Do-it-yourself Hair Coloring

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  • Home hair coloring

    (4 replies)

    Has anyone tried coloring your own hair at home with success? If so, any products that you liked or would avoid, or any tips for success? I'm having a hard time with the $200 price tag on cut and color at a salon. Thank you!

    I do my own coloring. I also do my moms and my bff for the same reason as you. And it makes me want to cry when you don’t like the job somebody did AND you have to then give the a fat stack!! Noooo. So ya, I do my own. It really depends on what you’re starting with and where you wanna go. Do you have any hair pictures?

    I have used L'Oreal's  Feria for years. I really like it because the color is not completely uniform but has some variation in shade, just like natural hair usually does. It's easy to use. Takes about half an hour plus washing your hair.

    One warning: It does stain fabrics horribly. My MO is to be completely naked in the bathroom and remove the rugs before applying it.

    I have been using Madison Reed's products for over a year now and love them.  In particular, I'm glad that they are leaving out the most toxic of the substances typically involved in hair dyes (I think this is particularly an issue if the color is dark), although I've also really liked the smell of the product and how the color comes out and lasts.  The subscription service is handy, I've had good luck with the online color consultation, and best of all, have discovered that I can use just part of a set for root touchups, so each $20 pack typically lasts me three touchup rounds.  I have an ongoing subscription and just pause it until I need another set.  Good luck!

    I think it depends on what your natural hair color is and what color you want it to be. The trick with hair color is not to pay attention to the picture on the package, but the level (1 black to 10 Platinum blonde) and to select the tone (warn/neutral/cool) that works with your complexion. If in doubt, go neutral. You can do a Google search to figure out what your natural level is.

    Drugstore hair color almost always has a 10% peroxide developer, which means that you can only go one level or so lighter than your natural color. Some products are designed to help you go much lighter. If you want a natural look, or it's your first time trying, stay within +/- 2 levels of your natural color. 

    If you have naturally dark hair, a rule of thumb is to use a product two levels higher to go one shade lighter, and one level higher to stay at the same shade. My dark brown hair is level 3, so I use level 5. If I use a level 3 product, my hair ends up almost black. 

    Finally, you can try a semipermanent color just to get the hang of it without major risk. Stay away from Henna based colors until you know what you're doing! They're very hard to walk back. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Dyed hair that turns Brassy/copper color

March 2009

I am really tired of my hair turning a brassy, copper color about 4 weeks after it is colored. I can only afford to get it colored about every 8 weeks. My natural color is a darkish dishwater brown and I get it dyed dark brown. My colorist says she never puts any red in it, but it always turns into a reddish color over a short period of time. She also says she puts an ashy color in my hair to combat the problem. It looks wonderful for the first week, but then it's down hill. Does anyone else have this problem? and, most importantly, have you found a solution? I would love to hear. Thanks. Frustrated

Your stylist is probably using permanent haircolor on your hair which lightens first and then deposit hair color resulting in fading. Some hair color lines are more aggressive than others and will fade more. I use Goldwell and all my clients notice that it lasts longer and fades less. Another alternative is too use a demi permanent color which only deposits pigment and therefore as it fades, it fades true to tone, not brassy. Good luck! bppenguin

Most brown hair color will do that if you wait 8 weeks between coloring. The best advice is to stay out of the sun or wear a hat every single time you go out. Sunshine is the quickest way to fade your hair color, unfortunately. formerly a Coppertop

Oh Frustrated, I totally feel your frustration!! I have been through the nasty brassy brunette thing, too. I have done a few things that have worked pretty well, but none 100 percent successful. But, like I said, these options do help a bit, which is better than nothing. Here are some suggestions.

1. If you're not covering gray or a lot of gray, you might consider switching from a permanent to a semipermanent hair color. When I do semipermanent colors, my hair doesn't go as brassy.

2. Don't wash it every day, if you can help it. Frequent washing fades color fast.

3. I sometimes use a demipermanent (less permanent than a semi) haircolor between colorings. Most beauty supply stores carry Clairol Beautiful Browns hair color. These are have no ammonia or peroxide and last for a few weeks. They have a medium and a dark ash brown. You could use these or mix them in an empty dye bottle. The ash will tone down the brassy red.

4. You can use a color-depositing shampoo and conditioner. Do NOT use the John Frieda stuff. It dried my hair out horribly. I highly recommend the L'Oreal Professional Colorist Collection, which is also sold in beauty supply stores. They make a dark ash brown that works pretty well. I use it a couple times a week and leave it in for 5 to 10 minutes.

5. I have used, when coloring my own hair, these packets of ''no red'' stuff you add to your hair dye. They work okay. At the very least they hold the brass off a little longer. you can get these at the beauty supply, too, and bring them to your hairdresser, or just ask her about them.

Lastly, I have used the L'Oreal and Clairol versions of tone refiners and glazes (available in drugstores). I didn't find them to be beneficial at all. Good Luck!

