Many people look at synthetic hair to add length, volume, or color to their hair. What do you do if you can’t find a shade of synthetic hair that suits your needs?
Or what do you do if you find an excellent price on good quality synthetic hair, but the extensions in your color cost twice as much?
Many people think they can easily color synthetic hair with drugstore hair dye to achieve their desired shade, but dying synthetic hair is a little more complicated than that.
Can You Dye Synthetic Hair?
Synthetic hair is any artificial material that people create to simulate the look and feel of hair. As a result, it is challenging to dye.
Wigs are more difficult to dye than extensions or highlight clips, but it isn’t impossible to dye synthetic hair. Synthetic hair comes in multiple material types and varying qualities.
As a general rule of thumb, the better quality your synthetic hair, the more you can work with it to change the color without damaging it. An excellent way to tell the quality is by the look and feel.
Synthetic hair with an overly plastic feel or a too-shiny appearance isn’t as high-quality as other artificial hair. Surprisingly, poorer-quality synthetic hair is some of the best for dying!
Types of Synthetic Hair
There are several variations of synthetic hair, including:
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
Polyester and Acrylic materials are the least difficult to dye, as fabric dyes already exist for the two materials. There is always some risk when dying synthetic hair, but these two materials have the highest success rates.
For polyester synthetic hair, dilute your polyester dye with water and soak the hair you wish to dye for an hour. Once finished, rinse gently with cold water. You cannot dye dark polyester to a lighter color.
For acrylic synthetic hair, dilute an acrylic dye with rubbing alcohol and spray it onto the hair, combing through fully before rinsing with cold water.
You can dye PVC, Kanekalon, and Toyokalon, but the risk of damage to the hair is significantly lighter. For these fibers, mix ink (alcohol-based only) with alcohol into a spray bottle and apply it to the hair.
Comb the color through and wait five to ten minutes before rinsing with cold water. You must rinse all hair with cold water, as warm water will strip the color back out of the wig.
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Types of Hair Dye
There are many types of hair dye out there, and there are even more options for synthetic hair.
Commercial Hair Dye
You can never use commercial color on synthetic hair. Whether you use permanent, semi-permanent, or temporary, the dye will likely melt or break the fibers and ruin the hair piece.
Bleach is even worse than commercial dye. Bleach destroys the disulfide bonds of natural human hair and can break many other types of chemical bonds. Most synthetic hair consists of a polymer chain that bleach can destroy.
This means that bleach will ruin the synthetic hair, and it will cause it to fall out of the wig cap or clip it is attached to. Even if you find a wig made from monofilaments (materials without the polymer chains), bleach can cause excessive wear and strain on the fibers.
Read Next: Does Bleaching Your Hair Damage It Forever?
Fabric dyes are an excellent option for dying synthetic fabrics. Make sure that the fabric dye you purchase and use is the same material as your synthetic wig or highlights and that you follow the instructions on the packaging. Fabric dyes are excellent for darkening synthetic fabrics, but they cannot lighten them much, if at all.
We don’t suggest this one. But… it’s been done. Sharpie dye is a homemade hair dye in which you break open Sharpie markers and dilute the internal ink with water to soak your synthetic hairpiece. Sharpie dye is generally gentle and works on most materials, but the effects aren’t always as strong as some other options.
Kool-Aid dye is another homemade hair dye option. Kool-Aid is an excellent option if you are trying to darken any synthetic hair material. The color is generally intense and even. One problem with Kool-Aid dye is that it might run and stain your clothes if it rains.
Another problem with Kool-Aid dye is that it dries out synthetic fibers. However, you can use a conditioning spray to add a bit of moisture and shine back to any dry threads.
Frequently Asked Questions
You’ve learned a bit about synthetic hair and hair dye types, but what does that mean for you? Take a look below at some of the questions that people ask most frequently.
What’s the Best Way to Dye an Expensive Synthetic Wig?
You probably shouldn’t dye an expensive synthetic wig. Even the gentlest inks or fabric dyes could damage the fabric bindings to the wig cap. If you’re determined, use either the appropriate dye discussed in this article’s “Types of Synthetic Hair” section.
Know that there are no guarantees when it comes to synthetic wigs, and even the best methods occasionally damage synthetic materials.
Will Dye Ruin My Synthetic Wig?
Yes, regular boxed hair dye will ruin your synthetic wig. Material-appropriate fabric or ink dyes significantly decrease the odds of ruining your hair, but no method is 100% successful.
Can You Use Permanent Hair Dye on Synthetic Hair?
No. You cannot use permanent hair dye on synthetic fabrics. Permanent hair dye penetrates the cuticle surrounding the hair shaft. The permanent dye typically penetrates the entirety of synthetic hair, resulting in damage, breakage, or melting.
Does the Original Color of My Synthetic Hair Matter When I Dye it?
Yes! It is significantly easier to dye light synthetic hair than to dye dark synthetic hair. Blonde or pastel colors are easy to turn dark. It is impossible to turn a black synthetic wig blonde, regardless of your synthetic hair’s material.
Can You Bleach Synthetic Hair?
No. Bleach will ruin synthetic hair. You can only lighten synthetic hair by a shade or two using proper fabric or ink dyes. Attempts to lighten hair more than this will destroy the synthetic hair.
Can You Paint Synthetic Hair With Acrylic Paint?
Technically, you can do this. However, it will not look natural. If you paint synthetic hair with acrylic paint, it will be far heavier and thicker than it was before. Each strand of hair will move in a singular, chunky movement.
If you are creating cosplay and do not need your synthetic hair to look real, this might be a good option for you. In any other circumstance, you should probably avoid using acrylic paint on your synthetic hair.
So, Can You Dye Synthetic Hair?
You cannot dye your synthetic hair with a standard, boxed hair color, but there are other ways to achieve the desired colors. Keep in mind the material of the synthetic hair you wish to dye before you make any attempts.
Remember that it is very difficult to lighten synthetic hair and that it is impossible to lighten the fibers more than a shade or two. Additionally, after dying your synthetic hair, only wash gently with cold water to avoid any color fading. Happy coloring!