Color-Changing Hair Dye: Everything You Need to Know

Who needs mood rings when you have color-changing hair dye?

color changing blue hair dye


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.

Meet the Expert

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 dyes are a semi-permanent thermochromic hair dye that layers the hair’s outer cuticle and shifts colors when exposed to a change in temperature," says stylist Giselle Luza. In other words, the temporary dye 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, as stylist Michael Canalé explains: "Color developers or peroxide activate ammonia products to open the cuticle layer of the hair shaft and remove color pigment as the ammonia dissipates it re-deposits the color from the desired hair color you have chosen. The higher the peroxide level or developer level the more lift the product has to remove the pigment in a lesser volume basically opens the cuticle and deposits color."

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 almost all hair types and textures, but it's going to be most effective on pre-lightened hair—and on those without skin or scalp conditions, notes Luza. "Color-changing dyes are safe for the hair but should be avoided if there are abrasions or wounds on the scalp, if the skin is sensitive to the product, or if the hair is overprocessed."

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.

As colorist Richy Kandasamy explains, however, many dyes (particularly if applied incorrectly) can have the potential to damage your hair. If they do, don't try to fix the problem yourself—particularly if you notice breakage. "If hair breakage is happening, the best thing to do is to visit a professional hairstylist," says Kandasamy. "If you have long hair, I suggest to get a haircut, which will remove the damaged ends. Also, the less you touch the hair, the better in these situations because the hair is very sensitive, or over processed, so less is more. Never try to fix it yourself because it may cause more damage."

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 a colorist. Clip them into your desired locations for some fun pops of this color-changing chemistry without an overprocessed treatment to your mane.

How to Apply Color-Changing Hair Dye at Home

According to Canalé, applying the dye is pretty straightforward. He advises sectioning the hair and securing each with a hair clip. Then, just follow the directions on the box. "I would apply some Vaseline around the hairline to protect the skin from staining. Now, unwrap one section and apply the color to the root and work it to the ends of the hair shafts. Follow the same for each section until completed. Lastly, follow the directions from the product on how long to leave in the hair."

Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Begin with dry hair. The hair should be clean to avoid any buildup acting as a barrier to your strands.
  2. 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.
  3. Use a fine-tooth comb to distribute the product evenly.
  4. Dry the product in with a blow-dryer and watch the color set 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 the 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 the color selection. Applying an ice pack, or anything cold, to the 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, 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 Mood Mood Heat Activated Hair Color Kit $69.94

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.

Punky Colour

Punky Colour
Punky Colour Mood Switch Heat-Activated Temporary Hair Color $12.00

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.


Morfose Change Colour Heat Activated Hair Spray $9.95

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.

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