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Q&A Tuesday: At-Home Hair Coloring (Advice needed!)

I  have a question that I really need answered: how do others do their own hair coloring? Are there websites or blogs that teach you how?

I have always gotten my done at the salon, but I’m not able to afford that right now and I can’t stand the grays that are coming in!

There are so many deals on hair coloring kits, but there are so many different kinds, I just don’t where to begin and I’m terrified of doing it wrong and ruining my hair. -Carol

A friend of mine highlighted my hair one time using a coloring kit you buy in a box, but that’s the extent of my knowledge when it comes to at-home hair coloring. And, as I shared with you all not too long ago, we save money in many areas so that we can splurge in a few — one of them being my hair. So I’m probably not the person to be asking about at-home hair coloring, but here are two ideas I had for you:

1. If you know someone who went to beauty school or is a hairdresser, I’d suggest asking them about bartering. Maybe you could make them freezer meals or clean their house or teach them a skill in exchange for their willingness to do your hair? Get creative and you might be able to come up with a way to still get your hair done, without breaking your budget to do so.

2. If bartering wasn’t an option, then I’d ask your friends if any of them dye their own hair. You might be able to get some hands-on help to learn the ropes.

I did a quick Google search on “How to Dye Your Own Hair” and it looks like there are quite a few great articles and videos available online to help you color your own hair without ruining it. However, there’s no guarantees that what you read on the internet will work for you!

My readers are much more reliable than Google, though, so let’s open up the floor to them: Have any of you colored your hair (or someone else’s) before? What advice, tips and suggestions do you have for Carol?

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  • I have colored my own hair for years now and get many compliments on it. The rules are:
    1. don’t go more than two shades lighter or darker than your natural color.
    2. stay away from ammonia based colors.
    3. Keep your hair conditioned, and plan on deep conditioning after several colors, as it tends to be drying.
    4. match the model on the packages skin coloring and eye color to your own, and you will get the best results.
    Also watch for the language they use for the name of the color: goldens and warm will have red/brassy tones.
    Plan on investing in a toner or getting a coloring kit with toner if you are going blond and haven’t ever before.
    And if all else fails, there’s always Finesse: it will get rid of most semi-permanent color.
    This is from a girl who has been totally blond to almost black through the course of a year, many times, but is happiest as a brunette!! Good luck!

  • Laura says:

    Sometimes beauty schools offer services to the public at inexpensive prices. The students need the practice, and I think all the procedures are supervised by licensed staff members, so risk is relatively low.

  • Carole says:

    Hi Carol,
    You are right to be nervous about at-home hair color; however, it’s not as big a deal as it seems!! Depending on how much gray coverage you’re looking for, you may be able to use the level 2 hair colors that just wash out as you shampoo over a month or so. I use Loving Care about once a month and i’ve got quite a bit of gray to cover. I prefer this to the permanent colors since i don’t like the line of grey that pops up as my hair grows out. With Loving Care, the gray slowly starts to show through and I know it’s time to color again (and it’s pretty cheap!). I use medium golden brown and my gray actually turns golden and looks like highlights!
    That said, if you decide to do it at home, I suggest using a comb to really evenly distribute the color and not have it all collect on the bottom half of your hair (been there, done that). Also, use the plastic cap for some heat generation and really wash it out till the water runs clear. You can do this!! Best wishes 🙂

  • Tracey says:

    I just colored mine this evening with Natural Instincts Semi-Permanent Hair Color. This is all I will use b/c I am too afraid of the permanent hair color and the ammonia, etc. This semi-permanent color has always worked very well for me. I am a dark brown with minimal gray. I usually get light golden brown or lightest golden brown. Always go a couple of shades lighter than your natural hair color if you want it to look the same. Good luck. If I can do it, you can :-).

    • Sarah says:

      @Tracey, i agree with Tracey on the natural instincts brand because of the semi-permanent nature. on me, the color lasts about twice as long as it says, and the conditioner they give you is really nice too. but with this brand, be careful if you have red hair. i have auburn/light brownish colored hair and their reds are very red… i also keep a couple of old towels (you could probably buy cheap ones at walmart or a thrift store too) to use solely for hair dye so i don’t ruin the good towels and have to replace them. other supplies that are helpful are a big hair clip and/or rubber bands to keep your hair up so you don’t get dye everywhere in your bathroom. a friend to help you rinse or apply the dye could be helpful too!

      • Heather says:


        I actually just dyed my hair with Natural Instincts in the Spiced Tea shade, I looooove it. Of course i’m naturally auburn and have been dyeing my hair red since high school. I’ve only ever used the permanent ones but red’s fade so quickly anyways I figured i’d get the semi so there would be less damage to my hair. Spiced Tea is beautiful and a more natural red than I usually get.

  • jaclyn says:

    I would recommend L’Oreal Preference for all over color/coverage for gray hair. The instructions in the box are very helpful, but I would recommend getting someone to help you with the back. Sometimes at-home hair color can start to just look like one shade, which soon looks fake. Highlights help! So, when you become comfortable doing an all over color, I’d recommend L’Oreal Colour Experte about twice a year to put some natural looking highlights in your hair. This will also make the color look more natural as it starts to grow out. I’ve been at-home coloring for 10 years and people are shocked when I tell them! Good luck! You can do it!

  • Cindi says:

    Its going on 10 years now that my husband has been coloring my hair. He is not a cosmetologist by any means, but has it down to a science now! Guess it helps that he likes me as a blond!

