Can You Dye Wet Hair? Pros, Cons and How to Do It

If you check the labels on most hair dyes, the instructions usually very clearly say ‘apply to dry hair’. But can you dye wet hair as well? And if so, how you can do it to get the best possible end result?

During the quarantine, we all became masters of all trades. Many of us learned how to cook, fix our own computers and take care of many cosmetic issues we used to leave to professionals.

Dyeing our own hair must be one of the things we learned to do first. Or – well, tried to learn. You can see on YouTube both stunning results and epic fails people managed to achieve. It’s hard to say which ones are more impressive.

Luckily, many of the mistakes people are making are quite easy to avoid. That is why it is extremely important to inform yourselves well before dipping your hair in a bunch of hair dye. So, if you too have decided to attempt dyeing your own hair – you are at the right place.

And when it comes to at home hair dyeing, one of the most common questions people ask is – can you dye wet hair, or is it better to always make sure your hair is completely dry before applying the dye.

The answer – it depends on several factors, but mostly on what kind of results you are looking forward to achieving.

Why Everyone Recommends To Dye Your Hair When It Is Dry

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If you ask a professional for an advice on can you dye wet hair, there’s a good chance they would recommend not to do it. That is because you will have a much better control over the end result if you dye your hair when it is dry.

Dry hair forces you to pay more attention and be extra careful to apply all the dye evenly. When your hair is wet, it is much easier to distribute the color all over your hair, which is why people think they will get a nice, even looking end results.

But the problem is that the color can slide around a bit on a wet hair and concentrate in some places more than the others. That is why there is a much higher chance that you get patchy results when you are dyeing wet hair.

Another thing to consider is that dry hair can absorb more hair dye than wet hair.

Hair is a bit like a sponge – it can only absorb so much. When your hair is wet, the hair cuticles are wide open and the water rushes in. When then you apply a hair dye, most of it will just stay on the surface instead of penetrating into the hair cortex. That way, the water actually dilutes the hair dye and your hair color won’t be as intense and vibrant as if you’ve applied it to a dry hair.

All of this doesn’t mean you should never dye your hair while it is wet. It just means that it is easier to predict the end color if you are dyeing a dry hair. After all, most permanent hair dyes are formulated to be used on dry strands.

But Can You Dye Wet Hair As Well?

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Depending on what kind of hair color change you are trying to get, you can get some pretty amazing subtle results when dying wet hair. Even at a hairstyle salon you could have noticed it – sometimes the hairstylists apply hair dye on a wet hair, sometimes on a dry. And that depends on how big of a difference they are trying to achieve.

If we are talking about permanent hair drying and a complete color change, then yes – you might do better if you stick to dyeing your hair when it is dry. However, not everyone is looking for such a major change. Sometimes you just want to refresh your color. Sometimes all you need is a subtle semi-transparent layer to your already existing color.

That is where wet hair dyeing comes into the picture, and it comes with several advantages:

  1. You will make much less mess when dyeing your hair wet. Since the whole process is happening in the shower, the cleanup will be much faster and easier.
  2. It will be much easier to apply your hair color to a wet hair. Yes, you would still need to be very careful. But it is so much easier to massage the mixture into your whole hair than to do one thin section at the time.
  3. Even if you end up not liking the results, it will be so much easier to get rid of it. Since the color won’t get fully absorbed into the wet hair, it won’t last as long as a truly permanent hair dye and you can probably wash it out after several shampooing.
  4. You will need less of the product to cover a wet hair than you would use on a dry hair.

So, can you dye wet hair? The answer is not only yes, but according to many professionals – you might even end up with better results and less hair damage if you apply a hair color to a wet hair than to dry.

However, and this is a big one – not every hair dye is suitable for wet hair application!

Read More: 5 Amazing Homemade Anti-Aging Face Masks

So, to Sum it Up – When Is It Better To Dye Dry Strands, And When Can You Dye Wet Hair?

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Every time you are making only slight corrections to your existing color, you can probably get away with wet hair dyeing. In fact, many semi-permanent colors, toners and highlighters actually work perfectly on wet hair.

That is because these types of hair colors don’t contain any ammonia or peroxide developers. They don’t need to penetrate into the hair. Their job is to only coat over the cuticles and correct or alter the hair tone.

Demi-permanent colors do work by penetrating into the hair, but they are still not permanent colors and wet hair won’t alter them too much. The worst that can happen is that they get slightly diluted with water and therefor last a bit shorter than they normally would.

However, when we are talking about a full color change that requires bleach and permanent hair dye, those would really need to go only to dry hair. That kind of dying requires extreme precision and every help possible. After all, if you will be spending a lot of time with that color. It only makes sense to do everything you can to get the results you would be happy with.

You can still apply a permanent hair color to a wet hair and get great results, if you are looking for a subtle change. However, if you need to completely lift your current color and are looking for a drastic change, weather lightening or darkening it, it would be much better to do it on a dry hair.

In fact, it would be better to leave the whole process to a professional, if you are trying to achieve any major change and you even slightly doubt your own hair dyeing skills.

How to Dye Your Hair While Wet

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So, now you know all the perks and drawbacks of dyeing your wet hair. If you have decided that wet hair dyeing might still be a better solution for you, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to achieve the best possible results:

  1. Check the instructions on the package of your hair dye. Many types of products require slightly different application technique. And sometimes even the small details can make a huge difference.
  2. Your hair doesn’t need to be clean before dyeing. Just rinse it with lukewarm water, no need to shampoo it.
  3. Squeeze the excess water out of your hair with a towel until it is only damp. If your hair is dripping wet, the dye will just slide off.
  4. Try to apply the color as evenly as possible and massage it into your hair to make sure all strands are covered.
  5. Check the dye box instructions to see how long you should leave the color in your hair. Also follow the instructions as to whether you should wash or just rinse out the dye


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