Everything you need to know to colour your hair at home

AKA how to DIY dye without messing it up

September 02 2020

There are few experiences quite as glorious as arriving home from the hairdressers; your colour is fresh, your spirits are high, and your strands are considerably more flipp-able than when you last left (there's just something about that lack of regrowth and fresh blow-dry that leaves us feeling a million bucks, okay?)

But, pardon our French, what the hell is one to do when it comes to colouring your hair at home? Is it really all stained towels and tribulations, or is it legitimately possible to pull off a flawless dye job yourself?

Well, with the right kit and the right steps, yes, indeed it is. In fact, we promise a little prep and the perfect products can make the process a total breeze. So, if you're after that fresh hair feeling (without having to hustle on down to the hairdresser), here's our guide to DIY-ing your dye.


Choose your shade wisely

The right shade can take years off your look, brighten your skin tone, cover greys and add sparkle to your eyes, but when it comes to DIY colour, the biggest thing to remember is that it’s not the time for a dramatic change. “It’s when you are trying to go too dark or too light that you end up with a problem,” says Grant Withnell, Schwarzkopf’s National Technical Educator.

We completely agree; whether you choose light or dark, if you stay within a couple of shades of your current colour, you’ll be amazed at how a subtle shift can totally transform your look.


Select your box-dye based on need

The type of colour is just as important as the colour itself, though. "If you have a majority of grey hair, you need a permanent colour, [whereas] if you have only a few greys and you’re new to colouring or a bit nervous, try a semi-permanent. A semi is also great for shine,” says Tracy Hayes, Global Head of Technical Education for Fudge Professional.

However, there's no need to go all out if you just want a little regrowth retouch; there are plenty of great options designed solely for touching up your roots.

For example, our Review Crew® recently tested two at-home colour options; Clairol Nice’n Easy which is designed to colour the whole head of hair, and  Clairol Root Touch-Up Permanent Crème, which is excellent for refreshing regrowth (and considering they both earned impressive 4.5 star ratings, you know you can trust them with your precious tresses).


Assemble your at-home kit

You won't need a salon booking, no, but you will need a few other things. Here's what we recommend assembling:

An old t-shirt: Make sure you can take it off with ease.

Two old towels: One to wear around your neck to protect your skin, and another slightly damp one you can use to wipe up any dye that might spill onto your skin.

A wide-tooth comb: Use it to comb through the colour evenly.

Hair clips: To section your hair.

Rubber gloves: To protect your hands.

Your dye: Obviously! Depending on how long or thick your hair is, you may need a second box of dye to completely cover it all. Our advice? Grab an extra box if you're sure of your colour to avoid running out mid-process.


Patch-test before you apply

Once you've got your chosen colour ready, it's important to check that the shade works well on your hair, and that the formula won't cause any irritations to your skin.

For the colour test, mix a little bit of the dye together with the developer and then apply it to a tiny underside section at the back of your hair (or a less visible area of your roots if you've gone the regrowth refresh option). Wait the length of time required on the formula’s instructions, rinse with water and shampoo, then blow-dry. If you’re happy with the shade, you're good to go ahead and continue. If you don’t like it, having a small area of it is certainly preferable to a whole head's worth. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

For your skin, try dabbing a small amount of the solution behind your ear or on your inner elbow and leaving it to dry. If you experience any irritation or feel unwell at all, you might need to find another option. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve never coloured your hair, or you’ve been doing it for ten years with the same formula, everyone should do an allergy skin test,” explains Withnell, adding that allergies can develop over time.

No issues in either arena? Great, onto the next.


Begin with dry hair

Starting with dry hair, section it into quadrants, parting it in the middle from the forehead all the way down to the nape of the neck. Next, divide hair horizontally, creating a part running from ear to ear, then clip up each quadrant so any section except the one you're applying to will be neatly out of the way.


Start at the roots

Considering roots are where the biggest colour disparity will be, hair dye needs to stay on this area longer than the colour on your lengths, so they should always serve as your starting point. To apply, unclip a back quadrant and work in thin horizontal rows, squirting dye across the first inch of hair and rubbing in. Repeat across all quadrants until you’ve coated all of your roots.


Coat your lengths

Working in 5cm sections, apply colour down to the ends, rubbing in with your hands or combing through to disperse. Leave it on as long as instructed.


Rinse, dry and enjoy

Once you've rinsed out your colour, just shampoo and condition as usual, then style as desired. And hey, why not treat yourself to a DIY bouncy blow-dry to really seal in that salon-style look? You're practically a pro.

Main image credit: @hairbyruslan

Searching for a great blow-dryer now that you've nailed at-home colouring? We've rounded up the best blow-dryer options out there...