Today we’re going to tackle a topic that really doesn’t get as much attention as it should: bear dyeing. Yep, you read that right. Beard dyeing is a big thing, despite the fact that so little space is devoted to discussing it- and it’s catching on even more in light of all sorts of quirky beard coloring and styling trends that have popped up ever since ‘rainbow hair’ became mainstream.
Now, you don’t have to want to dye your beard a wacky color to make the most of the tips we’re going to discuss today. The idea is to understand what goes into a successful beard dyeing experience and the things you need to look for when you decide to color your beard. Whether you're ready to go pastel or you’ll wait to dye another day, here is everything you need to know about dyeing your beard.
1. Have A Vision For Your End Look
It’s imperative that you know what you’re looking for before you book an appointment or buy a beard dye.
If you’re new to beard dyeing, I’m going to venture a guess and say you’re not going to experiment too much to start off with. Most men who decide to try beard dyeing either want to change their beard color to match a new hair color, or to bring the beard and head hair ‘closer’ in terms of color or to cover up greys. In all these cases, you want to keep things as natural as possible, which is why it’s important to know that beard hair is typically a few degrees lighter than head hair. Anything too matchy-matchy can be jarring to the eye- unless of course, you intend for it to be.
If there is a particular beard dye color you have in mind, take a picture to your stylist. As far as is possible, pick an image/ inspiration that also matches your vision in terms of cut, style and length. All of these elements work together to tie in a look and it’s not as simple as picking one and hoping the others will all fall into place. They wont. This is your face: choose carefully!
If you are an old-hand at beard dyeing/ men’s styling and you’re willing to kick things up a notch with a really crazy beard color trend, it’s all the more important that you have a very precise idea of what you’re looking for. Take reference photos along to show your colorist. Celebrate imagination, but leave nothing to it in terms of your cues.
2. Beginners, Go To A Professional
Beard dyeing is a lot like other styling treatments: if you’ve never done it before, it’s best to leave it to a professional. With time it’s likely that you will feel confident in your ability to dye your beard at home properly. The market is flooded with all sorts of box colors and DIY beard dyes but if you’ve never dyed your beard before, don’t risk it. The results from the first time can make or break your views on beard dyeing and you want your face to get the best possible treatment before you start getting adventurous with it. A pro will not only guarantee great results but also talk you through the process and give bits of advice about technique, all of which can come in handy if you do decide to dye your beard yourself later.
3. Pick The Right Beard Dye Color
One of the first things you’ll have to do is pick a color for your beard dye. It’s only the most important, visible aspect of the change you’re making so don’t rush into the decision.
We’ve already talked about how beard hair is usually 2-3 shades lighter than head hair, so if you want to keep things subtle and natural, you’ll have to work within the same color family.
Now, to drive the point home, consider this: the hair on your head is considerably softer than the hair in your beard. Beard hair is typically quite coarse and wiry, which also means it receives color dyes very differently from head hair. In other words, don’t go using the same dye you use on your head hair on your beard. You’ll actually end up looking like you went to town on your face with a set of kiddie paints. Beard hair doesn’t absorb and reflect hair dye the same way as head hair, which is why an experienced colorist will always tell you to pick a color that’s softer and lighter than your head hair (or whatever you have in mind). You need to consciously choose in a way that diffuses the chemical arrangement behind-the-scenes so that you get the color you want on your face.
And to revisit an old point: do try to keep the colors within the same family. I’ve seen a lot of crazy beard color trends of late, from rainbows to pastels, and it all works. But if you’re dyeing your beard for everyday wear, don’t stray too far from ‘regular’ combinations. You’re not likely to see a ginger beard and blonde hair occurring together naturally, are you? Of course, there are no rules when it comes to styling but you need to know a) what you’re after and b) the audience you’re playing to.
If you want to change your beard/hair color while still keeping things natural, the first thing you want to take into consideration is your skin-tone. A general rule of thumb is to pick a color family that works for your head hair. If you can’t sport a shock of platinum blonde locks on your head, you shouldn’t go for a platinum blonde beard either. Ease your way into experimenting within the same color family as your natural color, just going darker or lighter (or warmer or cooler) so it’s not too much too quick.
