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Is it better to dye your hair wet or dry?

When it comes to dyeing your hair, you might ask a variety of questions. How much dye should you use? Should you opt for semi-permanent or permanent? Which shade will suit you best? However, one of the most divisive issues is whether or not you should be dyeing your hair when it’s wet or dry. Everyone seems to have a different answer for this question which is why today I’m going to examine the pros and the cons from each side of the argument to give you a fair and balanced idea of what you should and shouldn’t be doing! 

Why is dry hair always the main option?

Dyeing your hair can be a big decision, whether you’re trying to cover up those stubborn greys or are looking to infuse a bit of colour into your current look. You’ll probably spend ages agonising over the right shade and invest a lot of time into working out the best way to dye your hair, both to support your hair’s natural condition and to enhance its longevity.

This then brings us to the age old debate of wet hair versus dry hair. Traditionally, most permanent hair dyes will specify in their instructions that they should be used on dry hair and this is for a number of different reasons.

  • Peroxide dyes: Peroxide is an abrasive chemical that is normally found in permanent hair dyes. It helps to remove your old hair pigment, making it easier for the new colour to bond with your hair’s matrix. The downside of peroxide is that it can be quite harsh on your hair which is why some companies recommend using it on dry hair as this practice enables your hair’s natural oils to protect your locks from any possible damage.
  • Dilute the colour: If peroxide isn’t top of mind for your specific type of hair dye, some other companies’ worry that using hair dye on wet hair may dilute the colour and affect how your hair absorbs the dye. This is because your hair is already saturated with water which may prevent your hair from absorbing the amount of dye that it needs too.

These are the two main arguments that crop up in favour of using hair dye exclusively on dry hair but wet hair isn’t without its defenders and advocates.

Can you use hair dye on wet hair?

When it comes to hair dye, whether or not you choose to use it on wet hair may depend on a number of different factors but let’s clarify one thing first – it’s never advisable to use hair dye on soaking wet hair. Damp hair is another question, but wet hair presents too many problems, some which I’ve already mentioned.

Providing your hair isn’t dripping wet, you then have to consider the type of hair you have and how this may influence the dyeing process. For example, thicker, coarser hair may struggle to absorb the dye initially, which is why some experts do recommend applying the dye to hair that’s slightly damp, as this is believed to encourage a nice, even dispersal of colour.[1]

If you have long hair it also presents another benefit too. Often hair that’s slightly longer requires more dye which can be quite pricey.  Howver, if you’re applying dye to damp hair it’s thought to reduce the amount of dye you need to use which could save you from forking out for an extra packet!

Hang on a second – didn’t I just mention that dyeing damp hair could dilute the colour? Well yes, this is what dry hair advocates tend to argue but those in favour of damp hair argue that warm water helps to lift up the hair cuticle (the protective layer that coats each strand of hair) making it easier for dye to penetrate your hair’s matrix.

Our conclusion

As you can see, when it comes to dry hair versus damp hair, things can be confusing and there is definitely contradictory information floating around out there. It isn’t as simple as one being right or wrong and instead it can depend on your individual circumstances – the dye you’re using, the type of hair you have and what you’re comfortable with.

In general though, here at Jan de Vries we try to stick to what’s recommended in the instructions list – usually the advice is there for a reason! Naturtint hair dyes, for example, always recommend that you use their product on dry, clean hair as they believe your hair’s natural oils will help to protect your scalp during the process.

If you are considering dyeing your hair for the first time, it might even be worth having a chat with your hairdresser – they’ll be able to judge what is right for your hair and recommend an option that’s best for you.