How to dye curly hair without damaging it [The Stylists Guide]

Do you have gorgeous curls and want to mix it up with bold hair colors? Many of us love changing up our look from time to time, yet dread the dyeing and damaging your luscious locks! But don’t worry. We’re here to tell you how to dye curly hair safely.

Whether you have tight ringlets, spirals or lazy beach waves, this post will give you some top tips from the experts on how to dye curly hair and guide you through how to get vibrant new hues without destroying your hair health.

Here’s how to use at-home dyes in way that’ll leave your tresses looking sensational. Let’s get glowing!

Expert Insights

“With curls, it’s not just about applying color; it’s about understanding the individuality of each curl and how it will absorb and showcase the color.”

Enza Piazza, Hair Stylist & Color Consultant

Understanding Curly Hair

Ready to add some color to your lovely locks? Great! But first, let’s chat about what makes your curly hair unique.

What’s Your Curl Type?

Are you 2C wavy, 3A curly, 4C coily? Different curl patterns require different types of care, so understanding your unique pattern is key.

Each type reacts differently to dye. For instance, wavy hair might soak up color quickly, while tight coils need a gentle touch to avoid dryness. Knowing your type helps you pick the right dye and approach.

what's your curl pattern custom infographic - 2a wavy, 2b wavy, 2c wavy, 3a curly, 3b curly, 3c curly, 4a coily, 4b coily, 4c coily

Porosity Matters

Think of porosity as how well your hair soaks up and holds onto moisture. It’s a big deal when hair dyeing.

  • High porosity hair (think of a sponge) grabs onto color fast but can get dry quickly.
  • Low porosity hair (more like a sealed container) keeps moisture well but can be stubborn about taking in color.

You can do a simple float test with a strand of hair in water to figure out your porosity.

How Does Your Hair Handle Dye?

Wavy hair might color evenly but could fade quicker. Tight curls might need extra care for even coloring.

Generally, curly hair loves moisture, and dye can sometimes take that away, so it’s important to start with well-moisturized, healthy hair.

Expert Insights

“Coloring curly hair is like caring for a baby’s skin. Curly hair is more fragile and requires more moisture than other hair textures. It is healthiest when lifted/lightened no more than 3 levels.”

Nicola Forbes Martin, Educator at Design Essentials.

Keep Your Curls Happy and Healthy

Healthy hair equals gorgeous color. Before dyeing, pamper your curls with deep conditioning and lay off the heat styling.

It’s all about getting your hair in tip-top shape so it can show off that fabulous new color.

curly hair dye woman

Choosing the Right Color For Your Curls

Picking the perfect color for your curls is like selecting the right accessory – it can totally transform your look!

Here’s how to choose a color that not only looks stunning but also respects the health of your curly hair.

Complementing Your Curls

When thinking about hair color, consider shades that naturally harmonize with curly hair.

Stylists often recommend warm tones like honey, caramel, or chocolate brown. These shades grow out beautifully and maintain their richness over time​​.

Fancy something bolder? Reds and coppers can make your hair pop, adding vibrancy and a healthy sheen​​.

Lightening Up

Dreaming of going blonde? It’s definitely possible, even with curly hair! But remember, it’s a journey, not a race.

Lightening curly hair requires patience and care. If you’re transitioning from dark to blonde, do it gradually to avoid damage and maintain the health of your curls​​​​.

Expert Insights

Bleach can be a little scary, but it doesn’t have to be. You need a lot of patience when bleaching your curls, it is a gradual process.

Curl Keeper Founder, Jonathan Torch

Semi-Permanent Hair Dye for the Win

When choosing a dye, consider semi-permanent options like Manic Panic or Arctic Fox. These are generally gentler on curly hair, as they don’t contain harsh chemicals like ammonia.

They coat the hair rather than penetrating it, which means less damage and more love for your curls​​​​.

Get A Professional Opinion

Sometimes, the best choice is to consult a professional, especially if you’re considering a dramatic change.

A skilled colorist can provide personalized advice based on your hair’s condition, type, and desired outcome.

