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How To Dye Short Hair Without Staining Your Scalp

Whether it’s a pixie cut or a daring buzz cut, hair is slowly becoming a modern classic for both men and women.

It shows off your fabulous bone structure and is a statement look – and when you dye it a fun, eye-catching color, it becomes even more chic and captivating.

But dyeing short hair is a nightmare if you haven’t done it before. It’s extremely easy to make a mess of your hair dye, which can lead to patchy color on your hair, or worse, stains all over your scalp, face, and body.

Thankfully, dye won’t stain your skin forever – but that doesn’t mean it’s not a hassle to fix.

To avoid disasters like accidentally staining your forehead red or giving your nape a little touch of purple the next time you dye your hair, you must know how to color it properly.

Here’s how to dye short hair without staining the scalp.

how to dye short hair without staining scalp

Is Staining Your Scalp With Dye Dangerous?

Although finding color stains anywhere on your body is a bit annoying, it’s never fatal.

But that doesn’t mean they’re completely harmless either.

Hair dyes – especially permanent ones – are riddled with plenty of hazardous chemicals, such as ammonia and hydrogen peroxide.

These chemicals are terrific at making sure your hair color lasts as long as humanly possible on your hair, but they can also be extra irritating on your skin if they come into contact with it.

The worst that can happen if your scalp is exposed to hair dye is that it will get irritated.

Over the next few hours, you could experience itchiness, inflammation, and tenderness.

Related Post: How To Treat Chemical Burns On The Scalp

Your skin might even get a little red.

But as long as you wipe the dye off as soon as you see it and leave it alone, you’ll be fine.

But what about staining?

Well, the good news is that if you do accidentally stain your skin with hair dye, it’s pretty easy to wash out – yes, even if you’re using a permanent dye.

If you’re using a semi-permanent color, it will be even easier to wash off.

A little soap and water are all it takes.

If you’re using a particularly strong and potent dye, the stain might persist on your scalp.

But in a week or so, your skin will shed that pigment and will be back to your natural tone.


The Right Way To Dye Short Hair

Luckily, the correct way to color short hair is very similar to how you should dye your hair to avoid staining.

Here’s exactly how you need to go about it:


Don’t Wash On Dye Day

First, make sure you don’t wash your hair on the day you want to color it.

It’s better to dye your hair when it’s been several days since your last wash.

The natural oils and sebum that coat your hair will help repel the dye from your scalp, keeping stains to a minimum.

This is in contrast to applying dye on super clean hair and skin, which will rapidly absorb all that dye and can lead to stains very quickly.


Use An Applicator Brush

Next is the application process.

While it’s easier for people with longer hair to use a squeeze applicator bottle to distribute the hair dye all over their mane, it’s not the case with short hair.

It will be easier to paint the color onto your strands with an applicator brush.

Using a brush gives you way more control as to what areas of your head you’re coloring, so avoiding the scalp will be easier.

how to dye short hair without staining scalp

If you use an applicator bottle and dispense the dye right into your hair, you might accidentally drench your scalp with dye with one wrong squeeze.


How To Dye Short Hair Without Staining The Scalp

Obviously, you can still end up staining your scalp even if you follow the quick tips above, especially since hair dye has nowhere to go except your skin if you have short hair.

So, here are some specific ways to keep that from happening:


Shield Your Scalp From The Dye Using Petroleum Jelly

The easiest way to protect your scalp from staining is to slather a thin layer of petroleum jelly over the areas you want to shield.

You can use something simple like mineral oil or good old Vaseline for this, but my favorite to use is Lucas Papaw Ointment.

This Australian petroleum jelly is infused with fermented papaya, which gives the ointment extra healing properties.

That makes it perfect for soothing sensitive skin if the dye does in fact come into contact with it.

The petroleum jelly used in the formula is non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores.

Before brushing the dye into your short hair, apply a layer of the ointment onto your hairline, nape, and behind your ears.

These are the spots that commonly get stained when coloring short hair.

With this barrier, they’ll be extra protected from your dye.

If you want even more protection from staining, you can press some cotton on the perimeter of petroleum jelly.

Cotton will quickly absorb any dye that leaks from your hair and runs on your skin.

However, note that if your hair has even a tiny amount of petroleum jelly on it, it might not take color well.

So, make sure the ointment touches only your skin, never your hair.


Clean The Skin As You Go

Petroleum jelly won’t solve all your staining issues for you.

Even if you put on the thickest layers of ointment on your hairline and scalp, there’s no guarantee that dye won’t run off your hair and onto your skin.

So, another thing you have to be on top of when coloring your short hair is wiping whatever dye accidentally hits your skin.

Make sure you have a damp face towel or some tissue within reach so you can grab it and wipe off dye as soon as you notice it anywhere other than your hair.

You can also use cotton balls and some rubbing alcohol to wipe the dye away as soon as possible.

But my favorite way to wash the skin right away when dye gets on it is with trust baby wipes.

They’re gentle on the skin and get the job done just as effectively as the other tools above.

And while you’re at it, make sure you’re keeping an eye on how the dye is processing in your hair.

Not only is this pertinent in knowing what color your hair has at any given moment, but it’s the best way to know for sure when the dye is already dripping down your nape or hairline.


Wear Protective Clothing And Equipment

Wearing the right kind of clothing and covering yourself up is another easy way to prevent your scalp from ending up with unwanted stains from your dye.

First up, we have gloves.

Whether you’re a professional stylist or doing your hair yourself at home, it’s always a good idea to wear disposable plastic gloves.

You’ll help protect your nails and hands from staining – after all, your scalp isn’t the only part of your skin that risks accidentally getting dye on it.

People with long hair often clip their hair up per section as they dye it.

This helps them organize their hair sections and make the distribution of color easier, all while keeping the dye away from the skin.

But for short hair, clips don’t really do anything.

They probably won’t even hold any of your hair up properly, since the length is too short.

Instead, wear a cloth headband you don’t want to use anymore.

This will catch any dye that’s dripping down your neck and hairline, protecting your skin from staining.

Other articles of clothing you might want to wear include an old t-shirt you don’t mind throwing out.

You’ll also want to wrap an old or dark-colored towel around your shoulders.

These prevent further staining not just in the hairline and areas close to your hair, but also on your neck and shoulders.


How To Remove Dye If You End Up Staining Your Scalp

If you still end up staining your scalp even after following everything I’ve detailed above, don’t worry.

The worst that’s going to happen is you’ll have some little black or brown dye on your skin for a few days.

It will fade sooner or later, but if you want to speed up the process, here are a few products you can use:

  • Petroleum jelly or olive oil can absorb and melt off the dye. Just gently massage it into your stained scalp and wipe it with a paper towel.
  • A professional stain remover like the Roux Clean Touch Haircolor Stain Remover gently eliminates stains from any type of hair dye in seconds. Just saturate a cotton pad with the solution and swipe across affected areas.



There’s nothing wrong with accidentally staining your scalp when dyeing short hair.

It’s understandably difficult to do it mess-free because of the tricky length of the hair.

But still, stains on your hairline and scalp make your coloring job look unkempt and unprofessional, so it’s still in your best interest to avoid it entirely.

If you’ve been wondering how to dye short hair without staining your scalp, then this article is for you.

As long as you use the right technique when coloring your short hair and take on every preventive measure you can to prevent staining, you can successfully dye your strands with your skin completely unscathed.

Protect your hairline, diligently clean your skin, and wear the proper equipment during your coloring job, and your scalp will have a better shot at staying stain-free.

As for your hair? It’s going to look ultra-stylish with its new, smooth, luscious color!

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