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

by Erin

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!

Purple Hair of The Spiffy Cookie

This post is not sponsored. However, this content does contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

In case you were unaware, my favorite color is purple. In fact half (or more) of the hair on my head has been purple (or other colors – currently blue) for 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?

I get stopped no matter where I am: the gym, the grocery, random passerbys on the sidewalk. 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).

Blue and Green Hair.

Within each color I’ve done different styles of it such as highlights, tips, just the bangs and framing pieces, just the underneath, a combination of them all, or my entire head of hair.

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 if I only have color on the underneath and front. But when I have allover color I touch up my roots much more frequently, every 2 months if I’m on top of things.

Faded hair.

If you have blonde hair, while I enjoy being a brunette, I envy the ease at which you can dye your hair fun colors, especially because when I did the entire thing it took two rounds of bleach to lighten it enough!

The first time I bleach my hair from brown it turns yellow/blonde but after it’s dyed purple and then re-bleached it is 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 I like Scruples), 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, it’s just the reality. I follow this routine for maintaining a silvery-lavender color as well, mixing their less pigmented silver/purple conditioners together.

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

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. I did green/blue/purple once – it was beautiful but once was enough maintenance! 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. That being said I have dabbled with using their pink and blue deep conditioners to add a little dimension to my purple and it’s quite nice!

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post! I just genuinely love oVertone and am trying to spread the word to all my fun colored hair friends. But I do have Amazon referral links to other products embedded in this post.

Two years ago: German Chocolate Larabars

Three years ago: Peepsters Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

Six years ago: Double Cake Batter Truffle Ice Cream


Jessica May 20, 2024 - 11:29 am

I’ll make this brief bc my reply keeps getting deleted before I submit! Try KeraColor Clenditioner for your hair! I went 3 months between visits to my hairdresser using just untinted Clenditioner as regular shampoo about every other day and with hot water and maintained vivid purple color!

Erin May 20, 2024 - 1:07 pm

Thanks for the suggestion

Vix January 30, 2024 - 6:07 pm

Hey thanks for this information. Me and my mom are going to dye parts of our hair deep purple and are doing lot of research on how to take care of it after we get it dyed this helped a lot thx.

Erin January 31, 2024 - 2:11 pm

Awesome! If you have any questions let me know.

Nasif September 22, 2021 - 11:21 am

Hi! Thank you so much for the very detailed guide! Unfortunately overtone doesnt ship to Germany, and i need to pick some other products ? any recommendations would be helpful!

Erin September 22, 2021 - 4:04 pm

The only other purple color depositing shampoo/conditioner I have tried was the Punky 3-in-1 shampoo but I wasn’t a big fan. Not sure if they are sold outside the US either.

Danielle February 17, 2024 - 12:27 pm

I don’t know exactly what brands you do use, but you can essentially create your own version of color-depositing conditioner. As long as you’re using a conditioner that is made for dyed hair; likely labeled as color-safe, you can add an ounce (29.6mL) or two of your dye of choice to a bottle of conditioner and use it the same as you would a brand like overtone (you could do this with both your daily conditioner and a deep-conditioning treatment type mask you leave on for an extended period of time). Similarly, if you don’t have the “white” dye that most of the “fashion color” brands sell as a “diluter”, “pastelizer”, etc., used to make a lighter version of the dye straight from the bottle, you can also just use that same color-safe conditioner so long as it is white. I say this as someone who is 37 years old and has been bleaching & dying my own hair since I was 13, and I have colored my hair every single color (from pastel pink to black) using semi-permanent hair dye.

The only thing I want to make clear is that I am saying this about semi-permanent hair dye. Most of the “fun” hair color dyes are semi-permanent, as the writer said, non-permanent fashion color dye doesn’t exist. The brands labeled as permanent are actually demi-permanent and I don’t recommend using one of those brands for this “diy overtone.” The dye you want will probably be labeled semi-permanent, and even if it isn’t, you’ll know because it’s a dye that doesn’t need to be mixed with a developer, and it also won’t contain anything like peroxide or ammonia (examples of these semi-perm brands are arctic fox, manic panic, good dye young, iroiro, lunar tides and so on).

I second everything the writer said, especially pertaining to keeping your color vibrant as long as possible. Don’t shampoo it daily and when you do wash it, rinse it with cool/cold water. Use products intended for colored hair and if you use heat tools, make sure you use a product to protect your hair from the heat. Also, her advice about UV exposure is really good, too. And make sure you wear spf and reapply every 2 hours if you are outside (or even spending the day sitting beside a window)! That last part isn’t really about hair maintenance but it is something I am avid about telling people.

Anyway, hope this helps! Have fun coloring your hair!

P.S. to avoid getting any dye stains on your forehead or hairline, you can either apply a little bit of vaseline or coconut oil on your skin just at your hairline before you begin coloring (as dye won’t adhere to the oil) or if you don’t wanna mess with that/just forget, rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball will take it off your skin after you have rinsed the color out.

Erin February 18, 2024 - 6:54 pm

Thank you for your input! I love using overtone but I may need to try making my own as you have described.

Jacinta Lee September 16, 2021 - 4:14 pm

Hey! Thanks for the advice. I live in the UK and Overtone isn’t able to be shipped. Do you recommend any other purple shampoos/conditioners to help the colour keep for longer?

Erin September 16, 2021 - 5:31 pm

The only other purple color depositing shampoo/conditioner I have tried was the Punky 3-in-1 shampoo but I wasn’t a big fan. Not sure if they are sold outside the US either.

Best of 2020 December 31, 2020 - 6:02 am

[…] Living with Unnatural Hair Color: the truth & how to keep it vibrant (2017) – Apparently being stuck at home also meant it was time to try out some unnatural hair […]

Dragon_Queen September 28, 2020 - 6:54 pm

Just died my hair purple for the first time after reading your post. Thanks for the information, it really helps!! My mom will be glad that we spared ourselves the trouble!!!

Erin September 29, 2020 - 3:46 pm

Hooray glad to help!

Natalia July 4, 2019 - 10:35 am

I’m so happy I found your post! I dyed part of my hair purple at a salon yesterday and this was perfect information to have. I’m definitely going to re-freshen with Overtone. My question is, what does the redye process look like? Do you do that at home or do you go to the salon?

spiffycookie July 5, 2019 - 7:19 am

Welcome to the purple hair club! I use overtone at home and also redye at home as well. But I’ve been doing it for a very long time so I am used to doing it. However I always go back to my hairdresser for bleaching my roots, after which she does dye it back to purple for me the one time and I go back to maintaining at home.

Camille May 23, 2019 - 8:14 pm

A good friend of mine is thinking about getting her hair dyed. It might be wise for her to know that washing her hair should be done every two days. Looking for a good shampoo for color might help her too.

spiffycookie May 24, 2019 - 8:01 am

Wash as little as possible, protect from sun exposure, color-care shampoo and/or color depositing conditioner – all important for long lasting color!

Linda February 18, 2019 - 11:25 am

Thank you so much for this and sharing all your tips with us! I’m going vivid for the first time soon here from brunette virgin hair so this helps immensely!!

spiffycookie February 18, 2019 - 5:09 pm

Hooray! Let me know how it goes. They do now offer purple for brunettes but I haven’t tried it myself since my brown hair is bleached.

Susan May 11, 2017 - 10:38 pm

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 May 12, 2017 - 8:08 am

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.

Kayle (The Cooking Actress) April 14, 2017 - 9:23 am

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

spiffycookie April 14, 2017 - 9:28 am

Yayyyyy thanks so much!


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