  • Tiffany says:

    I LOVE Perfect 10. It has been the best hair color i have found. I highly suggest laying out old towels on the floors and sink when you color at home so that the surfaces do not get stained. Rub conditioner on your skin right up to your hair line, on your ears and the back of your neck to keep color from staining your skin as well. For a first timer coloring at home, I would suggest trying it at least a few days before you have anything important going on so that you have for the color to soften and any that got on your skin to fade. 🙂

  • sarah says:

    I’ve always dyed my hair at home. I’ve tried going to a salon and because my hair pulls so much red, the hairdresser can never seem to get it right. So I go to any wal-mart or target and get garnier fructis hairdye. Its fairly inexpensive. I usually get 2 boxes of the same color because my hair is so thick, you would also need to get 2 boxes if your hair is long. Depending on what shade your hair is you can get hairdye with no risk. If its any shade of blonde, I wouldn’t recommend it, only because I’ve had so much trouble with blonde dye turning red and orange. But brown and red hues are great colors to use at home. Clairol I believe also makes a root-touch up kit which is perfect for greys. But since this is your first time with at home coloring I would use an all over coverage of color, so its even. Just pic which brand you like, clairol and garnier are really good and cheap. Match the color of your hair to the box. Don’t use the root of your hair or the ends of your hair, they’re usually lighter/darker than your haircolor, use the middle of your hair as a reference. Get 1 or 2 boxes depending on hair thickness or length. Make sure before you dye your hair that it hasn’t been washed in at least one day but isn’t greasy. Section your hair in half horizontally, kind of like putting your hair half up. There should be instructions inside the box that are very easy to read as well. There will be 3 containers in the box: developer, creme developer, and after care conditioner. Mix the two developers in the container with the nozzle and shake vigorously until it looks well mixed. Put on your gloves that come in the box. Cut or twist off the tip of the nozzle and squirt a bit of the dye into your hand and mix up between your fingers and palm (the first squirt won’t be completely mixed in the bottle). Then apply to from root to tip of the bottom section of hair, saturating it completely with dye. In no particular way, kind of like jut washing your hair. Save half the bottle if you only got on box, I have to use a whole box on the bottom&same for the top. Then do the same to the top section. Either use the rest of the dye from the bottle or shake up a new bottle from the other box and use that for this section. If you get any on your ears, neck, forhead its okay. When you’re done you can wash it off with warm water and soap. Pile hair loosly on top of your head when done and wait about 25 mins. The instructions should be able to tell you an exact time. Its usually 25 and an extra 5-10 for grays. Then rinse. Put a little bit of warm water on your hair first and just lather in the dye and water just like washing your hair, let that sit for a couple minutes. Then rinse out the dye completely until the water runs clear, use half of the conditioner packet from the box to condition your hair and leave that on for 3 mins then rinse. Save the other half of the conditioner for the next shower or hairwashing. Then dry and style as usual. If you still have some dye on your ears, neck, and forhead don’t worry. It will come off within a day or two. If the color is too dark, then wash your hair right after dying it with shampoo, twice and then conditioner. If its too light, then you need to go buy another box of dye in a shade or two darker and re-dye it. I would wait about 10 days or longer to re-dye. Although I’ve re-dyed my hair the same day and have been fine, but I’m not going to recommend it, its your choice. If you have any questions feel free to email me. As I said before, the instructions in the hairdye box are really easy to understand and follow as well. Its much easier and much less hassle to do it at home, to me anyways. Hope this helps! Goodluck

    • Krystal says:

      @sarah, I do just the same thing as you do. I have been doing it for years and have the best results with garnier. If you can’t match exactly then go a little lighter. I find that darker comes off a little flat and gothic.

  • Dee says:

    Always do a “strand test” like the box tells you to do. Then there’s less of a chance of a surprise. 😉

  • April says:

    A girlfriend colored my hair almost 16 years ago, first and last time. It turned out great, but she knew what she was doing. I also have a really hard time finding color that is NOT permanent. Do they even make it anymore?? I’m scared to death, just found the exact color I have been looking for and put it back on the shelf! The advice is giving me confidence…good Q&A 🙂 I think I’ll go back to the store and actually give it a try. Thanks!

  • Crystal says:

    I’ve always dyed my own hair. To play it safe, stick to a shade or two within your natural hair color and do the strand test and ALWAYS wear the gloves!! The instructions included are pretty straight forward. If you want to sample, get a wash out or semi-permenant color first. That way you can wash it out easier if you do not like the color. Definitely put towels down on the floor and make sure you get ALL your hair. Have hubby help you if he’s willing, it will make things much easier.

  • mary says:

    Good answers on here.. As a hairdresser here is my only advice, follow the directions and don’t attempt to go blonde on your own at home, even w/ the highlighting kits unless you are naturally light.. Once you are able to go back to a salon see about getting some dimensional color done on top (highlights & lowlights). This way the grey isn’t as noticeable as it grows out and you don’t have one flat color.

    For those of you who do color at home go to and you can get a $3 off coupon for Clairol Natural Instincts. It’s not a printable they mail it to you.

  • Nicole says:

    My mother uses L’oreal Excellence Creme. It was also the last brand I used on my hair. I’m actually very pleased with it, as I’m only 30 but starting to get a few greys. I went lighter with no problem.

    The box comes with a root comb applicator, and says it is “non drip”. It’s completely true, the cream is nice and thick, doesn’t drip, and gives you really good coverage.

    I still recommend finding a friend to help you apply, because the back of your head is going to be the trickiest part!

  • Rachel H. says:

    Hmmm…Well, the extent is throw gobs on and muss it around till it looks as wet as your shampoo does in the shower. That worked okay until I had my husband start doing it. Really, there isn’t much effort involved and I think he secretly loves marking me up with the dye. He does a great job though. 🙂

    • christina says:

      @Rachel H.,
      haha, this is what i do!!
      i always get compliments on my hair color from my customers. it cracks me up because my hairdresser did the same thing and charged me $40….and i did mine with feria for $7.

  • Jenn says:

    I’ve been coloring my hair off and on for about 10 years. First I started with just a frosting kit–just “frosted” chunks of my dark blonde hair lighter. It’s really not hard. But kids and age have darkened my hair quite a bit so I’ve been doing all-over color for quite a while. Just read the instructions and follow what it says. The first commentor is right–the different tones of colors make a big difference. My hair tends to get reddish when I color (which is fine) but if I use the “ash blonde” it turns it just that–ashy! Trial & error and most of the time, nothing that can’t easily be fixed. Just don’t try to change your natural color too drastically to begin with! 🙂

  • kriswithmany says:

    If I do semi-permanent, do I need to use a special shampoo? I’m wondering if that’s what happened this last month. Second time coloring my hair ever!

    • DeAnn says:

      there is a big variety in how long different brands last. Loving Care- for me- has washed out in a few days. Natural Instincts lasted at least a month, and where my hair had highlights that were growing out, the semi-permanent color actually never washed out and allowed my hair to look much better!

