Recoloring your hair too soon after an initial color application can lead to damage and undesirable results. Most experts recommend waiting at least 4-6 weeks before applying permanent hair color again. However, there are steps you can take to prep your hair for recoloring more quickly if you are unhappy with your current shade.
What happens if you recolor too soon?
Permanent hair dyes work by opening the cuticle layer of your hair so that color molecules can deposit inside the hair shaft. This process swells the hair strands and leaves them more porous and fragile. If you recolor too soon, while the cuticle is still opened, you risk further damage from overlapping chemical processes. The results may be:
- Dry, brittle hair
- Fading or uneven color
- Brassy, ashy tones
- Color failing to take or deposit properly
Overlapping permanent colors can also lead to color buildup. This causes a muddied effect as too many tones accumulate without being able to wash out.
How long should you wait between color applications?
Most colorists recommend waiting at least 4-6 weeks before applying permanent hair color again. This gives your hair time to rest and recover. The cuticle needs to close completely so that it can stand up to the rigors of another coloring service.
Here are some general guidelines on wait times:
|Type of Hair Color
|Minimum Wait Time
|Until color washes out
|Bleach and highlights
|4-6 weeks for bleach; 2-3 weeks for highlights
As you can see, permanent hair dyes require the longest waiting period. This is because they penetrate deepest into the hair shaft and involve the strongest chemicals.
On the other end, semi-permanent dyes only coat the outside of hair strands so they allow for quicker revamping. Always check the specific instructions for your hair color formula too.
What if I can’t wait 4-6 weeks?
If you absolutely must recolor sooner than 4-6 weeks, only use a semi-permanent or demi-permanent dye. Stay away from permanent color or bleach. You can help prep your hair by:
- Using a clarifying shampoo to remove buildup
- Deep conditioning treatments to strengthen hair
- Avoiding hot tools like blowdryers, flat irons, and curling wands
- Using a bonding or strengthening treatment
- Getting a trim to remove split ends
Choose a shade close to your current color instead of making a drastic change. Focus on toning or enhancing rather than completely lifting or depositing new pigment. Go to a professional colorist who can assess your hair and use a gentle formula.
What about root touch-ups?
Root touch-ups refer to recoloring just the regrowth around your part and hairline. This targeted application means you don’t have to redo your whole head. However, you still need to give your roots some recovery time before applying permanent color again. Wait at least 4-6 weeks if possible.
If you absolutely must disguise your roots sooner, opt for a root concealer product instead. These temporary powders and sprays mask growth by adhering to hair strands and matching your existing shade. They wash out with shampoo and let you buy time before permanent root color.
Tips for making color last longer
To avoid having to recolor too soon, take steps to extend the vibrancy of your new shade:
- Use sulfate-free shampoo and cold water washes
- Alternate between a moisturizing and protein conditioner
- Allow hair to air dry instead of heat styling
- Protect hair from chlorine and sun exposure
- Use a color-depositing shampoo or mask
- Get a gloss treatment around weeks 4-6
Avoid washing hair daily and use dry shampoo to refresh hair between washes. Trimming your hair regularly prevents splitting and breakage which can worsen fading. Also, reconsider if permanent dye is right for you. Semi-permanent or demi-permanent color washes out gradually and needs reapplying but is gentler on hair.
What if you absolutely hate your new color?
If you outright hate your new hair color, all may not be lost. Here are some solutions to get you back to a shade you like faster:
- Use a color remover: This specially formulated product removes permanent color without entirely stripping natural pigment.
- Try anti-dandruff shampoo: The zinc in some shampoos can help lift excess tones.
- Use vitamin C powder: Mixing vitamin C powder into a clarifying shampoo helps fade dye.
- Get a correction service: See a colorist for a “color correction” to shift your shade back towards your natural.
However, keep in mind these stripping methods are harsh on hair. You still need to wait a few weeks for your hair to recover before attempting to redye it.
How soon you can recolor hair depends on the initial dye used and your hair’s condition. For permanent color, wait 4-6 weeks minimum to keep hair healthy and achieve optimal results. Semi-permanent dyes allow redying in 1-3 weeks. Treat hair gently in the interim and avoid permanent color again until the recommended wait time is up. With some patience and TLC for your strands, you can change your look again without a disaster.