By Victoria Moorhouse
Updated Sep 06, 2017 @ 5:15 pm
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Root Touch Up
Credit: Fancy/Veer/Corbis/Getty

Whether you just can’t get to the salon or you’d rather spend $7 verses $70 on a few grays peeking through, root touch-up kits can be your saving grace. Well, if you know how to properly use them. Box hair dye is commonly touted as the most convenient hair color alternative, but that doesn’t mean it comes without confusion, so we took it upon ourselves and consulted a pro to clear things up for good. Follow these tips to avoid running your entire head of hair while attempting to mask few stray strands.

For starters, how often you’ll need to use one is purely up to preference and the contrast between what’s growing in and what shade of hair color you’re using, says Clairol Color Director James Corbett. "For example, if you have a high percentage of gray, it will not show up or look as noticeable if you are coloring your hair blonde rather than brown, which would have a higher and thereby more noticeable contrast.”

Next, you’ll need to pick a color that is between one to two shades within your existing color range. Picking a shade that is too dark is a mistake Corbett sees often. “The fine hairs in the hairline tend to process color darker and more dense than the rest of the hair,” he says. His suggestion? Picking a shade that’s lighter than your normal shade to avoid that dark band around your hairline. "If the front hairline comes out too light, you can easily deepen with a gloss like Natural Instincts. If the back part comes out too dark, roots are naturally darker and deeper roots are In Style (pun intended) but true!”

The first step in applying the color in a kit like the Clairol Root Touch Up Kit, Corbett suggests, is using the brush to section out your hair. You can also use a comb beforehand. “Find where you normally part your hair and keep that in mind, as you will need to know it later,” she says. After you’ve mixed the contents of the box, he suggests combing back all your hair away from your face, “as if you were slicking it back or about to put it in a ponytail.”

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Paint the hair color into your hairline around your face using the brush and only apply it to the new growth. Then, he says, find your part and paint from the center line to the new growth on each side. Set a timer for 10 minutes and then rinse.

While most boxes will come with detailed directions, Corbett shared some important tips. For lighter blonde shades of resistant grays, he says to leave it on for an additional five minutes and to apply the color in small sections, rather than large ones.