  • Jana Pierce says:

    I agree, I love the Loreal excellence… I do a shade close to my own to add some body and cover up a few gray hairs (though I am only 27, the three I have RIGHT IN FRONT bug me!). I have been using it for years now, it works as a great base color and then as someone else suggested a few times a year I do perfect 10 or color expert to add some highlights… really simple, grows out great and I get compliments all the time… the key is again stay close to your natural color and be aware of the tones… if you end up too red cover with an Ash tone or vice versa but really it is super simple… and Target has a great sale on color this week too! (buy 2 get a $5 gc, combined with coupons)! Good Luck!

  • brookeb says:

    Start simple, with a color that’s close to your natural color, is a “thicker” formula (less drips!) and that is one process only. It’s best to color your hair when it’s dirty vs. freshly cleaned, and make sure you use the conditioning rinse they include. Stay away from the super-cheap colors (<$6). If you have questions, most any brand has a hotline for you to call with those. Oh, and you'll want to set aside a towel or two just for haircolor days — don't ruin your good ones!

    Once you've done it and feel comfortable, I highly suggest Loreal's Colour Experte. It's got a full color and matching highlights for around $14.

    • Jen says:

      @brookeb, Is it one of the kits that comes with a cap so you can pull strands through for highlights? I have really thick hair and haven’t colored my hair before. I have quite a few natural highlights and love the idea of doing a kit with highlights, but I’m afraid with the amount of hair I have, I won’t be able to get enough through the cap. Any tips?

      • Jana Pierce says:

        from my experience it is not a kit with a cap, which for people with thick hair like me is actually better… easier to manage and they usually provide pics with suggestions on where to put the streaks for color… if you are staying close to your natural color I have found though that it is pretty hard to mess up really! 🙂

      • brookeb says:

        @Jen, Jana’s got it right — no cap. It comes with something akin to a mascara brush and you paint it onto strands. The highlighting goop is really thick so it stays where you put it. I’ve used highlighting caps in the past, and I think this is far easier.

  • Marge says:

    I’ve been coloring my hair for years. My natural color is very gray, though not totally yet! I use L’Oreal Excellence and have been happy with it for gray coverage. (I tried L’Oreal Preference a couple months ago and found that it washed out before it grew out. So, I went back to Excellence.)

    I love the way my hair feels for the first few days after coloring–very soft. If your hair is fine, you may not care for that.

    I’ve not tried highlighting my hair, but have found that the color I’ve used takes a little different on the gray. So, when my natural hair didn’t have as much gray in it, it tended to have enough variation in the color to look highlighted.

  • ILONA says:

    I’m not a hair stylist, but I’ve read on makeupalley and seen on youtube videos that home hair dye box kits are very damaging to your hair! It is because the developer they give you is often too strong for what you need to do with your hair. I know it can seem very convenient to just pick up a box of dye and use coupons, but please save your hair! Also, in the long run, if you purchase your developer in larer quantities, you will save in the long run.

    I do not know where you live, but I recommend going to beauty supply store like Sallys You will need a few basic supplies…such as gloves and something to mix the dye in. You can go via the bottle route or mixing it in a non-metallic bowl (,default,pd.html) and applying it with a brush (,default,pd.html). In addition to that you will need a developer (,default,pd.html) and hair color (,default,pd.html). If you are able to go in store, you can ask an associate for help. Like others suggested, I wouldn’t stray too far from your natural color. Also, the number on the developer matters…I use a 20 because that is what was recommended to me. I’m sorry as I cannot technically explain the different levels.

    But I’ve been dying my hair (just to get different colors) for about 15 years and its really not that hard once you get used to it =) Maybe watch some demos/tutorials on youtube and good luck!

  • Katie says:

    I am a hair stylist and have experimented with almost everything, from drugstore dye to Aveda (which is what I currently use in the salon). My number one recommendation would be to barter with a cosmetologist (I trade services with my babysitter, when she needs her hair done she gives me a free week of childcare)
    I saw someone recommended using a thick color- for the best coverage it is good to use a “runny” color as thick color can glob on and while it looks like you have everything covered, the strands stick together and you will have spots of hair that are not covered in the middle (although there is no doubt about it that it is potentially messier!:).
    For the most thorough coverage part your hair down the middle, and then from ear to ear (so you end up with four sections) and then take 1/4-1/2″ slices in each section and paint your roots. Continue in all sections.
    Read the timing on the box- during the last 10 min of processing time put the rest of the color on the remaining hair. You do this so your ends don’t get darker than the rest of your hair- which can easily happen when your hair has been damaged.
    Hopefully this helps those of you that are in a pinch, but there is seriously no comparison between box color and professional color as far as the damage factor. Hair that has been colored by a drugstore color gets very porous, filmy and “squeeky”, and can cause problems if/when you decide to go see a stylist. Make sure you let her/him know what color you have been using so they know how best to formulate to reconstruct.

    • Katie says:

      @Katie, I just realized I should mention that if you are going blonde, color won’t lift other artificial color. You need to use bleach. And then your best bet would be to tone after.
      If you are trying to lift artificial color off of your ends put the bleach on your ends first and then cover the roots, as your roots are going to be the virgin hair and the closest to your scalp so it will be warmer and lift faster.

  • Natalie says:

    I have my cosmo license and instructor’s license. I would suggest asking friends/family if they have used a beauty school and get their opinions on which one they liked and if they had their hair color/highlights done their who they used etc…you can usually request a student. If you want to try at home color their are quite a few things to consider.
    1. What type of color are you going to use, Permanent or Non-Permanent (semi-permanent and demi-permanent fall in this category).
    Permanent color blows open the hair cuticle so that the color penetrates the cortex. It doesn’t wash out and can be touched up at the roots.
    Semi-perm coats the outside of the cuticle and sometimes down to the next layer. It usually doesn’t have peroxide or ammonia. It will penetrate and last longer on hair that is damaged as it will stain the hair shaft. It will last 2-3 weeks or more depending on how often you shampoo hair.
    Demi-perm will last longer because it deposits color between cuticle and cortex and typically has some peroxide or ammonia. I would say to that you should stay within 2 shades of your natural hair color (level) whether you are going lighter or darker. If you “mess” up it will generally be a little easier should you have to fix it yourself, or if you do have to go to a salon it will be easier, less damage to your hair, and maybe less expensive for them to fix. Also, if you alter your hair color more than 2 levels, you will end up with more noticeable roots, so more upkeep, time, money. If you have less than 50% gray, I would also suggest starting out with semi or demi permanent color. it will also give your hair a better shine and condition it. Semi permanent will not lift natural hair color though.

