Living with Unnatural Hair Color: the truth & how to keep it vibrant

Want to know my secret to keeping my unnatural hair color vibrant? After two decades of dying my hair, here’s a list of tips including my secret weapon – oVertone tinted conditioner!



In case you were unaware, my favorite color is purple. In fact half the hair on my head is purple and has been (or other colors) for the better part of the last 2 decades of my life. During that time I’ve gotten countless questions about it: Do you have to bleach it first? Is it permanent? How often do you redye it? Have you ever tried mermaid hair? So I’ve finally decided to write it all down for those of you searching the internet for those very questions, sprinkled with photos of my hair in different stages over the years. I hope you enjoy!

I’ve been dying my hair since I was in the 6th grade (1996 if any wants to do math). Granted, it was just with a bottle of Sun In spray hair lightener but I was almost blonde after how often I used that stuff. In fact I think it continued to lighten even after I stopped using it based on friends comments at the time – and yes I remember things said to me in 6th grade. But I digress. Since then, I’ve tried black, black cherry, highlights, lowlights, red, blue, and most frequently purple hair (as you will notice from the photos throughout this post, I have few photos that are not purple). Within each color I’ve done different styles of it such as highlights, tips, just the bangs and framing pieces, just the underneath, and a combination. After two decades, you could say I’ve learned quite a bit. Friends, family, and strangers who comment on and ask about my hair are often are surprised when I tell them about the maintenance.

Permanent “natural” hair dye is a much more common area and requires less discussion so I’ll be focusing solely on “unnatural” hair dyes. First thing to know, if you have dark hair, you’re going to need to bleach it in order for the color to show. I get away with only bleaching it every 6 months but that’s the benefit of having it only on the underneath and front. If I wanted allover color I would probably be touching up my roots much more frequently, maybe every 2 months. If you have blonde hair, while I enjoy being a brunette, I envy the ease at which you can dye your hair fun colors. This first time I bleach my hair from brown it turns blonde but after it’s dyed purple it get stripped down to a pink or blueish hue (depending on the type of dye I used at the time). I always joke with my hairdresser that I am going to just keep it that way and not redye it purple.

Second, even though that bottle of beautiful dye says “permanent” there’s no true permanent unnatural hair dye (if you find one please tell me). The pigment particles of these colors are surface dyes, coating only the exterior of the hair. Meanwhile, the more natural colors are smaller and can seep into your hair, resulting in lasting color. As a result when you dye your hair bright purple for example, it will slowly fade every time it is washed (see example photos below). And due to it’s quasi-permanent behavior, it gets on everything so you better stock up on dark towels and pillows. Other things that can cause your color to fade? Heat, UV rays, sulfates in your shampoo, and chlorine from the pool are common suspects. So what do I do?

  • Only wash hair every other day at most
  • Always wear a hat/hood when in the sun
  • Use sulfate-free shampoo, conditioner, and styling products with UV protection
  • Minimize the use of hot styling tools
  • Wear a cap in the pool

The biggest one for me is avoiding UV exposure. My friends make fun of me and my constant need to have a hat or some kind of covering even if only in a the sun for a few minutes (no joke I’ve wrapped a shirt around my head). In the summer I carry a hat folded up in my purse because hello, sunny patio weather! But seriously, I’ve watched it fade while spending a day in the sun and I had just redyed it the day before. Talk about frustrating! But after investing in a few hats and also a good spray-on UV protection for my hair I’ve minimized the effects of UV rays on my purple hair. One obvious side effect includes pasty skin as you can kiss that tan goodbye. Although with skin cancer in my family I tended to avoid the sun already.

Which brings me to the fact that probably shocks the most people – on average I used to dye my hair every 2-3 weeks depending on diligence (picture below is how hot I look during this process). Remember that thing I said earlier about it not being truly permanent? I wasn’t kidding, unnatural hair color is a commitment and is the only thing high maintenance about me. Oh but wait didn’t I say “used to” as in the past tense? Yes used to, because I have a secret and no it’s not the discovery of a permanent purple hair dye (I’ve tried every brand I can get my hands on, they’re all the same just different shades of color). After I discovered the magic that is oVertone tinted conditioner, I now only dye my hair every 2-3 months!

Every time I wash my hair (only every couple days), I use a conditioner that has purple pigment in it to freshen up my color (it stains my hands a little but washes away). I let it sit while I go about the rest of my business in the shower and once I’m done, the conditioner gets rinsed out just like normal conditioner. While the tinted conditioner is great, it only slows the fading process, it does not halt it completely. In order to do so, I supplement with tinted deep conditioner. It can also be applied to wet hair after shampooing, it just needs to sit on your hair longer just like any other deep conditioner. But this baby requires the use of gloves because it has a much higher pigment concentration and hence the longevity of my hair color. Eventually I do dye it for real because some spots just don’t get as much conditioner as others over time – even though I comb it through, I’m doing this by myself in the shower so sometimes I miss spots.

Other than my kick ass hairdresser, oVertone is the greatest thing that ever happened to my purple hair. And no they are not paying me to write this post, heck they probably don’t even know I exist beyond my order history. And yes they have other colors besides purple. In fact, in addition to having all the colors, they have 3 shades of every color so you can get the look you want and keep it: pastel, vibrant, and extreme (which is what I use). So to recap, here’s my revised list of how I keep my purple looking bright:

  • Only wash hair every other or every 2 days
  • Use oVertone tinted conditioners
  • Always wear a hat/hood when in the sun
  • Use shampoo, conditioner, and styling products with UV protection
  • Minimize the use of hot styling tools
  • Wear a cap in the pool

Want to give oVertone a try? Click HERE and when you order at least $30 you’ll get $10 off!

P.S. You know all that beautiful “mermaid” and “rainbow” hair that’s all over the internet? Unless you’re prepared to go to your hairdresser every 2-3 weeks to have the color reapplied, don’t waste your time wondering if you have the balls to do it. I’ve actually talked to my hairdresser about this and she confirmed my statement. When all those beautiful colors start to fade, are you going to reapply all those colors yourself? If you’re lucky you have a really nice friend who is willing to help you separate each section of hair out to do so at home – every 2-3 weeks. As magical as I think oVertone is, you still have to separate out your hair colors every time your wash and condition. oVertone actually just posted a video on how to maintain two hair colors, which could be manageable but if I want multi colors I think I’ll just stick to clip-in extensions.

Two years ago: German Chocolate Larabars

Three years ago: Peepsters Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

Six years ago: Double Cake Batter Truffle Ice Cream

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4 Responses to “Living with Unnatural Hair Color: the truth & how to keep it vibrant”

  • I lovelovelove your hair and this post is super informative!!

  • Susan:

    I just got off a cruise where one of the staff dyes her hair gray, and she told our knitting group in detail about what it takes to get her hair that way. I’m not sure I understand young people dyeing their hair gray (purple is another story, although I would not consider doing that myself). Personally, I tried coloring my hair for a while, never liked particularly how it looked, and had to do it way too often because my hair grows fast. I had a boyfriend at the time who felt that gray hair made a woman look old, while it made a man look distinguished. Long story short, I let my hair grow out, broke up with him, and married someone who is fine with having a wife with gray hair. I’m proud of my gray – I earned it. I usually don’t care much for the colors some people dye their hair to, but I do like your purple. 🙂

    • spiffycookie:

      Good for you standing up for yourself! While I obviously enjoy dying my hair (I enjoy the result not so much the process), but being told by someone that I had to dye it (or even tried to forbid me from dying it) would infuriate me.

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