5 Tips So You Can Safely Color Your Hair at Home

5 Tips So You Can Safely Color Your Hair at Home

Listen, I know that every hair stylist on the planet right now is yelling at you to just wear a hat and not ruin your color. I get it.

Are you a platinum blonde? Do you have balayage, ombre, or highlights? If so, you absolutely should do your best to just embrace your hair how it is and let your stylist give you a refresh as soon as she can.

Buuut … if you’re a one-color kinda girl like me, you can get good results at home if you’re armed with the right knowledge. I’m not saying to DIY forever, but everyone’s next salon appointment is up in the air right now, and quarantine is all about trying new things, right?

Anyway, I’ve been doing my own hair color for years, and it looks just as good as when I paid $100 every month to let a pro do it. The tips I’m going to give you today can at least help you stretch out your salon visits, which means less damage to your hair AND your wallet. Win-win!

I’m not saying to DIY forever, but everyone’s next salon appointment is up in the air right now, and quarantine is all about trying new things, right?

 

Tip #1: Put down the drugstore dye

Put. It. Down.

Go online to a professional beauty supply store and purchase your color, developer, gloves, and mixing tools. Seriously. You can get a tool set like this for less than $7 that can be reused for months.

When you use salon-quality dyes and developers, you have more control over the chemical process that changes your hair color. With premixed box dyes, you don’t have that level of control, so you wind up with uneven color and tons of unnecessary damage.

 

color your hair

 

Tip #2: Buy the right developer

Developer is the peroxide component that you mix with the hair color in order to start the chemical process of depositing color into your hair cuticle. It’s what “activates” the hair color, but it’s important to use the right one.

Developers are usually labeled by volume: 10, 20, 30, or 40. This refers to how much peroxide is in the formula, which translates to how powerful it is. The higher the volume number, the higher the percentage of peroxide.

Here are your choices:

– 10 volume (3% peroxide): Best for touch-ups where your natural color is close to your dyed color (e.g., if you dye from medium brown to dark brown).

– 20 volume (6% peroxide): This is the standard developer strength. It’s versatile enough for most dye colors, and it works well for gray coverage. 20 volume is what I use to dye my blonde roots back to whatever shade of red I’m in the mood for.

– 30 volume (9% peroxide): If you have very thick hair or stubborn grays, 30 can be used for more vibrant color. 30 is also strong enough to be used to lighten your hair, but honestly, if you’re a newbie, I do NOT recommend trying to bleach your hair at home.

– 40 volume (12% peroxide): Do not buy this. It’s crazy strong and can burn your scalp. You absolutely don’t need 40 volume for home color.

Unless you’ve done this before, you’ll want to stick with 10-20 volume. It’s always better to use a weaker developer if you’re unsure because the higher volumes can more easily damage your hair.

 

 

Tip #3: Know the different types of color

In general, you’ll be choosing between semi-permanent, demi-permanent, and permanent dyes. (Permanent is the kind your stylist uses on you.)

In terms of longevity, it goes:

Semi-permanent (3-12 washes)

Semi-permanent doesn’t require developer. These just deposit a small amount of color to “stain” your hair cuticle, which is why they wash out the fastest. If you’re worried about messing up your color, this is a good baby step.

Semi-permanent is non-damaging because it doesn’t use chemical developer. It also fades pretty fast, so if you make a mistake, you don’t have to live with it for long.

If you want to cover grays though, this won’t do the job. You’ll need demi or permanent dye.

Semi-permanent just deposits a small amount of color to “stain” your hair cuticle. If you’re worried about messing up your color, this is a good baby step.

 

Demi-permanent (12-20 washes)

Demi-permanent doesn’t contain ammonia like permanent dye, but you do usually need a 10 volume developer to activate it. These type of dyes still only live on the surface of your hair strands rather than penetrating into the shaft like permanent dyes, but they deposit longer-lasting color.

These are similar to semi-permanent in that they’re not very damaging to your hair, but they’re better able to add tone and depth to roots or fading color.

 

Permanent

Permanent hair color doesn’t wash out like the other two. Rather, it simply fades and new growth occurs. This is why it’s so important to carefully follow mixing and application instructions for the brand of color you purchase.

Every manufacturer has a slightly different color-to-developer mix ratio, and there will be a corresponding chart for how long you should let your hair process. (An example might be “1:2 mix,” which means one part color and two parts developer. So, if you had 1 oz. of color, you’d mix it with 2 oz. developer. I promise that’s all the math you’ll need!)

Permanent dyes must be activated with developer, usually 20 volume. They contain chemicals that open or “lift” the hair cuticle so that the pigment can change the color of the hair. This is why it’s best for gray coverage too—it’s able to get inside each strand and add pigment back into the follicle.

color your hair

 

Tip #4: Take your time

Get everything ready before you mix your color so that you don’t feel rushed.

Don’t wash your hair beforehand (unless you’re using temporary color!), but do brush all the tangles out. Tangly hair = patchy, messy color.

Don’t forget to apply Vaseline around your hairline and on your ears to easily wipe away the stray color that will inevitably smear all over your skin.

Remember to work methodically for even application. Part your hair down the middle, and divide it into quadrants (i.e. top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right). Clip each section up and only work with one at a time! Start at the bottom and apply a thick, even layer of dye to JUST your roots and new growth. Work all the way around your head in small sections so that you don’t miss any spots.

Pay attention to what time you start! When you’ve finished applying color to your roots, set a timer for however long the instructions tell you to process. About 10 minutes before your roots are done processing, apply the color to the mid-lengths of your hair and comb it through. Be gentle!

Don’t forget to apply Vaseline around your hairline and on your ears to easily wipe away the stray color that will inevitably smear all over your skin.

I know that 10 minutes doesn’t sound like enough time for the dye to work, but it is! (The exceptions here would be very thick or very gray hair. They need more processing time.) The rest of your hair DOES NOT need as long to process because it won’t be as faded as the hair close to your new growth. Applying color to all of your hair for the entire processing time just invites unnecessary damage, and it can make your color look uneven or dull.

 

Tip #5: It’s just hair

I was absolutely terrified of any DIY hair experiments for most of my life. But! A hair stylist friend walked me through the process I’ve shared with you today, and she explained that at the end of the day, no mistake is forever.

If you’re worried about messing up your hair, just remember that you’re more capable than you’re giving yourself credit for. Do a little research. Watch a YouTube video. Refer back to my advice. And don’t be afraid to ask questions! You don’t have to resort to Coachella glitter roots or live in a hat.

Do you have questions I didn’t answer? Ask away!

 

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