Caring for Brightly Colored Hair

Since I made the decision to turn my hair into a kaleidoscope (and since I’m pretty sure I’m never going back, hehe), I thought it might be informative to go through the process of what it’s like to achieve and then maintain my color. Because, unlike my weight loss, this is something I’ve actually had quite a bit of success at maintaining. Ba-doom ching!

So, first things first. In order to actually achieve the vibrant purple that I’ve come to love and adore (as well as the various streaks of pink and blue and whatnot that were in my hair before I went ALL in), as most of you can probably guess, I had to bleach my hair.

Bleaching Hair Collage

Btw, the guy drinking Fireball in the background is Linh from Be Scene Hair Studio in Bethesda, and he is the BEST.

My hair is naturally a very dark brown, so bleaching does take some time, but I am pretty lucky in that color also lifts fairly well from my hair. It’s not the most fun process (strong bleach can cause some irritation to your scalp) but, well, you see the results! And once my hair is bleached, it’s like an open book, ready to be written…

Purple Round 1 Collage

…in GORGEOUS PURPLE INK! I went with a darker, blue-ish purple the first time (although it actually looks darker in the photos above than it was IRL) and I absolutely loooooved it. I was determined to make it last as long and as vibrantly as possible, so I took all of Linh & his assistants’ tips on how to preserve my color to heart. Here is basically what it comes down to:

1. Wash your hair as infrequently as possible.

For me, this pretty much meant twice a week, which you’d think would leave me gross and greasy more (I used to be a daily hair washer!), but I was surprised at how quickly my hair adapted. My hair is BONE straight, so it used to show its greasiness really easily, but I think it “helped” that bleaching did leave my hair drier than it initially was. So, in turn, it does take longer to look greased up now, plus your scalp and your hair really DOES adapt after a while of not washing every day — but I know the transition period is tough for some people to take. The longest I’ve managed to make it between washes thus far is exactly one week: Saturday to Saturday. Take it from me, dry shampoo is the best friend you’ll ever have!

2. Rinse and wash your hair in the coldest water you can handle.

Unfortunately, this does suck pretty much all of the joy out of washing your hair, because it becomes a task instead of just a routine part of your shower. My strategy is to start the shower cold, rinse my hair really quickly, and then turn the water to warm and keep my hair out of the stream while I shampoo it. Then I turn the knob back to cold to rinse out the shampoo, and warm it up again while I’m conditioning. I do the rest of my shower business while I’m letting the conditioner set, then finally turn it back to cold for the final rinse. It’s a bit of a dance, but it’s worked out pretty well for me so far! On days that I’m not washing my hair, I just tie it in a big top knot and it stays pretty much out of the way while I shower.

3. Use purple shampoo and conditioner.

Purple shampoo is actually formulated for people with blonde hair to help maintain silver/ashy tones (instead of golden/warm), but the purple pigment obviously works well if you hair is, you know, purple. (I use Clairol Shimmer Lights.) I use the purple conditioner on my entire head (yes, including my roots), and then also put additional (regular) conditioner on my ends.

Armed with that strategy, I managed to maintain my violet locks for almost two months!

Purple Fade Collage

I did experience a little bit of fade with every wash, of course, and while fortunately my hair actually faded quite prettily (I think!), it ultimately ended up like this:

Faded Purple Collage

Which, to me, meant time for a refresh! So back to Linh I went, asking for a bit of a warmer purple this time around. It bears nothing that he did NOT re-bleach my entire head, just my roots that had grown in. And so, on January 14th, I walked back out of the salon like this:

Purple Round 2 Collage

I’ve only washed my hair twice since (hahaha, I can actually feel how icked out some of you are at the thought of that) and, as evidenced by the following pictures taken last week and at my Yelp event last night, not too much has changed since… other than the fact that it looks like a different color in every photo I take. Which, let’s be honest, I kind of love anyway:

Untitled fanfare-008

Now, since I brought up dry shampoos and how essential they are for maintaining color — not just bright colors, either! If you color your hair at all and want to maintain it, you should definitely NOT be washing it every day — I figured I’d give you the skinny on the ones I’ve tried so far:


Left to right: Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak Shampoo, Batiste Dry Shampoo in Wild, Kevin Murphy Fresh Hair.

