color 700

Image: @aixajahara

I have never put color on my hair, and I probably never will because I’m terrified.

Yeah, all my dye dreams involve white-blond or cotton candy-pink hair, so...mm. I know, I know, it’s a bit like being afraid of cell phones replacing the fax machine—the beauty industry has actual scientists behind it, and compared to the peroxide and paint of say, the ‘80s, we’ve definitely come a long way in terms of gentler, longer lasting, less-toxic hair color. What can I say though — old worries dye hard. Pun intended.

But it does make me feel a little better knowing that there are steps you can take to get your hair ready to receive color and bleach, even if you have my Swiss cheese level of porosity.  

Curly hair expert and color specialist April Kayganich says, "When wanting to change your hair color at all, make sure your hair is in a healthy state. If you are not sure, you can book a consultation with your stylist so they can evaluate your hair health, talk about your current hair routine, prior chemical services and what to expect with this new color change."

So what do the experts say to do?

Clarify

We all use a fair number of products, right? Mousses, gels, whips, pomades, lard, etc., we all know the drill. Well, believe it or not, without thorough washing, a lot of those materials are left behind on our strands, especially if you have low porosity hair.

No matter what your curl type, or density, clarification before a color job is key because the colors need an even surface to stick to in order to take proper effect. Following the old-school wisdom of only dyeing dirty hair will only lead to uneven coloration in the modern day, so be sure to grab the right clarifier for you and scrub up a few days beforehand, then go easy on products leading up to the day of.

Condition

At first, this is going to seem like it’s in opposition to the clarification step, but we really are going somewhere with this. Clarifying is going to free your hair of products and your natural oils, but the high-powered shampoos by themselves can leave your curls dry and brittle if you don’t follow up. And considering the level of chemical work it takes to permanently alter your hair color, even if it’s not a drastic change, doubling up on your hair’s fragility is the last thing you want. Condition your hair well post-wash, and skip out on breakage.  

How to Prepare Your Hair For Color

Use Protection

If basic deep cleansing and conditioning were all curly hair really needed, we wouldn’t be here as a site, would we? What exactly do you do in the days leading up to your appointment, now that your strands have been evened out?

Kayganich told us the best way to prep for a hair color appointment. "So, contrary to popular belief, I prefer for clients to come to a color appointment with clean hair. I think everyone has heard the opposite and when I was a receptionist, I would always preach the gospel about how dirty hair was better than clean prior to a color service. That doesn't necessarily mean shampooed and conditioned that day, but within the last day or two and little to no product in the hair," she says.

"I have taken countless advanced color classes and all of them talk about how important it is to start any chemical service with a clean slate. You don't want the color to have to work harder. This will result in an uneven color result or the color appearing different than what was expected." she adds. "With that being said, if for some reason you are not able to come with little to no product in the hair or cleansed within the last few days, your stylist may choose to add a treatment to prep your hair for the service. This will require additional time for your appointment and will add an extra cost."

Skip the styling products, since you JUST got most of them rinsed out of your curls, and use the lightest leave-ins your hair can take. If you can get away with just water (or rose water if you’re fancy like me) for the upcoming days, do it. If you have high porosity hair, do use a leave-in, but put your thicker, conditioning styling products, like puddings and butters, aside. Pay extra attention to how well your bonnets and pillowcases stay on at night, and if you can protect your ends with a quick braided style, your wig collection, or a silky scarf leading up to your ‘do date (badumtssh), do so!

I’m still personally afraid of coloring my hair; I won’t act like I’m not. But I’m seeing more and more coily bottle blondes, deep blue-dyed afros, and rockin’ redheads, and it does give my cowardly lion mane a little more hope.

If you were ever on the fence about coloring, do these steps put your worries to rest? Let us know in the comments!