Seven Home Hair Color Tips for Great Results

Doing your own home hair color for the first time can be intimidating, to say the least. Have I chosen the right color? What if I make a mistake and wind up with green hair? What if I end up with overprocessed, dry damaged hair?

model is happy with her hair color
Photo credit: Tom Carson

The fact is that you can achieve excellent results and save a lot of money by coloring your hair at home as long as you know a few basics about how to select the right color and apply it correctly. Here are seven of the most common questions and my advice on hair coloring at home.

How do I know whether I should color my hair at home or go to a salon?

Most people can successfully color their hair at home but there are exceptions. You should get a professional color job if your hair is in poor condition - coloring dry damaged hair at home can result in uneven color. Also, if your hair has different shades and you want one even tone, a hairdresser can apply different formulas to the different areas. Finally, it's best to leave it to the experts if you want to make a drastic change to your hair color, say dark brown to platinum blonde, or you want special color effects or highlights.

Are drugstore hair colors just as good as salon hair color products?

In general, salon hair colors contain higher-quality ingredients than the drugstore brands. Salons also offer a wider variety of colors and tones. But home coloring kits are getting better all the time and can deliver good results if used properly.

How do I pick a color that will look natural on me?

When choosing a hair color, your skin tone and natural hair color are the two most important factors. Whether you're going lighter or darker, stay within two or three shades of your natural hair color.Here is a guideline for selecting a compatible hair color for your skin tone:

several models with different hair colors of red, blond and black

If you know what clothing colors suit you, you can also use that to help in choosing hair color:

How do I get ready to color my hair the first time?

It's a good idea to gather a few materials together before starting: an old T-shirt, a few old towels and a washcloth that you don't mind getting stained, some hair clips for sectioning your hair, a timer, and a hand mirror to see the back of your head. Here some more tips for safe home hair coloring.

If I color my hair at home and hate it, what can I do?

There are some home hair color products you can use to repair the damage, but it isn't easy. The problem is that if you used a home hair color kit to obtain a lighter color, your hair has been bleached and colored in a single process. So the color needs to be added back in a process called "filling" before using the final color formula. Whatever you do, don't simply buy a box of your original color and try to cover over a bad dye job... it won't work. Fixing hair color gone wrong is a multi-stage process so a trip to the salon may be in order.

I already have permed hair. Can I color it without damaging it?

If your hair has been permed or relaxed, color has to be applied carefully or it can weaken the structure of your hair. Salons have colors specially formulated for treated hair. But if you insist on home hair coloring, choose a shade darker than you want since processed hair may come out lighter than expected. Then do a strand test to make sure your hair can handle the chemical stress.

I love my new color... now how do I keep it looking good?

You'll probably want to recolor every four to six weeks. Make a record of the hair color product and shade you used, and how long you left it on the ends and the regrowth.

Use shampoos and conditioners formulated for color-treated hair to prevent fading. Stay out of the sun and chlorinated pools. Hair that has been previously been bleached is prone to such effects and should be rinsed as soon as possible. Don't use heavy conditioners and oil treatments after coloring... they can lift the color.

Now go out and enjoy your new look and all the money you saved by doing it yourself!

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What is "Strand Test"?
A strand test lets you preview what your hair is going to look like when you are through with the coloring process. By testing a small portion of your hair you can avoid wearing hats for the next six months if the resulting color looks nasty. Read more here.

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