That one time I shampooed my hair with food coloring 8 times in 24 hours

I tend to be impulsive when it comes to creative things. It’s not that I have an aversion to pre-planning, it’s that I go from idea to action in 60 seconds or less. It’s how the Pinterest wall was born. That was good.

It’s also how I came to have red hair.

That was not so good.

If you are looking for a definitive location for The Spur Of The Moment, you will find it in my hair dresser’s salon chair. That was the place where she asked, “What are we doing today?” and I responded, without an ounce of premeditation, “I’m feeling kind of feisty. How about red?!”

How about red.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. I would trade my caramel ombre for an auburn ombre, something that would easily transition into the fall and winter months since I get my hair done approximately once every never. I really didn’t think twice about it (because apparently thinking once is not something I’m fond of, let alone twice) until my freshly dyed hair was being blown dry. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw wisps of very red hair and started to question my decision making skills.

But even when I saw the results in the mirror, I didn’t think it was that red. Primarily because, along with being good at jumping hair-first into impulsive creative decisions, I’m also really good at denial.

Which is why I didn’t realize I had red hair – red, red hair – until four days after it had been dyed.

Four full days. As in one day longer than it took Jesus to rise from the dead.

That is the level of denial I’m committed to.

Necessary disclaimer: my hair dresser is phenomenal. She works wonders. She did exactly what I asked her to do, and she did it well. I just wasn’t prepared to have red hair. It should come as a great surprise because clearly I had thought through this situation in it’s entirety.

Once I realized my hair was really red and I was really not even kind of on board with it, I decided to consult Google to figure out how to have hair that was less red without pulling a reverse Anne of Green Gables hair dye horror story. Ironically, I chose the one solution that sounded like it had the highest potential of turning me into an actual Anne of Green Gables hair dye horror story.

Multiple sources told me it was a good idea to mix a few drops of blue and green food coloring with dish soap and shampoo. They said the blue/green food coloring counteracts the orange/red dye. While it makes sense on a color wheel, I was less confident that it would make sense on my head. But the prospect of remaining a very red redhead seemed like the greater evil, so I mixed away and went to work.

2014-07-06 18.32.22

Yes. That happened.

I tried the concoction out on a small section first – one of the better decisions I made in the 96 hours in question. Since it didn’t turn my hair Green Gables Green, I decided to try it out for real. I shampooed with the food coloring mix, shampooed with just shampoo, and blow dried my hair with a level of intensity that would have frightened Attila the Hun. I was fairly anxious to see the results.

And the results seemed promising! I couldn’t tell if it was optimism or denial or reality, but I thought the red looked a little bit darker!

So I did what any normal person would do. I repeated the process seven times in less than 24 hours. You are thinking that sounds crazy, and you are correct. It was crazy. It was also crazy effective.

I’ll let the photographic evidence take it from here.

Progression of hair events.jpg

From left to right: at The Spur Of The Moment, later that day (holding Dylan!), after a few washes, after all of the washes. I hide it well, but I was mildly relieved to return to being brunette, now with a hint of auburn.

Note to self: make fewer impulsive decisions that require long-term commitment. And aim to completely avoid those that require the aid of food coloring.



29 thoughts on “That one time I shampooed my hair with food coloring 8 times in 24 hours”

    • Anytime, Claire! (But hopefully not literally “anytime” on this subject in particular. I hope to not have Easter-themed shampoo sessions for quite some time now :))

  • I also randomly decided to dye my hair bright red but i used lush henna (caca rouge). I instantly wanted my natural light ash brown colour back but could not use any chemicals as it turns the henna a luminous orange! I thought i would have to wait and grow all of the red out which would take years!! From your pictures the food colouring option looks to be very promising, thank you so much for documenting your experimental toning i may be able to fix my hair without damaging it! ( your a life saver!)

  • Hi Beka! Tried this today but washed only once, result wasn’t too big of a difference yet but of course I’ll need to wash my hair more. I was curious though, when I was shampooing, the bubbles were white and with my purple toner shampoo the bubbles are always super purple and all the water beneath me turns purple. When you were washing your hair did the bubbles come out white or were they green? Just wanna make sure I’m doing it right. Thank you, hugs and kisses from California

  • Hi Beka. Great idea. I am also thinking about how to do this. How many drops would I need to used of each and how long to leave on conditioner?

