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Tips for coloring your hair at home

Kori Ellis is an editor and writer based in San Antonio, TX, where she lives with her husband and four children. At SheKnows, she writes about parenting, fashion, beauty and other lifestyle topics. Additionally, Kori has been published i...

Beautiful hair from a box

You can color your hair at home for a fraction of the cost of professional hair color. To achieve beautiful hair color at home, follow these simple hair coloring tips.

Beautiful hair from a box

Keep it simple

If you want to cover your gray, or go a couple shades lighter or darker, then home hair color is for you. If you want anything more dramatic, then it's best to go to the salon. Also, if you hair is damaged or chemically treated, stick with a professional to be sure you don't overprocess and damage your hair.


Select a shade

Don't be overwhelmed by the hundreds of different hair color products on the shelves. Visit the websites of Revlon, Clairol or Loreal where you can fill out a simple questionnaire and figure out the right shade for you.


Don't make it permanent

If you are new to coloring your hair or trying a shade that's a little bit different, select a temporary or semi-permanent hair color rather than permanent. Temporary color washes out in 6-12 shampoos, while semi-permanent hair color will normally wash out in about 20-26 shampoos. Permanent hair color can last six to eight weeks or even longer.


Get organized

To make things easier, you can invite over a friend to help color your hair. However, even with a friend, you need to get organized. In addition to your home hair coloring kit, you will also need a few supplies.
  • Plastic gloves (normally provided with kit)
  • Old button-down shirt
  • Vaseline
  • Damp rag for wiping up spills
  • Hair clip
  • Wide tooth comb
  • Old towel
  • Big safety pin

Put on the shirt and fasten the towel around your neck with the safety pin before you begin.


Testing. Testing.

The instructions with your box of hair color say you should test a few strands of hair first, but many women skip this step. If you haven't used this particular hair color before, you should definitely do the test to make sure it's the shade you desire.


Beautiful hair from a box

Coloring your hair

Don't wash your hair the day you are going to color your hair. Most experts suggest waiting 24 to 48 hours after washing your hair before applying hair color. Freshly washed hair is lacking the oils needed to absorb the hair color.


Apply Vaseline to your skin all around your hairline to protect your skin from the dye.


Mix the hair color according to the directions on the box. Use a comb to separate your dry hair into four major sections.  Begin by taking a smaller subsection from one of the sections and applying hair color from the bottle. Don't use too big of a section - you want to make sure the color is thoroughly worked through your hair.


Start with the roots and work your way down and outward, piling your hair on the top of your head as you go. You can use a hair clip or multiple clips to pin your hair up.


Following the instructions included in the box, wait 25-45 minutes for the color to work. If you have a lot of gray hair, it's best to wait the maximum time limit. After your color has processed, rinse your hair with cool water.


Beautiful hair from a box

Wait to wash

After rinsing out your color, apply the conditioner supplied with your kit but don't wash your hair. Wait at least a full day, preferably 48 hours, after coloring your hair before you wash it. This will also allow the hair color to completely penetrate your hair shaft.


Touch-up your roots

About four to six weeks after coloring your hair, you may need to touch-up your roots. When touching up the roots, don't over-color the ends. Apply conditioner to your ends and then just color the roots and top. Five minutes before it's time to rinse out the color, use a wide tooth comb to distribute the color down the hair shaft to the ends. Then rinse as usual.


Highlights at home

For natural looking highlights, buy a second box of hair color a shade or two lighter to create highlights around your face. You can use a paint brush to paint on the highlights as thin or as thick as you'd like them.

Want more on hair care & hairstyles? Check out our guide to finding the best hairstyle >>


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