How to Dye Hair at Home: Tips for Hair Color Novices

From teenagers experimenting with temporary hair dye, to women hoping to maintain their salon color at home, at home hair color is a frequently used commodity.

In today’s economic market, more people than ever are choosing to color their hair at home, rather than spend money at the salon. When done properly, this can help extend hair color and styles between salon visits, update a look or style, or make for a fresh change. When done improperly, or carelessly, however, it can lead to discolored skin and bathrooms, as well as over processed hair.

Preparing to Color at Home

The first step to coloring hair at home is to choose the right shade. With the array of choices available at drugstores, supermarkets and beauty supply stores, this can be overwhelming. First-time colorers should take care to avoid dramatic color changes; learning to apply the color properly and see how the hair handles it first, before going very dark or light can help avoid potential problems.

If keeping hair color natural, choose a shade that is within 2 to 3 shades of the natural hair color. Avoid using black hair dye unless the natural hair color is already dark brown or black; even temporary black hair color can be permanent if applied to lighter hair colors, so go slowly with dark color.

If using Manic Panic, or another vegetable dye based temporary color, use lighter shades on light or lightened hair, and very dark or saturated shades on dark hair. Light colors will not take on dark hair, unless it is bleached first, and dark colors can soak deep into light or bleached hair, permanently discoloring it, if the hair shaft is porous enough.

Once the hair color has been chosen, be sure to have petroleum jelly, an old shirt or towel on hand, and that any absorbable materials, such as bathmats, are moved from the room.

Keep a solution of bleach diluted with water, and a sponge near by; if hair dye drips onto tiles or the bathroom sink, wipe it up quickly to avoid permanent stains. If natural stone tiles are in the bathroom, do not apply bleach to the tiles, but try to avoid stains by covering the tiles with newspaper or plastic sheeting.

Apply the petroleum jelly on the skin around the hair line, paying close attention to the ears, and moving about an inch down on all sides. This will help protect skin from discoloring if the hair dye drips or runs while being applied. Wear an old shirt, or drape an old towel over the shoulders before beginning to apply the color; if the dye drips onto the fabric, it will stain, so be sure to put clothes and good towels far from the area where the dye is being applied.

How to Color Hair

  • If applying an all over hair color, mix the color according to the directions on the box, and separate the hair into sections.
  • If the hair being colored is long, try using metal clips to separate each section from the next. This is important since it can be easy to miss sections of hair when applying the dye by oneself, leaving uncolored streaks in the end.
  • Work slowly, section by section to avoid missing any hair.
  • If applying streaks of hair color, or highlighting sections of hair, it may be helpful to purchase a small color applicator at a beauty supply store.
  • Many kits do come with an applicator, but it might not work well for long, thick or curly hair; purchasing an applicator specifically designed for the hair type in question can be of great assistance.
  • Work in sections for highlighting as well, being sure to completely saturate each strand that is being highlighted with an even amount of color.
  • Apply the color from the top and bottom of each strand, to ensure an even coating, and stop to gather more color on the applicator midway down for long hair. This will help avoid gaps and a darkening of color toward the bottom of the strand.

Removing Hair Color

Hair color that stains the skin can be removed with a non-acetone nail polish remover for dark colors, or with most facial cleaners for lighter shades.

If the hair color put on the head was too dark, try washing the color with dish washing detergent for a few days; the color may loosen and lighten up slightly when a harsher detergent is used.

  • Hair color removing kits are available at most places that hair color is sold. These kits work best at lightening a color that was applied too deeply. If wishing to completely remove the hair color and start again, it is best to go to a professional, to avoid over processing the hair.
  • Applying hair color at home can often best be done by two people. Inviting a friend or family member to assist may help avoid some serious errors. Trying a new shade of color in a temporary fashion is always a good idea, if choosing a temporary version of a color by the same manufacturer as the color being considered.
  • Hair that has been over processed or damaged, may be more porous than healthy hair, soaking up more color, so be conservative with shades and length of time the color is applied in these cases. A strand test is always the best indicator in this case, if unsure of how long to leave the color.
  • Work slowly and carefully, make conservative choices at first before attempting bolder ones, and learn the benefits that coloring hair at home can bring.

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