Getting Everything Ready For Dyeing

You’ve picked your color. Now, let’s get your curls ready for their big moment. A little prep work can make a world of difference in how your color turns out and how your hair feels afterward.

The Must-Do Strand Test

Always start with a strand test. It’s a simple step, but it’s a big deal.

This test tells you how the color looks on your hair and how your curls react to the dye. Just apply the dye to a small, hidden section of hair, wait for the recommended time, then rinse.

This sneak peek helps you avoid any unwanted surprises and ensures that you won’t end up with damage or a color you don’t love​​.

Skip the Shampoo

Hold off on shampooing just before dyeing. Your hair’s natural oils are protective barriers during the dyeing process.

Plus, dye tends to adhere better to hair that isn’t freshly washed. Aim to shampoo your hair 2-3 days before dyeing.

Setting Up Your Space

Creating the right space for dyeing at home is key. Here’s a quick checklist to help you set up:

  • Choose Your Spot: Pick an area that’s easy to clean, like your bathroom or kitchen.
  • Gather Your Tools: Make sure you have everything you need at hand. Your dyeing toolkit should include:
    • Gloves to protect your hands.
    • An applicator brush for precise dye application.
    • Hair clips for easy sectioning.
    • A timer to keep track of processing time.
    • An old towel or shirt to avoid any dye stains on your favorite clothes.

Having everything organized and within reach will make your dyeing process much smoother and neater.

how to dye curly hair - hair dye tools

How to Dye Curly Hair Step By Step

Alright, it’s showtime for your curls! Whether you’re going for a full-color change or just adding some highlights, follow these steps for a full color application to ensure even coverage and a stunning result.

curly. hair being sectioned in a salon for dyeing

Step #1: Section Your Hair

Begin by dividing your hair into four sections using hair clips. This helps manage your curls and ensures that no strand is left behind.

Hair dye mixing bowl

Step #2: Mix the Hair Dye

Put on your gloves and follow the instructions on the dye package.

Usually, this involves combining the colorant and developer in a bowl. Stir until the mixture is consistent without any lumps.

applying hair dye to coily hair roots

Step #3: Apply the Hair Dye Roots First

Start with one section at a time, unclipping and using the applicator brush to apply the dye.

Apply from the roots and work your way down to the ends. Ensure each curl is well-coated but avoid applying so much that the dye drips off.

Once a section is covered, use your fingers to gently work the dye into your curls. This encourages even distribution and helps the dye penetrate each strand.

complete coverage hair dye for curly hair

Step #4: Repeat for Complete Coverage

Move on to the next section, ensuring that you cover each part of your hair evenly.

Be meticulous but gentle to avoid missing any spots, especially in hard-to-reach areas.

Step #5: Leave it to Develop

Leave the dye in your hair for the time specified on the dye package. This duration is crucial for the color to develop properly.

Use a timer to avoid over-processing, which can lead to damage.

woman washing curly hair in the shower

Step #6: Rinse for a Perfect Finish

Once the time is up, rinse your hair thoroughly with lukewarm water until the water runs clear, indicating all the dye has been washed out.

Follow up with a sulfate-free conditioner to nourish your curls and lock in the color.

Adding Highlights?

  1. Choose Your Technique: For curly hair, techniques like balayage or Pintura highlights work best as they accentuate the natural curl pattern.
  2. Section and Paint: If you’re doing it at home, use a tail comb and applicator brush. Paint the dye onto the desired strands, following the natural flow of your curls.
  3. Let It Sit: Allow the dye to process as per the instructions.
  4. Rinse and Condition: Rinse out the dye carefully and follow up with a conditioner.

Watch and learn: How to dye curly hair step-by-step.

Here’s a great video tutorial that shows you how to dye natural hair blonde at home!

Post-Dyeing Care and Maintenance

Congrats on your new color! Now, let’s talk about keeping those curls looking fabulous. Proper post-dye care is crucial for maintaining the vibrancy of your color and the health of your hair.

Washing and Conditioning Post-Dyeing

Wait Before You Wash: Give your hair a break for at least 48 hours before washing. This allows the color to set in completely.

Choose the Right Shampoo: When you do wash, opt for a sulfate-free shampoo designed for color-treated hair. These shampoos are gentler and help preserve your color.

