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Can You Dye Wet Hair?

It may be out of the norm, but it has its benefits.
June 12, 2023

If you’ve ever dyed your hair in the past, whether it be at the salon or with an at-home hair color kit, you’ve probably gone through the motions on dry hair. Applying hair color on dry hair is the most standard method for dyeing your hair, but perhaps you wondered about dyeing your hair when it’s wet? (Or even seen it on TikTok?) While the general rules of most hair schools suggest that dye should only be applied to dry hair, we’re sharing a few exceptions. Read on to learn the answer to the question, “is it better to dye hair wet or dry?” plus, the benefits of dyeing your hair when it’s wet.

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Can You Dye Wet Hair?

Under the right circumstances, it is absolutely possible to color your hair while it’s wet. The method of applying hair dye to wet hair is typically used to achieve subtle results or for certain hair highlighting techniques.  

However, your hair is at its most fragile state when wet, so if not done properly the coloring process could result in breakage and damaged hair. Since most at-home hair color kits aren’t meant to be used on wet hair, it's best to leave wet hair coloring to the pros. Furthermore, if you’re coloring your hair at home with a kit, always follow the directions included inside for the best results.

The Benefits of Dyeing Hair While It’s Wet

Wet dyeing your hair has its upsides. Here are three reasons why it may be beneficial for you. 

1. It May Provide a More Subtle Result

If your hair is extremely dry, there is a strong possibility it will absorb more water and less hair dye, which may lead to a more subtle result. If the goal is a subtle hair makeover, then wet dyeing your hair may be a worthy option. 

2. Water Adds Moisture That Can Distribute the Color Better

If you have sections of hair that are dry in some areas and not so dry in others, this can lead to uneven distribution of color because the dye will absorb at different rates. When the hair is all wet, this creates an even canvas for color because all the hair is at the same starting point. So you end up with an even, seamless all-over color. 

3. Less Dye Is Needed

When the hair is already saturated with water, less dye is needed because it spreads better on wet hair. 

4. It Can Add Subtle Dimension

One of the most popular ways to color wet hair is the wet balayage technique. This low-maintenance highlighting method creates beautiful brightened ends that give hair a subtle pop of dimension. This process requires keen eye placement and expert skill because instead of using hair dye, it actually uses bleach. Because of this, it’s best to visit a seasoned colorist for wet balayage rather than DIYing it.

5. It May Work Better for Coarse or Thick Hair Texture

For those with thick or coarse hair, sometimes dyeing your hair when damp — not wet — can help to distribute the color more evenly. Depending on the length and density of your hair, along with the type of hair dye being used, the added moisture can make sure every inch of your beautiful hair is fully saturated with the color that you choose.

6. It Can Make Semi-Permanent Hair Dye More Vibrant

Since semi-permanent hair color (and demi-permanent hair color) isn’t formulated with peroxide, it can be beneficial to use it on wet hair. This will open up the cuticles of the hair shaft and allow the color to absorb better into wet strands. However, this depends on the formula of the semi-permanent hair dye being used, so always follow the directions included to get the best results and prevent any damage to your hair.

Should You Wash Your Hair Before Coloring It?

Most hair dyes are formulated to work best on hair that isn’t freshly washed, so it’s best to skip the shampoo directly before your coloring session. Instead, clean your hair a day or two before with shampoo, then simply wet your hair with lukewarm water beforehand if you plan to dye it wet.

If you’re headed to the salon, there is no need to show up with wet strands. Your colorist will decide whether it’s best to color your hair dry or wet based on your desired outcome.It’s also suggested that you avoid washing your hair directly after you dye it since shampoo could strip the color just applied. Instead, rinse out the dye with lukewarm water and wait 48 hours before reaching for shampoo. If you’re dyeing your hair at home, take a look at the instructions included with your at-home color kit — some may recommend shampooing after while others will advise against it. 

Is It Better to Dye Your Hair Wet Or Dry?

Both methods have their benefits, but it’s very situational. At home, stick to dry dyeing and follow the instructions on your at-home hair color kit. If you book a salon appointment, then it may be beneficial to try wet dyeing with the help and guidance of an expert. 

Does Wet Hair Dye Faster?

While it depends on which dye you’re using, this can be true because when the hair is wet, the hair cuticle is open and the dye is able to absorb faster than if your hair was dry. 

What Type of Hair Color Works Best on Wet Hair?

Temporary hair colors like demi-permanent hair dye and semi-permanent hair dye work best on wet hair because they don’t include ammonia. This means they lay over the hair cuticle (instead of absorbing into the hair cuticle) which is why they wash out in eight washes or so. When the hair is wet, the hair cuticle is open, which means the dye will absorb deeper into the cuticle, leading to a longer-lasting color. Because of this, it’s not recommended to apply permanent dye on wet hair because the chemicals in permanent dye are stronger than temporary color and the hair is more vulnerable when it’s wet. 

Next: 8 Summer Hair Color Trends to DIY for Your Next Hair Makeover

Photographer: Matthew Kelly

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