There’s nothing quite as transformative as a new hair shade, but if a salon appointment isn’t on your schedule (or budget), a DIY hair dye can be a wallet-friendly solution with the same effect. However, there’s many ways coloring your hair at home can go wrong real quick if you don’t know all the proper tips needed to get the job done right.
When it comes to choosing the actual color, it's all about your complexion, says Christine Thompson, color director and co-founder of N.Y.C.'s Spoke & Weal salon. If your skin has warm undertones, like yellow, gold, or red, you want to find a hair color with opposite, cooler undertones, like ash brown or black. Does your complexion have a hint of blue or green in it? A warm, rich copper or auburn will be flattering. Keep in mind that if you're looking to go lighter than sandy blonde, it's best to consult an in-salon pro. The high level of bleach in lightening dyes can cause breakage (hello, split ends).
If you do wind up with a shade that makes you dread looking in the mirror, there are easy ways of troubleshooting—just wait a few days before picking up the dye again to prevent breakage from chemical-induced breakage. For colors that are too warm, try re-dyeing hair with an ashier version of the hue you applied originally. If you went too cool, warm things up with a golden-based dye. But, if your strands turn an unnatural color, like orange, the pro recommends heading to the salon because the color correction process may require multiple steps.
As for the mess you’ve made around your hairline: since like attracts like, rub a small amount of dye over stained skin to break up the pigment that’s settled in, then wipe it away with a damp cloth. But, next time remember to coat your hairline with petroleum jelly, which will act as a barrier for the dye.
Whether you’re looking for a temporary color fix or a new forever-shade, we’ve rounded up which dyes to choose, along with pro-tips on how to use them.
1. For Permanent Results: L'Oréal Paris Superior Preference Mousse Absolue
Shop for a product that combines pigments with a hydrogen peroxide-based developer; the chemical blend penetrates into the structural level and produces a hue that won't disappear until your next dye job. If applied sloppily and without gloves, the dye will stain your skin, which is why we love this no-drip mousse from L'Oréal (available in 16 shades).
L'Oreal Paris | $9
2. For Semi-Permanent Results: Clairol Natural Insticts Semi-Permanent Hair Color
Test-drive a shade that's two to three tones away from your natural color with a semipermanent blend, which can last through dozens of washes. Since these dyes coat only the surface, they're super-gentle, making them ideal for those with damaged or thinning hair.
Clairol | $8
3. For A Shine Boost: John Frieda Colour Refreshing Gloss
Demi-permanent glosses deposit enough dye to brighten your tone without lifting away your existing color. A weekly in-shower application wards off brassiness for a healthy, lacquered finish.
John Frieda | $12
4. For One Night Only: IGK Amaro Ombré Highlight Spray
IGK | $29
5. For Correcting Dye Mishaps: Fekkai Apple Cider Clarifying Shampoo
If you’ve left your hair dye on too long, Hit pause on your Scandal marathon and reach for a clarifying shampoo such as Fekkai's bottle. Apply it like a mask and allow the formula to sit for five to 10 minutes. "Since these shampoos are astringent, they can often strip away excess pigment," says N.Y.C. colorist André Viveiros.
Frederic Fekkai | $21