Conditioning Is Key: Use a hydrating conditioner that’s also made for color-treated hair. This step is vital for restoring moisture that might have been lost during the dyeing process.

Hydrating and Strengthening Products

Deep Conditioning Treatments: Once a week, treat your hair to a deep conditioning mask. Look for products containing nourishing ingredients like argan oil, coconut oil, or shea butter.

Leave-In Conditioners: Daily use of a leave-in conditioner can help keep your curls hydrated and prevent the color from fading.

Protein Treatments: Incorporate a protein treatment into your routine every four to six weeks. This helps strengthen hair and maintain its elasticity, especially important for color-treated curls.

The Ultimate Hair Care Routine

Limit Heat Styling: Excessive heat can strip away color and damage hair. If you must use heat, always apply a heat protectant.

Protect Your Hair from the Sun: UV rays can fade hair color. Use hair products with UV protection or wear a hat when you’re out in the sun.

Regular Trims: Trimming your ends regularly helps prevent split ends from traveling up the hair shaft, which can make your curls look frizzy and dull.

Refresh Your Color: Depending on the dye you used, consider a color refresh every 4-8 weeks to maintain vibrancy. For semi-permanent dyes, this might be more frequent.

By following these post-dyeing care tips, you can enjoy vibrant, healthy-looking curls for longer!

Curly Hair Dye FAQS

Can you dye curly hair safely?

The answer is yes, you can indeed dye curly hair safely. Whoop!

In fact, coloring your curls can be a great way to enhance your natural texture and add a touch of personality to your look.

Just be sure to use a quality coloring product and follow the instructions carefully to avoid damaging your strands.

Can I highlight curly hair?

There’s nothing like a bit of ombre, balayage, or highlights to add some oomph to curly hair.

Actually, if you want to get more technical try a “pintura” or “coilyage”, which are specifically designed for the unique needs of curly and frizzy locks.

Whichever option you choose, it’s clear that even if you have curly hair there’s no need to miss out on enjoying some beautiful sun-kissed highlights!

What is pintura?

Pintura is an ombre and balayage technique specifically designed to add highlights to curly hair.

Thanks to specialized techniques and products, pintura can provide a modern, high-definition look that lasts – even for those with the most stubborn curls!

With customized shades, your stylist can achieve beautiful results that enhance the texture of your hair.

So if you’re looking for a new way to show off your natural curl pattern without having to worry about constant maintenance and upkeep, pintura could be the perfect solution.

What is Coilyage?

Coilyage is the hottest hair trend in town, specifically tailored to suit all those with coily, curly, or kinky hair.

It’s a new take on the classic balayage technique but provides a customized and modern look for anyone rocking their natural coils.

Creating this look involves expertly using highlights and lowlights to give each person’s individual styling an effortless depth and dimension.

So if you want an eye-catching style that’s both creative and true to you, it could be time to hit the salon!

Will dyeing my curly hair damage it?

Curly hair is more porous, which means it can absorb color more easily. This also means that curly hair is more likely to be damaged by dyeing.

The good news is that there are ways to minimize the damage, and with the right products, you can actually keep your curly hair healthy and happy during the dyeing process.

Will hair dye change my curl texture or pattern?

The result of hair dye on curl texture or pattern depends on the hair product used and your hair type.

For instance, if you have high porosity hair that’s prone to breakage and heat damage, then a hair dyeing session may reduce the hair’s elasticity.

This could change the look of your curls, making them appear straighter than before.

Someone with low hair porosity might find that hair dye has energized their curls even more!

So make sure to do your research and consider your hair’s unique characteristics before going for any hair coloring treatments.

Will dyeing curly hair make it straight?

Dyeing your hair doesn’t mean you have to kiss your curls goodbye.

While it can sometimes loosen your curls make your hair appear straighter, if done right, dyeing can bring a whole new level of vibrancy to your look.

Plus, practicing some extra TLC can help maintain that bouncy ringlet shape you love so much.

Just make sure you use loads of conditioner and moisturizing treatments along the way.