I picked up Not Your Mother’s at CVS for like $8, and ordered the Batiste and Kevin Murphy on Amazon for ~$9 and $32 respectively. I don’t really recommend Not Your Mother’s as I don’t feel like it gave me the same kind of clean that the other two did.

Batiste, on the other hand, is a FANTASTIC option for around the same price — it really zaps the oil out of my roots. Downside: it is SUPER powdery and leaves all that white crap in your hair that you have to brush out, and if you have dark hair sometimes that stuff can leave you looking a little gray. I’m not wild about the “Wild” scent though (heh), admittedly.

I found out about Kevin Murphy products from a blog post I stumbled upon and ended up sucking up the stickershock to give it a try. It is a really quality product which I think is particularly great for brunettes or people with a darker color, since it does not leave the same powdery residue that the other two do. And it does a fantastic job, too, with a more subtle scent than Batiste. But obviously, all of that stuff comes with a price, so it’s up to you if it’s worth giving a shot.

Between the three, I will probably get Batiste again until I end up going dark again, though I will definitely be trying out a different scent next time.

But there you have it! My journey to luscious purple locks and the way I keep it bright and cheery. Now just to decide what shade to go next time… I really want to try a light, pastel purple but I’m not sure what re-bleaching my bleached hair would do… hmm.

How often do you wash your hair? Do you color your locks? Any particular products you’re loving?


  1. Jennifer Maksays:

    I’m a daily hair washer =[. My red lowlights faded after like 4 weeks! You can still see subtle reddish brown but its not as funnnnn. I need a hair refresh… and I red shampoo + guess dry shampoo?

    PS I want to see you with cobalt blue hair!!!!

    • Gretchensays:

      I’ve actually been thinking a lot about blue/teal lately… gwahahaha!

  2. You read my mind with this post thank you thank you.

    One thing that’s prevented me from going colorful until now is that curly hair is already a big douche to deal with–it has to be washed (a whole ridiculous process in itself that can’t be replicated with dry shampoo) first thing in the morning if I want it to look presentable that day, which means that I end up washing it almost every day. Lots of straightening and styling damages and drags down natural curls, so I try to avoid it as much as possible. Oh, and brushing is absolutely out of the question (Instead, I run my hands through to get out tangles approximately 100 times while conditioning and rinsing. It’s impossible to take a short shower with curly hair.) So, all these things are sort of the opposite of what I’d need to do for colored hair. (Other than cold rinsing, which is JUST THE WORST but I do it anyway.)

    But, on the other hand…look at your purple hair. I need purple hair.

    Here’s a question for you–I’m leaning strongly towards a platinum and lavender combo (with maybe some bubblegum pink in there). Should I go with more vibrant tones at the salon, and then let it fade into the lighter colors that I want, or should I just go with paler colors right away, and let it fade into poopy natural brown quicker? HALP.

    • Gretchensays:

      I’ve been researching pastels/pale colors, and there seem to be two camps of thought: one is, like you said, going with a vibrant color and letting it fade (this would be easily achieved by washing normally), OR you can mix the color with white conditioner to achieve a really pale wash of color (like all the stuff I’ve been pinning on to my Purple Hair Pinterest board) — but the downside there is that it can fade CRAZY quick.

      My hair, as you know, is bone straight and so I literally know absolutely nothing about the trials and tribulations of curly hair, so I can’t really say which one I’d recommend. Would you want to bleach beforehand though? Because your hair is probably light enough to retain some color if you wanted to go bright, but I think if you wanted pale and soft you’d still need to bleach it lighter.

  3. I loved my purple hair while I had it but was way too cheap and lazy to maintain it. I should have known going into it that I wouldn’t be able to keep it up, seeing as I only go to the salon once a year and I can’t even be bothered to put styling products in my hair.

  4. Also! If you don’t want to buy special purple-tinted shampoo, you can make your own! Just pick up a jar/bottle of whatever dye you like (I love RAW, loathe Manic Panic) and mix in a couple of tablespoons into your shampoo and/or conditioner bottles. That way you’re adding a touch of dye back in each time you wash. And it’s totally safe because all the bright color dyes are vegetable/water-based. And just as long as you keep the ratios low, you don’t have to worry about staining your hands, shower, etc.

