Strawberry Shortcake Hair Transformation

DIY Tips and Tricks for bold hair colors

After sharing my hair transformation on social media many of you have asked how I was able to double process my hair while still maintaining its health. I did a lot of research prior to this process and have learned some very useful tips and tricks along the way. I was also able to save a ton of money compared to what it would’ve cost for me to have this done at a salon.

You may wish to read Step 7 first, to understand the commitment it takes to dye your hair such an unusual color. See the bottom of this article for a list of all the products I used.

Step 1: Bleaching

I have a lot of natural red pigment in my hair. To help counter this I made sure to use a bleach with bluing added in order to end up with a more yellow/white result. Otherwise, I’d have gotten a strawberry blonde or even orange color that would not have been acceptable to dye over.

This is THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP and you must know what color level you need to end up with, which depends entirely on the color you are going to use. Here is an excerpt from the color that I used

“No matter what your current hair color is, you’ll need to pre-lighten it to a pale yellow-blonde color to achieve a boldly intense and bright color. (Pre-lightening is a permanent alteration to your natural hair color, meaning the brights hair color won’t easily wash out after applied to pre-lightened hair.) The degree of lift achieved with pre-lightening will directly affect the vibrancy and intensity of the final result. If you are wanting to enhance and embrace graying hair with a gray shade, choose “gray”.

I added a secret ingredient to my bleach and color to maintain it’s health and I’ll give you more information on that below.

Step 2: Wash thoroughly

Needless to say, if you don’t get all the bleach out of your hair the color won’t stick. Be VERY CAREFUL to wash gently under COOL WATER. Too much heat and your hair could actually fall out! It is normal to lose some hair. I tend to lose about double the amount of a normal shampooing. I highly recommend using a high-quality shampoo, not just some cheap Suave. I used Redken All Soft.

Step 3: Dry completely

In order for the color to stick your hair needs to be completely dry. Many people let their hair dry overnight and in the future, I’ll take this advice. I actually have some patches of lighter color near my scalp and it may be from a very slightly moist scalp. Don’t freak out if your hair looks really frizzy at this stage. The hair follicle is still open and your hair will regain its smoothness after you color and reseal the follicle.

Step 4: Strand Test

Honestly, I don’t always do a strand test. This time I needed to know that I had bleached my hair sufficiently to end up with pink hair and not orange! After 20 minutes I had a pink strand so I was good to go. If you end up with a bad strand test I recommend waiting a couple days to bleach again, otherwise, your hair may turn to straw 🙁 I actually bought a bandanna to wear just in case I had to cover my head for a few days to maintain it, and also to keep the sun from fading my fabulous pink hair!

Step 5: Add color

Yes, this is the fun part! Make sure you have either a clean bathroom (not in my house, sadly) or plenty of icky cleaning towels to line your work area. I used a puppy pad to drape around my neck and shoulders because it will not only catch the color but lock in the moisture and prevent it from bleeding through to my skin. Another tip is to put some Vaseline on your face, ears, and neck near your hairline to avoid color bleeding into your skin. I skipped this part and spent way too much time wiping myself down with a washcloth.

Use hair clips or bands to separate your hair into sections and completely saturate one section at a time. Make sure to get the color all the way from your roots to the ends of your hair. Afterward, go over your hair with any color that is left over. Use a cheap shower cap to cover your hair.

Process for AT LEAST 3 HOURS. I only did 2 hours and am already concerned that my color may not last very long. Most others process OVERNIGHT. I will do that next time. Simply place a stocking cap over your shower cap to avoid bleeding the color on your pillow.

Step 6: Wash hair with COLD water

Yes, cold water. Many people say cool water or even luke warm but I guarantee you will lose a lot of color that way. The colder the water, the brighter the color. And not just this time, every single bath or shower you take you MUST keep your hair out of the water and use cold to wash it. Trust me, your hair will maintain it’s health and color much longer if you use COLD water.

