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How to dye your facial hair bright red

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Me before the color–note the dark brown facial hair.

For this year’s Burning Man, I decided I was going to dye the large tuft of chin beard I’ve been working on bright red a la Dimebag Darrell or Scott Ian from Anthrax. This turned out to be one of those projects for which there was shockingly little written on the web and I wound up having to figure a good portion of it out for myself. The good news is it turns out you can make it happen for about $20 in stuff from your local CVS or other drugstore. The reason this isn’t an obvious process is that dyes intended for the hair on the top of your head are usually a bit harsh for facial hair. After consulting with a friend who is a local stylist, she recommended using a henna dye in a similar fashion to how some Muslim men dye their beards. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any locally so I had to improvise. Here’s everything I wish someone else had posted about this process:

My beard is a darker shade of brown than the rest of my hair, which meant it needed to be bleached before colored. Most of the hair dyes I’ve used before that can be found in the dye aisle at the grocery or drug store were single-step processes. These are designed to camouflage in with the rest of your hair and look nominally natural. That wasn’t what I was looking for: I was looking for a bright, deliberately artificial look. The kind you get with the dyes you’ll find at Hot Topic among other spots. These dyes, it turns out, first require you to bleach the color out of your hair and then apply the new color. This meant I was going to need to bleach my beard and then apply the color.

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The bleach.

Everything I read online suggested that bleaches for the top of the head shouldn’t be applied to body hair because the skin on the face is much more sensitive than the skin on the scalp. With this in mind, I picked up a bottle of facial hair bleach in the hair removal section of CVS. This is stuff that is intended for women who have facial hair to hide it by dyeing it light enough to be difficult to see. For color, I picked up a box of Splat hair dye in raspberry red because it was the brightest permanent dye they had at CVS.

My first treatment with this stuff was the recommended 8 minutes and when I removed it, I was pretty disappointed with the results. The hair at the front of my beard was maybe a shade lighter, but overall I could barely tell that anything had been done. After consulting the instructions in the Splat kit, I realized they recommended bleaching hair for 30 minutes at the bare minimum before applying the coloring. I went back and re-applied the bleach and this time waited for 20 minutes. During that time I felt a light tingling and was aware of some of the fumes coming off the bleach but noticed no other adverse side-effects.

The color.

After 20 minutes I washed out the bleach to find my beard had now assumed a range of color between nearly platinum blonde in the front and a straw-yellow in some of the farther back hairs. Now for the color! This was cake: I put a small ring of petroleum jelly around my chin, put on the gloves, and proceeded to dab the dye into my beard. The instructions recommended keeping the dye 1/4″ away from the skin, which clearly wasn’t an option here, so I just went as close as I dared. I got a couple spots on my skin and did my best to wash them straight off with a damp towel. It took only a couple squirts from the bottle to get enough dye for the beard

The directions called for 10 minutes with the color if one wanted 3-4 weeks worth of color or 30 minutes if one wanted 1-6 months. It being my first time, I opted for the 10 minute option and finished off with a nice shower. After drying, I inspected the results and found a range of colors from a fiery orange in front near the roots to the deep red I was looking for further back. I’m happy with the results, but if I do this again I think I’m going to work to get better coverage with the bleach and probably only leave it in for 15-20 minutes total. The best color wound up being the places that the bleach treated least.

Hope this helps some of you all out there when coloring your facial hair! See y’all on the playa 🙂

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