Dying hair

How to Color Your Hair at Home, According to Pros

For best results, we recommend washing your hair with a clarifying shampoo 24 hours before dyeing, but no sooner. You can use your normal conditioner, but we’d advise against using a deep conditioner before dyeing your hair due to potential product build-up.


Brunette woman washing her hair in the shower after dyeing her hair

If you’re looking to freshen your colour by dyeing your hair yourself, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got a foolproof guide on how to dye your hair at home, from essential prep to hair dye application, and tips on how to make your colour look its best.

Whether you’ve been dyeing your hair at home for years or this is your first DIY hair dye job, keep reading to discover everything you need to know to achieve the perfect at-home hair colour.

Is it safe to colour your hair at home?

  • Wait at least 2 weeks after you have bleached, colour-treated, highlighted, permed or relaxed your hair before colouring your hair again
  • Do a patch test 48 hours before colouring
  • Make sure you read and fully understand the retailer’s instructions

How to choose a hair colour which suits you

The first step to choosing your perfect colour is to identify your current shade. With a wealth of home hair dye colours to choose from, this can seem like an endless task – but we’ve created an easy way to find your perfect colour.

A colour-level number has been assigned to each shade of our Precision Foam Colour range. Level 2 represents our darkest black colour, and Level 10 represents our lightest blonde shade, so use the numbers to start assessing which dye will work for your skin tone.

When you’re choosing your colour, we recommend staying within two shade levels of your current colour for natural-looking results. Going too light or too dark for your complexion can make you look washed out – so going down the natural route always works out for the best.

How often should you dye your hair?

The short answer is it completely depends on your hair – if your hair grows slowly, you may need to dye it less frequently than if it grows fast. However, we recommend you re-dye your hair every 4-6 weeks to keep your colour looking fresh and vibrant.

Take care if you’re thinking about colouring your hair frequently – colouring your hair too often can damage your hair, leading to brittle strands, split ends and even breakage. If you have overdone it with the hair dye, using a deep conditioner is a great solution to restore softness, counteract dry strands and give your hair a nourishing boost.

What to do before you dye your hair at home

Preparation is key when it comes to achieving a professional-looking colour.

For best results, we recommend washing your hair with a clarifying shampoo 24 hours before dyeing, but no sooner. You can use your normal conditioner, but we’d advise against using a deep conditioner before dyeing your hair due to potential product build-up.

Don’t use any products such as hairspray or mousse before you dye your hair – you want to make sure that your hair is completely free of any styling products, as any build-up will stop the dye properly penetrating your strands.

How to dye your own hair – a step-by-step guide

Step 1: Make sure you have enough dye for your hair’s length and thickness

You don’t want to get halfway through dyeing your hair and run out of dye, so if you’ve got extra-long or thick hair, think ahead and buy more than one box of our foam hair dye.

Step 2: Read the packet instructions

This point’s crucial – read and re-read the instructions. Every at-home box dye can be different, so make sure you read and stick to the instructions for the best results. Our Precision Foam Colour is perfect if you’re a DIY beginner, as its non-drip formula makes for easy application and flawless coverage – it even provides 100% grey coverage.

Step 3: Split your hair into sections

For an even application, it’s best to split your hair into sections so you don’t miss any hair and you get even coverage. Start with the back sections and work your way towards the front sections of your hair to avoid brushing against already-dyed hair that could smear your skin.

Step 4: Apply the dye to your roots first

Applying the dye to your roots first is important as your roots are the least porous parts of your hair as they’re least damaged, so they’ll need extra colour processing time. Top tip – if you’re using our Precision Foam Colour, the more you massage, the more foam you’ll create and the better your coverage will be.

Step 5: Let your colour develop with your hair down

Don’t give in to the temptation to tie up your tresses; keep your hair loose once you’ve applied the dye to ensure even coverage. If you’re worried about your hair staining your clothes, wrap an old towel around your shoulders and down your back.

Step 6: Use the pack’s conditioner to seal your hair

Conditioning your hair after colouring gives you more than just a super-glossy style. After you’ve thoroughly rinsed your hair, applying a conditioner for dyed hair will also lock in the colour to prevent it from fading, and help keep it looking rich and vibrant.

Top tips for dyeing your hair at home

  • Don’t make any drastic changes to your hair colour using at-home dyes – for example, if you’re trying to go from blonde to dark brunette. Your hairdresser will be able to do this for you, and we’d advise you make any drastic colour changes with a professional’s help.
  • Always dye dry hair – if your hair’s saturated with water, it won’t absorb the dye as well.
  • Don’t mix shades to create a ‘custom’ colour – just pick a shade you like, and follow the pack’s instructions carefully.
  • Wear loose-fitting, easy to remove clothing which you can lift over the top of your hair when it’s time to rinse your hair.
  • Use lip balm around your hairline to protect your skin from the dye – Vaseline works well.
  • Make sure you use the disposable gloves included in the pack to avoid dyeing your hands and nails.

How to look after and protect dyed hair

You’ve got your perfect colour – so now’s the time to keep your locks looking their best until the next time you dye it.

