Becoming Blonde: Japanese Hair Dye for Caucasian Hair

Grace Buchele Mineta

One of the first things you’ll notice living in Tokyo is the fact that most Japanese women are impeccably dressed, from head to toe. However, while clothes, shoes, and even nails are easy enough to change, hair is a bit more difficult.

Nonetheless, just because something is difficult does not mean it is not worth doing. Fashion magazines will tell you hair is one of the greatest fashion accessories, to the point that people will spend nearly a 10,000 yen every two or three weeks to get their hair professionally re-dyed.

As a cheapo, I think that is a waste. Everyone is free to do whatever they want with their own money, but I’ve found dying your hair with dye from a box is easier and safer (not to mention cheaper) than everyone lets it on to be. And by much cheaper, I legitimately mean a tenth of a price of getting it professionally done.

However, as a non-Asian woman (specifically, a white woman from Texas), I’ve discovered the Japanese box hair dye made for Asian hair doesn’t work on my hair. Asian hair is different than Caucasian hair which is different than Indian hair which is different than African hair which is different than any other kind of hair. Hair dye needs to be tailored; different hair calls for different hair dye.

If you’ve ever visited Japan, you probably have realized that Japan is a mostly homogenous society, or at least nearly homogeneously Asian. Finding cheap hair dyes that work on non-Asian hair types (Caucasian, African, and any other) is difficult. As a result, over the last couple months I’ve run several experiments with Japanese hair dyes, using the most popular and cheapest brands to discover what works the best with Caucasian hair.

From best to worst: Japanese hair dyes that work on Caucasian Hair:

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Beauteen EX メガブリーチ

Cost: Around 400-500 yen (depending on stores).

Pros: Bleached my hair as light as it promised. The next morning my hair was soft and relatively undamaged.

Cons: None

Overall score: 9.5/10

Every: Annadonna (Perrot Red/パロットレッド)

Cost: 1,600 (depending on stores)

Pros: Significantly turned my hair red.

Cons: Expensive, only works well on already bleached blonde hair.

Overall score: 7/10

Palty (きいちごマカロン)

Cost: About 600 yen (depending on store)

Pros: My hair turned out vaguely red. Even though it was dying my hair darker, it didn’t stain my skin around my hairline and neck.

Cons: Didn’t dye my hair darker (at all), and it ended up a light strawberry blonde.

Overall score: 6.5/10

Palty (ブリーチ)

Cost: About 600 yen (depending on store)

Pros: Turned my hair blonde(ish)

Cons: Completely destroyed my hair for the next week; only lightened my hair a little bit. The end result was not worth the damage it did to my hair.

Overall score: 3/10

Palty 泡パーク(マカロンブラウン)

Cost: About 650 yen (depending on store)

Pros: Easy to use. It comes in a cup that you can mix a foam formula. The foam is very easy to use, and ensures an even spreading.

Cons: Didn’t change my hair color too much…

Overall score: 5.5/10

Gatsby: Natural Bleach Color (シャンパンアッシュ)

Cost: Around 500 yen (depending on store)

Pros: Very natural look. The next morning my hair was soft and relatively undamaged. I think it is perfect for dying roots.

Cons: My hair didn’t look anything like what the box promised…

Overall score: 8.5/10

Liese Prettia 泡カラー(ローズティブラウン)

Cost: Around 700 yen

Pros: This hair dye comes in a bottle that creates an easy-to-use foam.

Cons: A bit expensive and while it changed my hair color a little bit, I hoped it would do a bit better…

Overall score: 7/10

Things to remember before you dye your hair using Japanese hair dye:

  • ドンキホーテ (Donki-Hote) is the cheapest place to buy hair dye, usually a couple hundred yen cheaper than at a regular drug store. Donki-Hote also holds weekly to monthly sales on hair dye.
  • Nearly all Japanese hair dye has bleach in it. Hair dye is meant to work on both naturally black and previously dyed hair. In order for it to work on naturally black hair, though, they have to first lighten it up a bit. As a result, even if you are dying your hair darker, you still need to be careful about bleach in the Japanese hair dye destroying your hair.
  • Asian hair strands are generally much thicker than Caucasian hair strands. If you are not careful, you can easily damage your hair by leaving the hair dye in for too long.
  • If your hair goes down past your ears, buy two boxes of hair dye. Nothing is worse than running out of hair dye half-way through (I’ve done that before).
  • Before you dye your hair, remember to deep conditioner it the night before. In general, just follow this guide.
  • If you have a sensitive head, please do the skin allergy test.
  • After you dye your hair, don’t blow dry it, use a curler or iron, or brush it harshly for a couple days. Give it time to repair.

