6 Tips For Coloring Your Hair at Home Safely, According to a Pro

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  • Most experts recommend going to a salon for your hair-color needs.
  • Still, if you want to dye your hair at home, there are a few tips to keep in mind.
  • We asked a pro to share the best DIY hair color tips and tricks.

"We're about three weeks away from seeing everyone's natural hair color," read the meme that circulated on Instagram and Twitter at the beginning of the pandemic. When social distancing rules were first implemented, this level of lighthearted #relatablecontent was equal parts true and hilarious. At the time, many people stocked up on a few box dyes and root touch-up creams — even becoming bonafide "experts" at DIY hair color — but if you're considering doing the same, not so fast. Most hairstylists would urge you to proceed with caution.

If you already have color-treated hair, their first recommendation is to maintain what you have as best you can. Special color-transfer shampoos, temporary sprays, and masks can all help you do that. But if you absolutely must opt for at-home hair dye, at least take a few suggestions from colorist Karissa Schaudt of Chicago's Maxine Salon.

Ahead, she's sharing six helpful tips that will ensure the health of your hair remains a top priority until you can book your next appointment.


Tip #1: Ensure Your Developer Is Ammonia-Free

If you've just gotta pick up that brush and bowl, at least make safety a priority. The first (and arguably most important) tip, according to Schaudt: "In my professional opinion, I would avoid any color that contains ammonia in the developer." Although this is an extremely common ingredient in the hair-dye industry — it's effective, no doubt — using it is ultimately a tradeoff; the powerful chemical damages your hair in the process.

What to Try: Garnier Olia Oil Permanent Hair Color ($8)


Tip #2: Opt For Semi- or Demipermanent Dyes

On the subject of ammonia, Schaudt provides another helpful tip: "Look for a semi- or demipermanent coverage," she told POPSUGAR. "These are typically ammonia-free, meaning the color penetrates under the outer cuticle of your hair." And should things not go according to plan — whether you change your mind about the shade or miss a tiny spot — these formulas also give you a little more wiggle room, as they're not permanent.

What to Try: Clairol Natural Instincts Semi-Permanent Hair Color ($7)


Tip #3: Pick a Shade Similar to Your Natural Color

Whether you're stuck in the house or just unable to fit a trip to the salon into your upcoming schedule, consider erring on the conservative side when choosing a shade. "To avoid going too dark, pick a shade that matches your natural tone," Schaudt said. "Going too dark can be difficult to fix, while too light reveals unwanted warmth."

What to Try: Overtone Espresso Brown Complete System ($50)


Tip #4: Only Apply Hair Color on the Regrowth

If you're dealing with previously colored hair and concerned about your roots, now might be the right time to experiment with at-home touch-ups — but cap things there. "I suggest applying [coloring products] only on the new regrowth that you can see (part and hairline) and waiting for a professional to color the interior." While a full-blown hair transformation may not be your best option, you can at least maintain what you already have.

What to Try: dpHUE Root Touch-Up Kit ($32)


Tip #5: Don't Overlap or Pull Color Through the Mids and Ends of Your Hair

In a similar vein to root touch-ups, Schaudt suggests that anyone with preexisting highlights or dyes keep their DIY color concentrated in one area. "Don't overlap or pull any color through the mids or ends," she said. "This will create unwanted banding or cover any highlights you wish to keep." Although these issues are both fixable in the salon, they'll add time and money to your visit.

What to Try: Madison Reed Radiant Hair Color Kit ($30)


Tip #6: When in Doubt, Try Men's Color

Yes, you read that right, but while salons are closed, hear Schaudt out. "For the time being, I highly recommend men's hair color," she said. "They're usually demipermanent and help stain hair, meaning it covers the regrowth but can quickly be removed."

Still, she emphasizes picking the right color. "Whatever you do, don't pick shades that are too dark. Aim to pick a shade that matches your hairline's natural tone or slightly lighter."

What to Try: Just For Men Men's Hair Color ($10)