To take the guesswork out of choosing beard dye colors, I recommend trying brown tones. Brunette beard dyes work on just about every skin tone and can look both stylish and sophisticated. If you’re used to a deeper, warmer hue shake things up with a cooler chestnut beard dye. If you want to warm things up and add some more color around the face (especially during the cold months when we’re all paler and peaky) try a rich chocolate with warm undertones.
4. Know Which Kind Of Beard Dye You Need
I recommend going to a professional colorist not only because they will have ample experience with beard dyeing techniques, but also because it will save you the hassle of trying to figure out what kind of product to use. That said, clients are a lot more aware and invested today and there is a lot to be said for the satisfaction you get from doing your own research and picking products that fit the bill for YOU.
If you can get a consultation from your stylist on the beard dye best suited for your color preference, hair type, head hair, maintenance ability and budget- nothing like it. If not, take a look around and see what’s available to get a better sense of your options.
If you’re just starting out, look for semi-permanent beard dyes in the supermarket/ salon stores. With semi-permanent beard dyes the color will fade over time with repeated washing, which means you don’t have to wait for the hair to grow out and you don’t have to worry about getting stuck with a dye job or having a new dye done over the same. Semi-permanent dyes are easily available in most color types and you can choose from a range of well-known brands and price points.
If you want your semi-permanent beard dye to last longer, apart from touching it up as and when is needed, you can also be careful about how you wash it. Rinsing with plain water is usually enough for daily cleansing and you can use a gentle shampoo (intended for use on colored hair) for a deeper clean, without stripping away the dye pigments.
For a longer-lasting color, visit the salon. Your stylist will help you choose from a range of permanent beard dyes. The upside of this option is that you get your beard professionally colored and the dyes tend to be of better quality and they last much longer. You basically have to wait for the hair to grow out. The downside is that you might have to invest in frequent touch-ups when your roots start showing, which means more time and money spent on maintaining your beard. If you want to return to your old color or try something new, it can be frustrating to have to wait out the entire period- or expensive to have a new dye job done immediately after. The different colors in the in-between period can also look odd (not too much of a problem if you’re still in your natural color family).
5. Alternatives To Chemical/ Mass-produced Beard Dyes
Branching off from what I said before, hair coloring and beard dyeing are about a lot more than the visible color. You’ve also got to take your personal preferences about styling products and your skin type and individual concerns into consideration. A lot of people are simply not comfortable with the idea of using chemical colorants- especially on their face. Yet others have tried and experienced negative reactions to the same and want to be able to dye their beards without revisiting skin concerns.
If any of these points resonate with you, don’t fret: there are other options. You do have natural/ chemical-free and herbal alternatives to chemical beard dyes. A lot of plant-based color dyes can be used in place of box colors, and henna is one of the most universally loved natural dyes used by men and women all over the world. Apart from its color-staining properties, henna also works like a conditioner and leaves hair soft and luxurious.
That said, you can’t enjoy the same range of colors that you can with the more traditional hair colors and beard dyes. If you don’t have any skin allergies or concerns holding you back, you can still ask your colorist for recommendations on a healthy, hypoallergenic hair/ beard dye that you can use without worry.
6. The Secret To Great Beards: Proper Prepping
Getting the groundwork right is the real secret to any styling project: the crux of a successful styling endeavor is preparing the hair/skin for the change and ensuring a gradual, controlled transition to the new style. You can’t simply pick a new style and slap a few things on and wait on product and pixie dust.
Before you use a beard dye (at home or in the salon) be sure to do a patch test. Even after you’ve scanned the ingredients list, a patch test is recommended because you never really know how your body is going to react to a substance until you introduce the same to it.
To get your hair ready for the beard dye, make sure you don’t use any other product on it for a full day before the dyeing process. This means no shampooing or conditioning the beard for 12-24 hours before coloring. Despite your best efforts to scrub out all the product and prevent build-up, they can still leave traces on your skin and on the hair. Product residue acts as a barrier between the hair follicle and the dye, essentially weakening the latter’s hold on the former. This will prevent your beard from receiving the true color of the dye and it will also wear for a much shorter period.
