How Long Does It Take To Dye Hair? The Important Facts

In today’s fast-paced world, people want things done instantly. But when it comes to coloring your hair, the best idea is to be patient. In this article, we answer all your hair coloring questions, most importantly: ‘how long does it take to dye your hair?

How Long Does It Take To Dye Hair

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how long does it take to dye hair because it depends on a number of factors. If you’re going to a salon, expect to spend around 3 to 4 hours there if you’re coloring your hair.

How Long Does It Take to Dye Hair in a Salon?

We know this is frustrating, but there’s no one answer for this.

You should expect to spend around 3 to 4 hours in your salon chair, depending on factors including what color dye you’re going for, your natural hair color, and the health of your hair.

Steps that your stylist can take in the process of dyeing your hair can include processing, preparation, bleaching, coloring, and toning. That may even need to be spread out over several sessions.

Bear in mind, too, that if you’re also getting a haircut, this may also add on time.

These are the main factors that will affect how long it takes to dye your hair:

Your Natural Hair Color

If you have darker hair tones, you’ve got more melanin pigmentation in your hair’s cortex.

Any hair dye will have to penetrate first the hair cuticle and then the hair cortex if it is to show up on your strands.

If you have naturally dark hair, this means you’ll need to bleach it first. This frequently has to happen over three times before you can dye hair.

bleaching is an intense chemical treatment that can take time and strip your hair of its moisture, so this will make the hair dyeing process longer.

If you have lighter or blonde hair and want to darken it, this will be a faster process, as your natural hair color doesn’t need to be stripped.

Similarly, if you’re covering gray hair or having a root touch-up, this will be a faster salon visit – more like an hour and a half.

Your Natural Hair Type And Porosity

Fine hair absorbs hair dye better, whereas it takes longer for coarse or thick hair.

If your hair is dry and brittle, your cuticles are more porous, meaning the dye will penetrate faster, but will also fade quicker. Plus, you’ll have dehydrated, frazzled locks.

Ensuring that your hair is moisturized is a major step in helping your dye to penetrate as quickly as possible and to last for longer – it’s really a win-win.

Environmental Strain

Again, if your hair is fried from either too much time spent in the sun or swimming in either pools or the sea, it will be less moisturized.

This will then also impact how well the dye takes to your hair and how long it lasts.

Type Of Hair Dye

If you’re heading to a salon to dye your hair, it’s likely you’re after either permanent or semi-permanent hair dye, which will last longer.

The type of hair dye also impacts how long it will take to dye hair in a salon.

How To Prepare for Dying Your Hair at the Salon

How To Prepare for Dying Your Hair at the Salon

There are several steps that you can take to ensure that your hair is as ready as possible for dyeing.

Do Not Wash It

You heard us, you need to avoid washing your hair for at least 24 hours prior to your appointment. Hair dye is a chemical, and it will cause some damage to your hair when applied.

By leaving your hair unwashed, you’re allowing a layer of natural oil to cover your scalp and hair. This protects both your skin and strands and its slippery nature might help the dye take better.

That said, you don’t want to go with over-oily or sweaty hair. It’s about balance.


Remember how we said above that better-moisturized hair is better for the coloring process?

Treat your locks to a conditioning mask that will restore, hydrate, and rebalance your pH levels before you hit the salon chair.

Use A Clarifying Shampoo

Get right into your scalp and strands with a clarifying shampoo.

It will help to minimize any build-up or residue that’s hanging around in there, which will help the color take better. Do this about a week before the session.

Trim Damaged Hair

If your locks are particularly dry, brittle, and breakable, this will make the dye penetrate better, but it will also bleed faster and will make the color dull and flat.

Cut off those split ends and restore your hair’s health. Use a deep conditioning mask or hair care product enriched with proteins like collagen or keratin to help your hair bonds restore themselves.

Bring Inspiration

Don’t forget to take a photo along if you have a specific idea you’re aiming to get. It makes the stylist’s life much easier and will help avoid any miscommunication.

How Long Does It Take to Dye Hair at Home?

