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5 Hair Coloring Tips

Updated on March 1, 2016

Hair coloring is 90 percent skill and practice. The more you color your hair, the more skilled you will become and even a home hair color can look exactly the same as a salon job with time spent honing your skills.

There are however, a few tips that can quickly take your hair coloring from a disaster to salon results, and by following these 5 tips, you'll be set to improve in leaps and bounds.

5. Apply hair dye with a brush

One of the problems with home hair dye kits is that they are usually applied by hands with a squeeze bottle, or with some form of crude streaking instrument included in the box. These methods of hair coloring seem simple and easier to use, but in reality they are only slightly easier than to just take the plunge and work with a tinting brush.

Applying hair dye with a bottle applicator is messy, imprecise, and requires you to attempt to blend the color with your hands. As useful as your hands are in day to day life, they can't substitute for the precision and workability of a tinting brush. Using your hands simply doesn't lead to the best color results and your hair coloring adventures will often lead to mistakes, especially when a complicated process like a regrowth touch up is attempted.

It's fairly easy to apply hair dye to your roots alone using a tinting brush, but just try it with a squeeze bottle and your hands as the only tools at your disposal. The inevitable color overlap increases damage to the lengths of your hair, and the imprecise application leads to spots of different colors and banding that are extremely difficult to correct without completely dyeing over your hair with a dark color.

Next time you decide to dye your hair, start to learn how to use a tinting brush and bowl and you'll soon notice just how easier it will become to accomplish hair coloring feats as diverse as under-layers, regrowth applications, streaking, and tipping. None of these processes can be done properly without a tinting brush, and even just a simple straight hair color will turn out better when applied this way.


4. Section hair properly

Another important method of improving your hair coloring results is to section your hair properly every time you apply a dye. This is one of the most important tips and you'll notice the benefits of doing this from the very first time you try it. Sectioning hair out properly allows you to apply color rapidly and evenly.

To section your hair out for a hair color process, you need to divide it into four manageable sections. This is done by parting it directly down the middle from your forehead to the nape of your neck, and then again from ear to ear to give you four separate quadrants.

After doing this, you can see that your hair is easier to manage because you don't have to try to section it out in an arbitrary fashion that causes you to miss sections and slows your progress. You can simply take a thin layer from the top of any of these sections, apply hair dye to it, then clip it back and repeat the process until you reach the bottom of your working section.

Once a section is complete, move on to the next section, working from top to bottom once more and continue doing this until your hair is completely covered with hair dye. The first time you do this, it may take you a while to section it out until you get the hang of the process, but you'll notice immediately how much easier it now is to apply a hair color and not miss any spots. When you master the procedure, your hair coloring will become rapid and precise, and the results will always turn out even.


3. Match colors to your skin

Regardless of how well you apply a hair dye and how even and flawless the color turns out, it won't look good on you if it doesn't match your skin tone. You can get away with mismatching eye color and hair color, but your skin is the most visible part of your body and a hair color that clashes will look jarring and incongruous.

To match hair colors to your skin, you only need to know whether your skin is cool toned or warm toned. Cool toned skin has a light pinkish appearance from the blue tones present in your complexion, whilst warm toned skin has golden or peach tones and can look anything from a golden tan color to olive toned.

To quickly and easily ascertain whether your skin is cool toned or warm toned, look at the veins underneath your skin. The easiest place to see your veins will usually be your wrist in most cases, and these veins will look blue if you have cool toned skin, or green if you have warm toned skin.

Hair color can be matched to your skin tone by matching similar hair tones to skin tones. Cool toned skin will always look best with ash, pearl, natural, blue black, and violet shades. You can also wear red hair as long as it has some blue tone to it to cool it down. This includes shades like mahogany, burgundy, and other similar colors.

Warm toned skin, on the other hand, will look best with beige, golden, copper, and warmer red shades. You should choose warm red shades like auburn and copper reds if you're dyeing your hair red; cool toned reds like mahogany don't look very good on people with warm toned skin. Hair coloring requires attention to tones and the way colors interact, and this is important in order to choose colors that actually look good on you.

Hair color
Cool / Warm
Cool to neutral
Blue black
Ash brown
Natural brown
Golden brown
Ash blonde
Pearl blonde
Beige blonde
Slightly warm
Golden blonde
Strawberry blonde
Natural blonde

2. Pre-lighten hair first

If you have dark hair, you can't dye your hair any lighter than 3 levels in most cases when using a permanent hair dye. For those who have dyed their hair previously, even this degree of lightening is a stretch, and you'll be lucky if your hair lightens at all.

One of the fundamental laws of hair coloring, which is yet to be circumvented, is that color can't lift color. If you have dyed your hair in the past, you can not apply another hair dye and expect it to lighten your hair until all of the artificial color grows out because another dye can't lighten the artificial pigment. In this case, you will need to pre-lighten your hair first with bleach if you want to go lighter with hair dye.

If you want to dye your hair more than 3 levels lighter, you will also need to pre-lighten your hair with bleach, even if you do have virgin hair that has never been dyed before. Hair dyes simply don't have the lightening power to lift anymore pigment from your hair and you'll end up with red or orange hair if you try and risk it.

So if you have virgin hair and want to go 3 levels lighter or less, go for it. A hair dye of your chosen shade mixed with 30 vol developer will be able to lighten and tone it to the color you want. If the shade is more than 3 levels lighter, or you have dyed your hair in the past, pre-lighten it first.


Salon dye brands

If you don't know of any salon brands, you can begin your adventure into new territory by using brands like Igora Royal, Wella Koleston, and Matrix SoColor. These are some of the best hair dye brands overall, and will never let you down.

1. Use salon hair dye

The above four tips are extremely useful and beneficial towards anyone seeking to succeed at home hair coloring, but the number one tip for better color results is of course to use salon hair dyes.

Box hair dyes are really a last resort, if used at all. The dyes you can find at the supermarket or pharmacy are simply inferior products designed to fade fast, with no control over developer volume, and damaging metallic dye pigments that can't be removed from the hair easily.

Worst of all, box dyes are often much more expensive than actual salon dye, because manufacturers know that the price will still seem lower than splurging at a salon. Most of the leading salon dye brands retail for around $8 - $15 USD for a tube of color, and this tube often contains at least twice as much actual dye compared to the amount of dye product you get in a box kit.

Another problem with box dyes is that they follow a one size fits all mentality, with misleading hair color pictures and results. Looking at a light blonde box dye you might think that your light brown hair will turn out the color on the box. However, the dye doesn't take into account that you may have lots of red base pigment in your hair, or that you've dyed your hair in the past. Suddenly, you end up with orange hair because the color couldn't tone out your warm base tone, or no results at all and a loss of your money because the color didn't take on hair that had already been dyed.

When people use these products and go through these mistakes, they end up feeling and looking horrible and blame themselves for the mistake when the reality is that it is the inferior product and they are not to blame. Salon hair color is able to be individualized and customized to anyone's hair, and the potential results you get are exactly the same as you can get in the salon, but for a fraction of the price. So even if you can't afford to go to a salon, or simply don't want to waste money on such a luxury, do your hair a favor and at least use the same products a hairdresser would. There's a reason that they don't use box dyes.


As important as your hair coloring skills are, this is only part of the battle, and even though you have achieved an absolutely perfect hair color, this color will only remain flawless for as long as it is maintained.

For the best results, find a hair maintenance regime that will prevent your color from fading and keep your hair healthy well into the future. Then not only will your color be perfect the day you dye it, but every single day after as well.

Do you have a question about hair coloring or an experience to share? Leave a comment for tailored advice and share your insight with other readers.


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