I’d also advise against using any products on the beard for at least a day (preferably two) after you dye it. Quality beard dyes will take hold well but there’s no sense in testing the limits of a product unnecessarily. Avoid excessive rinsing or time out in the sun for a day to really give the dye time to latch on and prevent fading.
7. Learn To Use Beard Dye Properly
Always follow the instructions on the box/ beard dyeing kit. Don’t experiment with dye-to-water/mix ratios and application tips and leave-on timing. At least not until you become adept at DIY beard dyeing and feel confident in your ability to play around with the process.
Most beard dyeing kits will come with the necessary equipment- this usually includes a mixing bowl, a spoon or a spatula and some kind of applicator. Even if yours doesn’t, you can pick these up for cheap from any supermarket. I do recommend using a toothbrush to apply the beard dye because this will limit your range of application, thus reducing the risk of mishaps. You can enjoy a free range of motion while still having a relatively limited tool-surface to work with, which means greater control and precision than can be expected with the wider ‘painter-style’ brushes.
If you want to check the color before removing the product, take a thick paper towel, moisten one end and very gently scrape off some of the product to reveal the hair underneath. If you’re satisfied with the color you can rinse of the dye; if not, leave it on for longer until a deeper stain shows through. If you’re dyeing your beard in multiple coats, limit it two and make sure you keep the second one on for a brief period: you don’t want to end up with a shock of flat, harsh color on your face.
Knowing how to apply your beard dye properly is essential to getting the color right. If you use too much product or leave it on for too long, you could end up with an unnaturally dark and stark beard color. Not using enough product or cleaning it off too soon might leave you with a pale, weak wash of color. Everyone has their own preferred technique and you’ll develop yours as you go along. A lot of people believe in building up color; this technique involves apply a small amount of a lighter beard dye for some time, then removing it and re-applying another coat and thus intensifying the color until the desired shade is achieved. There is some wisdom to this technique but it’s a time-consuming task and a rather hit-and-miss approach, so unless you get it down to an exact science you might end up with different results each time.
Another way of making sure you don't mess up the color is to use a darker beard dye but leaving it on for a short period than suggested and limiting application to just one layer. This way you deliver a stronger punch of color to the beard but limit its intensity at the same time.
If you do end up with a stronger/ darker color than you’d like, use a clarifying shampoo and wash your beard. This should remove a thin layer of the color and lighten your beard. Stop/ repeat as is necessary.
To ensure precision in application (and prevent clown-cheeks) a great trick is to apply Vaseline right next to wherever you want to limit the dye. For some added precaution, spread the Vaseline layer about an inch wide so you have nothing to worry about even if you slip up a bit. Vaseline acts a barrier between the dye and the skin and prevents any accidental staining. Remember to put some along the neckline and onto your ears as well: basically anywhere you think you might end up inadvertently smearing some dye.
And finally, always use a pair of gloves when you’re dyeing your beard to prevent staining your hands.
8. Touch-ups And Spot Treatments
Just as is the case with hair color, beard dyeing doesn’t always have to be a full-dye job. You could want to simply do a touch-up every now and then, whether to cover up greys or to maintain your current beard color.
Instead of bringing out the box color or booking an appointment at the salon, consider using a tinted mustache wax. These are a great product to liven up color without going the whole nine yards. Mustache wax is typically used to shape and style mustaches and beards but the tinted variant is great for adding more depth/ dimension to your facial hair color. All you have to do is take a bit of the product in your hands, rub them together to warm it up and then apply it to your facial hair. Then use a comb or a beard grooming brush to style a shape you like.
That said, if you want a more permanent (or semi-permanent, if you will) solution, you will have to reach for your DIY beard dye or visit your colorist. If you dye your beard regularly, it should be easy to figure out a tentative timeline for how often you need touch-ups. In between sittings, use beard care and male grooming products that are especially formulated for use with hair colors and hair dyes.
It also goes without saying that a very big part of male grooming and beard styling is hair health: if your facial hair is unhealthy, unkempt and unruly, no amount of styling effort is going to pay off. The effect simply won’t look as good as it could and/ or it won’t last as long as it should. Take proper care of your beard and emphasize hygiene, maintenance and regular styling- and you’ll be glad you did!