If you’re a fan of switching up your hair color and trying out new looks all the time (hi, me), you’re well aware of just how drying and damaging dyes and bleach can be. And if you’ve got hair that’s already prone to breakage and dryness, like curls and coils, you have to be even more careful when it comes to at-home coloring. Unless, of course, we’re talking about the very magical thing called hair color wax.
According to Jasmine Pierce, hairstylist at Yeluchi in Los Angeles, hair color waxes are ultra-pigmented waxes formulated with gentle, basic ingredients that temporary color your hair without any damage or irritation. And since they’re super easy to apply (more on that in a bit), they’re kinda a genius alternative for anyone looking to safely try out a vibrant new color (think: shades of pink, purple, blue, you name it) without jeopardizing their hair health. That’s why we tapped Pierce to learn everything there is to know about hair color wax, including how long it lasts, the best ones to shop now, and so much more.
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What is hair color wax?
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Hair color wax is usually made up of three ingredients: beeswax, petroleum jelly, and temporary pigment—there’s no ammonia or any of the harsh chemicals you typically find in hair dye. And unlike dyes that require mixing and developing, wax is ready to apply fresh out of the jar.
“Hair color wax is great for people who want to color their hair but are concerned about damage,” says Pierce. “And since it’s only temporary and easy to wash out, it also means you have the ability to safely change your color as much as you want—you can have red hair one day and blue hair the next day.”
Another cool thing about hair color wax: Even though people with dark hair typically need bleach before trying bright hues like pinks or purples—which, again, can be a super-damaging process—hair color wax is pigmented enough to show up on all hair colors (even black or brown). “My hair is pretty dark and hair color wax easily shows up on it,” says Pierce. Plus, hair color wax is super lightweight and flexible—it’s wax!—so there’s no need to worry about any crunchy or chalky textures.
How long does hair color wax last?
Since hair color wax sits on the surface of your hair (versus actually penetrating your cuticles, like hair dye), it lasts until the next time you wash your hair. “It’s not meant to last forever, but you can probably get away with wearing it for a week or so,” says Pierce. One thing to keep in mind: Pierce says you should avoid touching up your color in the days following your initial application—the more wax you add to your hair before washing it increases your chance of buildup.
When it comes time to wash, Pierce suggests starting with a gentle clarifying shampoo (she likes Mizani Moisture Fusion Gentle Clarifying Shampoo, which is spiked with charcoal and coconut oil) or a pre-poo treatment to help loosen up the wax. You’ll then want to follow with your regular cleanser, conditioner, and styling routine.
How do you apply hair color wax?
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Heads up: Before you apply your color, take a peek at the instructions on your specific wax—they’re all a little different, so you’ll want to make sure you’re following the right guidelines for your formula. In general though, Pierce suggests starting with freshly washed and conditioned hair—you’ll want it damp, not soaking wet—and a leave-in conditioner or curl cream (i.e., something lightweight that’ll give you moisture and definition before you layer on the wax).
Even though hair color wax washes off easily, it’s always a good idea to wear a pair of disposable gloves (and an old T-shirt you don’t care about) since you’ll be using your hands to apply it. Pierce suggests taking your time and working in small sections to make sure you’re getting an even application. “A little goes a long way with hair color wax—depending on the density of your hair, you’ll want to use only a nickel or quarter-size dollop per section,” she says, adding that you can always go back and add more color if you’re not seeing enough pigment after 15 minutes.
Need a visual? Follow along in the video above to see how YouTuber Naptural85 gets it done. Pro tip: After completing each section, she two-strand twists her hair, puts on a satin bonnet, and lets it dry overnight (which, when you see how pretty and vibrant her color comes out, might be worth trying).
The bottom line
If you’re looking for an easy, non-damaging way to try out a new color, hair wax is an excellent alternative. I mean, the fact that you can easily get bright colors without any bleach is kiiinda amazing. Again, there’s really only one downside: Since hair color wax is gentle and sits on the surface of your hair, it only lasts until your next shampoo. But if you’re cool with something temporary? Pick a color, grab a jar, and prepare to obsess over your new look.
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