If you’d prefer to just sit back and relax at a salon, here are our top 5 salons for getting your hair dyed in Tokyo.

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Filed under: Fashion, Lifestyle
Tags: Gatsby, Japanese Hair Dye, Resident
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14 Responses to “Becoming Blonde: Japanese Hair Dye for Caucasian Hair”

  1. Avatar
    NJ in Kobe April 10, 2013

    Hi there, good article! I have light(ish) brown hair and I need to make it a little bit lighter, but not bleach blonde by any means, and I certainly don’t want to damage my hair! Do you have any suggestions?

    • Avatar

      Hi there!

      The problem with Japanese hair dyes is that all of them contain a little bit of bleach in them (so no matter what you do, you’re going to end up damaging your hair a bit).

      I generally think that the hair dyes follow true to what they advertise, so if you’re looking for something lighter, try any of the pale blonde dyes. Try to pick one that will turn your hair a little bit lighter than what you want, and you should be good!

      I always use Beauteen EX now. It might not work for you, but it works GREAT for me! (and is pretty cheap)

      Good luck!

  2. Avatar
    Gemma May 17, 2013

    Hi did the first dye make your hair really yellow, or did it look blonde?

    • Avatar

      It was a pretty deep yellow. My hair went from a dark brown to this color:
      As time passed it got more yellow and less “blonde”

  3. Avatar
    Hayley Buck May 30, 2013

    This is sooooo useful! I’m moving to Japan soon and have been freaking out about dying my hair over there. My hair is naturally a medium ash brown and I’ve been dying it a deep mahogany red colour for years! I want to keep dying it because I hate my natural colour and I have a few greys. I don’t mind changing colour so I might try some of the brands you mentioned! THANK YOU! haha

    • Avatar
      michelleglauser February 24, 2014

      Hayley, I’d love to hear how things have gone with dyeing in Japan since you posted this reply. I’m in China and am unsure of using dye made for Asian hair to make mine darker (from a light brown to a rich, reddish medium or dark brown).

      • Avatar
        Hayley Buck June 9, 2014

        This is a bit late but… I actually made a video about dying my hair at home and wrote a blog post. I only tried the one dye. It was pretty disappointing and I won’t be trying any again! I actually go to a hair salon now. It’s pretty pricey but they have bilingual staff and use western products. Hope you found something for your hair!

  4. Avatar
    陳嘉琪 July 5, 2013

    and ,, how about japanese schwarzkopf ^^

  5. Avatar
    A R L in Taiwan April 24, 2014

    Have gotten strange results using dye while living here in Taiwan, especially since I both need to lighten my hair overall (dark brown to warm light brown) in order to keep my former style, but I also have a lot of new gray to cover, especially in one spot. Even if I try to go a little darker than my current dyed portions, the grays just get lighter — they end up looking like fluff! At home, I dye everything darker and then highlight. Here I’d be happy just to survive another few months without weird tiger stripes.
    Thanks for this post, and my question for you: do you personally know anything about trying to cover a few grays with any of this Asian dye (without turning one’s hair really dark)? Do Asian women cover their grays much?

  6. Avatar

    As a DIY I love the Japanese box dyes! The problem with these dyes is that they are meant for one size fits all kind of thing lol. At the salon the hair stylist can customize the dye and bleach formulation to suite your hairs needs to achieve the style you like. If you want bright and light hair you must first bleach then color. Note that dye on bleached hair will fade faster than hair that has not been bleached.

  7. Avatar

    I have light brown/dark blond hair naturally, and what I’m looking for is a darker color. I’ve heard all Japanese dyes have bleaches in them. What will this do to the result? How long did the Annadonna color last for you?

  8. Avatar
    Amanda June 18, 2014

    Was your hair previously colored or bleached? I’m curious because I’m looking to use this color on a red and my natural growth. The color was all done professionally and I need some feed back before I thrown this color on my hair and turn orange and than have to go through the process of actually hard core bleaching it.

  9. Avatar

    I got the Beauteen bleach you used and I’m pretty nervous. How long should I keep it in for and how light will it turn? I wanna dye my hair pink afterwards.

  10. Avatar

    Oh, I thought Gatsby: Natural Bleach Color (シャンパンアッシュ) is for men/guys… They seem to be kinda in a separate location in the shops. And I am thinking about trying to order hair dyes from amazon or ebay or somewhere, or trying to ask friends to send me over “western” hair dyes from my native country.

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