Go to the Hennaforhair website and read all about it. I know it sounds crazy, but it's amazing. Read the stories from folks who switched from commercial hair dyes to henna or other plant dyes, and henna mixed with other plant dyes, like Cassia, Indigo, Amla, etc, depending on the effect you want. You can get any color you want, with no red, no copper, brassy color at all if that's how you want it. Dark brown is easy! I was so nervous the first time I tried it, even after reading all about it, but now I would never go back!!! Happy Hair

Haircoloring 101: Successful haircoloring is complex-which is why it should never be done at home. For haircoloring to be successful, three major components have to be considered: deposit, lift, and underlying pigment. Deposit is how much of the artificial color is deposited on and in the hair shaft. Lift is how much the developer will lift the natural color while it is processing. Underlying pigment is the color of the hair both before and after the color is processed. 20 volume peroxide is used by most hair colorists for depositng color, and is what is in the box at the drugstore. It will lift the underlying pigment in the hair app. 1 level. Hair color is a combination of the three primary colors, and when lifted, the first color to leave the hair is blue. The darker the hair, the more blue it contains, and the less apparent lightening there is. However, when blue is lifted, red and yellow remain (orange.) Therefore, the problem you mentioned is very common in brown hair- The peroxide in the coloring mixture lifts one level of blue from the underlying pigment, leaving a brassy orange hue.The haircoloring deposits color and hides the underlying pigment. When the artificial color begins to fade or wash out, the underlying pigment is exposed. Adding an ashy shade to balance the colors only lasts until the color fades. The answer to this is: ask your colorist to use a slightly lower volume of developer. This will take some time and growth to correct, as your existing hair is already lifted, but it should help. Diana Simon Simon Alameda

Home color products?

Feb 2007

In an effort to get a grip on our budget, I need to find a sylist that charges less than my current one. I have short hair that I cut/color every 5-6 weeks. I live in the Crocker Highlands area and would prefer someone close by. I currently pay $65(cut)...$75(color)...$35(color touch-up every other time). Also, does anyone use home color products or are they just too horrifying (mess/hassle/quality) to think of? Any recommendations are greatly appreciated. Oh the joys of Bay area cost of living.... looking to save

I'm responding to the part of the question regarding use of home color products. I use Clairol Natural Instincts; it has no ammonia and is not very smelly (in my opinion). After 5 years I've got the routine down and it doesn't seem like a hassle. It costs $7 - $9 per box and I only have to use half each time, which for me is every 4 weeks. I only do it that often because of my roots; the rest of the color is just fine at 4 weeks. (Box says lasts thru 28 shampoos; I wash my hair every other day, or 14 times in 4 weeks.)

After the first few times doing this, I learned to clear the sink area while applying and to clean up any drips or spatters right away. I also learned that there's much less of a mess while rinsing out in the shower if I take my handheld shower and rinse while crouching down, to reduce the amount of spattering on the shower walls. I also learned to really rinse the walls well; before learning that lesson the dye did discolor the walls and I had to bleach them. Again, I've been doing this so long now it doesn't seem like a hassle, and you sure can't beat the price!

Guess I should add that I have very dark hair and don't do highlights or anything complicated like that. My hair looks pretty natural. Oh, and I eventually learned to mix two of the Clairol colors to get the shade I like. Hiding lots of gray

Home Hair Highlight/Color Products?

Oct 2006

I have been getting my hair professionally (expensively) cut and highlighted for years and after my latest unsatisfactory cut, I'm thinking about doing the whole thing at home.

I checked the archives but didn't see anything recent that addressed my issue. I have fine dark blond/mousy brown hair. I'm starting to grey, but it isn't a crisis yet and the highlighting has covered it so far. I usually manage to go 3-4 months between appts., but I get rooty at about 2-3 months and agonize over the expense before finally giving in because I look so bad.

Can anyone recommend products that work well to get the more subtle blond highlights (no flat all-over color)? Do the supermarket brands work, or should I try something at a Beauty Supply store?

If I wanted to go in a new direction and try a dark brunette color, what products work well covering blond/light brown? Is there any way to get a subtle, not all-one-color look with a deep color like this? Poor and Frustrated with My Hair

Whole Foods sells a wonderful product that I have just started using and I LOVE it! I was in exactly the same boat as you and spent more than $100 every other month on a cut and highlights. I am dark-blond and after I had my children started to become pretty gray. I like the highlights, because they make my haircolor look more natural and I don't like these coloring products on my scalp. A friend of mine recommended the product at Whole Foods called NaturColor - you can go to to get more info. This is an herbal product - check their website for details about it. The FAQ section has some good information. It covers gray perfectly! I use it just on the roots and don't let it change the color of the rest of my hair (much). It looks very natural. In fact, it looks better than getting my highlights done at the hair dresser's. It costs $15 per box and I can use it twice. This saves me so much money! JOJ

