Can You Dye Wet Hair?

close-up of a young woman dyeing wet hair at home in her bathroom

Can you dye wet hair? Yes, you actually can, but the outcome of dyeing your hair wet will depend on the circumstances. There can be some instances where your hair may be best dyed dry, just for the sake of color payoff, bleeding, etc. The main thing that will change between dyeing your hair wet or dyeing it dry is how long your hair color will last.

This is important to keep in mind if the color lifetime is important to you. Dyeing your hair wet with semi-permanent hair dye and demi-permanent hair dye will work and there is not much difference if you had dyed it dry.

However, permanent hair dye and bleach actually need your hair to be dry in order to penetrate deeply into the hair shaft. Dyeing your hair when it’s wet can be a tricky process—but with the right tips, you can achieve beautiful results.

In this post I will explain how to dye your hair when it’s dry, as well as the best practices for using semi-permanent, demi-permanent and permanent hair dye. But first, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of dyeing your hair when it’s wet. The main advantages and disadvantages are discussed below.

Can You Dye Your Hair When It’s Wet?

You can dye your hair when it’s wet. Dyeing your hair when it’s wet is completely okay but remember that it might change the color payoff or how long it lasts. For example, dyeing your hair when it’s wet can actually dilute the color because of the wetness in your hair.

This will make the color payoff not as vibrant as it would have been if you dyed your hair when it is dry. It can also cause you to have an uneven color application.

This is because the water will make the color not take more in some areas than others. On the other hand, there are benefits to dyeing your hair when it’s wet. For example, you may have to use less dye than if your hair was wet.

The wet hair will help to distribute the color evenly, this is more difficult when applying it to dry hair. It’s important to also remember that different dyes are better used on dry hair than wet hair or vice versa.

Is It Better To Put Hair Dye On Wet Or Dry Hair?

It is okay to put hair dye on wet and dry hair, but there are different situations and benefits and negative effects of both. There are certain hair dyes that are best put on dry hair and there are some hair dyes that are okay to be put on wet hair. Semi-permanent hair dye is not greatly affected by water, so dyeing your hair wet will not really change your outcome.

Demi-permanent hair dye typically penetrates into your hair deeper than a semi-permanent. This means that it shouldn’t change your color too much, but it might make it to where your hair absorbs more water than dye, making the color not as vibrant.

If you’re using a permanent hair dye then you’ll need to dye your hair dry. Dry hair allows for the color to penetrate deeper which is what you need and want if you’re using a permanent hair dye.

If you’re dyeing wet hair then you have to be cautious of where you’re applying the dye. Your hair dye will distribute a little more evenly just because the hair is wet, but also this means that it might not take more in some places than others just based on how wet the hair was previously.

How Dirty Should My Hair Be When I Dye It?

Your hair can be as dirty as you normally have it. It’s important to the colorist that you come in with natural hair as much as possible so that their techniques match up with your maintenance. Dirty hair is okay because the greasiness of it will actually help to protect your hair and scalp from the harsh chemicals that are present in the hair dye.

However, using products like hair spray or dry shampoo can alter the way the hair dye attaches and penetrates to your hair, so try not to apply too many products before your hair appointment.

You can come with dirty hair or clean hair, either way, the coloring process will be the same. Some may think that your color will not penetrate as deeply if you have dirty hair but this is not the case. It will take just the same.

Can You Dye Hair With Greasy Hair?

Yes, you can dye hair with greasy hair. Greasy hair may protect your scalp and roots from extensive damage that could come from the chemicals in the hair dye. Greasy hair is normal and the salon will wash it for you. Ultimately, you should come to the salon with regular hair.

However, how you keep your hair most of the time is how you should come in for your color appointment or that’s how it should be before dyeing it. Of course, everything is best in moderation. 3 to 4 days of unwashed hair is fine, but waiting a week or longer to wash your hair and then dye it can cause the color to not be able to penetrate.

The grease and oils in your hair can accumulate easily and build up in the scalp and roots area making that area not as open for the dye to penetrate. Overall, dyeing your hair when it’s greasy is completely fine and should not make a difference in the color outcome or color process.

Can I Dye My Hair Right After Washing It?

You can dye your hair right after washing it, but we recommend at least waiting a day. There are a few things that might happen if you decide to dye your hair after you wash it. You may experience some burning, itching, and irritation.

This is because when you wait to dye your hair, it gives your hair time to accumulate some natural oils and sebum. This is good for the dyeing process and your scalp. The natural oils and sebum protect your hair and scalp from the chemicals in the dye.

This means, if you wash your hair right before dyeing it then you won’t have any natural sebum and oils because you’ve washed them all away. This leaves your scalp and hair vulnerable to the chemicals in the hair dye. It’s recommended to at least wait a day before dyeing your hair after you wash it.

