How to Dye Your Hair at Home, According to Celebrity Colorists

How to handle hair color matters on your own when the salon is nowhere in sight.

Woman dyeing hairs
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With the official shutdown of salons (opens in new tab) across the nation because of COVID-19, many people are putting their gloves to good use inside their homes and choosing to dye their own hair. Beauty boredom is real y'all, but coloring your own hair comes at a cost if you go rogue. Don't let the pressure of these uncertain times put you in panic mode leading to an impulsive, uninformed decision. No one wants to cringe at their color in the mirror, so don't let that be you. Instead, follow these simple steps guided by celebrity colorists who are experts at this whole hair dyeing thing.

Full disclosure before you read any further: some things should be left to professionals. Permanently dyeing your hair at home can lead to permanent damage. The below color commandments speak to semi-permanent and temporary hair tints that'll do exactly what you're looking for. Ahead, the five color commandments you can do in the comfort of your own home.

Understand Your Natural Hair Color

"Before attempting to color your roots at home, it’s important that you understand what color your starting hair color is," celebrity colorist Nikki Lee advises. "Are you a medium warm brown, a light cool blonde? Once you understand that, you can work on selecting your color. Most at-home color boxes will have detailed instructions. It definitely varies depending on the technique. I would keep it simple and start with basic root touch-ups. You don’t want to try new colors and techniques at home just because you’re bored."

Start With a Semi-Permanent or Temporary Tint

"Most at-home colors are permanent," explains Lee. "Permanent color can be difficult to remove if someone makes a bad choice at home. Semi-permanent colors are the safest bet as they will eventually wash out over time. You must pay attention to the side of the box. If your current hair color isn’t on the side of the box then that shade won’t work for you. It’s always easier to go slightly darker then lighter. Going lighter can be complicated and often times requires a color correction that should be handled by a professional."

Sticking to a semi-permanent shade is especially important if you're dealing with damage. "Damaged hair grabs the color and creates uneven patches," warns editorial stylist Pepper Pastor (opens in new tab). When possible, stick to gentler, semi-permanent formulas. And don't be overwhelmed by endless drugstore hair color aisles. "Save yourself a lot of time and money by first ruling out what won't work for you," advises Pastor. Manage your expectations and focus on color swatches, not hair models, when selecting a shade. Other tips to keep in mind: Permanent dyes are best for covering grays, but sheer glosses are ideal for brightening your shade or adding a new tint—blondes can go strawberry blonde with a red gloss; brunettes can warm up with a blonde gloss.

Shop Our Favorite At-Home Hair Color Products

Divide and Section Your Hair Properly

"Properly sectioning off your hair before dye application is crucial for getting all-over coverage," says Pastor. Divide hair into four even quadrants and secure the sections with large alligator clips. If you have bangs or really thick hair, create a separate section at the front to ensure color is saturated in this crucial spot. Before applying dye, smooth lavender oil on the ends of your hair to mask the scent of the hair dye later.

Manage Mistakes During the Process

To fade a color that's too dark or too bright, create a paste with one part shampoo, one part powder bleach from a highlighting kit. Comb it through wet hair and rinse out when you start to see the color changing.

Pamper Your Processed Ends with Color-Preserving Products

To keep your color long-lasting, a weekly hydrating hair mask is a must, and shampoo as little as possible. "The thicker your hair is, the more you can skip washings—dry shampoo is your color's best friend," adds Pastor.

Lee also preaches the gospel of all hair masks and treatments can do for your color. "Masks and treatments are very helpful in promoting healthy hair after coloring," Lee explains. "Garnier’s new Nutrisse Color Revivers are a great treatment for post-colored hair because they instantly restore softness and smoothness to hair while refreshing color. This is especially important when you can’t get into a salon."

Shop These Color-Preserving Products You Can Use At Home

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Maya Allen
Former Beauty Editor

Maya Allen is the former Digital Beauty Editor at where she covered makeup, skincare, haircare, wellness, you name it! She has a 15-step skincare routine, owns over 200 red lipsticks, and enjoys testing the latest and greatest in beauty. On most weekends, you can find her at her happy place, which is her makeup vanity. There, she’s usually blasting her speakers while singing along to lyrics at the top of her lungs, and making sure her highlighter is on point.