    And another tip: avoid chlorine at all costs. It will literally take your hair from day-of color to 12 week color in 10 minutes. I made that mistake the very first time I got my hair did. I had the sads. Plus, cute swim caps are way adorable anyway.

    Okay, last color tip: if you aren’t daring enough to go full-head (I’m not), and just want to do streaks, make sure you do them under the top layer of hair. That way, your roots never really show. I can go about 6 months between bleachings and I just touch up the color at home. In fact, my stylist said there is no reason for me to come back in to have her redye the color, just when I need new bleach or I want a drastic color change.

    Ha. I’m done. 😛 And I’m going back to red next time I get ’em bleached.

    • Gretchensays:

      All great tips! I totally forgot to mention the putting dye into your normal shampoo & conditioner thing. I bought a thing of Manic Panic to do exactly that, though sorry it’s the one you loathe, hahaha! I’ve also used Splat in the past which came out great but was a mess in the bathroom, and have heard good things about Special Effects.

  5. Angela Bsays:

    I do a deep red and it fades very quickly so I really need to start doing something like this. How do you handle exercise? The thought of not washing my hair after I’ve sweated for an hour kinda skeeves me out a bit.

  6. i love your purple hair so much!!!

    i am hoping to be able to dye my hair again some day but right now I am a wedding photographer and i just do not feel comfortable dying my hair an “unnatural” color and then showing up at someones wedding especially for those clients that met me without it. but a girl can dream and live vicariously through you!

  7. Lindsaysays:

    I like the Oscar Blandi dry shampoo (the aerosol) but it gets very mixed reviews for some reason. I have super dark brown hair and I never see any residue whatsoever, though some people do complain about that. I like that I don’t have to rub/brush a lot to get it to work. It’s $25 at Sephora for the regular-size can. The Oscar Blandi dry shampoo powder gets really good reviews, but I haven’t tried it. I HATE the Bumble & Bumble dry shampoo (spray, again the powder gets good reviews but I haven’t tried it) and I hated the Ojon spray one because it left my hair white and smelled very strongly like baby powder. I might give the Batiste one a try!

  8. I adore your hair. I used to have blue and purple streaks all throughout mine, which was wicked cool, but it was such a pain in the arse to deal with. Ahhhg I wish I could make it look like that without the work! Like how I wish I could stay fit and healthy while sitting on my couch playing Harvest Moon and eating brownies by the dozen ;).

  9. Laurensays:

    Try Suave dry shampoo (around $2.50 on amazon!), I find it’s really similar to Batiste and smells great with a fantastic price! I’ve tried a few different Suave formulas and they all seem great.

    • Laurensays:

      Also, your hair looks amazing!

    • Caitlynsays:

      I second using Suave dry shampoo, but I like the one with keratin the best – it’s a little more expensive, but you know for Suave, so like $4 I think?

      And your hair looks awesome and really makes me wish I worked somewhere less corporate!

  10. Lisasays:

    I bought a translucent dry shampoo from sephora called Bamboo by Alterna …i happened to find it in a trial size while standing online to check out. I love it! I had no idea that a clear dry shamp exists. I am blonde..but just hate that powdery residue some leave.

  11. Mitrasays:

    Tabitha would not be pleased with Linh’s whisky!! But he looks like a fun guy 😉

  12. Bethsays:

    I’ve had blue and purple, pink, black and pink, red, green and blue and more to come. green fades super quick but all other colors fade rather nice.

  13. I picked up some purple shampoo from Lush this past weekend and plan to use it occasionally with their NEW solid shampoo bar. I just dyed my hair a dark purple on Monday (read: purple black), so I’ll be interested in how it keeps.

    I wash my hair maybe 3 times a week and I have had good experience with the following dry shampoos:
    – Klorane (used to be at Sephora, now on Amazon or at Bellacora in Mosaic)
    – Oscar Blandi Aerosol (Ulta, Sephora, & I saw it at Target recently)
    – drybar (Sephora) I like the anise smell and it works very well. A little expensive
    – Ojon (Sephora) – works well, but sometimes has the “grey out” effect, as well as sometimes the nozzle gets clogged.

    At Target I also saw a dry shampoo for red/auburn/purple hair by Vidal Sassoon (I think) that I picked up and will give a try.

  14. Love the website– extremely individual pleasant and whole lots to see!|

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