Now that you’ve been strictly warned, use the second step in the secret ingredient to seal in your color. You may then use a sulfate free shampoo and I highly recommend a color adding conditioner, such as ION Pigments (I used the Magenta).


Step 7: Maintain your color

As you can see above, the first night my hair was still pretty frizzy. If you’re willing to do all the work to put a vivid color in your hair, please be advised that it will also take a lot of work to maintain. HEAT IS YOUR ENEMY! Be prepared to wash in COLD water, be very careful with styling and use the lowest heat settings on your dryers and irons. This is serious, my hair started to turn orange when I turned up the heat on my flat iron. It took me double the normal time to style my hair. Also, I bought a bandana to cover my hair and protect it from the sun. If you plan to be outside a lot in the summer this is a must.

Don’t forget that WATER IS ALSO YOUR ENEMY. Plan on going for a swim? Better get a tight-fitting swim cap, otherwise, your hair color could interact with the chemicals in the water. Yes, lake water, salt water, and worst of all chlorinated pools will do horrifying things to your hair. Plan ahead and be prepared to protect your investment. Don’t forget that an ill-timed rain shower will also lead to color staining your skin and clothes. Umbrella? Check!

Use a color-safe shampoo and conditioner. I mentioned above that a color depositing conditioner can help extend the life of your color. I also recommend ONLY WASHING HAIR ONCE PER WEEK. Yes, that may seem extreme, but it takes a lot to style your hair without stripping the color. Also realize that these are SEMI-PERMENANT colors, so they will fade each time you shampoo.


  1. My secret ingredient is a knock of Olaplex (used by high-end celebrity salons). It’s called ABSOLUTE PERFECTION by ion. You can buy this in store or online at This is a two-step additive. You add a small amount of Booster to both your bleach (increase the volume one level- for me, it was from 20 to 30 volume) and to your hair color.  The second step is a Color Sealer that is used to condition your hair and seal the color into the hair follicle. This will give your hair color a longer life as well as preserve the health of your hair.
  2. Use styling products to maintain healthy hair. I used Bb. All-style before blow drying, Bb. invisible oil before flat ironing, and lastly used a very large amount of Argan Oil to smooth my colored hair. You can get these products or something of similar quality online or at a beauty supply store such as Sally’s or Ulta.


  1. Take the time it takes. I can’t overstate the importance of going through this process as slowly as needed. I probably rushed it too fast and spent a whole day on this. I’ve colored my hair a lot and know what I’m doing. If this is your first time just have a spa day or two and take your time.
  2. Again, be prepared to maintain your color. This isn’t for everyone. You can always just do a strand or two for a bold accent. The ion color I used did mention that it can be used over natural hair for a more subtle effect.
  3. PICK A COLOR THAT GOES WITH YOUR SKIN TONE. I have a ton of pink in my skin tone, so picking a nice looking pink wasn’t difficult. Make sure you hold up the hair color swatch to your face to make sure that the color will work before going to all this effort. Ask a friend or beauty supply employee if they agree. If all else fails, go to a high-end salon that specializes in bright colors. It’s better to drop a few hundred dollars than to ruin your hair!


The colorists in my area charge between $100 to $150 per hour. This job took me 5 hours. I’ll guess that a professional could have done it in 4 hours, totaling $400 to $600 which is the average price in the area.

How much did I pay? Considering that I already had the developer and styling products I needed, my out of pocket cost was only $28.30! We’ll be honest though and assume you need to purchase everything new.

We’ll be honest though and assume you need to purchase everything new. Between styling products and coloring accessories (gloves, disposable shower caps, mixing bowl, tint brush, etc.) You will pay roughly $50 to $100 depending on the actual products you select.

Breaking down the averages, this leaves out of pocket costs of $75 for home coloring and $500 for salon treatment. This equals:

A total average savings of $425!


I’ve gone into much detail, but I’m sure there will still be something I missed. Please comment below with any questions and do let me know if you try this at home!






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