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How often should you dye your hair?

Dyed auburn hair
Some people dye their hair once every few months. Others seem to change their colour every week; but how often should you dye your hair?

To keep your hair in the best condition possible, while also maintaining or changing your colour, you need to look at the type of dye, as well as what your hair has already been through in the past.

How often can dye be applied?

There are several different types of dyes available which vary in terms of whether the colour washes out over time, and how long this takes if it does. Permanent dye is the most durable and lasting kind of dye, whilst other forms of dye like semi-permanent and demi-permanent dye eventually fade out.

Hair dye can also vary in whether it is damaging, and how much damage it causes. Permanent dye is damaging as it requires oxidation to work properly, whilst temporary and semi-permanent dye are non-damaging. The demi-permanent dye process also usually requires oxidation to work, so it too can be mildly damaging to your hair.
In deciding how often a dye can actually be applied, you need to look at whether the particular type of product is damaging, how long it lasts, and the condition of your own hair. The non-damaging dyes can be used as often as necessary, whilst permanent products can only be used so many times on before the condition of your hair begins to deteriorate. There is a trade-off between longevity and damage.

The table below illustrates the relative damage caused by bleach and the different varieties of dye available. This can be used to decide how often you should use the dye. Dyes which are slightly damaging or more damaging should be used only sparingly every few months to keep your hair healthy; especially if dyeing over previously dyed hair.

Dyes which cause only mild damage or no damage, however, can be used every 2 - 4 weeks without compromising the condition of your hair too much. Semi-permanent and acid based demi-permanent dyes can be used as often as required because they cause no damage at all.

Type of dye Damage
Bleach - 20 vol Most damaging
High lift dye - 40 vol More damaging
Permanent - 30 vol More damaging
Permanent - 20 vol Slightly damaging
Permanent - 10 vol Mild damage
Demi-permanent - 5 vol Very mild damage
Demi-permanent - Acid-based No damage
Semi-permanent No damage

Retouching colour and roots

Dyed auburn hair
Hair colour fades over time, often even when the dye is permanent. This means that to keep it looking vibrant and the correct shade, it needs to be maintained by retouching with more dye.

Regrowth is another problem that you may also face, depending on how much darker or lighter your dyed colour is, compared to your natural hair colour. As your natural hair colour grows out, it will become more noticeable over time and need to be retouched to keep your colour looking great.

The less of a difference there is between your regrowth and length, the less noticeable it is, and the less likely you will need to dye it as often to keep it looking nice. If you have dyed dark hair to blonde, or dyed blonde hair dark however, the contrast can be stark and it needs to be dyed more often to keep it looking its best.

The type of result needed also plays a part in this. If your natural colour is brown or black, and you're maintaining blonde hair, the product needed to be used to lighten it will either be bleach or high lift dye in most cases.

This is more damaging than other dyes, so it is best to retouch your roots when they are long enough to avoid overlap, but not before the regrowth becomes too long or it won't lighten as effectively and will need to be treated more than once, increasing damage.

In most cases, the best length for retouching regrowth will be about half an inch (about 1.2 centimeters). This is generally about 4 weeks of growth, depending on how quickly your hair tends to grow.

If your regrowth is lighter than your current colour, the treatment required to darken it is significantly less damaging and you can dye it as often as required as the regrowth becomes noticeable to you. You should still be careful to avoid overlap if using permanent dye for this though. In general, dye lighter regrowth every 4 - 8 weeks to keep it looking good and avoid excess damage.

Dyed auburn hair


The type of dye used when toning hair is very important, because this is what determines how long the results last, as well as whether any damage occurs. Permanent dye shouldn't be used, where possible, as although it is only mildly damaging when used for this purpose with a weak developer, there are non-damaging dyes that achieve the exact same result without stressing your hair.

If you are using permanent dye to maintain blonde or bright colours like red however, try to only use the dye sparingly, at least 6 weeks apart, and only if your hair is in good condition. When using semi-permanent dyes, the question of how often should you dye your hair becomes irrelevant because these dyes don't cause any damage.

You can use temporary dyes like this as often as necessary to maintain the exact colour you want. This can be every time you shampoo your hair, once a week, or once every few weeks depending on how vibrant the colour needs to be.

Changing your colour completely

Dyed auburn hair
If you're changing to a new colour, and you do this often, the main rules for how often you dye your hair depend on the type of dye being used and the condition of your hair.

If you're using non-damaging dyes that wash out over time and you like to change the colour as soon as it washes out, this is perfectly fine. You can dye your hair like this as often as you want.

If you're frequently going between lighter and darker colours which require more damaging treatment though, you should only do this as often as the condition of your hair allows. If your hair is becoming weak and damaged, it is best to slow down with colour changes and choose more conservative colours until it recovers.

More information:
  • Hair colour developer - Find out how to choose the correct developer for your dye and the results you want to achieve...
  • How to get better colour results - Tips for getting salon quality results at home with your next hair colour...
  • How to get healthier hair - Find out how to care for your hair, treat damage, and avoid the common problems that can make your hair look and feel less healthy...

Have a question about hair dye or wondering how often should you dye your hair? Leave a comment for tailored advice...

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