  • Jessica M says:

    I always get demi permanent from Sally beauty supply. If you go in and talk to them they will tell you how to do it. I do my daughters all the time. I think it is easier if you have someone like a freind or sister help you with it, it makes it easier to make sure everything is covered

  • Willow says:

    My simple advice is get 2 boxes if you have hair longer than your shoulders, especially if it is thick. It really sucks to run out of hair dye and not have enough to cover all your hair.

  • Dena says:

    I use Revlon ColorSilk.My hubby does it for me because it’s hard to do on yourself.But if you are interested in a do it yourself hair dye, you can go to They have a do it yourself section.I have seen this topic covered there.They give full directions on what to use to make your own.
    Good luck…….Dena

  • Janet says:

    I have highlighted my own hair for years using a highlightin kit from Sally’s.
    What I found that helps with my hair costs is a beauty school, where haircuts start at $10. They also do color – which begins at $35 – I think that is a great deal – because part of the cost is the stylist’s time.

    All the students are closely watched by professional teachers and I’ve never seen anyone leave upset.

  • Amber says:

    I buy Natural Instincts when it’s on sale and I have coupons. I usually get it for about $3-4 and I have to do mine every 2-3 weeks. I just get my husband to do it for me. I’ve tried doing it myself but ended up making a mess and not covering all the grays.

  • Sara says:

    I’ve always used a box color kit but I went into a Sally Beauty supply store for the first time with my last coloring and asked the lady for a suggestion on color – mine always fades to a red/orangey color, because I wait too long between colorings.

    She first looked down her nose a little – saying she and her mother were “hairdressers” and they “don’t use boxes…” (whatever…I’m poor, help me out) so I said, um, unemployed? Want to sell some product? so she said “go with an ashy brown” which is what I’ve always looked for on a box (til a couple of times ago when I made a HUGE mistake and tried something with red tones) so I grabbed two tubes of the “light ash brown” and I said “Which developer?” and she said “You need the 10” – I guess it was what you use when you are sticking to your own shade, just covering grey. So, for $13 I got a huge bottle of developer (enough for two dye jobs) and 3 tubes of color (I used 1-1/2 each time) and that was enough for 2 colorings. Not a bad deal, compared to some of the prices on the boxed stuff!

    I guess I’m saying just don’t be afraid to ask for help in finding what you need, and the beauty supply store’s prices are pretty good. Save up some old towels, and just go for it! It’s like giving yourself a shampoo and as long as you stick to a color near yours, you can’t go wrong.

  • Christy says:

    I have never gotten my hair colored at the salon and have always done it at home, and have been doing it 10+ years, so my suggestion is don’t be afraid! Maybe for your first “go” you could do a temporary or semi-permanent that would come out after several washes instead of going permanent. That way you’re not committed to your results.

    Make sure you read the instructions well (some require wet hair and some dry) and do your hair in sections. I usually focus on my roots and around my face first (where the roots are most noticeable), then work through the rest of my hair, and finish up with extra on the roots and around my face. Those grays can always use a double dose. 🙂

    Good luck, and don’t be afraid to experiment, especially when it comes to the temporary or 30-wash colors. You’ll find it’s not as difficult as you think. Just be sure and wear some clothes you don’t mind getting stained.

  • Paige says:

    I’ve colored mine at home for years (and my husband used to help with the back before I got more confident — HA!). I’ve always used L’Oreal Excellence Creme. It’s SO easy. Because it’s a cream, there’s no “drip” and runny dye. Plus, it comes with a comb attachment, so you squeeze the bottle and comb your hair, and the dye is evenly dispersed. Easy and Cheap!!!

    What color is your hair? If it’s brown, be careful! Depending on your skin tone, ash colors and sometimes golden colors can give you reddish tints! (At least that’s my experience). I have medium-dark brown hair naturally and used to use Dark Beige Blonde for a lighter brown and now use Light Brown for what would be my normal hair color.

  • Julie says:

    After having my hair colored at the salon every 5-6 weeks for about 6 years and realizing how much I really spent, I decided to give it a try myself. As many listed above, my hair tends to pick up the reddish/brassy color, which I did not want. When I have had to change hairdressers, I have had many VERY red/orange outcomes and was so afraid of that. I actually went to the store and bought THREE different colors (all nice and easy) – still cheaper than a salon visit. For three consecutive nights, I chose a fairly large patch (about 2″ x 1/2″) on the top of my head a little to the side under my top layer. (You can mix an equal amount of the color and the developer – I used a tablespoonful). I did a strand test for the amount of time. And, am I EVER THANKFUL! The first two were very red. The third worked out perfectly. Then I was able to color my whole head without fear of having a color I hated.

    I highly recommend Clairol nice and easy. One thing I didn’t like at the salon was that my hair always had the look that every strand was the same color and very blah. With nice & easy, it layers different colors in their, and I have varying shades of brownish/blonde. My husband actually likes it better and now I spend on $7 every five weeks instead of $45.

    • lu says:

      oh those darn hair dyes with the red/orange/brasssy tones
      They have plagued me my whole life
      Its the obvious sign of someone who colors their hair at home.

  • Emily F says:

    I color my own hair and use Perfect10, it will not lighten or darken your hair more than 2 shades ( which you shouldnt try to do anyway) and after 10 minutes it will no longer process. I get compliments all the time and even the lady who does my occasional hair cut cant tell I color it myself. You’ve got to find a product that works for you, stick with one brand and one color or you’ll end up with brassy multicolored hair.

  • Stacey says:

    I use Natural Instincts and really like it. I, too have used coupons when it’s on sale and even found some on clearance with a full sized bottle of shampoo bundled with the box! I have short hair and the beautician recommended mixing (equal parts) only enough to cover my hair. You don’t have to use all the dye in the box. If it’s not mixed you can store it for later, but once you’ve mixed it use it or toss. It’s a great way to make it go a little farther!