    • Hey Tes! I just used a couple of drops of each color – barely 2-3 drops – each time. I let the conditioner in for as long as I normally would – just a quick minute or so. Hope that helps!

  • i just recently bleached the ends of my hair to create a ombre look but prior to that i was a Burgundy/reddish color. . and now in my blonde there is red tint to it.

    would i just mix the dish soap & shampoo with the blue/green food dye?

    and then just wash it out like regularly and just conditioned it till i get the color i want?

  • I had a home dye disaster…you always say never again, and then do it again! My dark blonde turned orange. I went to a hairdresser, and she rescued it but the sun of summer has made the orange come back. Never became today and I bought a semipermanent light brown….and I’m auburn! Contempting giving the green food dye a go. How long did it last? Did you have to keep doing it? Thank you!!!!

    • Oh, dear. I’m so sorry, Amy! Mine turned auburn after the process described in this post and then the reddish tones in the auburn gradually faded over time. Good luck!

  • Beka, this has been an absolute delight to read! I have a quick question.
    Did you find that your hair had a green tinge at all at any point during your washing process? Also, is this a process that you have had to repeat in order to keep the red at bay over time?

    Thank you. You’re a wonderful writer – keep up the good work! X

    • Hi, Tammy! I didn’t experience a green tint at any point, but I did repeat a few times throughout the next week or so just to be sure the red stayed away :)

  • Oh my god! My friend just linked me this and said “I honestly thought this was your post” – and I can see why… you sound exactly like me! It’s bizarre. I’ve just purchased five bottles of green food colouring because I had to have my hair dyed red twice just to be absolutely sure I don’t want red hair. So here I go again….

    It really does work.

  • This is a good idea. Mix a couple of drops of green food colour into a clear shampoo (to get rid of excess red) and/or a couple of drops of blue (to get rid of yellow gold. If it’s not enough next shampoo put in 4 or slightly more, don’t over do it though. Leave for a couple of mins, then rinse and condition. Repeat as necessary over a few weeks (Elle – professional stylist, UK). Good luck!

  • I have been using Joico’s color balance blue shampoo and add about 4 to 5 drops of green food color for several weeks now It has gradually lightened the ugly red / orange/ rust color in my normally dark blonde hair. In turn it has also lightened some of my dark blonde hair . It now looks like my dark blonde hair as medium blonde/ strawberry blonde highlights. All I wanted to do was wash that gray right out of my hair and ended up washing a carrot top right into it. I struggled for months with the purple shampoos thinking that’s what I need because I have blonde hair. I even tried to re color with a dark blonde ash tone and it didn’t help at all.. I think it made it look more like a rust color. I didn’t think the blue would work for me because I have blonde hair.. Man was I wrong and I wish I had done this sooner.. I found the blue shampoo at Alta’s beauty supply. It doesn’t dry out my hair like dish soap would.

  • Haha I love you, you are just like me!! My “beige blonde” is green, and I will be doing red food colouring. Lets hope my results are as positive as yours!

    • I know this was so long ago but the exact same thing jist happened to me! Did the red food coloring fix the greenish tint from your hair?

  • This was hilarious !!! I could relate and thought how funny it is when we just make these impulsive decisions with our hair then realize what was I thinking! Christmas night I came home and though you know I should dye my hair all dark. Then woke up going what was I thinking, then I go and get black dye and I’ve never dyed my hair black before. So I dye it black then add purple. I was in so much denial that it took one day to admit to my husband I might have went a little too dark. That’s when I discovered dye remover and had to go get it fixed again. Well, somehow I became obsessed with my hair this past year and it’s been one crazy episode after the next. LOL

  • So I don’t air that it didn’t work the first time that you had to repeat it 7 more times? How long do I leave it on for? Please advise as I’m also thinking of doing the same without having to do it that many times.

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