DIY At-Home Haircolor Do’s and Don’ts

Why would I write a list like this, you ask, when I don’t want to promote at-home hair color? The answer is because I think people are going to continue to experiment with at-home hair color. And if I can prevent just one “I can’t leave the house like this!” moment for someone, it will have been worth it!

And because: people do it all the time without any training or knowledge of color or chemistry, the manufacturers don’t give you much info and a lot of our first time clients come to us to fix their at-home results. We’ve become experts in corrective color… ;-)

So if you’ve ever done your own color or a friend’s color or were thinking about it, here are a few things I think you’d like to know. It will make our jobs so much easier and your hair will look so much better!

Never List

  • Never apply color to your hair like a shampoo. It damages the hair and makes the color worse every time you do it. Always apply first to the re-growth area at the roots.
  • Never apply ammonia-based color to hair that has already been treated with ammonia-based color. In other words don’t use the same formula to refresh the ends that you used to lighten your roots and/or cover those pesky grays.
  • Never try to do your own highlights! You’ll most likely be really sorry and you’ll wait a long time for that orange to finally grow out.
  • Never try to do your friend’s highlights! You’ll most likely lose a friend or at least not want to be seen in public with them.
  • Never put any color that says “ash” on bleached hair! It’ll turn much greener than chlorine could ever make it.
  • Never try to color your over-done highlights back to your natural brown at home, unless khaki is your favorite color.
  • Never color your hair black if you ever want to be any other color again in the future. (Yes, Madonna and Britney have done it, but, most likely, you’re not Madonna nor Britney.) It’s really difficult to remove, even with bleach. And the more you use it, the more it builds up and dulls the shine.
  • Never try to become blonde in one step (one process) if your natural color is brown – light, medium or dark. It’s hard enough for us to achieve, and we’re professionals! It’s not chemically possible to achieve a natural and believable blonde using “light ash blonde” – any brand – on brown hair. It only makes it brassy at best—or “I Love Lucy” orange if you are naturally dark-haired. “Mousy brown” and lighter is usually do-able in one process, but expect golden tones.
  • Never apply heat when coloring or highlighting your (or you friend’s) hair. Yes, it speeds up the process, but it makes it a runaway train. It also expands, degrades and damages the hair shaft.

Always List

  • Always get your color done in a professional salon with a specialty (or at least experience and training) in color.
  • Always have your hair colored by a professional with experience in hair color. (Oops, am I repeating myself?)
  • Always make sure you are getting what you think you are getting when you buy “over-the-counter” color. Some manufacturers will stretch the truth. And just because the color says it will wash out doesn’t mean your natural color won’t be permanently affected. In other words, when it washes out, you might get something you weren’t expecting.
  • Always use a professional shampoo for color-treated hair to help the color last and keep the hair’s integrity, strength and elasticity, shine, smoothness and bounce.
  • Always condition color-treated hair after shampooing, even if your hair is fine. If the conditioner is making your hair flat, you don’t have the right conditioner for your hair.
  • Always use 20 volume (6%) peroxide, if you want to cover gray hairs.
  • Always add a little gold to your formula. It will help cover grey, help prevent your color from going dark on the ends and add shine.
  • Always mix color formula immediately before using it. The oxygen escapes totally after 90 minutes and the formula becomes inactive.
  • Always use non-ammonia, semi- or demi-permanent color to refresh the color of your (pre-treated) ends.
  • Always lighten and warm up the formula for your ends if they are dry and porous. Otherwise they will go dark and flat.
  • Always deep condition your hair weekly, especially longer hair.
  • Always refresh color between salon visits with “color-refreshing” conditioner suited for your color, especially redheads.
  • Always cover your head in the sun if you don’t want your color to fade.
  • Always consult a color specialist before you decide to color your hair. What you want may not be right for you, or worse, may not be achievable.
  • Always tell the specialist everything you’ve done to your hair with color (even “temporary”) within the last year or two (depending how long your hair is). Hair grows half an inch per month. So if your hair is down to the middle of your back, that’s 3 or 4 years of previous color, straighteners and other chemicals. That can have a BIG effect on the finished results!

When you are tired of doing your own hair color, whether it’s because you are not happy with the way your hair looks and feels, or whether you just want to take a little time to treat yourself to the quality you and your appearance deserve, we are here for you—color experts with 30 years of experience. Call (212) 945-1590 for an appointment or for a free consultation.