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At-Home Hair Coloring: DIY Tricks and Tips That Work

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At-Home Hair Coloring: DIY Tricks and Tips That Work

At-home hair coloring is much more reasonably priced than the salon; you can finally put one of your old, beat-up T-shirts to good use; and you don't receive any amused stares from interested onlookers. However, since you're not trained in the art of hair color – which entails more than just blurting out the shade you're currently craving most – some prep work is most certainly in order so your end product consists of luscious, beautifully hued tresses.

1. Decide How Long You Want Your Color to Last

The vivid red color might look similar on two boxes, but if you’re looking for short-lived, allover highlights that show up in the sun over your brunette hair, using fire engine red permanent dye (instead of semi-permanent) isn't quite going to put a smile on your face. Get to know your options before you color!

  • Semi-Permanent: Deposits color only and washes away within 8 to 12 washes
  • Demi-Permanent: Deposits color only and washes away within 28 washes
  • Permanent: Lifts your hair’s natural color and deposits new color; permanent color may fade, but does not wash out
  • Bleaching: For lightening all of your hair or creating highlights; bleaching lifts your hair’s color without depositing new color
  • Toner: Applied after bleaching to adjust your hair’s new color

TIP: Depositing color is much gentler than lifting color. The more permanent the color, the greater the chance of damaging your hair. However, careful application helps to ensure you maintain healthy locks.

2. Select Your Color Carefully

  • Too good to be true? Don't chance it. Use the chart on the box – it will let you know whether the dye is appropriate for your natural hair color and will offer a general idea of the expected results.
  • Not sure about all of this tone jargon? Warm hair color includes red and golden tones. If your hair doesn’t have any fiery color to it – such as ash hair – your hair is cool-toned. Either choose a color with your same tone for dye that works with your natural complexion or go for neutral, which works for everyone.
  • Do you need gray coverage? Look for dye that specifically mentions 100 percent gray coverage (permanent usually fits the bill). Some demi-permanent colors will dye your gray, but might show up a shade or two lighter than the intended color.

3. Check the Contents of the Color (and the Box)

Don’t get stuck halfway through coloring your hair without a much-needed tool. Also, keep away from using strong chemicals unless absolutely necessary.

  • What’s with ammonia? Unless you’re using permanent hair color, look for ammonia-free dye. Ammonia helps open the hair shaft to lift and deposit color. But if it’s not permanent, you don’t need this harsh ingredient.
  • Is there a conditioner in the box? Use the provided conditioner as directed to prevent damaged hair. Otherwise, pick up a conditioning treatment for color-treated hair from your local beauty supply store.
  • Need extra accessories? You need gloves and a mixing container. For highlights, you may need a hook and cap. If the box does not contain what you need, buy it separately.

4. Prepare Before You Color

At-home hair color should not be rushed into. Ask anyone who has tried for blonde but ended up with neon orange hair. Really. Save yourself the trauma.

  • Follow instructions carefully. For example, you’ll need to wash hair 24 hours before applying the hair color.
  • Perform the skin allergy test. You can develop an allergy to dye ingredients at any time. Don’t risk it!
  • Protect the skin at your hairline. Wipe on some Vaseline (or a protective lotion) around your hairline and over your ears to avoid accidental stains.

5. Follow Application Instructions During and After

Follow instructions and use color-safe products. This is not as easy to fix as accidentally loading the wrong playlist onto your iPod.

  • Do not apply in conjunction with other chemical ingredients. No simultaneous perms, please.
  • Set a timer. Leaving it on extra long will not do you any favors.
  • Use color-safe shampoo and conditioner. Many products will strip color which quickly ruins its vibrancy.
  • Follow up with suggested conditioner applications. Conditioner keeps your hair looking healthy and protects it from color loss. 
  • Reapply color according to dye level. For non-permanent color, re-color once you have reached the necessary wash days for the dye to have been removed (for example, 28 washes for demi-permanent). For permanent, approximately 4 to 6 weeks is sufficient. What’s that all-important rule again? Ah, yes: Follow the instructions!

At-home hair color can be a lot of fun and it’s a budget-friendly way to get the look you want. Take the few extra minutes for prep work and after-color care and you’ll start to wonder why anyone would ever pay more for such beautiful hair.

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