Introduction: How to Dye Your Hair Purple and Keep It That Way (Inexpensively)

About: I'm a professional writer and an amateur sewist, builder, hot gluer, dremel user, crocheter, painter, paper crafter, and baker.

I'm going to start off by saying the obvious: I'm not a professional. That being said, I've been dyeing my own hair since I was in middle school.

I started dyeing my hair purple last August, but did briefly go to blue and then a blue/black for a couple of months. But I realized that I should have just been born with purple hair. I think it looks best, better than my natural light brown, for sure. People recognize me now as the purple hair girl, and that's fine with me.

I'm going to show you how I dye my hair, how I maintain it, and how I do so for not a lot of money. All in all, I probably only spend about $54 per YEAR on hair dye. That's like 10 cups of coffee for 365 days of bright purple hair. Worth every penny.

Changing our hair is one of the easiest ways we can express ourselves. (But at the same time, it's just hair; if you mess up a haircut, it will grow back. The same applies with hair color.)


If your hair is light enough:

  • Purple hair dye. I use Pravana ChromaSilk Vivids in the shade Violet (which I highly recommend). I order a 3.0 oz tube from Amazon every couple of months for about $9.
  • Conditioner. The quality honestly doesn't matter too much here, but it has to be a white conditioner. A 99c bottle of conditioner from your local drug store will work just fine, as long as it is white.
  • A paint brush. It doesn't need to be a fancy one, but maybe not the cheapest one either. You don't want all the bristles falling out. I have one that I found in my craft stash that works perfectly that I use every time.
  • A plastic or glass container to mix dye and conditioner. If you use plastic, you can throw it away once your done. I use a glass container that I reuse every time and I clean it out thoroughly after each use. This is simply just to reduce waste.
  • Hair clips or hair ties.
  • Latex gloves. I buy them in bulk from Target or wherever for about $5 for 100 or so.
  • Towels that you don't mind staining purple. At least four of them.
  • Old clothes to wear while you're dyeing your hair

If your hair is not light enough:

  • All of the above + hair bleach. My hair was dark and long before I went purple. It took me two boxes of hair bleach to cover and lighten all my hair. IF YOU DO NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE LIGHTENING YOUR OWN HAIR, GO TO A PROFESSIONAL.

Step 1: Lighten Your Hair

If you're hair is already light enough, go on to the next step.

If your hair is light brown or darker, then you need to lighten it to at least a yellow blonde. I'm not going to tell you how to do that, because I don't want to be responsible if you fry your hair. If you've bleached your hair before, you know how to do it. If you haven't, maybe consider going to a professional.

If you insist on doing it yourself, do some research first. Watch a bunch of YouTube videos and read product reviews. Maybe invite a friend over to help you. And of course, read the instructions included in the box of hair bleach very carefully.

Note: You can still dye your hair if you have darker hair, it just won't be as vivid. Bleaching it will have the best end result.

Step 2: Live Fast and Dye Hard

Start by layering your bathroom floor and covering your sink/toilet/etc. with old towels. This stuff stains tile and ceramic materials as well as clothing HARD if you don't get it out immediately. So it's best to make sure everything in the bathroom is covered and you're wearing clothes you don't mind getting stained. I wear my purple Instructables robot shirt every time I dye my hair.

Brush and part your hair so 2/3 is up in a bun on top of your head. I use hair clips for this so I can take them out easily, but a hair tie works well too. Now would be a good time to put on your latex gloves.

Then it's time to cut the hair dye with a lot of conditioner. This is so you don't have to use as much dye. You don't need to measure exactly, but the dye-to-conditioner ratio is subject to how bright you want your hair to be, how long your hair is, and how much money you're willing to spend on hair dye in the long run. The higher the hair dye-to-conditioner ratio, the brighter your hair will be. I go through about 1 tube of hair dye every two months, therefore I use about 1/4 a tube every two and a half-ish weeks on my shoulder-length hair.

If your hair is chin- to shoulder-length like mine: Squeeze about 1.5 cups of your white-colored conditioner into your (plastic or glass) container. You don't need to be exact; you can eyeball it. Top it off with about 1/4 of your purple hair dye. Mix the conditioner and the purple hair dye with your paint brush. (If your hair is shorter or longer than that, you can adjust to your needs.)

Essentially, start "painting" the part of your hair that's not in the bun. Start from the top and work your way to the bottom, making sure every single strand of hair is saturated. Use your fingers to really work it all in. Once you've got the bottom layer finished, let down some more of your hair and put the rest back up in a bun with the clips/hair tie. I have really thick hair so I let down layers of my hair several times instead of just twice.

You *may* find you need to add more conditioner/dye if you're running low. Just add a little at a time, that way you make sure you don't use more than you need.

Step 3: Let It Sit, Rinse It Out

Once you're positive all your hair has been "painted" with the hair dye mixture, put your hair in an old towel and hang around for a bit. I use the same purple towel every time I dye my hair.

If you happened to get a little bit of hair dye (or a lot, like my photo) on your face, hands, or neck, all you have to do is wet a hand towel with shampoo and scrub a little. Shampoo helps it come off pretty easily.

The longer you sit with it in your hair, the better it will turn out. And since this type of hair dye is essentially just a colored conditioner, it won't damage your hair and will essentially act as a hair mask. I like to leave the dye in for a couple of hours, but you could leave it in for as little as 45 minutes.

I know it sounds like a long time, and it is, but the good thing is that you now have an excuse to catch up on that show you've been wanting to finish.

Wherever you decide to do it, rinse your hair really well with cool water (not hot -- the colder you can tolerate, the better). I like to do this part in my kitchen sink, but your bathtub will work just as well. Alternatively, you could just take a shower. Do not use shampoo at this point. If you NEED to use a hair dryer to get your hair dry, go ahead and do so. But if you don't normally use one, just let your hair air dry. Heat will make for duller color quicker, so it's best to do without.

Step 4: Maintenance

Your hair will start to fade and look like the three pictures above about two-three weeks in. Sometimes it fades into a pinkish color; other times it fades into a grayish color. I'm not sure why it isn't the same every time, but I do know that this is usually when I realize I need to redye my hair.

I do not re-bleach my hair when I need to re-dye it. I simply cover all of my hair with the same ratio of dye to conditioner that I did when I initially dyed it, let it sit for a couple of hours, and rinse it in cool water. You can see that my roots are darker than the ends, and that's the way I prefer it. If you want your roots to match your ends, you may have to re-bleach your hair every time your roots start to show. For me, that doesn't matter and I really don't want to be bleaching my hair every month, so I don't bother.

Other maintenance tips:

  • Put a few drops of purple hair dye into your conditioner that you use in the shower so you can do some upkeep every time you shower.
  • Only use a little bit of shampoo when you wash your hair in the shower. Every time you shampoo, a little of the color will wash out. I don't shampoo every time I shower, only about twice a week now.
  • Wash your hair in cool water every time you shower. Cold showers suck, but if you want to maintain the brightness, washing your hair in cool water is the way to go. Hot water will dull your hair way quicker.

Step 5: Finished

Maintaining every few weeks can start to feel like a chore, so it's best to make an afternoon out of it. However, if you want consistently bright purple hair for not a lot of money, it's worth it.

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