No amount of warning signs will stop us from coloring our hair. Although dye will always cause some damage to strands, professionals use tried and true strategies that limit damage overall. When left to your own devices, using at-home hair color can be just as safe. L’Oréal Paris Celebrity Colorist Kari Hill provides us with her guidelines to take the terror out of box dye.
Prevention is Key
“Even when my clients are getting a basic highlight, let alone a drastic change, I like to request [for them to] sleep one or two nights with a hair mask prior to undergoing a bleaching process,” says Hill. As any amount of dye zaps moisture, it’s important to start with fully hydrated hair. These conditioning agents also help to protect the cuticle from damage.
Skip a Pre-Wash
Just like your colorist washes your hair after coloring and not before, you shouldn’t wash prior to coloring either—give yourself at least a day in between. The hair’s natural oils prevent damage by working as a barrier. They also serve as an extra layer to absorb color, leaving the final result more vibrant.
Keep Your Expectations Reasonable
“When lightening your hair, be reasonable about your expectations,” Hill advises. Unless bleach is included, at-home dyes won’t lift much color. Hill says to use the side of the box as your guide to know how light the color will take you, and which shade will accomplish your desired tone color and tone—a more subtle outcome is safer in the long run.
Don’t Play Chemist
Bleach is damaging enough, so play by the rules when you do use it. “The trick to making bleach less damaging, is firstly, to follow the instructions on the box,” says Hill. “Don’t make up your own rules about timing or application, and most importantly, do not overlap bleach on bleach.”
Don’t Plan for Drastic
“Keep in mind that less is more, and consider taking baby steps to achieve your final objective. Don’t try to lift more than two shades at one time,” Hill says—this minimizes the damage to your hair because lightening products weaken the strand and cause breakage.
Stock Up on Products
“When coloring at home, it is very important to have proper hair care to help reduce damage from hair color,” says Hill. While shampoos for color-treated hair protect color, moisturizing formulas, like deep conditioners and weekly masks, replenish dry strands. These products should not only be used pre-color, but post-color as well. “The last thing to remember, whether at home or at the salon,” Hill ads, “is to not expect drastic changes overnight,” because damage starts when you That’s where the damage begins.
Read more: Even Fine Hair Can Benefit from Hair Oils—Here’s How