  • Vanessa says:

    I haven’t read all the responses but YouTube is a great place to start. They have tutorials on everything, including hairdressing at home. My husband actually cut 8 inches off my hair and layered it for one of the BEST haircuts I’ve ever had after watching YouTube videos. He cut our son’s hair, too, and does better than any salon!

  • Tina says:

    I highlight at home. I don’t like all over coloring because it looks too obvious as it grows out. No matter what kit you buy…if it does not have a cap and hook, go buy one. I put on the cap, get my hook and pull out a bit of hair from each circled hole…then I color…set the timer…check a strand by cleaning it off…cover it back up, repeat…pull off cap, wash hair, VOILA!

  • Lisa R says:

    I personally don’t recommend those highlighting kits at all. I have dark brown hair that pulls red naturally and one of those kits turned me ORange!! I had to go to the salon and pay $250 for color correction because it was so bad. My hair took several times getting it colored at the salon til it grew out enough.

    My suggestion is to find a shade close to your natural color and stick with it if you are doing anything at home. Thats all I will do now because I am not willing to risk again.

    Also someone mentioned about going to a salon school for color. I don’t recommend that. I went once for a hair cut and the manager (a graduated student) ended up trying to fix me…. it was horrible. I actually refused to pay (never ever did that before) because it was so bad. I was butchered!! I personally think you get what you pay for in that area. 😉

  • Kelley says:

    Beauty schools are an excellent way to get your hair and nails done cheap! They offer all manners of services, including manicures and pedicures, depending on the area. I suggest doing a search or looking in your local phonebook for nearby schools. These students have had plenty of training before they turn them loose on the public, at least in my area:) They have to complete a number of services before they can graduate. I also color my hair at home because I use a semi-permanent that just punches up the color, but if you need a permanent to cover grays I can see where that could feel daunting!

  • Grace says:

    I color every 4 weeks with the aforementioned Natural Instincts b/c it’s semi-permanent and easy on my hair. I use the Brass-Free Light Brown color, which can be hard to find, but anything else makes my hair artificially golden. My hairstylist (to whom I still go for cuts) gave me some tips. Get an application brush from the beauty supply and do the root application method on the dye instructions. Go close to your natural shade. Use color preserving shampoo. I’ve been coloring my hair at home for 4 years now with no problem.

  • Michelle says:

    Not sure where you live, but I have my license and I would love some freezer meals :o)! I’m in Missouri.

  • Julie says:

    Perfect 10; done in 10 minutes and covers great.

    Three weeks later, I use Root Touch up; also done in 10 minutes.

    You can get these for less than $10 a box and usually there is a sale and coupon available if you look. I pay about $5 a box or less with sale and coupons.

    Can’t imagine spending money for salon coloring. I’d rather put that $60 into real foods (fruits! veggies! whole grains!) for my family than on my hair. ;o) The one time I did a coloring at a high end salon, I was SO disappointed–never again.

    • brookeb says:

      @Julie, I’ve had a similar experience with salon coloring– I’ve had it done a few times and it either took hours and hours or didn’t come out looking like I wanted and the smell of the whole process was so strong. I much prefer my 20 minutes and box of color, even if it’s supposedly doing more damage.

  • Summer says:

    I am a cosmetologist, and my favorite kind of hair color for going darker is a demi permanent. You can usually get good coverage and lots of shine with minimal damage, although it may depend on the brand and may not be strong enough to cover a lot of grey. Something that is a BIG DEAL, and I saw over and over in the salon, was women going over and over the same hair with color each time they colored it. The second time you go to color your hair, if you are using the same color as before, only retouch the roots! Then if the ends need refreshing, you can pull some color over them for the last five min. I saw so much damaged, straw like hair because so many people would just plop it on their whole head every time! I would say read the instructions on the color you buy, because the manufacturer wants you to be happy and tells you the best way to do it. Also if at all possible have a friend help! It is hard and stressful holding your arms in the air for so long, trying to get good coverage. I checked out the Clairol homepage, and they have a chat feature so you can ask them about their products. I would talk to them, tell them the color you have, and what you want, and see what product they recommend. Also, remember that ANY natural hair color hair pulls red/orange/yellow (depending on how dark it is to start with) when lightening, so it is almost always good to choose an ashy (green, blue, voilet) color to minimize the warmth. Now if your ends are already lightened quite a bit, and then you put ash on them, that is how you get green hair. But if you use ash bases when lightening virgin hair you can get some great results.
    Highlights are a whole nother story, I would recommend getting some bleach and developer and starting out slowly. You can buy supplies at Sally’s and practice with conditioner instead of bleach on whoever lets you, but the key is to use very small sections and keep the bleach inside the foil. If it leaks out you are going to be able to tell. Add a few hightlights around your face and see if you like it. You have to let the bleach stay on long enough to get most of the yellow out, until it is a little paler than a stick of butter, but not white. It is hard for me to do highlights on myself, so this too would be much easier if you and a friend decided to learn together and help each other out. And don’t give up- their is a learning curve to this just like everything else!

  • I ask a friend to help me with it. She’s done it several times for me in exchange for baked goods or dinner. 🙂

  • Heather K. says:

    Coloring your hair is pretty easy and do it myself as I cannot afford to keep my grays away at a salon. Many of the other posters at great suggestions. I would also suggest not to stray to far away from your natural hair color. Not only will it not be a color that matches you well but the color will come out unnatural.

    Simply follow directions on the box, wear the gloves since it will dye the hands, have a rag nearby to wipe any drips as it dyes skin for a few days. I like to use a cheap comb to part my hair. Once I make a part, say down the middle, I squeeze a strip of product on and work into the roots. Then place another part about 1/2 inch over from the last part and do the same. THat works for the front and side. For the back, I part across and place product. With the remaining product I “shampoo” it in so to speak. Squeeze coloring on in an area and rub thru.

    If you have very long hair, get two boxes. My hair is slightly below my shoulders and one box is more than enough.

  • Michelle M says:

    I was also going to suggest finding out how much the beauty schools in the area (if you have any) charge. The students need practice and the are always supervised by their teacher when doing such work.
    There are several beauty schools in our general area and they are very inexpensive for dye and perm services and do an excellent job from what I’ve seen.

