How Safe Is it to Dye Relaxed African-American Hair?

Dyeing relaxed African-American hair increases dryness and breakage.

Photo: Hemera Technologies/ Images

A new hair color can be a good thing, adding spark and drama to your 'do and highlighting your skin tone. With these benefits in mind, it would be reassuring to think that dyeing relaxed African-American hair is safe; but that’s fantasy land. In the real world, adding any type of chemical to hair can lead to a plethora of problems -- from dryness, to breakage and hair loss. In short, dyeing already chemically-treated hair is like adding fuel to flames.

How Dyes Work

Your hair may be dyed using a variety of different chemicals such as a vegetable-based, metallic or oxidation dye. Permanent dyes involve stripping your hair of its natural color and using hydrogen peroxide or hydrogen dioxide to open up the cuticle of the hair so the dye can ease on into pigment area of your hair. Semipermanent dyes don’t penetrate as deeply as the permanent kind, but still require harsh chemicals to change your hair’s color.

The Double-Whammy Effect

By invading the delicate structure of your hair, permanent and semipermanent dyes begin to interact with the components of your hair, such as keratin -- and not in a friendly way. They weaken your hair, leaving it dry, brittle and primed for breakage. Hair relaxers also have the same effect, so using relaxers and dyes doubles the risk of damage for African-American hair, which is already naturally dryer and more fragile than naturally straight hair.

A Color Compromise

If your hair is relaxed and you’re really bored by the same old color, you do have a few safer options than permanent or semipermanent hair dyes, which are not recommended for relaxed hair. You can try a tint instead, which is a temporary “dye” that doesn’t penetrate the hair shaft. It just sits on top of your natural color. True, these “dyes” can wash out in one to five shampoos, but you’ll still have a few weeks to show off your totally new look.

If You’re Color Shy

If none of these coloring methods appeals to you, weaves are always waiting in the wings. Weaves come in hundreds of different colors, and allow you to protect your own hair rather than damage it. Unless you’re looking for shock value, choose a weave that’s close to your natural hair color, which for African-American women ranges from medium-brown shades to dark black, according to The site adds that auburns and some burgundies can also be flattering selections. Hold a few weaves against your face to see how they blend with your complexion and get your color on!

Related Videos




Let’s Talk Hair; Pamela Ferrell Hair Dyes

Add to this Article



Just for you

What type are you?

Choose your Skin Tone
or Register
Beauty School iPad App


How would you like to register?

Register with Facebook
  • It's fast, easy and hassle-free
  • One-click log-in and commenting
Register with
  • Use your email to create your account