Again, a simple answer for this is difficult, but you should put aside around 2 hours if you’re going to dye your hair at home.

The factors described above – like your hair type and the color you’re aiming for – will all impact how long it takes to dye hair at home, but this is a safe bet.

Always follow the guidance on the box regarding coloring your hair.

It’ll usually be around 25 – 45 minutes, but you could go up to an hour. That’s just leaving the dye in, never mind the preparation.

Remember, if you’re naturally dark and are lightening it, you’ll need to bleach it first – possibly around three times in order to lighten your color by three tones.

You should leave the bleach in your hair for around 20 to 40 minutes each time. Some hairstylists recommend using a moisturizer like a coconut oil for 20 minutes before you bleach hair.

All of these factors will determine how long it takes to dye your hair at home.

You also need to ensure you don’t leave the dye in your hair for too long.

If you do, you’ll fry your hair and cause damage, as the hair cuticle and cortex will both have been exposed to chemicals for too great an amount of time.

It’s also good to remember that hairstylists are professionals for a reason.

Yes, the appointment might take an amount of time and be pricey, but if you dye your hair without the knowledge of how to best use each chemical, you might cause damage that takes even longer and costs more to undo.

Should You Wash Your Hair Before Dying It?

You should not be washing your hair 24 hours prior to your appointment.

The natural oils that your scalp produces will be allowed to build up, which provides a protective layer between your skin and hair strands that acts as a barrier to the chemicals.

Plus, these oils keep your hair moisturized – and moisture is the name of the game for colored hair.

If you experience really oily hair, however, or go for a really sweaty gym session, you may need to wash your hair, as color won’t take on super greasy locks.

It’s best to avoid doing so, however, for the reasons outlined above.

How To Dye Your Hair at Home

How To Dye Your Hair at Home

Remember to read the manufacturer’s instructions and patch test the dye before use if it’s a new color.

Also, don’t wear any of your favorite clothes or use your best towels – it can be a messy process!

  1. Mix the dye per instruction – remember not to use metal utensils, as this can react negatively with the color. Use the brush (typically provided) or a wooden spoon.
  • Brush out your hair using a wide-toothed comb so as to ensure the dye spreads evenly. If you section the hair, this will make application even easier. Separate it down the middle and then from ear to ear.
  • Cover the skin near your hairline and ears with a Vaseline-like cream, so as to protect it from the impact of the dye and any developer. Wear gloves when dyeing to protect your hands.
  • Apply the dye to your head, tackling the back first. A friend or mirror can be helpful with this part. Start from the roots, and don’t apply directly from the bottle. You can always use a toothbrush if you’re only adding highlights.

Does Hair Color Become Darker If You Leave Dye in Longer?

This really depends on the dye. If it contains ammonia or is a semi-permanent dye, your color may go darker if left on for longer.

The main problem with leaving hair color on for too long is that you’ll cause damage, which might result in dry, easily breakable locks.

How Long Should You Leave Hair Dye in?

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. This will usually be between 40 minutes to an hour. Do not exceed the recommended time, as you might cause your hair serious damage.

How Long Does Hair Color Last?

Hair color does contain chemicals, and over time, these will expire or degrade – particularly if they’re stored badly.

If you use of date hair color, you may end up with hair that’s somewhat darker than you’d expected.


Unopened hair dye should have a shelf life of anywhere from two to four years. Check with the manufacturer if you are concerned.


If you have opened your hair color but it remains unmixed, you should aim to use it within 6 weeks. Beyond that and the product might have degraded or oxidized, leaving you with potentially surprising results if you choose to use it.

How Soon Can I Recolor My Hair?

If you’ve colored your hair but hate the new look, you should aim to leave at least 4 weeks before thinking about re-dyeing it.

This might be frustrating, but the process of dyeing hair can cause serious damage to your strands, so they need time to repair themselves after the coloring process.

You can always help them recover by using a product that’s designed to restore bonds or regularly using conditioning treatments to maximize hair’s moisture levels.

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.