If the hair industry had an annual science fair, color-changing hair dye would be taking home this year's grand prize. This remarkable trend in hair color has taken our social feeds by storm and left us all with jaws wide open. With color-changing hair dye—which changes colors when exposed to heat—you can finally toss your mood rings to the side and wear your heart on your strands. Read on to learn more about color-changing hair dye, how it works, if it's safe, and our favorite formulas.
What Is Color-Changing Hair Dye?
Color-changing hair dye is a temporary dye that alters from one color to another when exposed to temperature changes. Usually remaining in the same general color families, these dyes give you the ability to shift between hues like pink and purple, green and yellow, black and red, or peach and "invisible" with the most subtle changes in temperature.
Here's How it Works
Color-changing hair dye is typically heat activated. The way this type of hair magic happens is done at the molecular level. The carbon-based color molecules have reversible bonds. These bonds find more stability in certain temperatures, so when the heat levels rise, drop, or shift in anyway, a reaction occurs which makes the bond revert between two different colors. The temperature doesn't always have to be a direct blow dry or hot tool application. It can be as subtle as a gust of wind, being outside in the sun, or even running your fingers through your hair!
Is it Safe For Hair?
This new trend is totally safe for all hair types and textures, but it's going to be most effective on pre-lightened hair. If your hair is bleached, highlighted, or you're sporting your naturally dirty blonde hue, your hair will pick up the pigments in these temporary dyes with no problem. Similar to other temporary dyes in unnatural shades, if you have naturally darker hair, you'll need it bleached or heavily highlighted to see a more vivid and promising result from a product like this.
Another great option for those of us with darker strands (or even those of you who are still skeptical of applying this directly to your hard earned highlights) is to turn to extensions. Blonde extension pieces will help you get the most out of these color-changing dyes and can be colored easily by yourself or your colorist. Clip them into your desired locations for some fun pops of this color changing chemistry without an over-processed treatment to your mane.
How to Apply Color-Changing Hair Dye at Home
- Begin with dry hair. I always recommend that the hair is clean, to avoid any buildup acting as a barrier to your strands.
- Use the sponge applicator that comes in your product's packaging to dip into the color and paint directly onto your strands. Some colors may require being squeezed into a bowl and some may come in their own pot.
- Use a fine-tooth comb to distribute the product evenly.
- Use your blowdryer to dry the product in and watch the color set in and shift. These dyes might feel slightly sticky or tacky, and will require you to thoroughly blow dry. Using a brush as you dry may help get all the sticky, gel-like feels out of your strands.
How to Make the Color Change
There are plenty of ways to bring out the color that your respective dye is meant to change to. Using a blow dryer on the cool or hot setting is an easy way to have control over your color selection. Applying an ice pack, or anything cold to your strands is also going to give you an immediate color shift.
To playfully style your hair with these dyes, you could use a curling, waving or crimping iron starting at the eye line for a two-toned, dimensional effect. I recommend using a heat protectant if you decide to style your hair with hot tools while wearing this dye (and always).
It's important to remember that natural elements and other temperature alterations outside of your control are going to shift the color on you too. You might have hot pink hair outside during your lunch break, and have it morph back to purple when you get into your air-conditioned office. These dyes make your hair extremely, well, temperamental.
The Best Color-Changing Hair Dyes
There aren't a wide range of color-changing dyes on the market just yet, and it's important to note that current options can leave the hair feeling a bit chalky, or can feel sticky in its application. We suspect as this magical hair changing potion becomes more widely available, their formulas will (hopefully) improve and leave a softer touch to the hair. In the meantime, here are the most popular tints we've found:
Pravana Vivids Moods is currently one of the priciest options on the market at nearly $70. However, their box kit comes with every color variant they make in one box. Depending on how much you use in a single application, you could get up to 25-30 applications from one box. When you break that down, it might actually be your most cost efficient option. The box includes four color changing options: Lime Green to Sunny Yellow, Cool Violet to Warm Pink, Smokey Gray to Invisible and Tropical Peach to Invisible. Plus, all the dyes provided in this box can be mixed together to make an even more unique color story for your hair.
This color changing dye from Punky Colour is only $12. It's one of the easiest to use, coming in its own pre-mixed pot of color, which is a nice perk for a temporary dye with a short lifespan. They offer eight color changing combos: Black to Lilac, Black to Pink, Blue to Teal, Orange to Yellow, Purple to Blue, Purple to Pink, Purple to Turquoise, and Red to Pink. The color variants aren't as drastic, but still vibrant and magical nonetheless.
This heat-activated dye differs in its application method. Here is an ultra easy, ultra affordable spray-on tint marked at $10. Morfose's Heat Activated Color Sprays come in three different colorways: Green to Yellow, Green to Blue, and Purple to Pink. Since it is a spray, it may be a bit stickier, but should still dry out as you blow dry it into the hair. For best results, spray this color on in smaller sections and avoid spraying too close to the hair.