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Curly hair is ever-so-delicate, and hair dye is ever-so-harsh. But sometimes you just want to switch things up a little! What’s a natural girl to do? There are certain steps that you can take to protect your curls from damage while still achieving awesome, vivid color.

First, let’s start with the positive: the kinkier your hair, the more easily it absorbs color, and you don’t have to touch up your roots as often. Natural-haired women are also more likely to use gentle sulfate-free shampoos, which extends the color.

However, any coloring process is going to damage your cuticle to some extent, unless you use 100% natural henna. It’s a matter of minimizing the damage to keep your hair in good shape. Here’s how you can do it:

Prep Your Hair

The healthier your hair is, the more evenly the dye will be absorbed into the hair.

Before you apply bleach or dye, spend several weeks prepping your hair. Ideally, you should avoid heat for at least two months prior to your appointment. Deep condition once a week for at least two weeks, and moisturize daily with a leave-in conditioner along with an oil (but you were already doing that, right?!). It’s also a good idea to trim your ends.

For DIY Jobs, Go Semi-Permanent

If you want a subtle wash of color and your hair is 100% natural — i.e. not chemically straightened — you can give it a go at home, as long as you buy the right product. Stick with a shade that’s within one level of your natural color and use a gel or liquid formula. Look for a semi-permanent dye that’s free of ammonia and PPD.

Know When To Go Pro

If you plan to go lighter or want a drastic change, proceed with caution and head to a stylist you trust. You cannot lighten your hair without bleach, and bleach can easily damage curly and kinky hair. It’s best left to pros. Make sure to be completely honest with your stylist about your hair history. Keep in mind that, depending on the desired color, you may have to spread the process out over multiple sessions to avoid damaging your curls.

Practice Good Aftercare

After you’ve achieved the color of your dreams, don’t slack off! Colored hair requires special pampering. Look for a shampoo and conditioner that is especially designed for colored hair — not only are they better for your hair, but they also maintain the color for longer. Don’t wash your hair too often, and continue to pamper your hair with regular deep-conditioning and protein treatments.

You may have to go in for touch-ups to maintain your color, but luckily, curly hair is better at hiding your roots. As long as you take the necessary steps, there’s no reason that you can’t have healthy hair — whether it’s green or blonde or purple.

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