How to Color Human Hair Clip In Hair Extensions

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Choose a Color & Gather Your Supplies

Photo © Kendra Aarhus

If your clip in hair extensions aren't quite the right color and you'd like to color them at home, these steps can guide you through the process. Before you begin you'll want to make sure that your hair extensions are human hair. Artificial hair can not be successfully colored.

I do not recommend lightening your hair extensions at home. You may want to enlist the help of a professional hair stylist to lighten your extensions or add highlights. Darkening your color, or altering the tone (adding or removing red tones, for example) can be safely done by choosing a color that will not damage your extensions.

To choose a color, I recommend that you purchase a professional hair color and developer line.  A box color from a drugstore does not give you the option to choose the developer that you will use on your hair extensions. I recommend using Matrix SoColor Permanent Cream Hair Color because it comes in a variety of shades that are vibrant and long-lasting. Buy on

 Choose a 10 volume developer or a demi-permanent color if at all possible. You can use 20 volume developer if necessary, but I would not recommend using 30 volume or 40 volume on your hair extensions. Higher developers could cause damage to your hair extensions if you're not careful. Buy the Matrix SoLite 10 Volume Developer on

After you've purchased your color, you'll want to gather a few supplies:

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Organize Your Workspace and Mix Color

Prepared workspace and color. Photo © Kendra Aarhus

I've found that coloring hair extensions are most easily accomplished by using a large counter or table space. Be sure you are coloring your extensions in a warm room with plenty of light. Spreadsheets of tin foil across your work area to protect the workspace from the color. Make sure you have plenty of room to work comfortably.

Next, following the manufacturer's directions, prepare your color. Most color is mixed with equal parts color and developer. You'll need approximately 3-5 ounces of prepared color for your extensions. More color may be necessary for longer extensions.

Finally, lay the extensions across the tin foil. You'll want to be sure that your extensions have been combed through prior to coloring. It is not necessary to wash your extensions prior to coloring. Do not color your hair extensions while they are wet or damp.

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Apply the Color

Photo © Kendra Aarhus

Using gloved hands and a color brush, apply the color as shown in the photo above. It is important to be sure that you apply an ample amount of color to completely saturate each section of your hair extensions. Be sure that the color completely coats both sides of your extensions from top to the very ends. It is very important that you apply the color starting at the top of the extension (where the clips are located) downward to the ends, following the natural fall of the hair. Applying the color upside down could result in damage to your extensions and will likely leave your extensions frizzy or disheveled. It is always better to use too much color, rather than not enough.

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Process the Color

Photo © Kendra Aarhus

After you have applied color to each section of your extensions, loosely cover them with plastic wrap to prevent the color from drying out. Allow the color to process at room temperature according to the manufacturer's directions. Typically, the color should process anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes.

Check a small section of the hair extensions every 5 to 10 minutes during the processing time, by gently rubbing the color off the extension with a paper towel. Be sure to reapply the color with your color brush after checking, and remember that hair color when wet appears darker than dry hair color.

When the processing time has been completed and the color of your extensions are satisfactory it is time to rinse. Fold your tin foil in half for easy transportation to a sink.

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Photo © Kendra Aarhus

Rinse the color from your extensions using cool water at low pressure. It is very important that you allow the water to flow in the direction that the hair naturally falls, from the clipped portion of the extension to the ends. Use your fingers to gently remove the color. Rinsing should take a minimum of 15 - 20 minutes. Each section should be rinsed thoroughly and lightly shampooed with a mild, sulfate-free, moisturizing or color safe shampoo. It is very important that all color is removed from the extensions. When in doubt, keep rinsing.

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Comb and Allow to Dry

Photo © Kendra Aarhus

When you are sure that your extensions are rinsed properly, lay a towel down on your workspace. Apply a leave-in conditioner to each section of your extensions and comb with your wide tooth comb. Lay the extensions out and allow them to air-dry thoroughly before using them, styling the extensions, or applying any kind of heat tools.

Carefully following these steps will ensure that your hair extensions are colored properly, with minimal damage to your extensions.