At-home hair dye can be tricky, but it can also be a great way to save money if you color your hair regularly. Here’s how to dye your hair at home and get practically professional results from a box from the comfort and safety of your own home.
Choose the Best At-Home Hair Color for You
At-home hair color kits generally come in four categories: permanent, demi-permanent, semi-permanent, and temporary.
As the name implies, permanent at-home hair color is a long-term commitment that generally will last until the hair grows out. Permanent hair dyes open the cuticle of the hair to deposit color inside the strand. But permanent hair color can still fade, however, so this type of hair color requires special aftercare to maintain its vibrancy.
Demi-permanent dyes coat the outside of your hair strands with color. They last for a while — usually around 26 to 28 shampoos — but don’t require as much of a commitment as permanent color.
Semi-permanent hair color lasts about 8 to 12 shampoos. Semi-permanent at-home hair color kits don’t include a developer, which means they can’t be used to lighten hair. But semi-permanent is a great option if you want to darken your hair without committing to a long-term or permanent change.
Temporary at-home hair color usually lasts only until your next shampoo. Temporary colors come in the forms of sprays, waxes, hair washes or even brush-in powders. They’re the best option if you just want to change your hair color for one night for a special event or costume party, or if you simply want to test-drive a new hair color first before making a commitment.
Decide on a Shade
Major changes (like going from brunette to blonde, or vice versa) are best left to the professionals. But if you’re staying within a shade or two of your natural hair color, at-home hair color is usually easy to use and it can save you a significant amount of money.
When shopping for at-home hair color, don’t trust that the shade pictured on the box will reflect your exact final results. Your natural hair color can affect the final shade, so do a strand test before applying dye all over (see below).
For permanent hair dye, choose a shade that’s slightly darker than your desired outcome. For semi-permanent (or demi-permanent) hair dye, choose a shade slightly lighter than the color you want to achieve.
What About Homemade Hair Dye?
Should you try homemade hair dye? There are countless recipes for homemade hair dye on the internet, usually calling for natural ingredients you might already have in your kitchen like lemon and tea.
While these ingredients certainly have the ability to change your hair shade, the results aren’t guaranteed. Lemon can lighten your hair in the sunshine, but there is of course no picture on a lemon to show you the results you can expect! If you want to experiment and don’t have a specific outcome in mind, homemade hair dye may work for you. But if you’re looking for a predictable final result, it’s best to stick with at-home hair color kits.
Test Ahead of Time
Most manufacturers of at-home hair color kits recommend performing a patch test on your skin at least 24 hours before coloring your hair at home. Home hair dye kits contain many chemicals that can potentially cause allergic reactions. You should never skip this step, even if you’ve dyed your hair many times before.
If you’re trying a new shade, it’s also smart to perform a strand test. Mix up a little dye and apply it to a small piece of trimmed hair or to a small area of your hair that’s not easily noticeable. This will show you how well your hair will absorb the dye, and how long processing will take to achieve the color you want.
Fine hair tends to process dye more quickly than thick or coarse hair. So if you have fine or thin hair, you might be able to shorten the recommended processing time by 5 or 10 minutes to get your desired result.
Buy Two Boxes of At-Home Hair Color
You don’t want to run out of hair dye halfway through the application process. So buy two boxes of hair dye if your hair is longer than shoulder length or if it’s very thick. No one wants to run out halfway through a dye job to buy more hair color!
If you don’t need the entire second box, don’t try to save it. Hair color must be applied right away after mixing the hair dye and developer together. Otherwise, it will lose its effectiveness.
Prep Your Hair for Coloring
Healthy hair absorbs color more evenly and maintains its color. Get hair into tip-top condition by applying a deep conditioning mask a few days leading up to coloring.
Don’t wash your hair on the day that you plan to color your hair. It’s better to color hair that hasn’t been washed for a day or two because the extra sebum and natural oils can help protect your scalp against irritation.
Feed your follicles what they need to grow† thicker, healthier-looking hair that resists coloring and styling damage. Viviscal Hair Growth† Supplements are formulated with a unique mix of proven hair growth nutrients including B vitamins, iron, zinc, and an exclusive marine collagen complex called AminoMar™. So they promote healthy hair growth† from the inside for gorgeous hair on the outside.*
Protect Against Spills and Splashes
If you’re coloring your hair at home, you can end up with stains everywhere. Minimize the mess by doing the following:
- Before coloring your hair, remove any rugs from your bathroom.
- Change into old clothes that you don’t mind staining.
- Apply petroleum jelly or lip balm along your hairline to keep the dye from staining your skin.
- Wipe up any spills on surfaces or floors as soon as they happen with a damp rag or makeup remover wipe.
At home hair dye can be messy. Apply petroleum jelly along your hairline before you start.
How to Dye Your Hair at Home Apply Like a Pro
Now you’re finally ready to color your hair! Here’s how to color hair at home:
- Brush your hair to remove all tangles. Then comb hair into four sections: two in the front, and two in the back. Secure each section with a clip.
- Apply hair color to the sections in the back first, then move to the sections in the front. Your hair in the back is naturally darker and requires more time to process. Use a handheld mirror to check that you haven’t missed any spots in the back.
- Once you’ve applied the hair color, leave your hair down while it processes. Twisting hair into a bun will result in uneven color.
- Wait the suggested amount of time on the box or the length of time indicated by your strand test.
- Put back on the hair dye gloves and step into the shower. Add a small amount of lukewarm water to your hair to emulsify the dye. Then rinse thoroughly. Do not shampoo hair, as this will remove the hair dye.
- Once your hair is rinsed, apply conditioner liberally. Conditioner helps seal the cuticle of the hair, allowing the color to continue to develop. You can either use the conditioner that comes in the at-home hair color kit, or use your favorite nourishing conditioner like Viviscal Gorgeous Growth Densifying Conditioner.
- Enjoy your freshly colored hair!
How to Maintain Your At-Home Hair Color
- Water washes away hair color, so try to cut down on hair washing, especially right after dyeing hair. Try using dry shampoo to freshen up your hair on non-wash days.
- Protect your hair against color-fading UV rays by wearing a broad-brimmed hat on sunny days.
- Avoid heat styling your hair because high heat can open up your hair’s cuticle, releasing the color. When you do use heat tools, always prep hair with a heat protectant spray before styling.
- Hair color can dry out hair, so use a deep conditioning treatment once a week to keep your hair hydrated.
Have you ever colored your hair at home? Share your tips and tricks with other readers in the comment section below.
†Existing hair growth