Can You Dye Greasy Hair? What The EXPERTS Say

Wondering if you can dye greasy hair? More specifically, should you wash your hair first when coloring or is it OK to apply hair dye to oily hair? Here’s what the experts say.

Can You Dye Greasy Hair

Main Takeaways

  • You should dye your hair when it is slightly greasy
  • Shampoo your hair 2-3 days before you dye it
  • Grease can help combat the drying effect from the hair dye chemicals
  • Too much grease could prevent the dye from working
  • If you use developer vol 20 or lower, wash your hair the night before
  • Hair products containing silicone or oil can affect results of hair dye

Can You Dye Greasy Hair?

Yes, you can. According to haircare expert Brittney Costine, owner of With The Good Hair, it is best to shampoo your hair 2-3 days before you come into the salon or before you dye your hair at home. This will allow for a bit of oil to stay present in the hair which will help counteract the bleach or the coloring.

Before dyeing your hair, you actually want there to be a certain level of oil and sebum in order to protect both your locks and scalp from the effect of the dye.

This is because hair dyes are made up of chemicals and, no matter how you swing it, they may therefore end up causing some hair damage.

The oil in your hair will help to protect against any irritation, damage, or discomfort. It will also help your hair maintain more moisture, meaning that your ends won’t be dry and prone to breakage.

What’s more, if you’re aiming to lighten your hair from its natural tone, leaving oil in your hair can help this lightening process.

Plus, if your hair is too clean, it’s actually harder to color, as hairdressers struggle to get hold of the strands. The ideal amount of oil is when your hair feels soft, but doesn’t look or feel too slick.

How Greasy Should Your Hair Be Before Dyeing It?

Your hair should be slightly greasy but not dirty. If it has been over 5 days since you last washed your hair, give it a rinse to remove some of the oils before washing.

If you are dyeing your hair lighter, natural oils on your scalp is a plus and you can even add a bit of oil to your mid-lengths and ends to make it feel soft before dyeing.

Your hair should not be saturated in oil but some lubrication will help protect your hair from any damage.

If you are going darker, you can leave your hair unwashed for a few days, but it would also be OK to wash it the night before.

This is because dyeing hair darker doesn’t require as strong chemicals as for example bleach.

Can Hair be Too Greasy to Dye Your Hair?

Can I Use Hair Dye On Oily Hair

As Brittney Costine says in her Youtube video, there is a misconception that hair color will always take better if it’s dirty but as with anything, too much is never good.

As a general rule, if your hair is so greasy that you don’t want to touch it, then neither will your hairstylist!

If your hair is very greasy to the point of it being dirty, the grease will prohibit the color from processing the way it should as the grease will act as a repellent. 

Is it better to color your hair when it’s dirty or clean?

If you are using a box dye at home or dyeing your hair at a salon, it is best to color your hair when it is slightly dirty, so 2-3 days after washing your hair.

But it can also depend on the strength of the developer you are using.

If you are using a hair dye with a developer lower than volume 20, it is better to dye your hair when it is clean. You should therefore wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo 24 hours beforehand.

A low volume developer means that there is a low concentration of peroxide which makes it harder for the dye to penetrate your hair.

Cleaning your hair the day before will therefore prevent oils from interfering with the dyeing process.

On the other hand, if you are using bleach or a permanent hair dye with a developer volume of 20 and above, it is better for your hair to be slightly oily.

Your natural hair oils will protect your hair from the harsh chemicals in the dye, decreasing the chance of breakage. Slightly greasy hair will also prevent your hair from losing too much moisture and help form a protective barricade.

Again, aim to wash your hair 2-3 days before dyeing your hair.

Can I Dye My Hair With Products In It?

a number of hair products on a wooden table.

While your hair’s natural oils can be a blessing, build-up from hair products could disturb the lifting of the hair pigments.

Don’t use products with silicones so check your conditioner for any of the ingredients below:

  • Dimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Amodimethicone
  • Pheryl Trimethicone
  • Ceteraryl Methicone
  • Dimethiconol
  • Stearyl Dimethicone

Silicones can also end with the suffix -conol and zane.

You should also be careful with oil-based products. Mineral oils and petroleum oil can be found in products that provide hold such as mousse, gel, hairspray, and wax.

If you have TOO MUCH oil in your hair, the color pigments could be affected as well as the pH of the product.

Dye interacts with water which has a pH of 7 whereas hair oil has a pH of 5.

Finally, avoid dry shampoo. Dry shampoo creates a barrier between your hair and anything applied to it – not ideal if you’re trying to dye your locks!