Hair dye is causing scalp irritation

Aug 2006

I have been fighting my gray for almost 3 years now. Drug store brands made my hair lifeless and fried so I had a few consultations with salons and found goldwell is a good color that salons like peter thomas use. I did a few in salon appointments but my hair grown fast needing retouching every 2 weeks. I cant find appointment when I need it and its expensive too . So I found a way to get the same color from a beauty suppy store that orders it for me. I use the golwell topchic color(D.Brown) and mix it 50% with developer. I have been happy with my setup for last 4-5 months.but now for last 2 times i have been getting scalp irritation and itching. In fact yesterday I even felt little bumps on my skin. Help what should I do? hair dilemma

There are many reasons as to why your having problems with a ''licensed professionals only'' product. No wonder. I am sad to hear that you are having trouble with it, and since you are not a pro, you need to go see one right away and get their help. It could easily be an allergic reaction, or an application problem...either way that beauty supply company should be smacked for having hooked you up with it in the first place. a concerned licensed hairstylist

Be careful - my college-aged son did a goth-black hair dye job himself and broke out in ugly itchy red whelts all along his hairline, which he ignored until they became infected, at which point he had to visit the doctor for a course of antibiotics. That's some nasty stuff, that hair dye!

How can I do my own highlights?

Feb. 2002

In an effort to cut down on expenses, I would like to try to highlight my own hair. Has anyone had any success with this and if so, what products do you use and any tips? Thanks in advance.

I've been coloring my own hair quite successfully for years now. Even my hairdresser thinks it looks professionally done/like my natural hair color. I have dark blond hair and use Clairol's Natural Instincts (Sunflower-Medium Golden Blond). This is their Level 2 product which is supposed to wash out after 24 shampoos. My hair is so porous that the color takes really well and it lasts forever. I don't have any gray hair so I can't say how well the product works in that regard, though the package claims it ''blends away gray naturally.'' All in all, it costs me $7 and 15 minutes each month-quite a bargain in terms of money and time. Janet

I concur with Janet. I DO have some gray hair and find that using Clairol Natural Instict (I use Pecan--Light Golden Brown) every four to six weeks covers the gray, looks quite natural and I've had the same comments from hair dressers that ''it looks professionally done/like my natural hair color''. I do not look forward to moving on to a level 3 product where I have to deal with roots, something one does not have to contend with when using a level 2 product. Gabriele

I have dyed my own hair for over 10 years - -through aubergine, red, copper and blonde -- I think I did pretty well. One friend saw childhood pics of me and asked, ''When did your hair turn red?'' But I have never given myself highlights. It is much more complicated than mixing and applying one all-over color. I have seen some pretty BAD self-highlight jobs. I actually have an appointment in a couple of weeks to get my hair professionally highlighted as a way to stop coloring it. If you want to save money, get a friend to do it for you. Go to the Beauty Center (or Beauty Store in SF) and get the supplies and ask lots of questions. You could also call around to salons and ask if they need hair models for color -- often new stylists need to work for a few months before they are fully trained, but they are still competent. I wish you luck and beauty! signed anon so that no one knows I'm mousy brown

I've been using Le Petite frost by L'Oreal for quite a few years now and it's worked well for me. I have shoulder length, medium brown hair and it lightens it up just enough to look ''sun-kissed'' without a dramatic root line. Tie the cap down snug, use the metal hook to pull a few strands out of all the holes on the top and a few rows down the sides, not past the temples. Just follow the directions from there. Good luck!

Highlighting is so expensive - can I do it myself?

Feb. 2001

I feel rather silly asking this question, but I don't know where else to turn! I have been getting my hair highlighted for about a year. It is SO expensive! However, I really like the way it looks and would like to continue doing it. Has anyone tried a home job? I go to a rather upscale salon, which I hate to admit, costs about $110 dollars (plus the tip). I am seriously considering getting some Clairol ($5) and just doing it at home myself. I can't ask my hair stylist---they will only give me the party line (to continue to pay and buy their products too). Any amateurs out there who can give me a recommendation? Thanks! Laura

Hi, I have been using tried and true Lady Clairol for years and I think it works just fine. You may have to experiment a bit with the various shades but the $6.50 cost for that leaves you a lot of extra money to cover the utility bill now! Helen

The cost of highlighting is expensive and I completely understand your reservations for spending so much money. I used to be a hair stylist and understand both sides of the issue. For the hair stylist, it is a time consuming job that requires detail. Even though the product cost for them is almost nothing, the labor and skill are what they are charging for. As for home products - you will never achieve the same look with the home products. First of all, you are reaching up, whereas a hair stylist is above you. This creates different abilities to reach parts of your hair and to control the amounts of hair you are picking up. Secondly, the home products are designed with this in mind and they will not be as refined in their look. A hairstylist picks up very small amounts of hair and applies product to them. This achieves a more natural look. When you use the home products the amount of hair that the product is applied to is much greater. Since there is less control, the outcome cannot be as natural looking.

To control your costs, there are a variety of things to consider such as where you go, how much you are having done (more highlights/more cost) and how often you are doing it. Consider, a cosmetology school for lower costs but slightly more risk since their abilities are not as refined. Ask other friends where they go and how much they pay. If you'd like to talk in more detail, please call me at 234-3464. Nd