How To Color Your Hair At Home And Mistakes To Avoid

Worrying about your hair color may seem like a frivolous vanity during the coronavirus pandemic, but watching your roots grow back to their natural color on Zoom and FaceTime probably isn’t helping your emotional stress load.

Unless your local salon offers color-to-go kits (we’ll get to that later), your colorist is probably in complete opposition to you tampering with their hard work. Stylists are pleading with their clients on social media to step away from the boxed hair dye during self-isolation with hashtags like #showusyourroots and #waitforyourstylist.

“Fixing box color can be super expensive, in some cases taking six months to a year for full correction,” said Meghan Baldwin-Vasquez, a balayage master specialist and color correction expert at Karisma Salon in Smithtown, New York. While some “hairfluencers” have proclaimed wearing a hat is the only viable alternative, we thought we could offer up more practical solutions for a DIY dye job, if you insist on doing it yourself.

If you’re buying permanent dye, don’t keep it a secret from your stylist. Ask for advice.

“Don’t be afraid to ask your hairdresser for advice before buying,” said Nicole Giannini, master colorist and owner of Siren Beauty Space in the San Francisco Bay Area. “We are service professionals and making recommendations is part of our job. It will bring our clients back with more gratitude.”

Giannini and Baldwin-Vasquez both offer custom curbside at-home color kits for their clients. Giannini calls her kit the Apocalypse Color Kit and it includes the client’s custom color, developer, hairline barrier, cleansing treatment, applicator, brushes and an application tutorial video.

If your colorist isn’t offering color-to-go kits and you can’t be talked out of using a boxed dye, make sure you select your color very carefully. Baldwin-Vasquez said that selecting the right shade is the hardest part of doing a boxed dye. “When choosing your color, keep in mind drugstore brands are different than professional and usually run one to two shades darker than depicted on the box.”

Baldwin-Vasquez also advises against warm and golden tones for at-home root touch-ups in favor of colors that are neutral and ashy. Baldwin-Vasquez’s top drugstore choices are Clairol Root Touch-Up, which “has about 20 shades and comes with an easy-to-use kit,” and Garnier Olia Ammonia-Free Color, which is “closest to salon-grade color and is oil-based, leaving the hair feeling more hydrated.” Giannini obviously prefers her own clients use her Apocalypse Color Kit, but for everyone else she suggested the Madison Reed at-home hair-coloring kit, because it’s the “cleanest option on the consumer market.”

When you’re ready to dye, both colorists suggested only applying color to your hairline and part to avoid more opportunity for disaster. Giannini also warned to not make the common mistake of rinsing the color too soon. “Sometimes people panic when they see a funny color during oxidation and think, ‘Oh, shit! Something’s gone wrong! I have to get it off!’ but that funky color is just normal oxidation. If you rinse too soon, the dye molecules won’t have had enough time to deposit.”

The good news, according to Giannini, is that unless you’re using bleach, you can’t “overcook it.” In fact, she recommended leaving the color on up to 15 minutes longer than what the manufacturer’s directions say. Giannini also loves using Kevin Murphy Re.Store, a cleansing conditioning treatment, directly after rinsing to lock in color and soften the hair. “It restores moisture and shine while prolonging color results.” Giannini suggests using Re.Store weekly.

Looking for something a bit more temporary?

If you’re not ready to commit to a permanent situation and you’re just looking to cover up small patches of gray for an upcoming Zoom happy hour, Baldwin-Vasquez suggested brunettes can use mascara to cover the roots. For all hair colors, there are options like Color Wow Root Cover Up and Color Oribe Airbrush Root Touch-Up Spray. Pro tip: Giannini suggests using touch-up spray in the shower to avoid any potential messes.

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