Can You Dye Wet Hair?

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and dye your hair. You’ve spent time finding the perfect color, in a brand you’re sure you’ll love. But one question remains – should your hair be wet or dry when you dye it? Which one will produce better results?

Well, it depends on what type of dye you’re using. While the short answer is yes, you can dye wet hair, you’re only likely to see results you love with some types of hair color products. We’ll explore which types of dye to use below, as well as the advantages and potential drawbacks of dying your hair while wet.

The Pros: Why Wet Hair Can Make For Better Hair Color

  • When hair is wet, the outer layer or cuticle of the hair strand lifts a bit, allowing the dye to penetrate further into the hair shaft than it would when dry. This means that more dye is absorbed, and you may see a more vibrant result.
  • The added moisture helps distribute the dye evenly down the length of your hair, meaning you may need less dye than if your hair was dry. This is a major plus, especially for those with especially long or thick hair, who would normally need a lot of dye to fully saturate their hair!
  • Speaking of which, if you have thick or coarse hair, wet dying may be just what you need. Because of the increased porosity of your hair, while it’s wet, you may find you have an easier time working the dye through all your hair.

The Cons: Why You Should Think Twice About Dying Wet Hair

cons of dyeing hair while it's wet

  • While wet hair does provide an easier application method, it’s less precise than dying dry hair. Wet hair tends to stick together, which can make it more difficult to tell if you’ve distributed the dye evenly through each strand. Also, wet hair looks darker, which can make it difficult to see what parts of your hair have been dyed, versus where you still need to add more product. To counteract this, comb through your hair after applying the dye, to help distribute it more evenly through the entire length of your hair.
  • Additionally, the water in your hair may dilute the hair dye, giving a lighter or more subtle color result than you intended. This diluted product may also mean that your dye won’t last as long as it otherwise would. To avoid this outcome, don’t wet-dye your hair if you’re looking for a drastic change in hair color. This method works best for more subtle, tonal changes in color.
  • Remember how we said that your hair’s cuticle is raised when your hair is wet? While that’s a good thing for absorbing the product, it’s not so good for the strength and integrity of your hair. The cuticle is the protective layer of the hair, kind of like armor, so when the cuticle is raised, your hair is at its most vulnerable. This means it’s also at its most damage-prone, so it will need some extra TLC, especially right after applying the dye, which can stress your hair out further. Avoid heat styling, towel drying, and aggressive brushing of your hair right after wet dying.
  • Finally, over-saturation is a danger with wet dying your hair. Your hair can’t tell the difference between water and dye, and will just absorb whatever it comes in contact with. However, each strand only has so much capacity to absorb substances, so if it has soaked up a lot of water, there may not be much “space” left for it to take in the dye. This is especially true for dry, damaged hair, which will be quick to soak up whatever moisture it can get. To avoid this, don’t dye your hair while it’s soaking wet. Your hair should only be damp when you dye it.

What Types Of Color Can You Use On Wet Hair?

As we mentioned earlier, not every kind of hair dye is suitable for wet hair. Let’s get a rundown of the different types of dye, and why each one should (or should not) be used on wet hair.

Semi-Permanent Dye

This is the type of color you’re most likely familiar with if you’re an at-home-dying aficionado. Splat, Manic Panic, and any of the other brands of rainbow hues you can slather right onto your head without mixing anything in are most likely going to be semi-permanent colors.

Because they’re not made with any ammonia or peroxide, they’re perfectly safe to use on wet hair. Besides they only coat the hair cuticle. And that raising of the cuticle that we mentioned can help them penetrate deeper into the hair shaft, which will help them stay bright for longer.

Demi-Permanent Dye

Demi-permanent dyes are most often used for subtle changes in hair color. It’s a form of temporary hair dye. You mix it with some ammonia, but a small enough amount that it’s at low risk of damaging your hair.

Diluting demi-permanent dye with water may slightly shorten the lifespan of your color, but only by a few washes.

Other Temporary Dyes

This includes everything from the toner used at a hair salon to neutralize unwanted tones in highlighted hair, to color conditioners like Overtone which have been gaining in popularity recently. These are all safe to use on wet hair.

Permanent Dyes

In the category of colors that you should NOT use on wet hair, permanent dye is way up there. This is because of the peroxide and ammonia it contains.

These are harsh chemicals that can do serious damage to your skin and hair. When your hair is dry, the natural oils secreted from your scalp protect your hair from these chemicals. However, the addition of water can dilute or wash away your protective oils.

Additionally, if there are trace amounts of metals in your water, these can react with the chemicals in the dye. As a result, you can get nasty burns on your scalp.

Hair Bleach

You should also use hair bleach only on dry hair, for all the same reasons listed for permanent dyes. Burned scalps and damaged, breakage-prone hair can all result from a bad reaction between bleach and water.

How To Dye Wet Hair

Now that you have the background knowledge, here is how to actually go about dying your hair while wet.

  • Leave your hair a little dirty. And by this we mean, don’t wash your hair the same day as you intend to wet dye it. It should have a healthy layer of natural oils on it, but it should not be a greasy, stringy mess.
  • Run water through your hair until it’s saturated, and then gently dry it with a towel until it’s damp. Again, your hair should not be dripping wet when you apply the dye.
  • Work the dye through the area you want to cover.
  • Leave the dye in your hair for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Wash your hair with a color-safe shampoo, and follow up with a conditioner to help counteract any potential damage.
  • Enjoy your new hair color!

And there you have it! Everything you need to know to get started on your wet-hair dying adventure. We hope this article has you inspired to hop in the shower and up your hair color game.