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How to Dye Dread Tips for Beginners: DIY Step by Step Guide

Young African man with naturally dark hair with light brown hair dye on his dyed dreadlocks.

Are you thinking about spicing up your locs with some colorful tips but aren’t quite sure where to start? You’re not alone.

But if you have clear instructions from experts in the natural hair space, you’re a giant step ahead of the rest. In this article, we’ll tell you how to dye the tips of your dreads at home so you can get the exact results you’re going for! 

How To Dye Dread Tips With Permanent Dye

Dyeing your locks with permanent dye can give you long-lasting, vibrant results on even the darkest hair. It requires you to apply dye and developer to your tips to change the color of your strands from the inside out.

If you want to know how the process works, keep on reading! 

Note: This is not for locs that have pre-bleached tips. 

Pleased African American guy after using a hair coloring kit to color the tips of a few dreads.

Gather Your Materials

Here are the materials you’ll need to dye your locks with permanent dye:

Note: You can experiment and have fun when choosing permanent dyes. We often see people dye their dread tips a reddish tone, golden yellow, and light brown hair color. Although we recently met a person that used a pastel blue dye with bleaching powder on their locs. It looked great too! So, you can be creative and experience if you like.

Dyeing Process Instructions

With all of your supplies ready to go, follow the below steps to get your dreads colored right: 

Bearded African American man with his hair follicles in dreadlocks style treated with coconut oil and lemon juice.
  1. Prep your hair. Before dyeing your hair, ensure it is completely dry and free of heavy products. 
  2. Protect your skin and clothing. Put on gloves and place a towel over your shoulders to prevent staining.
  3. Mix up your dye in a mixing bowl. To mix up the dye, you’ll need to combine 1 part dye with 2 parts developer and mix well. This is the best ratio for lightening virgin hair. If you’ve colored your dreads before, we recommend going to a colorist for a professional dye job. 
    • If you’re using a permanent dye kit, follow the instructions on the dye packaging. 
  4. Section or ponytail your dreads. If your dreads are really long, put them in a ponytail at the crown of your head. Then keep adding elastics until there are 1 to 3 inches left out. If your locs are short, you’ll need to make multiple ponytails to get an even result. 
  5. Apply the dye. Apply some of the dye to the ends of each dreadlock and massage it using your fingers. We urge you to go one loc at a time so that you can get the dye on evenly. 
  6. Cover your head and wait. Allow the color to process for about 30 minutes. If you’ve got a permanent dye kit, go by the timing instructions on the packaging for the best results. You can use a plastic shower cap, plastic cling wrap, plastic bag, or anything that allows you to safely cover your dreads for roughly 30 minutes.
  7. Rinse. Take your time and rinse all of the dye out of your locks. Rinse (with hot or warm water) and squeeze repeatedly. Be patient, as it can take 10 minutes or more to get all the dye out. 
  8. Air dry. Allow your hair to air dry, and then follow that up with your favorite conditioner and moisturizer. Your locs may feel a bit dry after the coloring process. 
Young African guy with clean dreads and colored tips after washing them with a sulfate-free shampoo.

How To Dye Dread Tips With Semi-Permanent Dye

Dyeing your dread tips with semi-permanent dye is very similar to dyeing them with permanent dye. The only significant difference is that you won’t mix the semi-permanent dye with the developer.

Keep in mind that semi-permanent dye does not last nearly as long as the permanent dye will. 

Note: Since semi-permanent dye doesn’t lift the hair, you’ll need to pre-lighten your tips beforehand or choose a dye shade that’s darker than your current loc color. 

Gather Your Materials

A young man with super dark hair would need to use more dye since dark hair takes longer to color.

Dyeing Process Instructions

  1. Deep cleanse your hair with a clarifying shampoo. That way, the dye will adhere to your strands. 
  2. Protect your skin and clothes with gloves and an old towel. Depending on your preference, you can use reusable latex gloves or non-latex disposable gloves.
  3. Section your locs in the same way we described in the previous section (by putting them into a high ponytail or multiple ponytails and then adding elastic bands until you get almost to the ends. Leave out the last 1 to 3 inches of your locs, as this is the portion you’ll be coloring. 
  4. Mix up the dye. Dispense the semi-permanent dye into your mixing bowl and mix it until it’s smooth. 
  5. Apply the dye to your dread tips. Ensure that your locs are entirely covered with the plastic shower cap. 
  6. Wait at least 30 minutes, and then rinse the dye from your locs. 
Curious looking black man after dyeing his locs with henna dye and using a hot oil treatment.

Dyeing Locs with Henna Paste

Yet another option you have for dyeing your loc tips is henna. Henna is a natural pigment that can give you a color change that lasts for months. 

You’ll need to mix the henna with a liquid (and oils, if you prefer) before application. The process for preparing the henna mixture will depend on the henna you’ve purchased. 

The main downside to henna is that you can’t use it if you’ve ever used chemicals on your hair. If you do, you could experience severe loc damage. 

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Cheerful African American gentleman after dyeing his hair with henna powder and allowing it to air-dry completely.

Mistakes to Avoid When Dyeing Dread Tips

The dread tip dyeing process may seem straightforward at first glance, but the truth is that it’s very easy to mess up and end up with a hair disaster.

That’s why we’d like to share with you several common mistakes people make when dyeing their dread tips and how to avoid them. Let’s get right into it! 

Young African guy after letting his hair air dry following detoxing his dreads to keep his locs healthy.

Not Reading the Product Instructions

No matter what type of dye you buy, it’s always a good idea to read the instructions thoroughly and follow them closely.

The instructions given in this article (as far as mixing and timing) are generalized. The best instructions to follow for your specific hair dyeing situation are on your packaging. 

Not Using the Right Developer

If you’ve never dyed your locs before and you want lighter tips, you’ll need to lighten them. Go with a 20-volume developer if you’re going red, dark blonde, or any color in-between. But if you want platinum ends, you’ll need at least a 30-volume developer. 

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An adult male with long dreads and dyed tips from using a box kit to compliment his natural color.

Not Applying the Product Correctly

No one wants patchy results, but that’s what you’ll get if you are stingy with the dye or don’t take the time to massage it in. Be generous with the dye and ensure that every loc tip is entirely saturated. 

Not Allowing Enough Time for the Dye to Process

Color doesn’t take much time to process in general (usually between 25 and 40 minutes). But you may still get impatient and rinse the dye out prematurely. We advise against this, as it could result in a color that’s dull and won’t last very long. 

A black man wearing a red shirt after dyeing his dread tips while protecting it with a dark blue towel.

Rinsing Hair Poorly

Rinsing loose hair is easy, but if you have locs, it’s a bit more complicated. Since your strands are tangled on top of each other, you’ll need to be methodical to ensure that you get all of the product out.

So, rinse your locs until the water runs clear (with warm or hot water) and there’s no sign of dye left. If you don’t rinse the dye out properly, your locs could dry out over time and become damaged. 

Is Dyeing Dreads a Good Idea?

Dyeing your dreads or dreads tips is trendy, fashionable, and makes you stand out. However, it can be quite a damaging process if done incorrectly. If you are unsure whether you can dye your dreads, leave it to a professional. 

But if you feel confident in your ability to follow the instructions in this article and your hair is in good condition, feel free to give it a try.  

African male after moisturizing dreads with too much moisture creating a bad smell.

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Your first time dyeing your locs can be difficult, but the tips and instructions we’ve given in the article will definitely make it easier. We wish you the best with your coming dreadlock transformation