How to Color Your Own Hair

Whether it’s time for a change or you want to save money on salon fees, coloring your own hair is a big step. These guidelines can help you learn how to color your own hair.

Know Your Limits

If you're not a trained hairstylist, you might feel anxious about attempting a color at home, so it’s important to recognize your limits. Before you start, ask yourself if: ‌

If the answer is yes to any of these, you should talk to a licensed professional stylist before you start. They can either help you color your hair safely or guide you through the right products for your hair and skin.

Choose Your Color Formula

No.153 - Repair Skin Barrier

There are three main kinds of hair color: semi-permanent, demi-permanent, and permanent. Choosing the right formula depends on your hair type, the shade you want, how much gray you have, and whether it's been colored before. ‌

Fine hair absorbs color easily. Coarse hair like gray, curly, and African- American hair is harder for color to penetrate and deposit on the strand. ‌

Choosing your color formula depends on several factors.‌

Semi-permanent color. Semi-permanent color sits on top of your hair and washes out after 6 to 12 shampoos. It doesn’t have peroxide so it doesn’t lift the natural color from your hair. This means it’s best used to dye your hair darker rather than lighter. This is a good choice if you want a bright, fun color for a short time.‌

Demi-permanent. This kind of color has small amounts of peroxide, which can lighten your hair slightly. When you buy a demi-permanent color, you’ll get a bottle of color and a bottle of developer that has the peroxide. You’ll mix these together and apply to your hair. ‌

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Demi-permanent doesn’t fully penetrate your hair, but it does last longer, usually from 12 to 26 weeks.‌

Permanent. As the name suggests, this color lasts the longest: until your hair grows out. You’ll use a developer with permanent color, which helps lift your hair color, open the cuticle, and deposit the color. This process can be quite damaging if it’s not done properly. This is the best choice to cover a lot of gray hair or if you want to go to a lighter shade.

Choose Your Shade

Generally, it’s best to color your hair darker than its natural shade rather than lighter. If you try to go more than three shades lighter, you’ll need lots of peroxide or bleach. This can damage your hair, especially if you’re doing it at home without guidance.‌

Choose a color within three shades of your natural color. If you have multiple options but can’t choose, get the lighter one. If you make a mistake, it’s easier to fix a lighter shade than a dark one.

Prepare Your Supplies and Your Area

Before you color your hair at home, prepare yourself and your area. Wear an old button down shirt you won’t mind ruining with dye and use an old rag to catch any spills. If you're messy with your dye, you might want to lay out some garbage bags to protect your floor and surfaces.‌

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Your color kit will come with gloves and bottles. If you’re more experienced with color and are using professional products, you’ll need bowls and brushes for application.

Prepare Your Hair and Start Coloring

Before you begin, make sure your hair is dry and unwashed. Then apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly around your hairline. This will help stop any staining on your skin.‌

If you’re coloring all over or making a major color change, start applying the color to your roots and then immediately all over your hair. Work the color through and make sure all your hair is covered. Follow the instructions for the time limit. ‌

If you’re touching up your roots, work in one-quarter-inch sections and apply the color to your new growth. Then apply the remaining color to the rest of your hair to refresh the color.

Rinse and shampoo and condition with the products in your kit. Wait 24 to 48 hours before washing again.

Other Considerations

Make sure to patch test the product before you start and wait 48 hours to rule out any allergies. If you have a reaction, don’t use the product, and talk to your hairstylist for coloring advice.

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