Everything You Should and Shouldn’t Do When Coloring Your Hair at Home
Wanting to save a little extra this month, but hoping to switch up your hair color? It's time to explore your local drugstore for a quick and easy at-home coloring option that looks fresh out of the salon. But before purchasing and setting your hair plan into action, brush up on all the dos and don'ts of DIY coloring first.
DO: USE A TEMPORARY COLOR BEFORE A PERMANENT ONE
As much as you may have a certain shade in mind, celebrity colorist and co-founder of dpHUE Justin Anderson recommends testing the waters first with a semi-permanent version. "It will gradually wash out after multiple shampoos," he explains. "Permanent color lasts much longer and will most likely require you to see a professional to get it fixed if something goes wrong." By starting with a semi-permanent dye, you'll be able to save yourself any hassle if it turns out you're not as big of a fan as you thought. (Photo via Charisse Kenion/Unsplash)
DON'T: LIGHTEN YOUR HAIR MORE THAN TWO SHADES AT A TIME
When you shift your hair more than two shades in a single session, it can be seriously damaging to your strands — not to mention unsightly. "Permanent color is typically formulated to lighten approximately two levels," explains David Stanko, vice president of technical design and education at Madison Reed. "If you try to bend this rule, the dyes will not be able to control the additional undertones exposed, and the result will be a color that is too warm or red, AKA brassy." If you want to lighten more than two shades, schedule multiple days (spaced a couple of weeks apart) to get the job done so your hair stays as healthy as possible. (Photo via Mathilde Langevin/Unsplash)
DO: PICK A COLOR THAT COMPLEMENTS YOUR COMPLEXION
A flattering hair color is one that neither washes you out nor makes you look older than you really are. To figure out which shade best suits your complexion, take NYC-based Eddie Arthur Salon colorist Christine Neos' advice. "Hold a silver foil up to your face (representing ash tone), followed by a gold foil (representing gold tone)," she instructs. "You'll be able to see which reflects better on your skin." (Photo via Vladimir Yelizarov/Unsplash)
From there, remember that opposites attract. "In the hair color world, this means that you should not pick a shade that matches your skin's undertones," advises Stanko. "For instance, if you have pink or warm undertones and choose a copper color, the combination of reds becomes overwhelming and your skin will look blotchy. For cool skin tones, a super-cool hair color will just wash you out to ghost land."
DON'T: CHOOSE A COLOR SOLELY BASED ON THE PICTURE ON THE BOX
Imagine having to wear a single dress every day for months at a time. Would you select it solely based on how it looks on the mannequin? Not a chance. The same goes for your hair tint. "What's pictured on the front of the box may not necessarily be the color that you are going to achieve," Anderson says. "It's important to pay attention to both the shade and the tone. Keep in mind that the color can be affected by any dye or treatments you may already have. If you are unsure about the color you should use, always lean towards something on the lighter side because you don't want to end up with a dark band in your hair."
Or, forget the front of the box altogether. Turn it to the side, which usually contains pictures showing what the result will be based on your current hair color. You could even head to Walmart, Walgreens, Wakefern, and Meijer to use Garnier's Shade Selector Tool. It allows you to virtually try on the entire range without ever touching your tresses.
DO: TOUCH-UP YOUR ROOTS WITH A ROOT PRODUCT
Selecting the right shade (and formula) for your roots is critical. "It's best to choose a product specifically designed to be a root touch up [like Revlon Root Erase ($10) or Clairol Root Touch-Up Semi Permanent Color Blending Gel ($10)]," says Revlon global master colorist Miquel Garcia. "If you use a traditional all-over permanent product, the color is likely going to be a darker, more vibrant color [since it's designed for your entire head as opposed to an in-between touch-up]. Root-specific products are designed [to be a bit lighter] to mimic your lengths and ends approximately two weeks after your last color."
That's not to say it's impossible to conceal your roots with regular hair dye, but Garcia notes that it can lead to more damage since you have to blend it down your mid-lengths and ends. To avoid any negative effects, he says the best and safest way to get your closest shade match is to apply the color allover but only leave it on for five minutes so it's less likely to wreak any havoc.
DON'T: DYE DAMAGED HAIR
While the process can revive lackluster color, it won't do anything for strands not in workable conditions. "When [strands are] split, dry, and damaged, the follicle is compromised and misshaped," says Courtney Goebel, the client education lead at eSalon. "Imagine a microscopic close-up of a single strand of hair. If healthy, the follicle will appear round and smooth. If damaged, it will look frayed, twisted, and wheat-like." Applying dye to the latter can be pretty tricky since it wont be able to absorb evenly. "This will cause an uneven, spotty shade, as still-healthy parts of the follicle may take in dye, while damaged parts are left uncolored," she says. (Photo via Valeriia Kogan/Unsplash)
DO: CHOOSE PRODUCTS FROM THE SAME BRAND
It may not seem like a big deal to combine a variety of brands together, however, when it comes to your tresses, it's best to take extra precaution and stick to just one collection. According to Stanko, hair color manufacturers create their products to specifically work together in a way that's healthy for your mane. He explains that when you mix one brand of color with a different brand of developer, you risk too-thick or too-thin formulas that won't evenly distribute throughout your strands. "Whether it's balance or viscosity that's off, it can lead to unpredictable color results," he says.
DON'T: LEAVE THE DYE ON FOR TOO LONG
As with most beauty treatments, leaving hair dye on your head for longer than recommended is never a good idea. "Timing is very important," Goebel says. "If a color has not been left on long enough, there is the possibility that your roots may be lighter (or darker) than your ends, your color won't come out as imagined, or your grays won't be covered." While most permanent solutions eventually stop processing at about the 40-minute mark, Goebel points out that leaving it on past that can actually lift the shade, causing what's known as hot roots, where that area gets lighter and doesn't match the rest of your head. (Photo via Adam Winger/Unsplash)
DO: CONSIDER THE BIGGER PICTURE
Sit down and listen up, because here's the real deal when it comes to at-home hair color. "Whenever you color your hair, consider time, cost, potential damage, and maintenance/frequency of coloring," Stanko advises. "The farther you travel from your natural shade, the more time it will take, the more it'll cost, the greater the potential for damage, and the more often you'll need to [dye] your hair." At the end of the day, you can't go from blue black to icy blonde without taking all these factors into account. "Social media has fooled us into thinking drastic color changes are easy, but remember that celebrities have a whole beauty squad behind them," he says. "When you see them [switching up their strands] a few weeks apart, you don't see all the energy, effort, expertise, hair extensions, and even photo filters that go into the look. Social media pictures might tell a story, but they never tell the whole story."
Do you prefer DIY color or going to a salon? Tell us @BritandCo!
Brit + Co may at times use affiliate links to promote products sold by others, but always offers genuine editorial recommendations.
This post has been updated.
- The Color Blocked Hair Dye Trend Takes Rainbow Hair to the Next ... ›
- How to (Literally) Color Your Hair, No Foil Required - Brit + Co ›
- Why You Don't Have to Shield Your Colored Hair from the Sun - Brit ... ›
- 12 Temporary Pastel Hair Colors to Dye For - Brit + Co ›
- Everything You Should and Shouldn't Do When Coloring Your Hair ... ›
- How to make pastel hair dye - B+C Guides ›
- 12 Easy Temporary Hair Dye Options for Halloween - Brit + Co ›
- 5 Pastel Hair Dye Tips - Brit + Co ›