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7 Ways to color your hair without traditional hair dye

Most of us aren’t strangers to the hairstylist’s chair: new highlights for vacation, going blond for a big night out or a quick cover-up to hide those grays (that will be our little secret). Dyeing hair is fun, fashionable and fabulous. It can also be damaging if you have been a slave to chemical dyes for far too long.

We hear so many mixed messages about where, when and how to dye hair that I decided to go straight to the source. Jill Crosby, celebrity stylist and ROGAINE Spokesperson, was happy to let me pick her brain.

When asked how often to dye hair to prevent damage, Crosby said, “How fast hair grows and what your base color is plays a big part. Out-growth may need to be touched up every three weeks (depending on how high the contrast between natural base color and hair color are). For example, a fully gray base, which is dyed to even light brown, will require much more maintenance than if it were dyed to blonde.”

More: Sand art hair is the coolest thing you’ll see this summer

“If someone is dishwater blonde and dyes to a golden blonde, then typically, they can go much longer in between. To save hair from as much damage as possible, only dye regrowth without breaking the dye line. At the very final stages of color, pull dye through to break the line only (not all the way to the ends). Only pull color through to the ends if the ends have faded substantially.”

According to Crosby, it is possible to have a long-term love affair with your colorist if they know what they are doing. But every so often, you still need a break from the hair salon — to save some cash and give your follicles a rest.

Salon downtime doesn’t mean you have to hide your head under a paper bag. Try these at-home chemical dye alternatives instead:

1. Chalk

Moms of small children, you’re in luck. According to Sandi Arensman, master hair colorist, stylist and makeup artist featured in Modern Salon Magazine, children’s chalk and a little elbow grease make for one of the best natural DIY hair color treatments. Arensman tells SheKnows, “Grind up children’s chalk, place in between paper towels and rub into hair. Or, place on two sides of a makeup sponge and apply the same way. The lighter the hair, the more vibrant the color will show up.”

More: The best pastel and neon hair color for your skin tone

2. Clip-ons

For those who want to skip the muss and fuss of DIY dye altogether, Diana Bernard, owner of Salon Panache and founder of the Virgin Hair Products line, has a simple “color pop” solution, “To pump up hair color without using dye, buy clip-in pieces of hair to clip half an inch to an inch lower than your part for peek-a-boo color.”

3. Cocoa powder

Erica Harriss, founder of Saving Grace Beauty, shares, “A popular method for DIY dark hair powder on Pinterest is to mix cornstarch (to absorb oil) and cocoa powder. When I tried this particular mixture and didn’t personally love the results, I came up with my own product.”

Harriss’ take on the DIY concoction, Saving Grace Hair Powder designed to instantly absorb oil and cover gray roots, was featured on Yahoo!Beauty as a new “Beauty Product To Have On Your Radar” in 2015. (, $15)

4. Color enhancing products

If you want to extend the life of your last color treatment without a chemical touchup at home, an at-home color enhancer is your best bet. PRAVANA’s new NEVO Color Enhancer Treatments come in five different color-enhancing shades for most hair colors and types. And speaking of natural, all PRAVANA NEVO products are 100 percent biodegradable, 100 percent vegan and free of sulfates, parabens, sodium chloride, phthalates, gluten, animal byproducts and animal testing. (, $20)

5. Food coloring

Arensman shares her insider trick for a color-boosting “beach spray” made of food coloring and salt water. She explains, “Make a beach spray: 1 tablespoon salt, 8 ounces water. Put as much food coloring into the mixture as you would like (more food color produces more intense color).”

More: What you should know about dyeing your hair violet

6. Henna

In the natural dye world, customers just can’t get enough of Lush henna hair dyes. The 100 percent vegetarian, handmade henna hair dyes offer natural “enrichments” in red, rich brown, deep chestnut and dark black. (, $26)

7. Juice

C.J. Legare, proprietress of Functional Girl, says, “My favorite DIY trick for punching up your color without dye is to use juice! For red highlights, cranberry and beet juice are great options. Sound weird? Think of it this way: If it will stain your carpet, it will stain your hair. If you’re looking to brighten your hue, lemon juice is your go-to. Keep in mind that the acidity can be drying to your strands, so mix in a moisturizing component like coconut oil, olive oil or honey. Warm the mixture until lemon and oil are mixed, saturate your hair, throw a plastic bag over your hair and let your body heat do its thing for a few hours. When you’re ready, rinse, shampoo and condition!”

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