Your Ultimate Guide to Home Hair Color

Kelly Dougher
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how to dye hair at home

Photo: ImaxTree

With the Pinterest diligently fanning the flames of DIY culture, it’s becoming more and more common to tend to your beauty routines at home. Mani/pedis, tanning, and even waxing have all become acceptable to do in the comfort of one’s own home, and with the rise of high quality box dyes, home hair color is no exception.

Unless you plan on taking black hair to platinum blonde, there’s no reason why you can’t touch up your own hair color at home (and save some money in the process). Of course, if you don’t know what you’re doing you could end up making a very costly mistake. To help you avoid that, we’ve put together this list of handy things to know when dyeing your hair at home.

1. Check the box.

Obviously the first step in dying your hair at home is to choose the right box of hair dye. Try to choose one that has the least amount of harmful ingredients such as ammonia, peroxide, and alcohol to avoid excessive dryness and breakage. Semi and demi-permanent hair dyes will deposit color but won’t lift, making them far less hard on your hair than permanent dyes are.

Another thing to look for when choosing a box of hair dye is, naturally, the right shade for you. Don’t just rely on the picture of the model on the box; it can be misleading. Instead, focus on the words used to describe the shade and the numbers that designate the relative darkness.

Colors described as Ash will have more green tones in them and are good for people looking to combat brassiness. Golden will incorporate more yellow tones and are great for people looking to conceal grey hair. Anything with the word Violet in it will have purple tones. Neutral can mean several different things, but usually implies a blue base to the shade.

The number tells you how dark the dye will be. Hair dye is described on a scale from 1 (black) to 12 (platinum blonde), so the lower the number, the deeper the shade. So if you see a model with light blonde hair on a box labeled 4A (Ash Blonde), you’ll know better than to believe it; on a scale of one to twelve, a 4 is quite dark! Use the shade guide on the side of the box as a guide to how the color will work on your hair; it’s far more reliable than the illustration on the front.

2. Dirty hair is best.

It’s always best to dye hair that hasn’t been washed recently; the hair’s natural oils help to protect strands as they process. This is just one more reason why doing your hair at home can be great: nobody really enjoys showing up at the salon with dirty hair, even if it is recommended.

3. Always follow safety precautions.

Before you even think about starting to dye your hair, carefully read all of the instructions on the box. There are important safety steps that you should never skip. That part about the patch test? Essential, especially if you’re using a new brand. Certain ingredients (in dark dyes especially) can cause peculiar skin reactions, so it’s best to be very sure that won’t happen to you.

You should also always wear gloves to protect your nails and skin. Box dye usually contains one pair, but you should always have a second pair onhand to wear when you wash the color out of your hair (trust us, you don’t want to stain your manicure while you scrub). Finally, make sure you dye your hair in a well-ventilated area. Nobody wants to get woozy with a head full of color!

4. Vaseline and olive oil are your best friends.

Always have a tub of Vaseline on hand when you’re dying your hair, especially if you’re going with a dark color. A generous dab of Vaseline (or really any thick, petroleum-based moisturizer) along your temples, hairline, neck, and ears will keep the hair dye from staining your skin.

It’s a cheap and effective solution, and you’ll be wishing you took the time to do it when you wind up with blotchy dye stains on your skin. But if you do, you can remove them by soaking a cotton ball in olive oil and rubbing over the affected areas. It truly is a miracle.

5. Have reasonable expectations.

A little science to lay on you: the developer in box dye (which causes the color to change) is usually 20 volume. The higher the volume, the more color it can lift. 20 volume will shift your hair up to two shades (depending on your hair’s natural color), but no further. Bigger changes require multiple processings or a higher volume developer—which you should NOT use yourself!

This is why you’re always being told that it’s a bad idea to try to go more than two shades lighter (or darker) than your natural hair color using a box dye. That 20 volume developer can only do so much! Consider box dye a tool to maintain or make subtle changes to your color, not something to transform your entire head.

If you absolutely must change your hair color as drastically as possible, then it’s best to have a professional do it at a salon.

6. Beware of dyeing already-colored hair.

If your hair already has one (or more) shades of hair dye in it, proceed with caution. It’s a much more complicated process to get an even, undamaged result with pre-dyed hair, and it’s better to have a professional do it: the risks of patchy or stripy color, hot roots and overprocessing-related chemical haircuts are just too great!

So if you’ve dyed your hair recently, think twice about attempting to dye over it (even with the same color).

7. Don’t forget the upkeep.

So now you’ve managed to dye your hair the color that you want without any major mishaps. Congrats! You look gorgeous! But don’t stop there, unless you want to spoil all of your hard work. Just as important as the dyeing process itself is the necessary upkeep that follows.

You want your new color to last, and the best way to do that is by making sure not to wash it too frequently (dry shampoo will be your lifesaver), use color-protecting products, protect your hair from the sun with hats and spray-on sunscreen, limit heat-styling, and condition it well (especially if any sort of bleach was involved!).

Now you can dye your hair at home safely and with confidence!

More from Daily Makeover: Celeb-Inspired Two-Tone Hair Color Ideas.

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