Expert Insights

“No but if you damage it by bleaching too much/many times the curl kind of goes limp/stringy for a bit until it regains some health back.I have dyed my curls many colors over the years safely.”

Versions Vividamnesia, Master Hair Colorist

Do you dye curly hair wet or dry?

When it comes to dyeing curly hair, the best approach is to do it on damp or slightly wet hair.

Dry hair can cause the hair dye color or bleach to settle unevenly and increase the chances of having patchy results.

Also, applying dye on dry hair could make your curls look dull and crunchy in texture, while applying it on wet strands could give you brighter and more vibrant colors with soft tumbling curls.

Never try to dye wet curly hair, as the dye will just slide right off!

Is it okay to use box dye on curly hair?

When it comes to dyeing your curly hair, box dye is ok to use. With a few caveats.

It is best to stick with a semi-permanent hair dye so you can avoid the potential for damage.

Semi-permanent dyes don’t require ammonia or peroxide like permanent solutions do, so your curls will be safe from drying out and some extra dose of nourishment won’t hurt either.

Plus, opting for a semi-permanent box dye leaves you free to create those funky styles you wished for without any long-term commitment!

Expert Insights

“If you’re going for a box hair dye, true semi-permanent dyes are recommended, which means they don’t mix the colours.”

Maggie Couto, Only Curls

What hair dye is best for curly hair?

When it comes to dyeing curly hair, nourishing and hydrating dyes are the best choice.

There are a few options available that provide stunning colors without compromising on curl health.

Look for formulas with natural oils such as coconut oil and shea butter which add moisture to your curls while also providing color. Ammonia-free hair dyes help to minimize damage while still giving you those vibrant shades you desire.

And remember to stick with semi-permanent dyes instead of permanent ones for healthier, more nourished results!

Parting words.

Dyeing curly hair doesn’t have to be a stressful experience; it can actually be quite fun!

Just make sure that you use high-quality products and follow expert advice along every step of the way in order to keep those gorgeous locks looking their best!

With these simple tips in mind, you’re sure to end up with beautiful colored curls that last for weeks on end! Enjoy!

Have you dyed your hair successfully? Tell us about it! Tag us on Instagram @colouredhaircare or Facebook and share your hair dye success stories. Looking for more hair care tips? Check out How to Look After Colored Hair: 11 Expert Secrets For Long-Lasting Color.

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Our Research & Review Process

To ensure our recommendations are as comprehensive and reliable as possible, we’ve undertaken an extensive research effort.

We cite scientific evidence and journals, collect real user reviews and gather impartial perspectives from hair stylists, users, and experts in the field.

Additionally, we conduct hands-on testing by using products and applying hair dyes not only on our own locks but also on real human hair extensions and hair pieces of different hair type, textures and lengths.

This rigorous approach allows us to provide you with insights into which products genuinely live up to their promises.

As always – please consult with a professional hair colorist or stylist for advice on how to color your own hair at home. It’s different for everyone!

This article was written and reviewed by:

  • Nicola Freeman, Creative Director & Content Lead
    Creative Director & Content Lead

    With over two decades of passionate hair dyeing experience, I've experimented with nearly every shade imaginable. My journey began long before blogging; as an award-winning copywriter in London and New York, I shaped narratives for iconic brands. However, when friends sought advice during lockdown for at-home hair dyeing, I realized my true calling. Beyond being your hair color expert, I'm a mom of two girls, wife to artist Tony, and an avid soccer player!

  • Enza Piazza, Hair Stylist & Color Consultant
    Hair Stylist & Color Consultant

    I’m Enza Piazza, your go-to hair stylist and color consultant with over 23 years of professional salon experience bringing vibrancy and life to hair of all hues. My Italian roots from sunny Sicily infuse passion into every snip and color, a passion that’s been recognized with top honor awards including bridal and party hair at the National Hairdressers Federation’s Championships. After training in Surrey, UK’s most prestigious salons including Head Master Academy, I embraced the entrepreneurial spirit and set up Enza Hair Styling, offering tailored hair care for 13 years, and treating each client like family. Away from the salon, I cherish moments as a proud Nonna to grandson Joseph and as a playful companion to my Jack Russell, Bo.