The ultimate how-to guide for home-dying a rainbow mohawk

Guest post by Von

Remember Siobhán from Fran and Siobhán’s feminist, disability-friendly, colourful, vegan wedding? Well she now has an amazing rainbow mohawk, and she’s letting you in on how you can get this look yourself.

Rainbow (7 of 39)

I love experimenting with hair. From my teens I’ve generally had colour in it — starting with gentle rinses, up to bleached-bright shades, mohawks and shaven-headed designs. I’m currently studying for a professional degree, so I realized this summer before my final year might be a last chance to go wild for a while. Hence my rainbow mohawk.

Colour-wheelWith a helper, hair supplies, and an evening (it took us about four hours, including development time) you can become your own colour wheel.

Step 1Step one: Plan!
I used MSPaint but pens and paper would work too. It might seem silly if you have a clear vision in your head, but remember you need someone to help, so a visual communication of the plan could save tears later!

I planned diagonal stripes so multiple colours would be visible when down but make a complete rainbow when up. Red-spectrum went at the front of my face as it goes with my skin tone with a touch of violet at the front to tie it together.

Step 2
Step two: Gather supplies!

  • Most crucial – a willing helper. They don’t need artistic flair or hairdressing skill (although experience of hair-dying is useful) but you want precision. Thankfully I have that in my spouse, Fran.
  • Bleach. For vibrant colours you’ll likely need to lighten it but do a strand test to check your hair’s reaction. I’ve bulk-bought 40 volume developer for maximum lightening, but if you’re hitting up a shop go for hair lightener rather than a blonde hair dye. (Note: if you have hair dye in your hair already I’d recommend a colour stripper. I recently used Colour B4 which lifted out a permanent black dye — witchcraft I tell ye!)
  • Dye-suitable clothes for you both. Mine is a trusty stained hair-dying dressing gown.
  • Tint brushes
  • Hair grips and bobbles to separate and section
  • Decent gloves. Gloves that come with dyes often break leading to stained fingers.
  • A petroleum-jelly-type-product to minimize skin staining — I use Lush’s Ultrabalm.
  • A spritz bottle of water to re-dampen hair.
  • Cling film, to protect each section from other colours.
  • The fun bit: a rainbow of hair colours! My favourite brand is Stargazer and I went with Rouge (Red), Dawn (Orange), Yellow, African Green, Royal Blue, and Violet, mixing Royal Blue and Magenta to give me Indigo.

Step 3Step three: Bleach out!
Measure and mix as per instructions and slap it on the areas you want to lighten.

I find a wooden hair ornament handy as metal can interfere with the bleaching process. This is also your first look at my hair-dye dressing gown — glamorous, no?!

Watch your hair as it develops (in line with the results from your strand test, because you totally did one, right? Me too, every time, honest). And when it’s light, or when you’re approaching the upper limit of your development time, rinse it out.

I treat my hair mean, so I also give it a harsh shampoo leaving it mega bristly and dry, ready to soak up all of the conditioning semi-permanent dyes. DON’T CONDITION — you want the hair follicles open and receptive to colour.

Step 4aStep four: Preparation!
Slather your face, neck and ears in Ultrabalm or vaseline. This will look unflattering, but vibrant dye stains like a bitch so it’ll save you time exfoliating later.

Step 4bYour happy helper needs to section off your hair for dying. This is time consuming but the neater you section off now the better it’ll look, so it’s worth taking the time.

Secure each stripe with a hair bobble, tucking them in so they’re a protected from other colours and out of your way.

Step 5aStep five: FINALLY, COLOUR!
We started with yellow, as the lightest colour on the tint brush and gloves. Get the right section and then undo the hair bobble to coat that section of hair in your yellow dye. Pop a good blob on the tint brush, lift, separate and use fingers to make sure it’s evenly coated. Once it’s good and covered secure with hair grips and move onto the orange, then the red, then the violet section(s) covering them in dye in turn.

Clean the tint brush and gloves between sections if they have too much of the last dye on, although this order means that cross contamination isn’t a problem. After a few sections your hair is likely to be drier, so spritz to dampen as necessary.

Step 5b

Once a section is coloured wrap in a piece of cling film, to minimise colour mixing. Have some loo roll on hand to swipe off any excess in the wrong place as quickly as you can. We also dyed side of my shaved head in the red and violet dyes when they were on the tint brush.

