How to Dye Your Hair: An At-Home Guide for Temporary Color

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How to Dye Your Hair: An At-Home Guide for Temporary Color

At-home hair coloring is a quick way to change up your look, but it can be a daunting undertaking. We talked to James Corbett, Clairol color director, to get his advice for tips and tricks for achieving the perfect at-home color.

Box colors have come a long way since the first at-home kit debuted in the United States in 1956. Entire aisles in drug and super stores are filled with myriad colors, brands, and types of at-home coloring kits, making it easier than ever to pick the perfect shade for as little as $5. Whether you're looking for a subtle shift or taking a chance on a pop of color, at-home coloring is safe and easy when done carefully and correctly. Here's our guide to how to dye your hair:

Test It
Once you've chosen your desired color, it's important to complete a few tests. First, Corbett recommends completing a skin allergy test 48 hours prior to applying at-home color, as some products may cause allergic reactions. To do this, clean a small area of your inner elbow with soap and water and gently dab dry. Mix a small amount of the activating cream with the color cream with a cotton swab in a small glass or plastic bowl. Be sure to cap both bottles tightly to preserve the formulas for later use. Apply the mixture to the clean spot on your inner elbow, and let sit for 48 hours, examining periodically. If the test area swells, itches, burns, becomes irritated or red, or develops skin abrasions, do not color your hair.

The second test is to check the color. Grab a small section of hair just above your ear that can easily be hidden. Apply color to the section, starting at the roots and combing it through to the ends. Let sit for half the recommended time—approximately 15 minutes—and wipe off with a damp cloth when the time's expired. Assess the color against your skin; if the color isn't quite there yet, reapply and let sit about another 15 minutes.

Choosing a Color
Whether you're touching up or going bold, it's important to consider your skin tone before choosing a color. Corbett recommends choosing a color that complements your skin tone, which can easily be determined by looking at the inner part of your wrist and the color of your veins. Use Corbett's following guide to help determine your skin tone.

  • Veins appear blue or purple: You have a cooler tone and want to pick a shade with the words "warm" or "golden" in the name.
  • Veins appear green: You have a warmer tone and want to pick a shade with the words "cool" or "ash" in the name.
  • Difficulty determining color of veins: You are likely a neutral skin tone and can wear almost any shade.

Regardless of your skin tone, Corbett recommends staying within one to two shades of your current hair color for the best results. "If it's your first time coloring, try a demi-permanent color like Natural Instincts first, as the ammonia-free formula washes out after 28 shampoos," Corbett says.

Prepare Your Hair
Though advancements in hair coloring products have made them safer and less damaging to use, it's still important to prepare your hair prior to processing. Color works best when applied to unwashed hair. It's best to shampoo 12 to 24 hours before coloring if using a semi- or demi-permanent hair color, and 24 hours prior to using a permanent color. "Don't shampoo immediately before coloring your hair because it removes the natural oils that help protect your scalp during the coloring process. In addition, avoid washing for 24 hours after coloring," Corbett says.

Apply Like a Pro
Once you've tested the at-home color and prepped your hair, it's time to apply the color. Start by creating four sections, starting with a center part from the nose to the back of the head, and another part from ear to ear. Clip each section. If doing all-over color, Corbett recommends applying color to the roots first and pulling through to the ends in the last 5 to 10 minutes to avoid damage and uneven color. If doing an ammonia-based color retouch, apply color to the new growth only.

Remember the strand test from earlier? Set a timer for the amount of time you allowed during the test. Once your timer has expired, rinse your hair until the water runs clear, and use the post-coloring conditioner from the box. "After coloring, you can use extra conditioners or oils; however, too much conditioning over a short period of time may strip your color," Corbett says. If your color isn't ideal, such as a tonal issue, a gloss can be a simple fix to deposit tone and shine. If the color issue is more serious, you may need to seek the assistance of a professional.

Make It Last
Now that you've achieved your dream hair color, you want it to last. Sun, warm water, shampoos and styling can damage hair and make the color fade faster. Corbett recommends using a gloss to bring your hair back to the desired tone. It's also important to keep your hair hydrated by applying essential oils, such as coconut oil, to the ends a few times a week or as needed. Apply an all-over deep conditioning treatment once a week to prevent damage.

There you have it: a complete guide on how to dye your hair. Here's hoping you have color success!