The Best At-Home Hair Colors for Your DIY Dye Session
This is Winging It, where we're helping you master your favorite salon treatments and looks without having to leave the house.
Here's the situation: You've been in isolation for a handful of weeks. Your roots are grown out, your ends are fading, and no one knows when salons are going to re-open. You think your hair color is a hot mess, so you're considering taking matters into your own hands.
If you've been thinking about dyeing your own hair, you're not alone. In addition to cutting and trimming hair at home, people are now panic-buying hair dye. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon even confirmed on Apr. 10's NBC's Today Show. "You see more beard trimmers and hair color and things like that," he shared. "You can definitely see that as people have stayed home, their focus has shifted."
So, should you dye your own hair? Any colorist would tell you to leave the job to the professionals, but if touching up your existing dye job is going to make you feel a sense of normalcy during this uncertain time, then go for it — but some expert tips will help you get the next best thing to a salon-quality finish at home.
While your colorist might not make a house call because of social distancing, you can see if they're available to give you a video consultation on picking the right color of box dye and how to apply it. "Text, call, or FaceTime your stylist to get their professional opinion," says Jonathan Colombini, L’Oréal Paris celebrity hair stylist and colorist. "You don’t want to create a situation that is going to be damaging for us to fix and/or can be very expensive to reverse."
Avoid major color changes at home, but do touch up your roots or existing base shade. "The best advice to choosing the right at-home color kit is to keep expectations realistic," says Deb Rosenberg, professional colorist and AVP of education at Color&Co. "A good rule to follow for best results is to stay within two levels (lighter or darker) of your natural shade. Consider using cool or ash shades when lightening natural hair to neutralize brassy tones, and opt for warm or golden shades when going darker to keep your hair from looking flat."
As for grays? "When covering gray, choose shades that are balanced with natural tones, most brands will have an indication on the label with the words 'neutral', 'natural', or the number '0'," explains Rosenberg. "When alternative shades are used to cover gray, they may appear more vibrant than the image you see."
From permanent root touch up kits to allover color that leaves hair soft and shiny, these are the best at-home hair dye kits from some of the most-trusted brands.
- Best Overall: Madison Reed Radiant Hair Color Kit
- Best for Natural Hair: Dark and Lovely Fade Resist Permanent Hair Color
- Best for Allover Color: John Frieda Precision Foam Colour
- Best for Damaged Hair: Schwarzkopf Professional Keratin Color Permanent Hair Color
- Best for Root Touch Ups: L'Oréal Paris Root Rescue Permanent Hair Color
- Best At-Home Hair Color for Extra Shine: Garnier Nutrisse Nourishing Permanent Hair Color Creme
- Best for Gray Coverage: Clairol Professional Advanced Gray Solutions Semi Permanent Hair Color
- Best At-Home Customizable Hair Color: Color&Co. Personalized Colorbox
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Best Overall: Madison Reed Radiant Hair Color Kit
Madison Reed's color kits are the Birkin bags of at-home hair dye. By simply texting the brand a selfie, you'll get perfectly color-matched to one of its 55 shades of 8-free hair dye. Without any known irritants like ammonia, parabens, and phthalates in the formula, this kit is a great option for anyone with a senstive scalp.
To buy: $27; ulta.com.
Best for Natural Hair: Dark and Lovely Fade Resist Permanent Hair Color
Specifically formulated for natural, textured hair, Dark and Lovely's box dye comes in 18 shades, from jet black to honey blonde. The dye is infused with the brand's Moisture Seal Technology to lock in moisture and prevent fading. Expect to your color to last for up to eight weeks.
To buy: $5; target.com.
Best for Allover Color: John Frieda Precision Foam Colour
For anyone who lives alone, coloring your hair can be tough, to say the least. That's where a foam dye like John Frieda's comes in. The rich lather makes coloring your hair at home as easy as shampooing it because it spreads evenly on hard-to-reach areas like the nape of your neck. Did we mention that the foam doesn't drip? Your shower tiles will thank you.
To buy: $12; target.com.
Best for Damaged Hair: Schwarzkopf Professional Keratin Color Permanent Hair Color
Meet the box dye that can actually make your hair look healthier. Infused with keratin, the formula works to repair weakened strands and prevent breakage.
To buy: $10; target.com.
Best for Root Touch Ups: L'Oréal Paris Root Rescue Permanent Hair Color
When covering up gray roots or regrowth, Colombini says to just apply the color from the roots to the line of demarcation from your last in-salon color service. Also, be sure to "break the line." "For the last five minutes of your processing time, take a wide tooth comb and gently drag down, about a quarter of an inch, the color from where you stopped applying to your previous colored hair," he says.
Thanks to its wide tooth comb applicator brush, it doesn't get easier than L'Oréal's root color kit. The formula is strong enough to cover grays, but just takes 10 minutes to set.
To buy: $6; target.com.
Best At-Home Hair Color for Extra Shine: Garnier Nutrisse Nourishing Permanent Hair Color Creme
With nourishing ingredients like grape seed and avocado oil, this hair dye conditions strands so that your hair takes the color better and it lasts longer. Not to mention, the fruit extracts will give you that shampoo commercial-worthy shine.
To buy: $7; target.com.
Best for Gray Coverage: Clairol Professional Advanced Gray Solutions Semi Permanent Hair Color
When coloring gray hair, look for a dye that specifically says it's for gray coverage. Lasting up to 12 shampoos, this hair color by Clairol Professional is a safe gateway product for first-timers. Even though it's temporary, the formula provides gray coverage or can be used allover to refresh dull color-treated hair.
To buy: $9; sallybeauty.com.
Best At-Home Customizable Hair Color: Color&Co. Personalized Colorbox
Hair color isn't one-size-fits-all, and that's why Color&Co. exists. The brand offers a free video consultation with one of its licensed professional colorists who will analyze your hair, prescribe the perfect shade for you, give you applications tips, and send the color kit to your door. Alternatively, if you know the ins and outs of your hair type and the color you want, you can take a quiz a Color&Co.'s website to generate your perfect shade.
To buy: $20; colorandco.com.