At-Home Hair Dye Tips and Tricks

by Colleen Welsch on July 11th, 2019
woman dyeing hair tube bottle black hair white background at home hair dye tips tricks viviscal hair blog

At-home hair dye can be tricky, but it can also be a great way to save money if you color your hair regularly. Follow these hair color tips to get practically professional results from a box, with minimal damage to hair and for a fraction of the salon price tag.

Choose a Formula of At-Home Hair Dye

Home hair dye 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.

woman applying hair dye home closeup bathroom mirror at home hair dye tips tricks viviscal hair blog


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 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 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.

woman side view blonde pink blue green unicorn colors at home hair dye tips tricks viviscal hair blog

Temporary hair dye lets you try out wilder colors without the 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, home hair dye 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 your final results, 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.

Test Ahead of Time

Most manufacturers of home hair dye kits recommend performing a patch test on your skin at least 24 hours before dyeing your hair. 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 Dye

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.
applying messy red hair dye woman closeup looking up cautious at home hair dye tips tricks viviscal hair blog

At home hair dye can be messy. Apply petroleum jelly along your hairline before you start.

How to Apply At-Home Hair Color Like a Pro

Now you’re finally ready to color your hair! Here’s how to do it:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Once you’ve applied the hair color, leave your hair down while it processes. Twisting hair into a bun will result in uneven color.
  4. Wait the suggested amount of time on the box or the length of time indicated by your strand test.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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