Can I Add Water to Hair Dye to Make It Go Further?

for men and women

Adding water to permanent or semipermanent dye is not a good idea.

Want to know why?


  • Water keeps the developer from oxidizing your hair, which will keep your hair fibers from completely absorbing the pigment.
  • Therefore, it’s also important to apply dye on dry hair, as the water in damp hair will have the same effect.
  • If you’re trying to create a larger volume of hair dye, adding water isn’t the way to do it. It’s also not an effective way to lighten the color.


 Basically, adding water to hair dye is just a bad idea. 


Explaining why will take some time, but I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge. So, now we’ll discuss the science behind what happens physically and chemically when you dye your hair.

Each hair is covered in small ridges, that form a structure called the cuticle.


  • The ammonia in permanent days opens the cuticle, raising the small ridges as if they were brushed in the wrong direction. This allows the dye to have an effect on the hair’s core, or cortex.

On top of that, the developer lifts your hair’s natural pigment so it can be replaced with another color.


  • Semi-permanent days, on the other hand, work in a very different way. These dyes do not contain ammonia, and most of them are not applied with developers, so they do not open the hair cuticle.

Therefore, the pigments in semi-permanent dye adhere to the outside layer of your hair.


  • You'll need dye and developer to permanently dye your hair, while semi-permanent dyes only require the dye itself.

In either case, you don't need to add water.


  Adding water interferes with the chemical process that changes your hair color, whether you're using permanent or semi-permanent dye. 

This is true no matter why you're thinking of adding water to the dye.


So, to save you from that mistake, in this article we will discuss:

  • Why it’s not a good idea to add water to hair dye
  • Things you CAN add to hair dye, and what they are used for


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Why you should never add water to hair dye

I've heard many strange things in my years of working in a salon.

With some customers, I have even forged a bond beyond that of a stylist and her client, and we have become genuine friends. Because of that, I've heard some of the most intimate confessions and incredible adventures from those in my salon chair.

I have also heard some downright strange things. Let's talk about those first.


Adding water to die so it goes further

This is simply not true. And the experience of Nora, one of my clients, proves the point. One day, as we were chatting, she confessed that she had added water to her hair dye years ago.

When I ask you why she simply told me "Well, I needed more die. And I was tired of having to buy two boxes of dye to color my long hair."

How did this experiment turn out?


  • The dye was so diluted that it could not evenly coat her hair. After all of that, she had to run out and buy two more boxes of dye.

While trying to save money, she ended up spending more.


  • Hair dye simply does not work like that.   To get a larger volume of permanent or semi-permanent die, you have to buy more product. 

Hair dye is not like paint, and you can't create more by mixing it with water. Just like Nora, you'll get the opposite effect. The dye will become less effective, and will not give you the result you want.


  • Imagine for a moment that you’re painting a picture, and want to create a pale, sky blue. So, you add water to the blue paint. Add enough water, and the paint will lose its intensity, to the point that it’s not even blue anymore.

Something similar happens to hair dye. Except this time, adding water inhibits the chemical process so the dye cannot open the cuticle to deposit the pigment.

And that's now all. I'm going to reveal something even more interesting next.


  • When you rinse your hair after applying hair dye, you are not only removing the excess product.

Remember, the developer opens the cuticle of the hair so the pigment can be absorbed, and water stops this chemical process.

This means it is essential to rinse your hair with water after dying. But also that if you add water to hair dye, the color will not take.

Want to know a salon secret?


  • Occasionally I have a client with hair that absorbs color too quickly. To control the reaction, I apply water every five minutes, and carefully monitor how his or her hair is reacting to the dye.

Just like how water and oil don't mix, you shouldn't mix water and hair dye if you want to effectively dye your hair.

But wait, because the strange things don't end there. There's one more to talk about.


Adding water to hair dye to lighten the color

If hair dye were that simple, why would companies invest loads of money in creating new colors?


  • If adding water was all it took to lighten hair dye, there would only be four or five colors. Because you could just add water to lighten the tone.

But the pigments in hair dye simply do not work like that. To achieve a lighter tone, you have to choose a lighter color of hair dye.

If you add water, all you will do is dilute the dye, and it won’t cover your hair evenly.


  • If you want light blonde hair, you shouldn't add water to another hair dye. Instead, choose a light blonde tone.

Permanent and semi-permanent hair dyes come in a vast range of colors, so you can choose the ideal tone for your hair, without trying experiments that could damage your hair or waste your money.


  TL;DR: you should not add water to permanent or semipermanent hair dye, as it will only make it less effective. 

Now, there are things you can mix with hair dye. Although the resulting mixture isn't used as a normal hair dye, it can serve other purposes. Would you like to know what they are?

Then keep reading. That's exactly what we're going to discuss next.


Things you CAN add to hair dye, and what they are used for

Now I know that if you want to dye your hair, you should never add water to the dye mixture. Adding water will only ruin the dye.

That being said, there are some things that you can mix with dye to create other types of products, such as a homemade color depositing shampoo, for example

To create a homemade color depositing shampoo, just add dye to your regular shampoo.


Dye + shampoo = color depositing shampoo

Would you like to know more?

Here's the recipe.


Fill an empty shampoo container up to how full with your regular shampoo. Then, add half a container of your normal permanent hair dye, and mix it thoroughly.

What is color depositing shampoo you used for?


 Using a color depositing shampoo each time you wash your hair keeps your color vibrant longer. 


Now, what happens if you mix hair dye with conditioner instead of shampoo?

What you will create is a color rinse.


Dye + conditioner = color rinse

  • To create a homemade color rinse, fill an empty shampoo or conditioner bottle halfway with your normal conditioner.
  • A reparative, moisturizing, or keratin-containing conditioner is even better.
  • Add half of a container of your regular hair dry to the conditioner and mix well.

When should you use a color rinse?


 Anytime you feel like your hair color has lost its shine or looks dull. The best way to apply it is by working from the roots to the ends of your hair. 



Behind each bottle of hair dye is an entire science that makes it possible to change your hair color.

Don't experiment with it, because all you will do is ruin the product and the health of your hair.

Adding water to hair dye will not create more product or lighten the color.


The only things that you can add to permanent hair dye are shampoo, to create a color depositing shampoo, or conditioner, to create a homemade color rinse.

Experimenting with anything else will get you nowhere.


Now it's your turn to share: have you added any unusual things to hair dye?

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