  • Holly says:

    Back when I was single with no kids I used to get my hair done at a very nice salon and had a great hairdresser. Now I use the same hair dresser and she comes to my house once a month (on the side, without her salon knowing) I have 3 friends come over and we all pay her cash to get our hair done for half the salon price while the kids all play together.

  • Melissa says:

    I used to color my hair by myself and just didn’t like the way it looked. I have a friend that colors hair and is willing to come to my house and do it for cheaper than a salon. I have her highlight it every few months and then in between I buy a drugstore brand and do a touch-up in between to cover the grays. I try to stick with the brand Clairol, I have had bad luck with some of the others. I can usually get a box of Nice N Easy on sale + coupon for under $5 to do my touch-ups!

  • Liz says:

    I’ve been using Clairol Natural Instincts for a few years now. It is pretty easy to use and I’ve been able to get some great deals on it (sometimes for as low as $2 a bottle). I am starting to get a bit more gray :-{ so I might have to look for something a bit more “permanent.” However, it is a great starter product and lasts 4-6 weeks.

    We are working hard to pay off our house. I admit professional coloring is one of the first things I will be adding to the budget when we become completely debt free!

  • Diane says:

    I use to pay my hairdresser 100.00 to color my hair. I know! What was I thinking? Several months ago I decided to look for a cheaper option. Our local 2 year college opened a cosmetology school. It cost me less than 15.00 to get my hair colored. I have my second appointment today. Since I swim several days a week I don’t worry about highlights the pool does that for me. Good luck with your search.

  • Jen says:

    My advice: scrimp and save wherever else you can and PAY for that coloring at a salon! I’ve done both and the salon results are so much better and so much more worth it!!

  • Margot says:

    Another option is to see if there is a cosmotology school around. They often will do it for far cheaper than a salon. I have never been to one, but have heard good things from the local one. I have been to the local dentistry school and they were FANTASTIC! They did a really great job and it only cost me $20 total for the cleaning and x-rays!

  • Eleanor says:

    Ask around & see if you or anyone knows a hairdresser that works out of their homes. They usually have cheaper rates b/c they don’t have to pay the chair/space rental fee to the hairdressing place they work from.

    I use a lady back at home (small town) who used to work in a salon but now works out of her home for the past 5-6 years. She cuts and highlights my hair for $45!!! I couldn’t get that done where I live for less than $150!

    I highlight as I feel it looks more natural & I can go longer between appointments. Also – since this lady lives in my hometown I get a nice family visit in at the same time I get my hair done!

  • Marla says:

    I started going gray 22 years ago. I colored my hair with every brand imaginable till I became sensitive to the chemicals. Ahairdresser friend suggested I try using henna, which is all natural. I love it! I get so many compliments on my hair color. You can order Persian henna or Light Mountain henna brands from Amazon or Chamberlains health foods. You can add chamomile for highlights, olive oil for conditioning, and the great thing is it is all natural. The color also lasts longer for me than any of the chemical colors I ever used. Plus, your hair gets a great conditioning treatment!

  • Marla says:

    Oops, forgot to mention that you can buy the henna in colors, I use a medium to dark brown, as my hair has red undertones. Also, I have shoulder length hair and a box or container usually lasts two uses, and one box/container costs around $7.00, so thats 3.50 each time I color, woohoo!

    • Lauren says:

      I LOVE Henna! I have dark brown hair, and use Henna to give it deep auburn tones and keep my hair so so healthy and luxurious (to toot my own horn, lol!) Just FYI, the henna color kits contain other plants besides Henna, such as amla, cassia, etc. True henna only can dye your hair one color. A great henna website is, which also sells real pure henna and has lots of information on it.

  • Summer says:

    One quick thing about henna, is that is doesn’t behave like other colors. You can’t color with henna and then color with a chemical color and get predictable results. Often the henna needs to be cut out before you can do much else with your hair color.
    This is a very good book that I checked out at the library once. It has tips, recipes and recommends which products to use. It also has pictures of celebrities and how to achieve their looks with at home color. The Hair Color Mix Book: More Than 150 Recipes for Salon-Perfect Color at Home by Lorrie Goddard-Clark.

  • Renee says:

    I do my own coloring as our finanaces allow for salon treatments. I have found that Clairol Perfect 10 is astounding! I get loads of compliments and keep the grays away for 4-6 weeks at a time. You can highlight your colored hair as well! GOOD LUCK!

  • Sheila says:

    I’ve been coloring my own for years. My hairdresser told me the color to get and the type to get. She was very helpful. Coloring my own hair is not just a money saver, it’s a huge time saver as well.

  • marney says:

    I do my own coloring at home too and have always found the best results when I don’t try anything drastic. I don’t use the plastic gloves that come w/ the kits though – they’re too flimsy – so I use other disposable gloves. I also keep a supply of old, clean towels on hand to use just for hair coloring, and plastic shower caps to gather up my hair (it’s long) while the color sets. I rinse out in the tub, kneel down, bend over and stick my head under the faucet! No mess!

  • Christine says:

    2 Pieces of advice: start with a demi or semi permament color. A few grocery store brands make them. If you can’t find them there, you can find them at a beauty supply store. Try the color. It will wash out and fade away gray. If you like it and want it permanent, usually you can buy the same color in a permanent dye.

    Also, look into whether you have a beauty school nearby. Now, look into it carefully. I went to one once in college and got my hair butchered. But in the town I live in now there is a fancy beauty salon that has their training academy here. Friends have gone and said it was good. The teachers go over everything with the student and as the salon’s brand name is on the line, they wont let you walk out with something insane done to your head. I recently went and had my hair colored there. It turned out great and it cost $35 instead of $100!

  • Beeb says:

    I would second what the others said about finding one of the gentle brands for gray coverage – start simple and with something semi-permanent. Consider having a friend help you apply it for even coverage. Wear a cover or work clothes that you can stain. Hair clips are good to have while you work. Just start small and be cautious!

  • It’s too funny you posted this today! I just turned my hair orange yesterday!
    If you have the same problem here is what they said to do.
    Get a slightly darker shade and mix
    1 oz. color
    1 oz developer
    1 oz of mild shampoo

    then let it sit for up to 20 minutes checking every 5 to see when it’s the right color. Shampoo and move on with life.

