By Sophia Panych. Photos: Getty Images.
If you'd sooner shave your head than color your own hair, we feel you—coloring your hair takes time and money. Plus, the salon can be expensive. But thanks to these 11 at-home hair color tricks, hacks, product recommendations, and tips, the once-laborious act of DIYing your color can kinda turn into the best, easiest spa day ever. The key? Make sure you're comfortable (a pair of these luxe PJs should do the job), have everything you need (we've got you there below), and aren't pressed for time. We culled the best insider at-home hair-color tricks and tips for achieving salon-worthy results.
1. Don't trust the model on the box.
Sure, the woman smiling on the front of the box looks beautiful, but the color of her hair is a fantasy. "The color always ends up lighter than the model's hair on the packaging," says colorist Dana Ionato of the Sally Hershberger Downtown salon in New York City. "The developer in at-home permanent dyes is very strong—stronger that the ones we use in the salon—so it lifts the color and makes it lighter than what you see on the box." A better estimate on how the color will end up is the chart on the top of the box, which shows you the final color you get from a range of different hair-color shades.
2. Know when to go lighter—or darker.
The rule is as follows: For permanent dye, choose a color a smidge darker than what you want because of the strong developer, says Ionato. With semipermanent dye, however, err on the lighter side of the color you're looking to achieve. "Semipermanent formulas don't have a developer, meaning they get darker and darker the longer you leave them in your hair," says Ionato. "It's safer to choose a color that's a bit lighter from the get-go."
3. Buy two boxes.
If your hair is past your shoulders, or shoulder length and extremely coarse, use two boxes of the same shade to ensure full coverage. Just make sure to mix the dyes in a glass or plastic bowl—a metal one will oxidize the dye and cause it to change color.
4. Consider your hair texture.
Hair texture matters just as much when dyeing your hair as it does when cutting it. "Coarse, curly, frizzy, or unruly hair sucks up color faster and will become cooler-toned when you dye it, so it will look ashier, or slightly bluish," says Ionato. "Fine to medium hair textures don't absorb color as easily and will become a slightly warmer tone when you add dye, meaning it will have orange, red, or copper undertones." So what does that mean for you when you're standing in the aisle at the drugstore? If your hair is frizzy or curly, pick a color that's warm (golden, copper, bronze), but a little lighter than your natural hair color; if your hair is fine and straight, choose cooler shades (champagne, beige) that are slightly darker than your natural color.
5. Touch up your roots—and only your roots.
"I've seen so many clients who come in because they touched up their roots but accidentally dyed their ends, too," says Ionato. "The ends of your hair are more porous, so they suck up color very quickly." So quickly, in fact, that the runoff from rinsing out your roots can stain them. To avoid this, apply conditioner to your ends right before you rinse out the color at the top of your head. Or you could try this quick tip: Mix about one teaspoon of cornstarch into the dye to prevent it from dripping down through the rest of your hair.
6. Section, section, section.
To avoid patchiness, create a middle part that runs to the back of your head and split the hair into four sections—two in front of the ears and two in back. "Always apply the dye from back to front," says colorist Aura Friedman, of the Sally Hershberger Downtown salon in New York City. "That way the dye is sitting on the back of your hair the longest, which is naturally darker than the front anyway."
7. Add shampoo.
If your ends are very dry and you're dyeing your entire head, don't put dye on your ends. Instead, three minutes before you're supposed to rinse, add two squirts of shampoo into the dye left in the bottle. Shake it up and apply the mixture to your ends. "It dilutes the dye but still gives you a pinch of color and shine," says Louis Licari of the Louis Licari Salon in New York City.
8. Let your hair down.
You know how the models in the commercial always have their dye-coated hair artfully twisted up into a bun? Don't do that. "The color won't be even when you rinse it out," says Ionato. "Leave it down until the timer rings."
9. Add water.
Before you rinse out the color, sprinkle a little water on your head and mush your hair around with your hands for a few seconds. "It emulsifies the dye and moves it all around so you don't end up with any lines or streaks," says Ionato.
10. Tweak the results.
After your hair is dry, if you're unhappy with the color, you can mute it by applying a deep conditioner to damp hair. Then cover your head with plastic wrap and a hot, damp towel. Leave on for 20 minutes (at ten minutes, blast your head with a blow-dryer), then shampoo and condition your hair. If you're still not happy with your shade, well, it looks like you're heading to the salon.
11. You must condition when you're done.
"If you skip the conditioner step, it leaves the cuticle open and the color keeps working," says Ionato. "So don't be surprised if you end up with much darker hair than you wanted." Don't throw away the conditioner in the kit, and if you do, make sure to use a deep conditioner in the shower after you rinse out the dye.
This story originally appeared on Allure.
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