Taking Care of Rainbow Hair: Colorist-Approved Tips

Written by Jessica Bernard, hair colorist. Beauty Salon

A lot of people are eyeing rainbow hair these days, whether it is the working-from-home careers taking over or bosses have stopped enforcing once-strict dress and appearance policies; whatever it may be, we are here for it!

Here are a few tips for getting ready for the journey, because let’s be honest, your hair is most likely already permanently colored with professional or box dyes. Rainbow hair comes in a variety of tones and patterns, however, pre-existing color on the hair will most likely prevent the wearer from achieving those baby-soft pastels. Dark, more jewel-toned semi-permanent colors will be a great caveat.

Preparing Hair for Coloring

a girl with beautiful rainbow hair
  1. Patch test the products you will be using if you have unknown allergens, and always follow the manufacturer’s directions. If allergies to things like PPD are an issue for you, a lot of color brands have formulas suitable.
  2. Prior to your appointment or at-home lightening, clarify your hair of all the products you use, Malibu Undo Goo is a great salon-quality shampoo. Apple Cider Vinegar rinse also works well. (Clients have personally recommended it for shine and scalp clarification.)
  3. Skip shampooing your hair about 24 hours before lightening to avoid scalp irritation. Mild itching or tingling is normal. It’s always a priority to watch for a change in skin tone or swelling, indicative of allergic reactions. Consult with your physician if symptoms persist.
  4. After lifting the hair to a palette suitable for your rainbow color, you will want to shampoo the hair thoroughly without conditioning. Use a porosity filler spray instead to make the hair more manageable without undoing all that cuticle lifting you did during the lightening process.
A girl with long rainbow hair

How to Dye Hair Rainbow?

Before you can dive deep into the paint, make sure you have all the tools. Three to ten hair clips depending on how strategic your rainbow pattern plans are as well as the number of color bowls and brushes to match. It’s the rainbow, after all. In a pinch, get creative and mold bowls from highlighting foil you may already have on hand.

You can apply your semi-colors to dry or damp hair, water mixed with your semi’s will help to lower product use and spread easier. Color may be softer than if applied to dry hair. It is your personal preference at this point. The wearer can customize their own perfect style this way.

Once the color has been applied, at a minimum you will need to wait twenty minutes before rinsing. Processing the color on your hair for up to an hour is not uncommon, a lot of clients swear by this method in getting the most vibrancy and longevity from their rainbow hair color.

The Best Aftercare for Multicolored Hair

After coloring, scrub the color of the scalp and rinse until the water is mostly clear. It is not necessary to shampoo and may alter the effects of the color placement and hold. Condition the hair and use a pH-balancing rinse to close that cuticle back down. Redken is in the headlines currently with their new sleek line for just this purpose. Color longevity is what everyone wants and needs, and products for aftercare become more so relevant.

Salon quality products will give you optimum results and are worth the investment. With rainbow hair, preservation is key, so products like cleansing conditioners and dry shampoos should be staples in your beauty toolbox. These products gently mattify and absorb your natural oils leaving your hair and scalp feeling and looking clean while holding intact the color molecules underneath that cuticle layer. Once or twice a month, clarify the scalp. Fading may occur but like any color, maintenance is necessary over time. You will want to do as little heat styling as you can get away with. If necessary, a heat protection product is a must. Apply as directed by the manufacturer. Not protecting the hair can actually evaporate the color molecules and you can instantly lose the vibrancy.

How Long Does Rainbow Hair Color Last?

Rainbow hair fades and grows out, it’s inevitable. When you formulate your plan, taking into consideration your future color goals is important. If you want to invest time and money, expect to recolor your rainbow pattern in six to eight weeks. Pre-lightening the hair is not always necessary and skipping every other color application is healthier over time.

If your idea is to change into something new or different, think in terms of complementary colors, utilizing the color wheel will help you with this. Opposite colors neutralize, and side-by-side colors create tonal shifts while red, yellow, and blue can be mixed to create your secondary color palette. Normally color masks are great, which are pigmented conditioning masks that put color back in the hair temporarily; but in terms of caring for the rainbow, you carry like a crown, skip them, and go straight to reapplying the full semi-permanent colors.

Stretching Out your Next Color Rainbow Application

If you want to wait three to six months to recolor your hair, hiding your color pattern under a veil of your natural hair will be a great way to stretch that next color application farther out. Your regrowth will be well hidden and this placement provides a bit of intrigue. It is also perfect for personality types that do not want to attract a ton of attention to themselves. If you are looking for a head-turning placement for your perfect rainbow-colored hair, lookup terms like color pinwheel technique, peekaboo rainbow hair, or even rainbow money-piece. This is the same exercise used in salons to craft the perfect results for color clients.

Coloring your hair into a rainbow masterpiece will take time, money, and patience. Although expensive, the results are phenomenal. If you are going to do it, it is worth the investment for high-quality at-home products or an experienced professional application.

A woman getting her hair multi-colored in the salon