Step 6Step six: MORE COLOURS!
As before, your hair will be drying so spritz if necessary. Switch gloves and tint brush for the green, blue and indigo sections; they’re in a different spectrum so you don’t want bits of orange interfering. Continue coating each section making sure all hair is covered and wrapping in cling film until….

Step 7Step seven: ALL THE COLOURS!
Let the dye do it’s magic. Try and be patient.

Step 8Step eight: Clean up!
Vibrant dyes stain, a basic crème cleaner is best as it has a mild abrasive, but toothpaste has the same effect. Also get any major drips off your skin, although a pair of exfoliating gloves in the shower works wonders.

Step nine: Rinse it out!
Don’t shampoo, as you want your hair to hold onto as much of the dye as possible, but there’s no harm in adding even more conditioner to make sure the hair follicles are closed and hold onto that dye.

Step ten: Marvel over your new hair!
Turn into Cat from Red Dwarf, factoring extra time to negotiate mirrors on any journey. Let people with a good camera take lovely photos so that this hairdo can last the ages, as it will fade within weeks. You can keep it as long as possible by using dry shampoo rather than washing it — I found Lush’s dry shampoo “No Drought” is awesome and gives added volume too.

Comments on The ultimate how-to guide for home-dying a rainbow mohawk

  1. It’s like unicorn or my little pony hair! Absolutely beautiful! And I’m so impressed that it came out like your paint graphic! I think I would have effed up somewhere along the way (because I have zero patience).

    So rock that hair, girl! Looks fabulous!

    • Thanks! I don’t know if I would have had the patience either to be honest, but it is definitely not a solo dye job! It turned out cosy though, me, Fran and our housemate Blee just hung out in the bathroom with wine on a Friday night. RAINBOW

  2. So good! Now I feel boring with just pink hair.

    I’d love a followup tutorial on how to do the roots when they grow out! I’ve historically shyed away from more than one color at a time because of the difficulty of updating it without bleaching the fuck out of my whole head.

    • I wish I could oblige… but I shaved it all off last week, back to semi respectability, although I’m considering just popping a couple of daisys in my shaved head. That’s still professional, right?!

      It shouldn’t be too hard to do roots though, as all the sectioning off would be far easier with colour on it. I wouldn’t rebleach all the hair, just bleach the roots all at once but for the last five minutes of development time brush through a little more bleach to the ends and it should fade them in. Then section off and colour again. Although yeah, as maintenance goes it’s definitely not a low maintenance ‘do as all the colours fade at different rates so it took some upkeep. Worth it though!

  3. So this is basically the best thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve wanted rainbow hair for so long, but I just can’t do it with my current job. 🙁 I guess I’ll just look at your slideshow over and over again until I find a new job.

    Great tutorial! 🙂

  4. I could have done with taking a little more time over my wedding hair like this. My now husband (yay!) did it for me last week a few days before the wedding and it was a bit of a rush job. I did suffer a bit of colour run but the final do was awesome as Ariel has seen on Flickr. 🙂 Turquoise, purple, pink and blue to go with my turquoise and pink wedding dress. 🙂

  5. I LOVE this!!! I love all things rainbow and this is particularly epic. I’m wondering if I could possibly incorporate some of this rainbow awesomeness into my long blonde hair– I did the tips red recently, but I wonder if I could somehow do… RAINBOW OMBRE TIPS? (Would that work? Hmmm…)

  6. Ohh, that is some super-ace hair! Mine’s a dull red at the minute and I really want to bleach it and do it over with a kick-ass bright purple, but, ugh, the memories of bleaching my hair as a teenager always stop me… Also, yay East Mids! I live in Staffordshire but my little boy was born in Burton so he’s an almost-East-Mids lad :p

    • Put coconut oil on it before bleaching, it helps keep it from getting so damaged. Just saturate your hair with coconut oil, let it sit for an hour, and throw the bleach over the top. It doesn’t mess with the bleaching process. Also, if you can manage it, NEVER use anything higher than 30 volume bleach unless your hair is naturally black.

  7. I had a squeely moment when I saw the pictures with your hair down. It looks good in every angle! Amazing! You are my hair deity for forever. My hair is no where near thick or healthy enough for this so I’ll just live vicariously through this awesomeness.

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