Things To Remember Before Dyeing Greasy Hair

1. Do A Patch Test

You should always do a patch test on the back of your arm or neck before applying dyeing your hair.

Do this 48 hours before you want to color your hair.

2. Avoid oily and silicone products

It’s OK for your hair to be greasy, but if you have used any silicone products such as gel, wax, or hair oil in the days prior, it’s best to wash your hair the night before you want to dye it.

These ingredients will likely affect the results of your hair as they may block or alter the pigment colors, whereas the natural oils on your scalp will protect and moisturize your hair.

3. Only dye healthy hair

It is very important that you do not color-damaged hair as the chemicals present in hair dye can worsen the condition of your hair.

If however, you must dye hair that is not in optimal condition, ensuring your hair is slightly greasy can definitely help protect your hair.

How To Dye Greasy Hair At Home

woman with black hair dyeing her hair.

What you’ll need:

  • An old t-shirt
  • Towel or hair coloring cape
  • Hair dye kit
  • Shampoo and conditioner for afterwards
  • Plastic bowl (optional
  • vaseline (optional)

Step 1. Prep

Change into an old t-shirt to avoid any hair color on your clothes. Hair dye is notoriously difficult to get out, especially darker colors.

Wrap a towel or a hair coloring cape around your shoulders for additional protection

Step 2. Apply barrier cream

You’ll want to protect your skin from any coloring so apply vaseline or oil around your hairline and on your ears.

If you are dyeing your hair lighter or using bleach, you can at this point apply a tiny bit of oil to the lengths of your hair as well as the ends for additional protection.

Step 3. Mix the dye

Put on the gloves and mix the developer with the dye. Shake vigourously.

Step 4. Apply the dye

Start at the roots and slowly work around your crown and down the hair strands. Make sure all of your hair is covered, especially the front sides of your hair, near the ears.

Step 5. Leave to develop

Follow the instructions on the box and leave for as long as recommended.

Step 6. Rinse and condition

Finally, rinse out the hair dye and use the shampoo and/or conditioner that came with the hair dye.

What Happens If I Dye My Hair When It’s Very Greasy?

What Happens If I Dye My Hair When It’s Very Greasy

If your hair is very greasy, the hair dye may not hold.

Permanent hair color needs to penetrate into your hair shaft, which it can’t do if there’s so much oil that it blocks the saturation process.

Temporary hair color similarly needs to be able to latch onto your hair strands – and extra oil prevents it from doing so.

If you do use hair dye on overly greasy hair, the dye may spread unevenly. It could turn out either blotchy or faded, as it can’t achieve ideal vibrancy when excess oil disrupts the dyeing process.

Be aware that this looks particularly bad on gray hair and on roots.

Thankfully, there are a few steps you can take if you have extremely greasy hair but are still keen to dye it:

Baby Powder

It’s not just for babies! Gentle enough to not cause a reaction or impact the way that the dye penetrates the hair, baby powder is a lifesaver for those with very greasy locks.

Sprinkle some on your roots before you plan to dye hair, and brush it gently through, right to the ends of your strands. It will help to absorb excess oil.

Rinse Hair

If your hair gets very greasy and shiny after a wash, you can quickly rinse hair before applying hair dye.

The water might help to remove any oil sitting on your strands and scalp, which will then help the color apply better.

Wash And Condition Hair Before Coloring

If you wash and condition your hair one day (twenty-four hours) before you plan to color your hair, the conditioner will help to strengthen strands and retain moisture, and your natural oil levels will be reduced.

Just be sure to check that the hair dye you intend to use is okay for usage with conditioner.

How To Best Prepare Hair For Coloring

There are several steps that you can take in order to best prepare your hair for coloring:

No Over-Washing – But No Excess Grease

You want to ensure that your hair is not newly washed before dyeing it, as this makes the process more difficult and means there’s less natural protection from the chemicals in the dye.

Use a gentle shampoo to deeply cleanse your scalp without stripping any moisture, and be sure you don’t scrub so hard that you cause damage.

A clarifying shampoo is also good, as it will balance your hair’s porosity, meaning that the dye will spread evenly.

However, you want to ensure your hair isn’t too greasy, either, as the grease will reduce the dye’s impact. It’s all about balance.

Use The Right Products

As described above, to ensure the all-around health and happiness of your hair – not to mention shine, softness, and elasticity – it’s best to use ingredients with as few chemicals as possible.

All-natural products that are cruelty-free are the way to go for your hair health.

Use A Hot Oil Treatment Prior To Coloring

The chemicals in hair dye can be extremely harsh and may strip your hair of its moisture, making it more prone to dryness, frizz, and breakage.

