Tips for Perfect At-Home Color

Expert secrets for flawless DIY home hair color from celebrity colorist and salon owner Louis Licari.

home hair color tips

Photo by: Jeffrey Westbrook/Studio D

Wash a day before When you shampoo the same day, the chemicals are more likely to cause scalp irritation.

Select your shade carefully If you’re not sure what to choose, pick one that’s a shade darker or lighter than your current color. You can always fix a mistake, though it’s easier to correct too-light mistakes by dyeing over them; a too-dark slip-up may mean living with it until it fades or grows out. If you can’t commit to a color, try a semi-permanent shade that matches your natural color. You’ll get brighter, smoother hair for about three months.

Dye a test strand Even if you think you’ve got the right shade, test a length of hair on the back of your head. You can see how the color will turn out, and any “oops” results will be hidden. A test also lets you make sure a new dye doesn’t cause an allergic reaction.

Protect your skin Hair dye can soak into your skin and leave a shadow that can last a couple of days—a dead giveaway of an at-home color job. To stop staining, rub petroleum jelly as close as possible to your hairline, from ear to ear, without actually touching your hair.

Avoid a one-color block The hair around your face is slightly lighter than that on the rest of your head, and hair becomes progressively darker as it reaches the nape. Salon colorists mimic this variation by applying a slightly lighter shade around the face.

An at-home trick: in addition to your usual dye, purchase a box that’s a shade softer and brush it on the first eighth of an inch around your face.

Watch the clock If you’re going darker, start the dye at the roots and, in the last five minutes, work the color through to the ends. If you’re lightening up, do the opposite: Start at the ends, which should look blonder than the rest of your hair, as they would naturally if they’d been bleached by the sun. Gray hairs can be dye-resistant, so leave the color on for the longest recommended time. Rinse out the color, of course, but wait 48 hours before shampooing so the pigment can soak in. When you do wash, avoid using very hot water, which can open the cuticle and release the dye.


Try these recommended products:

Revlon Colorsilk with UV Defense

Couture Colour Luxeblend

Clairol Natural Instincts

Garnier Herbashine Color Crème

L’Oreal 10 Minute Root Coloring Kit

Clairol Nice ‘n Easy Root Touch-Up

Irene Gari Cover Your Gray Professional

Quick Tint