How Long Does It Take to Dye Your Hair?

by Empire Beauty School
How long does it take to dye your hair

Are you considering a color change for your hair? Are you looking to add highlights, go darker or maybe try a new trend like a balayage? What better way to pamper yourself than treating yourself to a whole new look. With that being said, life can be demanding of our time and it can sometimes be difficult to put ourselves first. It’s no wonder you want to know how long it will take to color your hair?

The Short Answer

Coloring your hair in a salon by a professional stylist on average can take anywhere from 2 to 6 hours, and can even extend to as long as 8 hours depending on your hair’s condition, length, natural color, and intricacy of service. So let’s take a look at all the considerations when choosing to color your hair to answer your question in more detail.

Several Issues to Consider Before Coloring Your Hair

Styling Colored Hair

These are some of the things you must consider when thinking about dyeing your hair either on your own or when using a professional stylist. 

• Desired look

• Your hair’s starting point

• Hair’s density and condition

• Products used• Technique application to achieve end results

The Condition of your hair

Before coloring your hair, you need to assess the condition of the hair first. Are your ends dry? Does your hair have damage from using styling tools with heat? Have you colored your hair before? How long has it been since the last time you colored your hair? These are just a few of the questions a stylist would ask prior to coloring your hair. If you are doing a DIY color job at home, these are questions to ask yourself. 

If you have colored your hair within the last 3 months, you need to take extra precautions to ensure you do not damage your hair further. If your hair has split ends or is extremely dried out, you may want to consider getting it trimmed by a professional or getting a moisturizing treatment at home or at a salon. Coloring your hair can cause some damage, so it is important to know how much damage your hair already has prior to coloring.

What Color is Your Hair Now? What Color Do You Want it to Be?

If you have black or very dark hair naturally and you want to lighten to a blonde shade, this can be a very detailed process that is best handled by a professional stylist. Dark hair requires bleaching prior to coloring. You must bleach all the color out of your hair and then apply your new color. Bleaching all the color from your hair can cause damage and breakage to your hair if not done properly, that is why you should speak with a salon professional before attempting to do this yourself. 

Most stylists would not suggest you lighten your hair at home. So if you are trying to color your hair at home, you may want to start your coloring journey with a color that is close to your natural hair color.

What is the density and texture of your hair?

Textured Hair

Take an individual strand of your hair, does it feel soft like thread (fine), a little fuller like string (medium), or tough almost like a piece of twine (coarse)? This will help you determine your hair’s natural texture and your hair’s ability to absorb hair color. Now put your hair in a ponytail. Does your ponytail feel wide and difficult to wrap your full hand around it or kind of thin feeling? Can you easily see the partings on your scalp or when in its natural state, it’s hard to see your scalp at all?  This is your hair’s density. The denser your hair, the longer it will take to color your entire head and the more product you will require.

When talking about texture, keep in mind, coarse hair tends to be more difficult to color than fine hair and may require additional time for your hair to absorb the color. This type of hair also requires a significant amount of conditioner after shampooing to get it feeling soft and easy to manage. If you use too much conditioner on fine hair, it will be limp and have no volume.

Is your hair curly, straight or wavy?

Types of Curly hair

The picture above is an example of different types of curly hair. Curly hair can be very porous and/or very thin. Curly hair is very individual but normally is more delicate than straight hair. Therefore, it can be damaged easily. It is recommended to pay attention to the curl pattern of the hair. If you see damage to the curl pattern or lots of split ends in your hair, it is better to wait on coloring your hair until it is in better shape with less damage. 

Heat can also cause a lot of breakage to curly hair. So if you plan on coloring your curls and you use a heated styling tool (like a curling iron or hair straightener) on a regular basis, you may want to do deep conditioning and moisturizing treatments prior to & after coloring. It is also smart to stay away from heated styling tools if you are trying to strengthen your curls prior to coloring. 

If you are not sure if your curly hair is in good shape or not, it is always best to check with a professional hairstylist before trying to color your hair yourself. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and this is definitely true when it comes to coloring hair.

Bleaching vs. Dyeing Your Hair

Tools to color hair

The main difference between bleaching and coloring hair is that bleaching involves stripping your hair of its natural or previously colored hair while coloring can only lift your natural hair color. Both will change the color of your hair but it’s important to understand the knowledge and chemistry revolving hair color products.

If you have very dark hair and want it lightened to a much lighter shade, your hair will require a bleaching process prior to coloring. Bleaching involves using an oxidation process, which uses hydrogen peroxide to remove the color from the hair shaft. 

The bleaching process can cause detrimental damage to your hair if not performed correctly. This is why you should always consult a professional stylist if you want to remove the artificial color out of your hair. Salon professionals have tools, products, and knowledge that can help minimize damage and save the integrity of your hair.

The Cost Comparison

Hair Color Consultation

Most home hair color kits are usually under $20. However, unless you have very short hair, you might want to purchase more than one kit. This will ensure you have enough product to complete the coloring process. It is better to have more products left over than to not have enough.

If you go to a professional stylist at a salon to color your hair, it could cost on average anywhere from $80 to $300 for the process. If not more depending on what needs to be done. Although this is a great deal of money, it’s money well spent considering a professional has the knowledge and experience to color your hair to your desired color or explain to you what will be achievable on your visit. 

When considering cost, it is important to think about how much maintenance and upkeep your new color will need, to continue looking its best.  On average you will have to return to the salon every 6-8 weeks for maintenance. Although there are current trends with less maintenance required such as a balayage, that may extend your necessary appointments. Your budget, schedule, and flexibility all play a vital role in choosing the appropriate trend and color for you.

How to Maintain Your Hair’s New Color

Conditioning Colored Hair

No matter whether you color at home or at the salon, there are certain things you can do to keep your hair color looking natural and vibrant in between coloring sessions. Here are just a few suggestions to help you keep your new color looking great:

  • Avoid shampoos and conditioners with sulfates. Cleansing agents with sulfates can be too aggressive on colored hair and can cause the color to fade faster than normal. Instead, look for sulfate-free products. 
  • Turn down the hot water. Hot water can cause your hair’s cuticle to swell and open, which causes the color molecules in your hair to follow the water down the drain. This is especially true if you color your hair red or any vibrant hair color such as: blue, pink, purple, orange, etc.
  • Use a deep conditioner once a week. Coloring your hair can cause your hair to dry out and look frizzy. A deep conditioner will lock in moisture to keep your hair hydrated and looking its best. By using a hair mask once a week, you can keep your strands moisturized and your hair color looking vibrant.
  • Let your hair air dry. Skip using your hairdryer as much as you can. Using a hairdryer too often can cause excessive dryness and cause the color to fade quicker. 
  • Follow all the after-care suggestions and product recommendations given to you by your salon professional.


As you can see, the time it takes to dye your hair varies according to the many factors we have discussed. But you should take as much time as you need to decide which coloring route to pursue. 

The most important thing to remember is that taking care of your hair should be something that enhances your life and makes you feel good about yourself. Spending extra money and time to see a professional can absolutely be worth every penny if it promotes your self-confidence. Talk to your stylist about your budget and come up with a hair plan that fits your needs but doesn’t break the bank. No matter the route you choose, it should make you feel good about being you.

Learn more about what color does to your hair on our 8 commonly asked questions about coloring your hair post.

November 29, 2021

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