The solution is to deeply nourish and moisturize your locks prior to your color treatment. A hot oil treatment hydrates deeply, preparing each strand to best take on color.

This is like performing damage control before you actually cause any damage.

How To Reduce Oil In Hair

Your scalp naturally builds up a certain amount of residue. This comes from a combination of dead skin cells, sweat, and product build-up. Your scalp also creates a natural waxy oil known as sebum.

Sebum is essential to the balance of your skin and hair. It creates a natural protective layer, preventing damage from pollution and chemicals and thereby minimizing the risk of infection.

Some people, however, experience excess sebum production, which may result in oilier, greasier hair.

Inevitably, only you will know how prone your hair is to becoming oily. This will be genetically determined, but there are some steps that you can take to minimize build-up in your scalp and hair:

Don’t overbrush

If you overbrush your hair or fuss with it, you’ll actually make it more oily. Brushing your hair stimulates the scalp to release sebum, and if you run dirty hands through your hair, you’re only adding extra grease.

Avoid certain products

Avoiding products with ingredients like silicones, phthalates, mineral oils, petroleum oils, sulfates, and parabens is also a good idea.

There’s plenty of controversy over the use of these ingredients in hair care, but if your scalp is vulnerable to excess oil, adding chemicals to the mix can only exacerbate existing problems.

Look for all-natural products without these added chemicals.

Check your haircare routine

If you’re finding that your hair is greasier than normal, be sure to investigate the products you’re using.

Maybe you’ve just mixed up your shampoo or conditioner, and your hair just isn’t feeling it.

Trial and error can help you establish why your hair might be oily – particularly if your natural state isn’t super greasy.

How To Care For Color Treated Hair

How To Care For Color Treated Hair

Here are a few tips on how to best care for newly colored hair:

Deep Condition After Treatment

Those chemicals in your hair dye will have somewhat tried and tested your hair strands. Nourish them with a deep conditioning treatment or masque, and watch your locks come back to life.

Look for products with high levels of water – an essential humectant that draws moisture into strands.

Oils like argan, coconut, and olive oil are also fantastic for sealing strands, and ingredients like shea butter or coconut butter will intensely moisturize.

Sun Protection

Yes, your hair needs protection from the sun too. Look for products specifically designed with UV protection to spritz over your locks.

It’ll prevent your scalp from experiencing sun damage, and will ensure your color has longevity.

Use Color Haircare Products

After having spent all that time and money investing in your newly dyed hair, what would be the point in abandoning care after treatment?

Be sure to invest in hair care products that are designed to maintain your new color and minimize brassiness or fading.

Have Patience

Leave your hair for at least 48 hours before washing it after a color treatment. That way, you’re helping the dye really penetrate and/or take hold of your strands, which will keep the color lasting for as long as possible.

Can You Dye Your Hair with Product in it? 

You can but you should avoid products that contain oil or silicone. Both of these ingredients can interfere with the dye process and may thereby affect your results.

Will Hair Dye Stick To Oily Hair?

Hair dye won’t have a problem sticking to slightly oily hair. In fact, oily hair can protect your locks during the dyeing process. However, your hair should not be overly dirty or greasy.

What Happens If You Leave The Hair Colour On Too Long?

If you leave hair dye on for too long, you may run the risk of drying out your hair or damaging it. Your hair will not get darker if you exceed the recommended amount of time.

My Hair Gets Greasy Fast, What Do You Do? 

Use a clarifying shampoo once a week and avoid putting hair products such as gel, mousse or hairspray directly on your scalp.

Do I Need To Wash My Hair Before Dyeing It?

Generally speaking, you should not wash your hair 2-3 days before dyeing it. However, if you are using a 20 volume developer or lower, you should wash your hair the night before.

Should Your Hair Be Dirty Or Clean When You Bleach It?

Bleach is very harsh on your hair and it is therefore recommended that your hair should be greasy when bleaching it. The natural oils from your scalp will add protection to your hair.

Is Hair Dye Bad For Your Scalp?

If used frequently, hair dye can be bad for your scalp as it contains very harsh chemicals. Avoid using hair dye more than once per month and always follow up with a moisturizing conditioner.

Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on is for informational purposes only. All advice should be followed at your own discretion. Ingredients may change at any time so always check the product label before using. Check our full disclaimer policy here.

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Alice Carlill

Alice is an experienced writer and researcher with a background in the Creative Arts. She is a published poet and is currently completing her Ph.D., having worked in a variety of industries, including as a theatre dramaturg. Alice is passionate about the environment, so is always on the lookout for the best zero-waste products that are vegan and cruelty-free.