Bored with your natural curls and craving a new color? A different look can open up exciting new styling possibilities—think Beyonce or Eve—but if your coloring adventure is unsuccessful, your tresses can dry out, break off or turn a ghastly hue. That’s why urges you to consider four things before you whip out color swatches to place against your natural strands. Here’s what you need to know before you color your curls, and why you should never commit to a new shade without a post-color-care game plan.

Color creates unpredictable curl patterns. Coloring natural hair can change its protein bond arrangement and slightly relax curly tresses. Is this what you had in mind for your hair’s overall texture and style? (If not, protein treatments may help bring bounce back to natural hair after coloring. But be cautious about this step too.)

Color increases strand porosity and dryness. Any lightening product invades your hair’s cortical layer (a.k.a. inner hair shaft). When a colorant saturates this structural part of the hair, it also weakens the protective, cuticle layer of your strands. The result? Porous hair that’s unable to retain moisture. That’s why many naturally curlies who add color complain of never-ending dryness. If you plan on coloring your mane, have a solid moisturizing regimen in place. (If that’s a little too high maintenance for you, then you’re not a color candidate—at least not yet.)

Color-treated hair breaks more easily. Why? Because in addition to changing your strands, coloring hair decreases its elasticity, the ability of strands to stretch and return to their former shape. You guessed it. Tresses with less elasticity are more likely to break—not good for anyone who wants to grow long hair. (To reduce breakage, remoisturize hair often. But remember, even well-moisturized color-treated hair is more vulnerable to sun, water and heat damage.)

Color can yield ghastly results. That mesmerizing color sported by the model on the front of the box might look disastrous on your hair. Remember, the more drastic the color change, the more damage the treatment can do—both in terms of dryness and breakage, and in terms of looking…well, ghastly. Apply lowlights or color within your natural color range. (If you stay within three shades of your natural color, this usually guarantees embarrassment-free results.) But if you’re going for the gusto and want a dramatic color change—think Rihanna—make sure you get it right. There’s no second chance to undo your do’s color.

Totally color clueless? Best consult a colorist with extensive salon experience working on clients with different hair types and textures.

Dead set on spinning the color wheel? Click here to learn how to create a good moisturizing regimen for your hair.