How to Blue Hair

The author looks into the camera with startlingly blue hair and a galaxy necktie.

I’m vain about few things, but my hair is one of them

I typed this up years ago for a young human in Lima, Peru trying to persuade their parent that blue hair was totally do-able. I recently dug it up for a friend and realized it might be nice to post. Here’s how I blue my hair, after 11+ years of consistent experience. The pictures in here are hella old, but I find them charming. Also I miss my mohawk now.

 

Much affection to Libby Bulloff and Jessica Polka, both of whom traded hair dye jobs with me for years, and to the Hair Dye Party crew for the same.

The author looks into the camera, with chin resting on a hand which also covers the mouth.

I didn’t always have blue hair.

To get the hue I like, I mix two or more of the following to get a balance between the blues that tend towards purple and those that tend towards green:

Different hair takes different kinds of dye better and worse. Experiment. I’m about to try PulpRiot‘s Nightfall to see how it sticks, for instance.
You can add conditioner to lighten the color. Or you can go for pastel by using nearly completely conditioner and a sliiiiiiight amount of blue (dime-sized in a 12-ounce bottle), after bleaching to white.

Supplies

  • You can get latex or similar gloves from a beauty supply store or a pharmacy
  • You’ll want a hairdye brush.
  • Hair dye can could come from internet, from a beauty supply store (such as Sally’s Beauty Supply), or punk rock shop.
  • Bleach powder and developer, from a beauty supply store if you want to do a lot of it (bucket of bleach and bucket of developer) or a pharmacy if you just want to try one round (box example – not one I specifically recommend, as I don’t use box bleach anymore).

Bleaching

photo of the author from the ears and eyebrows up. the edge of the mohawk has a white paste on it, as it is at the beginning of the bleaching process

Starting the bleach process

If you don’t bleach, you’ll end up with a neat blue hue if your hair is even mildly brown, but it won’t stay long and it won’t be bright at all. It’ll look rad in the sunlight and otherwise be understated. That said, bleaching is the part that damages the hair. This damage can be trivial – the equivalent of swimming in chlorinated or even salty water – or it can be heavy, like the horror stories you hear about hair breaking or frizzing. The trick is to use powered bleach and 10 or 20 Developer (these go all the way to 40. The higher the number, the stronger the effect. Start low and work your way up with experience).

The mix can go in a throw-away bowl, or ceramic or glass to be washed. Should be thick enough to stay in place, but creamy enough to get in between strands. Do a test on your skin (arm, for instance) and let it sit for a minute. If it burns, add more developer. If it drips, add more powder.
the base of the hair of the mohawk is now a yellow, rather than a blue or orange

after the bleach

Apply with a brush from the roots out. I first do the hair line and then go in rows on my head to be sure I get everything. Start at the part, then work my way down one side of the head in parallel rows from my face to just past the back curve of my head. Once finished with that side, I go back to the part and work my way down the other side. Then down the back, still parallel to the floor. Then I get anything beyond the roots I’m interested in bleaching. Let sit until bleached enough, you can’t handle the feeling any more, or it’s sort of fluffy(?) and doesn’t feel/look like it’s doing anything anymore.

How do I deal with long hair? Well, I don’t. But you might have to. Either twist it up as you go and use bobby pins, or use tiny clips to secure in place. I’ve never been one for tin foil
Rinse your head. Shampoo is fine. Deep condition and let it stay in your hair for 10ish minutes. Rinse and dry, using a towel you don’t care about (it will get bleach on it). Your hair will feel not great right now. Have faith.

Dying

Once your hair is pretty dry (it’s doesn’t have to be completely dry), go through the same process with the brush, working from the roots out, but this time with dye. I make a rough mix of the different sorts of dye – that weird mix of color is why my hair has weird depth to it. By a “rough mix” I mean put your different dyes into one container and stir or shake with maybe 5 aggressive movements. Dip the brush all the way in to get a full collection of dyes.
blue dye is now applied throughout the mohawk. in addition, a smiley face is drawn on the short hair on the side of the head

the consequences of being animated when libby dyed my hair

Leave on for at least 30 minutes. I let the dye stay on my head overnight. Seriously. I plastic-wrap the top of my head, put a sock cap on and a towel on my pillow, and go to sleep. There isn’t anything in the “fake” colors that has damaged my hair yet.

When ready, rinse your hair until the water runs clear. I sometimes add in some normal conditioner to my hair in this process as I don’t want to shampoo yet but do want to help the dye get out. Best done in stainless steel or porcelain (unpainted) sink. Others will do, but you’ll have to scrub the surface harder to get it clean afterwards. Use a towel you don’t care about to dry. Your hair will now feel better than it did after the bleach.
 

Clean-Up

For sink/bathtub/etc: scrub with soft scrub or equivalent.
For skin: if your skin gets dyed, soap and water will often fix. If not, use rubbing alcohol.
 

Upkeep

I now cycle through vibrant blue, teal, and purple Overtone every time I shower for upkeep, but lacking that, put a bit of hair dye in your conditioner. I shampoo my hair at most twice a week. Will fade faster in sun, from hot water, salt water, etc.

Go forth, and feel equally confused as I do when people ask you if you’re feeling blue.