Colorful hair has become so popular over the years. It’s everywhere now – magazines, TV shows, on the street, and even on LinkedIn.
The more colorful the better – we’re seeing mermaid hair, tie-dye hair, rainbow hair, pastel hair, and everything else you can think of. It’s no wonder that the global hair color industry is expected to grow to over $40 billion by 2023.
But it’s not so easy to find fun and unique hair dyes for the exact look you want, especially if you’re trying to do it yourself.
Over-the-counter hair dyes that you find at department stores are still only selling the most basic reds, purples, and blues – in addition to natural-looking browns and blondes. If you want something unique and experimental on your head, you have to go to a professional retailer or spend hundreds of dollars at a salon.
Maybe you’re a crafter and you have a lot of fun fabric dyes laying around. Maybe you’re wondering – if it can color wool, why can’t it color my hair? If that sounds like you, stop right there. Read this article before you do anything else!
So, can you use fabric dye on hair? The answer is a resounding no. You will most likely regret it because fabric dye is not meant to be used on human hair. The chemicals in fabric dye are too harsh for your hair and will leave behind a lot of damage, crunchiness, and breakage.
What’s worse is the color won’t turn out as expected and will be impossible to wash out, causing you to have to chop off your hair just to get rid of it.
If you’re still on the fence, keep reading. We will dive into what fabric dye is made of, why it doesn’t work on your hair, and whether you can use it on wigs and extensions.
What Is Fabric Dye?
Fabric dye is a chemical substance that permanently alters fibers and materials in various textiles. Fabric dyes chemically bond to the fibers to change their color.
Some fabric dyes are derived from plants and animals, but the majority of fabric dyes on the market today are synthetic. They include ingredients like mercury, lead, copper, and sodium chloride. All of these elements can be quite toxic to people.
Depending on the type of fabric that is being dyed, other chemicals can be added to the color to make it “stick” – thus the process is different for natural fibers like wool and synthetic fibers like polyester.
Fabric dyes that you will most likely run into as a consumer are often sold at craft stores – these include tie-dye kits and other fabric colors like Rit.
They are designed to work on synthetic fabrics as well as some natural fabrics like linen and cotton. Most of them have to be mixed with hot water in order to activate the binding chemicals that get them to stick to textiles.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Fabric Dye On Hair
Although it might seem that fabric dye would work on hair since it works on other natural fibers, it’s not a good idea. Hair and cotton are not the same things.
The main reason that fabric dye is not good for the hair is that instead of depositing pigment into the cuticle, as hair dye does, fabric dye uses a chemical reaction to permanently bond the color molecule to the fibers.
This means whatever color you get from putting fabric dye on your hair (and you won’t get a predictable color) – will stay there permanently.
If you’re not happy with the result, or you decide to change it up – you will have no choice but to cut the hair off.
Additionally, because of all the chemicals in fabric dyes, you risk damaging your hair beyond repair. The chemicals used in fabric dying are often toxic and strong – after all, they need to be harsh enough to alter the chemical structure of textiles.
This leads to “burned” hair – frayed ends, breakage, and other damage that will ruin your look.
Lastly, it can be bad for your health. The ingredients in synthetic fabric dyes are not intended to go anywhere near your body because some of them are toxic, like mercury, sulfuric acid, and others.
It’s one thing to pour those dyes into a bucket and dip a shirt in them, and another thing to put them on your hair and scalp. It’s just not a good idea.
Instead, you should use dyes that are specially formulated to be used on human hair. These dyes have been thoroughly tested and used by thousands of people with minimal issues. When it comes to your hair and your health, it’s better not to risk it.
Risks Of Using Fabric Dye On Hair
To summarize, here are the main risks of using fabric dyes on hair:
- Color results are unpredictable
- Fabric dyes permanently bond and cannot be changed/undone
- Chemicals in fabric dyes can be too harsh for hair
- Damage and breakage
- Chemicals in fabric dyes can be toxic and cause health issues
- Fabric dyes require boiling water to activate them and that can burn your scalp
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons not to use fabric dyes on your hair.
Of course, you might see some people on the Internet who’ve had success doing it, but that doesn’t mean it will work the same for you, or that those people aren’t dealing with the damage behind the scenes.
There is a reason that hair dye products are monitored and regulated by the FDA. They have to meet some safety requirements to be used on humans. Fabric dyes are not held to the same standard because they are not expected to make contact with your body for an extended period of time.
Can You Dye Hair Using Tie-Dye?
Just like regular fabric dyes, tie-dye should not be used on hair. Tie-dye kits use regular fabric dyes, so the risks of putting tie-dye on your hair are the same as using any other fabric dye.
If you want to avoid damage and permanent unpredictable colors in your hair – stay away from tie-dye.
If you’re looking for a tie-dye effect in your hair, you can use regular hair dyes in “fun” colors and create a special pattern in your hair that resembles tie-dy. This may be hard to do on your own, but you could ask a friend for help or go to a salon to get that result.
Trust us, you’ll be much happier if you do that instead of putting a tie-dye kit on your head!
Can You Dye A Wig With Fabric Dye?
If your wig is made out of natural human hair, using fabric dye will be as damaging on the wig as it would be on your own hair.
However, if you have a synthetic wig, a fabric dye might actually work just fine. Synthetic wigs are often made from polyester and acrylic – exactly the kind of fibers that fabric dyes are made for.
In fact, synthetic wigs should not be colored with regular hair dye, so fabric dyes might be your only option.
To dye your synthetic wig with fabric dye, just follow the instructions on the packaging. Most fabric dyes will require you to boil a large pot of water, mix in the pigment, and dip your fabric (or in this case, a wig) into the pot for a certain period of time.
If you choose to do this, just make sure that your fabric dye is suitable for synthetic fibers.
The same can be done with synthetic hair extensions, too. Fabric dyes should work really well on giving your synthetic extensions a vibrant new color.
Make sure your extensions are actually synthetic and not real hair before you try this as you’ll risk damaging them with the fabric dye if they’re made of real hair.
Can You Use Rit Dye On Hair?
Rit is a brand of fabric dye that is very popular in the crafting community. It is also often used to dye synthetic wigs and extensions.
People love Rit because it’s inexpensive, easy to find at a craft store, and comes in a wide variety of vibrant colors that can be used on anything from sneakers to Barbie hair.
Because it’s the dye of choice for synthetic wig coloring, some people have tried to use it on their real hair by mixing the Rit dye with a conditioner and wearing it in their hair for some time like a mask.
While they did notice some bright color depositing, many of them reported that their hair felt drier and more straw-like after using Rit on their hair.
At the end of the day, Rit is not intended for human hair. It’s supposed to be used on clothes and synthetic fibers. While it doesn’t seem to cause as much damage to hair as other fabric dyes, we definitely don’t recommend using it in your hair.
How Do You Dye Your Hair Safely?
Of course, we always recommend going to a licensed professional to get your hair dyed, as they’ll be able to tailor the dye process to your hair’s exact needs and will know how to achieve the color you want without damaging your strands.
However, if you want to save money, cover some grey hairs or roots, or just want to try a temporary color, take a look at this video below from stylist Brad Mondo on YouTube for some information on how to dye your hair safely in your own home without the use of fabric dyes.
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