At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
At home hair coloring was simpler in the 1950s, when there were only a few hair color products from which to choose. In the 21st century, choices in hair dyes number in the dozens or even hundreds, making what ought to be the simple act of choosing a box of hair coloring into a seemingly complex puzzle. Even after making a dye selection, the included instructions can be confusing to anyone who wants a change of hair color. Some of the best tips for at home hair coloring aren't included in the instructions but have been passed down by word of mouth and learned from decades of experience with boxes of hair dye. These tips include starting with a semi-permanent dye, reading the instructions carefully and avoiding stains by using a thin strip of petroleum jelly near the hairline.
For first-time at home hair coloring, the type of hair dye that is used should be semi-permanent, which washes out much sooner than permanent dye. If the color is satisfactory, a permanent version can be used. For a natural-looking shade, a good rule of thumb is that it should be within two shades of the original hair color. Drastic changes in color usually result in hair that looks artificially colored, which sometimes is a fashion choice.
Hair dyes that can be bought in a store typically have a picture of a model on the box, but the model might not have the same skin tone as the person whose hair will be dyed. If possible, the box should be held next to the subject's face to see how the hair color would look with his or her skin tone. Some stores have mirrors that can be used for this purpose.
After an at home hair coloring kit has been purchased, all of the necessary items should gathered before the process is started. In addition to the components in the kit, items that might be used include a rat-tail comb, an old towel and a container of petroleum jelly. The person whose hair is being dyed should wear an old tee shirt, an undergarment or a towel, or should be stripped from the waist up. Anything that is worn might become permanently stained with hair dye.
The instructions should be read all the way through before the dyeing process is started, so that the steps and the amount of time needed are understood. For first-time use of hair color products, doing a strand test is essential. Experienced colorists can skip the strand test, but it's best to test the hair color as a novice or anytime a new hair coloring product is being used or an extreme change in hair color is being made.
If the hair is being dyed a darker shade, one of the best tips is that a thin strip of petroleum jelly should be applied just below the hairline, all the way around the head, including the nape of the neck. Any stray hair coloring that misses its mark can be wiped away easily. Otherwise, hair coloring stains can remain on the skin for days. A good quality pair of latex gloves also can be helpful, because the ones included in the box can break and leave the hands stained.
As the hair is dyed, it should be sectioned off using a rat-tail comb to ensure even placement of the hair color. The back of the head can be troublesome, because uneven patches can remain. One tip that isn't in the dye instructions is that the coloring process should be checked after about half of the recommended time. If the hair looks light enough or dark enough, it can be rinsed out then. The same can be true anytime before the recommended amount of time has passed.
After the desired hair color has been achieved, the shade can be made to last longer by using shampoo specifically formulated for color-treated hair. The less frequently the hair is washed, the longer the color will last, so it can be helpful to skip a day when possible, such as on stay-at-home weekends.
If the new hair color is unsatisfactory, the hair can be washed frequently until the color fades. A color specialist can be seen for a professional re-dye, but this usually is best only after time has passed. Re-dying hair too soon could make the results even worse.
When the hair is ready to be dyed again, the process should be repeated carefully, just as if it were the first time. The dye should be chosen carefully, the directions should be read completely, and their hair color should be applied with great care. Good at home hair coloring takes patience every single time, but the results can be worth it.