    You can see the full post here:

  • Julie says:

    If hair color gets on your forehead/neck/where ever, dab some SEA BREEZE on a cotton ball and wipe it off immediately.

    That was one tip I was told at the salon the only time I paid $60 for coloring.

    By the way, Perfect 10 only takes 10 minutes to process; I love that I can apply it, shower and rinse it off in less time it takes to drive to the salon.

  • Veronica says:

    I started dying my waist length hair in November and I have to say – I was TERRIFIED! I did it on a Saturday morning and had my cell phone beside me – with my hair dresser on speed dial. I was sure I was going to wind up with green hair or something. It turned out so well that I am still doing it ever other month.

    I will say that I matched my natural color as closely as possible as I was only trying to cover those ugly grey’s. I used 2 boxes of L’Oreal. And my husband did the back for me. Now that I really only do my roots, I only use one box. I don’t highlight as the grey’s come out a little lighter than the rest so I wind up with natural highlights. I have found that using the “special” shampoo’s that are for colored hair makes the color last a little longer – but honestly, I use whatever shampoo and conditioner I can get for pennies at CVS.

    Be brave – and go for it!

  • Miriam says:

    I’ve been coloring my hair for about 15 years. I’m probably about 50% gray. I stock up when certain brands go on sale (I like Loreal’s Preference, Clairol’s Hydrience and Perfect 10). I have light brown (with lots of gray!) hair, that I color to a dark blonde. To keep it from going brassy, I alternate each time from a golden light blond, to an ash light blond, and sometimes neutral. This also helps my hair look more natural, as it has lots of different tones and looks like the sun lightened it. I color it about every 3 weeks because I can’t stand to see the gray at the temples. I use an old button down shirt of my husband’s that I just store under my sink with my boxes of hair color.

  • Shari B says:

    I agree with all the comments the hairdressers made. I would only add that a good stylist will “strip” your hair of build up. A homemade reciepe is to make a paste out of your shampoo and baking soda. Also remember your hair needs to be dry, not damp for a good color hold.

    Also, if you live in IL, you can not buy any professional chemicals (color/perms) without a license. So forget that trip to Sally’s in IL without on. With that said, I would love some freezer meals.

    Finally, if a beauty school scares you, check out if any major market professional lines have schools in your area. In Chicago we have an Aveeda school (lincoln park), Redkin School and a couple others. Doesn’t hurt to check out. These students already have their state licenses, just like your standard salon, but are in for brand specific training.

  • Brandy says:

    I color my own hair all the time. We simply can not afford an $80 trip to the salon. I smiply pick a color, Most of the time I go with red, and apply. It’s not hard, but if you like a certain shade, make sure you write down the name, so you can get it again the next time.

  • Heidi says:

    As a cosmetologist, I’m actually asked this a lot. Beauty schools offer huge discounts on color/highlighting services (usually 15-25 bucks) and everything is supervised by the instructor. If you must use box color, never more 2 shades darker, or 1 shade lighter than your natural color. The developer in boxed color is a set percentage, and can do some crazy things to your color. In salons, we have 4-5 different developer percentages that we can choose from. If I have to recommend something, it’s Miss Clairol or Wella from Sally Beauty/Marlo Beauty. (Actually professional products that a lot of salons still use) You can choose from dozens of shades, and buy the developer separately. It usually costs less than buying box color from Walmart. The normal/most used developer used is 20 Volume. That is good for 1 shade lighter/2 shades darker. The bottles tell how to mix them, and how long to leave them on for. It’s very simple, and more predictable than Walmart boxed color. If you’re thinking of going beyond 1 shade lighter/2 shades darker, please check into a Beauty school.

    • lu says:

      Well is great and Miss Clairol from Sally Beauty supply is as well
      I recommend “moonhaze” Dark Ash Blonnd. Its like a light ashy brown
      Great color!

  • Emily says:

    I color my own hair every 6 weeks, and it’s so easy. I was scared when I first tried, but it’s no problem! Pick something that’s one shade lighter than your natural color, and once you find a color you like, STICK WITH IT. I think it’s a mistake to switch back and forth between brands; that’s how you end up with weird, multi-colored roots. The brand I’ve always had the best luck with is Loreal Excellence Creme; they have the biggest color selection. It’s also good to use a color-safe shampoo and conditioner; shampoos that aren’t color-safe will really bleach the color out and make it look much, much lighter as the weeks go by. You can usually find some great deals on color-safe stuff with coupons and sales, and almost every name brand (Pantene, Garnier, etc.) makes a color-safe line. Good luck, and fear not!

    • Karen says:

      @Emily, I agree with you about sticking to one brand. I had my hair done in a salon for 15 years, love my stylist, but with current financial stress I can’t justify $100 every 6 weeks. So I bit the bullet and tried L’Oreal Excellence to Go — I love it! I chose a color very close to my own — or, at least, what it was before I turned 80% grey (prematurely of course 😉 ). The color is great, and the conditioner that comes with it makes my wiry greys soft. One time I used a different brand root touch-up, and you could see the difference in color. 🙁 So now I just use the same color. I’ve tried a few shampoos for color treated hair, and I like Pantene the best. So — give it a shot!!!! 🙂

  • Kassandra Wood says:

    Never, Ever, Ever, Ever, Ever, Ever, Ever use metal clips on or around your hair while you’re coloring it… Not even on the plastic bag. It reacts with the haircolor… Been there. Done that.

  • Rebecca says:

    I have my husband roped into coloring my hair. Last year I went from my natural color (I had gone many years without coloring it) which is a dark blond, all the way to a bleach blond. I was a bit scared of the strong bleach but even though we had to do it twice the first time to get rid of the red tones in my hair it didn’t damage it. We’ve done touch-ups about every 8-10 weeks. Just last night I went the opposite direction and used Natural Instincts to go jet black.
    The tips I have are:
    a. Use clips to section your hair off and have your helper start at the neckline and work their way up (even though most kits tell you to start at the top and work your way down), doing the top last. This way they don’t have to keep working around or under where the dye already is. It makes it easier to get everything and not miss any spots. This also helps to get the roots very thoroughly, as they are usually darker and require more dye time.
    b. If you’re using a dark color, before you start, rub a thick layer of vaseline all along your hairline and your ears so that when the dye gets on your skin it doesn’t sink in.

