Can You Dye Hair Extensions and How to Do It?

When it comes to dying hair extensions, there are lots of different opinions as there are many variables that need to be considered. So, while the quick and easy answer is “Yes, you can dye hair extensions”, depending on what the hair extension is and how you want to dye it, the process may range from easy, through difficult, all the way to impossible.

Still, don’t let that discourage you – both human hair and synthetic hair extensions and wigs can be dyed in certain ways! It’s just that sometimes it may be smarter and easier not to and to just get a new set in a different color.

So, how do you know whether you can dye your particular hair extensions and how you should do it? It all depends on:

What are your hair extensions?

The answer to “How to dye hair extensions?” is different depending on what you have.

Human hair or synthetic?

So, your first task is to determine whether you’re hair extensions are made from human hair or from synthetic materials.

That should be easy since you’re the one who bought them. If you’re not certain, however, you can always put them to the fire – literally. Here’s what you can do:

  • Cut a small strand of hair from the extensions. Make sure it’s something you won’t miss – a short and thin piece from the lower and inner back of the wig/extensions.
  • Take a match or a lighter and put the hair to the flame. Be careful not to burn yourself.
  • If the hair is burning, it’s human hair. If it’s melting – it’s synthetic.

Remy or non-remy hair?

If your hair extensions are made with human hair, the next question is what’s their quality. Human hair wigs and extensions can vary a lot depending on the treatment they’ve gone through. Most human hair extensions, unfortunately, are not remy hair as the treatments they go through ruin the direction of their follicles.

Remy hair still has its follicles facing in the right direction – away from the roots. Most human hair in hair extensions, however, is not remy which means that it’s less durable, fuzzier, and more prone to entangling.

So, can you dye remy hair extensions? Yes, you can, just as easily as you can dye non-remy hair. However, given that remy extensions are more expensive and valuable, it’s probably wise to leave them as they are.

How to dye human hair extensions?

So, remy or not, you know that your hair extensions are made with human hair – how do you dye them? How well and safely can you dye human hair extensions?

The good news is that you can use standard human hair dyes to dye your hair extensions. The bad news is that since they are essentially “dead hair” it’s much easier to damage them. So, you can’t afford to be as liberal with the dye and the bleach as you would with your normal hair.

Here are a few pointers on how to dye human hair extensions:

  • Avoid lightening your human hair extensions at all. You can do it, bleach will work on them, but it’s just not a good idea as you’ll shorten the extensions’ lifespan by a lot. Remy hair can withstand bleach better but it’s more valuable so it’s still not worth it.
    If you absolutely want to bleach and lighten your human hair extensions, make sure you go only 1 or 2 tones lighter. Make sure the hair is clean and tidy before bleaching, and avoid getting any bleach on the tapes, clips, bonds, or rings. And again – no more than a shade or two or you’ll ruin the extensions for sure.
  • Darkening human hair extensions is much easier and safer as you won’t have to use bleach. Just pick a dye and have fun. But still, follow the other safety steps below:
    • Clean, dry, and brush your hair extensions before adding any dye.
    • Work from the roots toward the tips.
    • Protect the bonds, rings, tapes, and clip-ins as dyeing them will make them too visible.
    • Keep in mind that most hair extensions will “grab” the dye faster than normal hair so you won’t need to keep them in the dye for as long.
    • Dye the extensions separately from your own hair for the above reason – they catch the new color faster.
    • When drying, don’t rub the wet hair with a towel or you’ll damage it – squeeze and pat only, and then let it dry on a towel somewhere warm.
    • If you want to blow-dry the extensions, use light temperatures only and blow in the direction of the tips only.

How to dye synthetic hair extensions?

So, can you dye synthetic hair extensions with normal hair dyes? Unfortunately, no – synthetic hair is essentially plastic and you can’t dye plastic with human hair dyes. You can’t really bleach it either, so you can forget about lightening synthetic hair extensions.

However, there are ways to dye synthetic hair in darker colors – with ink!

The easiest DIY method is to mix any acrylic ink or the ink from any sharpie with some rubbing alcohol and use that as your “hair dye”. As long as the synthetic hair’s original color was light and plain, you should be able to dye it into whatever darker color you want.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Mix the acrylic or sharpie ink in a spray bottle with some rubbing alcohol. The exact proportions are up to you – more alcohol means a lighter color.
  2. Clean, dry, and hang your synthetic extensions somewhere. Secure your working with newspapers, trash bags, plastic tablecloth, etc.
  3. Put on some rubber gloves and just spray the hair and brush it with your fingers. Make sure all parts of the hair extensions are sprayed evenly. Use a comb or brush too.
  4. Give the hair at least an hour to dry, maybe more – when you touch the wig there shouldn’t be any ink staining your fingers.
  5. Once the wig is dry, rinse it gently with cold water until the water starts running clear. Then, just let it dry again, don’t blow dry it.

And that’s it. The whole procedure should take an hour or two, not counting the dry times. Plus, the first warm washing will remove most of the dye so it’s a one-time deal. But, it’s doable!

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