Can I Use Permanent Color On Wet Hair?

You shouldn’t use a permanent hair dye on wet hair. Permanent hair dye has a chemical composition that doesn’t exactly pair well with water and it won’t take as well as if you use it on dry hair.

Permanent hair dye contains ammonia and hydrogen peroxide in them and both of these ingredients need the hair to be dry in order to work properly and get the hair color to stick.

It’s also important that with permanent hair dye you are as precise as you can be and with wet hair you don’t have much control over the color application because the water makes it distribute unevenly. If you want to dye your hair wet then you should use semi-permanent and demi-permanent hair dye.

Do You Apply Semi-Permanent Dye To Wet Or Dry Hair?

You can apply semi-permanent hair dye to wet or dry hair. Semi-permanent hair dye doesn’t contain ammonia which is the main ingredient that makes permanent hair dye unsuitable for use on wet hair.

Actually using semi-permanent hair dye on damp hair can make the color take even better. When your hair is wet this means that your hair shaft is open and ready to absorb anything that it gets into contact with, which includes the hair dye.

Since the hair shaft is open when you apply hair dye the hair will automatically soak it up but the only downside to this, mostly, is that your hair may soak up more water than hair dye.

This means that your hair will not be able to soak up as much dye as if the hair was dry. This can make your color not as vibrant and not the color you respected. This also means that it may fade and wash out much faster than if you had dry hair when dyeing it.

Should I Wash My Hair Before Demi-Permanent?

You can wash your hair before dyeing your hair with a demi-permanent hair dye, but this is not recommended. Like all hair dyes, they have chemicals in them.

Washing your hair removes any natural oils or sebum that is on your hair. The natural sebum and oils in your hair act as a protective barrier for your scalp and hair to ensure that the chemicals in the hair dye don’t burn or irritate your scalp or hair.

Leaving your hair and scalp exposed to the chemicals of the hair dye can cause irritation, itching, and even burning. This may not be a huge cause for concern, but if you have increasing symptoms of unbearable pain on your scalp then you may be having an allergic reaction or some type of chemical burning.

Some people are more sensitive than others, so this might not affect you as much as the next person, but it is something to look out for and keep in mind if you’re thinking about dyeing your hair with demi-permanent hair dye after washing it.

Overall though, washing your hair before using a demi-permanent hair dye will not change the color outcome, vibrancy, or anything like that if that’s your concern.

Final Thoughts: Can You Dye Wet Hair?

The bottom line is you can dye wet hair, but you should keep in mind the benefits, what dyes you can use and how the outcome might be. Wet hair could be dyed with semi-permanent hair dye and demi-permanent hair dye, however, you should leave your hair dry if you’re planning to dye your hair with a permanent hair dye or a bleach.

Dyeing your hair while it is wet may affect the vibrancy of the color because the hair has already soaked up a lot of water, so it doesn’t have much “space” for the hair dye.

Permanent hair dye cannot be used on wet hair because of the ingredients (ammonia and hydrogen peroxide) that need dry hair to activate. Therefore, if you use permanent hair dye on wet hair you might not get much color payoff at all.

Grease and natural oils in your hair are actually a good thing when dyeing your hair, but only in moderation. Getting your hair dyed while you have day three or four hair is probably the best because your hair and scalp have a protective barrier against the harsh chemicals of hair dye.

It’s important to not let your hair get too greasy before dyeing it as this will prevent the hair dye from penetrating as deeply into the hair as it needs to. You also shouldn’t necessarily wash your hair right before dyeing it for the same reason.

When you wash all of your oils and sebum out of your hair and then apply hair dye, you could experience uncomfortable side effects. If you dye your hair soon after washing it, you may experience a burning, itching, and irritation on your scalp.

This is because your scalp will be lacking the natural oils that protect it from the chemicals in the hair dye. Washing your hair can also be somewhat abrasive depending on how you do it. This could leave tiny scratches on your scalp that will hurt and get inflamed if they come in contact with the hair dye.

Overall, you may want to consider not washing your hair right before dyeing it. Remember that if you want to dye your hair while wet try to only use a semi-permanent or demi-permanent hair dye instead of a permanent hair dye.

Keep in mind all the side effects that you could experience as well. Entrepreneur, influencer, and celebrity colorist Kiyah Wright recommends not washing your hair for two days before dyeing it to protect your scalp from irritation.

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By Daphnie Bachmann

Daphnie Bachmann is an esthetician and beauty writer at Kintegra Research. She loves beauty and skincare. She always has her eyes open for the next new beauty or skincare product to test out and review. She's inspired by the beauty world and is always willing to share her beauty secrets!