  • Mandy says:

    I use John Freida’s Color Glaze. It’s perfect for covering greys and adding subtle highlights & shine. Best part – it’s done in the shower!! The cost is around $10/bottle, but if you use it only 3x a week, it will last for 4-6 months (depending on hair length).

  • Donna says:

    I go to Sally Beauty Supply, the prices are so much cheaper than Clairol, etc. and the staff are super nice and full of wonderful tips for those of us that aren’t beauticians. Plus one bottle of color (I actually mix two colors, trial and error on my part) will color your hair twice.

  • Debra says:

    I have been getting my hair cut & colored for FREE for several years. I am fortunate enough to have a Supercuts training center close by. Every 2 weeks they have a cutting class and there are monthly color classes. Call your local Supercuts and ask where the nearest training center is or if their store uses models. Supercuts company policy is that all new hires, regardless of previous experience, have to go through the Supercuts training. I have never had a bad experience….the stylist is closely monitored by the instructor. The majority of the time, my hair is done by a stylist that has many years of experience.

  • Jennifer says:

    I’ve been coloring my hair for quite a while now as well and I am very glad to be able to save money and color the grays! 🙂

    The only mishap that I could give you some advice from is to really take stock of your natural hair color. When I color with coloring that has any type of “Golden” in the title of the color, I’m doomed to be orange – apparently I have lots of reddish lowlites in my hair. So, I always look for color titles with “Ash” in them and know I’m good to go! (You don’t even want to know how much it cost me to figure that out!!)

  • Pam says:

    I keep within a shade or two of my natural color and have had no problems. My FIL colors MIL’s hair at home since she is blind. If he can do it anyone can. He is the least DIY person I know. He “hired” me to change a lightbulb.

  • Cathy says:

    I’ve been doing my own at home (sometimes with hubby’s help) for 16+ years now. One thing I highly recommend is going to Sally Beauty or another store like it getting the mixing bowl with handle and a hair color brush with which to apply the color. This makes it SO much easier to get the roots even than simply using a bottle. I think these two items cost me about $3 total and have lasted well through many hair color jobs. The handle on the bowl makes it much easier to hold than a regular kitchen bowl.

  • Gwen says:

    I do both—store box and going. I only use Natural Instincts–nice semi-permanent. If you screw it up, use bumble and bumble’s Sunday wash. It will pretty much take it out in three shampoos. I fixed my hair a couple of months ago when the colorist went too dark and I didn’t want the roots to grow out before my wedding in September.

  • Saralyn says:

    Ask around at church or in your community for someone who does hair out of their home instead of in a salon. Without the overhead they often charge less. While I don’t color my hair (I don’t mind the grey) I get a terrific $50 cut for $15 from a professional who works at home.

  • Laura says:

    Hi! I began coloring my own hair about a year ago. I just explained to my stylist that I couldn’t afford to pay for cut and color every 6 weeks. She told me exactly what to purchase at the beauty supply store. So I would suggest asking the stylist who has been coloring your hair for help. Also I found that ladies at my local beauty supply store were licensed cosmetologists and were able to help me find a substitute color one time when my usual one was out of stock. So now instead of $90-150 for a cut and color I spend under $15 every 6-8 weeks for my color. Hope this helps.

  • Jamie says:

    Anytime I have colored my hair it has been at home with box color. I always feel more comfortable having someone put the color on, my sister, mom, friend. Maybe you could find a friend who home colors her hair too and have a fun night of coloring each others hair.
    Like others, I suggest having some old towels to use, dark dye stains them light die bleaches them. Wear a button shirt (something easy to get out of and don’t care if it gets stained)so you can take it off to wash the dye out-I just get in the shower and wash it out, make sure the water runs clear before you are done, and then I just take a shower, it helps get any dye you may have gotten on your skin off. If you have someone rinse the dye out-use a towel or wash cloth to put over your eyes. It will help keep all the water from getting in your face and eyes.
    usually there is enough of the conditioner in the box that you can condition it a couple of different times which really helps your hair stay nicer. Also, make sure you buy 2 boxes right off-even if your hair isn’t thick or long.- it really sucks to run out of dye and if you don’t use the 2nd box you can use it the next time.
    After if you are using permanent color, I like to use Vive shampoo and conditioner which is for color treated hair. They have a kind that is made to keep the color in longer. It works awesome-even on red hair dye-It keeps the color in your hair for much longer than anything else I’ve used. As a matter of fact one time after I stopped using it people kept asking me if I dyed my hair because that is when the color faded.
    Also, buy your own latex gloves…depending on the brand of dye will depend if it comes with rubber gloves or plastic gloves, the plastic gloves always break and you don’t want to dye your hands or nails. Also, wear gloves anytime you will be touching the dye in your hair.
    Don’t dye your hair more often than it says, I did that when I was younger and my hair started getting thinner.
    Oh, and some of the brands are made to have more highlights and lowlights than others even without a highlight kit.

    I think that is all for tips from me. It’s really not as scary or difficult as it seems. I’m confident that all will go well.

  • jen says:

    if you are only wanting to cover grays and refresh your color, go to sally’s and buy a demi permanent color and demi perm developer. For example, look at a few color swatches in the store (any brand is fine) and see what your natural color/level is. Say its dark reddish brown, so you would probobly be around a level 3G. So look for a level above or below in that shade. If you want more golden tones, go with a G, to play it safe I would stay nuetral or N. If you want your color to be less red and more cool toned pick an ash. Refer to the color wheel for advice too. To illiminate an unwanted tone pick a color with the opposite tone (red/green) but be careful. Coloring your hair is really. I definitly suggest a demi because it does not lift your hair. It is deposit only. Meaning less damage. You will prob have to redo the color every month or so, depending on how often you wash your hair. Hth!

  • Shasta says:

    I dye my hair at home. I wait for sales and combine with coupons. Just make sure you follow the directions on the box. I would add that it is a messy job, so wear an old tshirt and have a raggedy towel ready. Be careful that you don’t squirt the dye on your door or floor, etc, and clean up spills right away, or you will wind up having stains throughout your dying area.

  • Mary Trypuc says:

    I had very pretty gray hair and then I went to the store and got a box color of brown ,I want to go back to my gray color,

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