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Expert Hair Color At Home

Updated on November 10, 2012

How to achieve great color at home and save money.

Hair is important. In 2003, The Economist stated that in America, more money is spent on beauty products than on education. Feeling good about one’s appearance has a profound impact on our lives, it effects our confident and how we present ourselves. One of the easiest ways to have a big impact on appearance is with hair color. Simply dyeing gray hair can make a person look years younger, however it comes with a hefty price. Frequent visits to the hair salon for professional styling and color can put a serious dent in your wallet. The average woman will spend approximately $1,000 per year for basic services (this figure is actually much higher in major metropolitan areas). While there are some services that are best left to the professionals, such as haircuts and complex chemical processes. If you, like most of us, want to simply cover gray hair, this can be easily done at home with the right preparation.

Assess and Prepare your Hair. Take an objective look at your hair. Is your hair really dry or damaged? In order for the hair color to go on evenly you want to get your hair as healthy and as uniform in texture as possible. A couple of days before you color, deep condition your hair. It is also important that you do not shampoo your hair the day before you dye it.

Select Color. The best results are achieved when you stay as close to your natural color as possible, a shade or two lighter or darker is fine, but more than that will be trouble. Drastic hair color changes will not come out even and the color is not reliable. If you really want to color your hair a shade that is more than two shades lighter or darker, you need a professional. There are many factors involved, chemical and color combined with hair type and texture can cause hair color that is uneven and expected. A professional has studied these effects and can put together the correct mix of colors. So as long as you are keeping it simple and natural, you can do this at home. If you have a lot of hair or have really long hair, remember to buy two boxes of the color. The worst scenario is running out of color before you have had a chance to cover all of your hair.

Read the Directions. Most at-home hair color works in a similar way, however, there is always innovation, there are many different formulations out there, for example, some require vigorous shaking to mix active ingredients, others just a few stirs. So read the instructions to make sure there are no surprises. Put the gloves on, follow the mixing instructions and do the strand test. The strand test is really important if this is your first time or if you are allergic to many things.

Prepare for Color and Section Hair. This can be messy if you are not prepared. To avoid drips of dye, put on an old t-shirt and lay an old towel on the floor. Cover the skin around your hairline with petroleum jelly (ears too). Detangle, section and clip the hair into four or six parts (down the middle first and then section each half into three parts). In order to avoid having to clean the tiles and tub you should rinse off the majority of the color in the kitchen sink, so clear the area, clean the sink, place a folded towel on the edge of the sink. Place the conditioning pack that came with the color next to the sink. It is a good idea to dye your hair before you plan to shower, since it is easier to do the initial rinse in the kitchen sink and then finish in the shower.

Apply Dye and Time. Begin with the section at the back of your head, this way you avoid getting the dye on your arms. Take a section at a time and apply the color evenly, but try not to soak the hair to avoid dripping. Comb it and take down the next section and repeat. After each section, comb that hair along with the previously dyed sections so the color is uniform. Continue taking a section at a time as you move up the head, if your hair is long you may want to clip up the dyed hair so that it is out of the way. Take your time with this so that the color is even and you prevent making a mess. Once you are done, pile all the hair up and out of the way and wait the time stated on the box. Rinse your gloved hands and keep your head from touching any surfaces.

Rinse and Condition the Hair. When the time is up go over to the sink and rinse off the dye, at first just let the water run through it, move your head around to let the water get in there. After a while you can use your gloved hands to move and part the hair so that you can get more color out. Once the water is running clear, squeeze some of the water out of the hair and apply the conditioner generously and leave it on. Take the towel (it should be at the edge of the sink) and wrap your head with it and get ready to finish rinsing in the shower. Wait at least a full day before using shampoo on freshly dyed hair.

What if I just have a few grays in certain spots?

If you just have a few grays you can limit the hair dye to just those areas. Mix a small amount of the color (it is usually a half and half mix of dye and activator, but check your box to make sure) and using a toothbrush, apply the color to those specific areas. If you are daring, you can add highlights this way, but I think highlights should be done by a professional.

How can I make the color last longer?

To keep the color longer use colors that are as close as possible to your natural color, this way the roots will not appear as obvious. Avoid using “clarifying” and “volumizing” shampoos, they can change hair color. Look for shampoos, conditioners and hairsprays specifically formulated for colored hair.

I have a lot of gray, I tried at-home color but the color did not take.

If you are more than 50% gray you may need extra help. The texture of gray hair is very compact and smooth, making it harder for color to penetrate. In this situation you need to pre-soften the hair. You can do this at home if you are willing to watch the clock and be precise. First, you need to select a color that is one shade darker than the one you want, and purchase an extra box of the hair dye. Apply just the developing solution from one of the boxes to the gray areas and leave on no longer than five minutes. If your hair breaks easily or is fine leave it on for just three minutes. (If there is a beauty supply in your area you can also purchase a bottle of level 15 developer, instead of buying an extra box of color). After the allotted time rinse the solution thoroughly. Towel-dry your hair, get it as dry as possible and then dye your hair as usual. This technique will make the color penetrate the hair shaft. It is important to note, this pre-softening technique can dry the hair so use a rich conditioner. When your roots grow back, apply the developer to the new growth only to avoid damaging the rest of the hair.

I dyed my hair without reading instructions and now it is a weird color, what do I do?

Unfortunately, this does happen, trying to change hair color drastically (more than two shades lighter or darker) can have unexpected results. You can wind up with red, green, orange or blue hair. If this has happened, you really should not try to fix it yourself, go to a professional. Hair color is all about chemical reactions. In the case of a mistake leaving hair green, the hair professional would use a red based color to counteract the green. For blue hair, an orange based color is needed to counteract the blue. So if you have made a color mistake, stop where you are and see a professional.

I have never dyed my hair before and I am really nervous.

If you want to try it without fully committing, try a temporary color that is a close match to your hair color. If you make a mistake it will wash away in a few shampoos.

Covering gray hair is one of the easiest ways to maintain a youthful appearance, and it does not have to cost a lot of money. With a little preparation and planning it is possible to maintain hair color at home saving hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars per year.


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