the permanent color? You need to ask these difficult questions because you would have to dye your hair back to black if you didn’t like the results.

6. Do NOT Trust The Model On The Box

People pick up box dyes and assume that their results will match the model on the box. This is not a foolproof plan. You don’t know about the original shade of color that the model had before dyeing her hair. You have no idea how the light and set up of the room looked as they took the model’s picture.

Instead, you should ALWAYS do a patch test. If you plan on coloring your hair at home, this is often included in the instructions once you identify the best professional hair color brand for your type 3 or 4 natural hair. For those who opt for a professional service, your colorist knows to do a patch test before coloring your entire head of hair.

7. You Need a Professional Colorist

Colored and straightened type 4 natural hair at home DIY
Colored and straightened type 4 natural hair home DIY

If you are a serious DIY enthusiast or just a cheapskate, you’re probably going to hate me for this.

Permanently coloring your natural hair should be left to a professional. While most consider how to color hair at home naturally, others just take a box dye and wing it at home. Although it might work, this does not come as a guarantee. You might end up damaging your hair or end up with a shade that you didn’t expect.

Please stop thinking about how to apply hair color yourself and find a reputable colorist to do it.

8. The Color Will Fade

Hair dye, as permanent as it may be, will fade.

If you know a thing or two about art & craft, then you know about primary colors and how they are combined/ mixed to form an entirely new color. Most permanent hair dyes use this concept as well – certain colors are mixed to achieve a new color.

After a few washes, your color will start fading. Fading can occur in two ways:

  • A reduction in the intensity/ saturation/ vibrance of the color
  • A gradual change back to the base colors, e.g., a burgundy slowly fading into copper brown

This is true of box dye as well as custom color jobs done by professionals. Custom color jobs might, however, take a longer time before the color starts fading. This process can only be remedied through touch-ups.

9. You Need a Stash of New Natural Hair Products

Flexirod set on burgundy colored type 4 natural hair
Flexirod set on burgundy colored type 4 natural hair

Permanently coloring your hair can change it in so many ways.

Once you plan on coloring your natural hair, you should also consider auditing your natural hair products. You will need sulfate-free shampoo, moisturizing conditioner that is also color-friendly and creamy leave in conditioners among other things. These help to maintain your vibrant color and maintain the health of your type 4 natural hair. You might also want to consider creating a rapport with a professional hair stylist as your ends will be more prone to breakage, split ends and single strand knots.

10. Are You Allergic?

Last but definitely not the least, is your overall health.

While people are focused on looking for the best dye for virgin hair, it is easy to overlook the ingredients that are in these hair coloring products. Even the best professional hair color brands might be harmful to your health. If you easily have allergic reactions, check with your doctor first. The same applies if you are pregnant or have any medical conditions.

Additionally, it is important to ALWAYS do a patch test on the inner side of your elbow. This often helps to determine whether you are likely to react negatively to the product.

Things You Should Know Before Coloring Your Natural Hair

These are just some of the things that you need to know before you color your natural hair. They will help to ensure that you get the right results and avoid any unnecessary pitfalls along the journey to a new hair color.


22 thoughts on “10 Things You Should Know Before Coloring Your Natural Hair”

  1. I’ve definetly been considering dying my hair for a while now. I’m just scared that it may cause damage. I had a bad experience with it a couple of years ago

      1. My hair at the time was relaxed and I did go to a professional however I don’t think she had any clue how to handle African American hair. Mind you, at that time I did not have a car and that was the closest salon within walking distance from the college I attended.

          1. Color is definitely tricky, luckily I was able to grow all of the color out and my hair has remained healthy since. I do want to experiment with it again, however this time I’m considering semi-permanent color since there’s less chance of damage.

          2. Lol I’m trying not too, it took me waaaayyy too long to grow my hair out to the length that it’s currently at and I’m trying to keep it as healthy and moisturized as possible

  2. Pingback: 5 Tips on Prepping Natural Hair for Dye – Njerie Gitau

  3. Pingback: Coloring Your Hair at Home – 5 Things You Need To Know – Njerie Gitau

        1. A copper brown or a dark blonde would work. Check online for pictures of someone with your skin tone and the color you prefer. That might help.

          Also, your hair is short so you can afford to experiment and snip the edges off if you don’t like it. 😊

          1. Thanks for much for this. And I spent a chunk of my night getting entertained and informed on your blog last night. I would check out this colours you suggested. Many thanks to you 😍

  4. Hi Njerie, yes the fade is real. I colored my hair this auburn color last year in Sept. It was all one color, now the vibrancy is color, its a whole new lighter shade color and now that my hair is growing, I have 2 shades of color. So, I tucked it away and now doing protective crochet styling until the color grows out.

    1. Two shades could be a great look if your hair is healthy 😉
      I’ve seen others doing retouches once the hair starts growing. Or do you want to completely grow out the color?

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