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What is the best hair color technique for curly hair?

For those with naturally curly hair, coloring can be a challenge. The texture and curl pattern of curly hair impacts how color is deposited and how it fades over time. Certain hair color techniques and formulations can help curly haired individuals achieve beautiful, vibrant color with minimal damage.

The challenges of coloring curly hair

There are a few factors that make coloring curly hair more difficult than straight hair:

  • Curl pattern – Tight curls have less surface area exposed, so there are fewer cuticle layers for color to penetrate.
  • Texture – Curly hair tends to be drier and more porous than straight hair, causing color to fade more quickly.
  • Previous damage – Heat and chemical treatments can damage and open the cuticle, leading to uneven color results.
  • Oxidation – Curly hair’s unique shape can trap oxidative color chemicals, increasing risk of damage.

Additionally, as curly hair grows out, the new growth has a tighter curl pattern. This can lead to a demarcation line between colored hair and natural roots.

Choosing the right hair color and formula

The best hair color for curly hair uses gentle, conditioning formulas. Here are some things to look for:

  • Semi-permanent color – Deposits color without opening the cuticle, which helps curly hair hold onto color longer.
  • Ammonia-free – Reduces damage to the hair shaft and maintains the hair’s integrity.
  • Low or no peroxide – Less oxidation means less risk of dryness and breakage.
  • Protein-enriched – Proteins fill gaps in the cuticle and reflect light for brighter, shinier color.
  • Moisturizing oils – Ingredients like argan oil smooth the cuticle and increase shine.

Additionally, cooler, ash-based hair colors tend to appear brighter and last longer on curly hair than warm golden tones. For dark curly hair, blue or violet-based blacks create dimension and glow.

Application techniques

How you apply hair color can also help it take better and last longer on curly hair:

  • Section hair neatly and clip up top layers.
  • Apply color in even, thin sections starting at the back.
  • Use a tint or color brush to separate and fully saturate curls.
  • Avoid rubbing or disturbing the cuticle once product is applied.
  • Process for 5-10 minutes longer than recommended time.
  • Rinse thoroughly with cool water and condition.

Combing or brushing curls when wet can expand the cuticle and cause color to bleed out. Be sure to detangle gently with plenty of conditioner.

Comparing permanent vs demi-permanent color

Two of the most common salon coloring techniques are permanent (oxidative) and demi-permanent color. Here’s how they compare for use on curly hair:

Permanent Hair Color Demi-Permanent Hair Color
  • Uses peroxide to fully penetrate the cortex
  • Lasts 4-6 weeks
  • Can lighten or darken hair’s natural shade
  • Requires developer
  • Higher risk of damage if overprocessed
  • Coats the cuticle only
  • Lasts 4-12 shampoos
  • Only darkens natural hair color
  • No developer needed
  • Minimal damage to hair

For curly hair, demi-permanent color provides longer lasting results with less risk. If opting for permanent color, a lower volume developer (10 or 20 volume) should be used to reduce damage.

Maintaining your curly color at home

To keep curly hair color looking fresh between salon visits:

  • Use a sulfate-free, color-safe shampoo and conditioner.
  • Wash hair in cool water and avoid direct heat styling.
  • Apply a weekly nourishing hair mask.
  • Use an anti-fade gloss or toning treatment between colors.
  • Avoid chlorine by wearing a swim cap and rinse after swimming.
  • Cut down on shampooing to 2-3 times per week.

Additionally, touch up your roots with an at-home demi-permanent or semi-permanent color as needed. Focus application on the regrowth area only.

Best hair color techniques for curly hair types

Certain techniques and placement work better with different curl types and textures:

Type 2 – Wavy

  • Babylights – Fine highlights wrapped around sections create dimension.
  • Face-framing – Color woven around the face brightens complexion.
  • Partial highlights – Subtle lightness throughout mid-lengths and ends.

Type 3 – Curly

  • Balayage – Hand-painted pieces look soft and natural.
  • Sombre – Dark roots transitioning into light ends.
  • Gloss – Sheer semi-permanent color boosts shine.

Type 4 – Coily

  • Foilyage – Strategic foils lighten curls evenly.
  • Root shadow – Darker roots fading into lighter lengths.
  • Ombre – Graduated color from mid-shaft to ends.

Discuss your hair’s characteristics with your colorist to determine the right placement and application methods.


Healthy, vibrant hair color is achievable for curly haired ladies. Opting for gentler formulas and techniques allows curls to hold onto color longer with less fading and damage. A demi-permanent gloss or toner is safest for maintaining color at home between salon visits. With the right products, techniques and aftercare, curly hair can have gorgeous dimension and shine.