Our Pro Colour Revive range is scientifically-proven to help lock in your colour – it also helps to repair surface damage, and preserves your hair colour for up to 40 washes if you use our Pro Colour Revive Protecting Shampoo and Pro Colour Revive Protecting Conditioner together.

If you’ve gone for blonde and want to keep it looking bold and vibrant, try our Sheer Blonde range – our Go Blonder Lightening Shampoo and Conditioner Shampoo and Conditioner keeps your blonde looking radiant and bright, and our Highlight Activating Shampoo and Conditioner brightens dull, faded balayage and highlights.

Blonde hair can be more prone to breakage and dryness, so to deeply treat your tresses, check out our Go Blonder Intensive Repair Mask to strengthen and protect fragile hair before and after lightening.

If you’ve gone over to the dark side and used one of our brunette dyes, seal in your brunette colour by using our Brilliant Brunette range of shampoos. Our Midnight Brunette Shampoo and Conditioner is perfect for deeper, richer brunettes, and our Brilliant Brunette Colour Vibrancy Shampoo preserves your brunette colour, and rehydrates and replenishes all brunette shades. This range is suitable for all brunette shades, not just lighter brunette, as it’s non-colour depositing.

If you’re a redhead who uses hair dye, be warned that red hair is prone to fading, so keep your hair colour looking vibrant with our colour-intensifying Radiant Red Boosting Shampoo and Conditioner. Their colour-protecting formula contains pomegranate extract and vitamin E to keep red hair radiant, smooth and soft after every wash.

How to Color Your Hair at Home, According to Pros

byrdie former editorial director faith xue headshot

Faith Xue has worked in digital beauty for 10 years and is currently Bustle Digital Group’s executive beauty director. She was Byrdie’s editorial director for seven years.

hair colorist jeremy tardo

Jeremy Tardo is a bi-coastal hair colorist and a member of Byrdie’s Beauty and Wellness Board.

latina with pink hair in the sun

Switching up your hair color is one of the most drastic and fun ways to refresh your look. Whether you add subtle highlights to brighten up your hair or go for a 180 switch from brunette to platinum, it’s an undeniable treat. However great, though, professionally coloring your hair can be pretty expensive, which is why mastering the art of using at-home hair dye is such a coveted skill.

While it may seem easy to slap on some dye and wait for it to do its magic, coloring your own hair requires more attention. For starters, you need to assess the condition of your hair, decide which shade is best for you, and find the right formula—and that’s before you even start the coloring process.

Thankfully, we know a few professional hairstylists and colorists who shared their expert insights with us. By following the below tips and tricks, you’ll be able to DIY your hair color and be happy with the results. From what to do beforehand to prep your hair for dye to when to call a friend for a second pair of eyes to make sure you distributed product properly, keep reading.

Meet the Expert

  • Ramsay McLean is a celebrity hairstylist at the Kim Vo Salon in West Hollywood.
  • Millie Morales is a Miami-based celebrity haristylist and Garnier brand ambassador.
  • Owen Gould is a celebrity hairstylist in Los Angeles and his clients include Sienna Miller, Rachel Brosnahan, and Karlie Kloss.

Don’t Wash Your Hair Beforehand

The natural oils on your scalp actually serve as a protective barrier to guard against irritation from the chemicals in the hair dye, so you want them there before you apply dye. “Do not wash your hair before applying color,” notes Morales. “This will irritate your scalp and can become painful. The hair should be clean of product but not of your natural oils, as it acts as a protectant.”

Remove Buildup

If your hair is particularly dirty, however, make sure that you wash your hair at least 24 hours before reaching for the box—doing so will help the dye penetrate without being too clean and vulnerable to the effects of the dye. Gould recommends using a clarifying shampoo as it “will create a clean canvas for the dye to adhere to and result in more even color distribution.” We like Ouai’s Detox Shampoo ($32) as it harnesses the power of apple cider vinegar to wash away excess oil without drying it out and keratin to strengthen strands.

Detangle Your Hair

Prior to reaching for your hair dye, Morales recommends thoroughly detangling your hair. This will prevent any knots or tangles from creating an uneven application—plus, we doubt you want to worry about any detangling mid-application. Use a wide-tooth comb and gently work your way from your ends to your roots.

Pick the Best Formula For You

Long gone are the days when liquid hair dye formulas were the only option for at-home hair color. Now, mousse formulas are just as popular. What’s the difference between a liquid dye and a mousse formula, you ask? McLean says mousse colors are more translucent, leading to a shimmery, iridescent effect after being applied. Liquid colors are typically more opaque or condensed and may lead to a more pigmented final look.

Keep Your Hair Color Simple

When it comes to at-home color, McLean recommends keeping things simple, “At-home color can be great for touching up your professional color in between appointments,” he says. Try not to go more than one or two shades lighter or darker than your natural color—anything more, and you run the risk of splotchy, uneven color that can turn brassy, plus an expensive salon bill to correct the mistakes.

As for highlights? “Any form of highlighting, balayage, or ombré becomes too challenging for at-home coloring procedures,” he says. “Those should be left to the professionals.”

Be Patient With Drastic Color Changes

Now, if you really want to do a drastic color change, say from black to platinum, you’re going to need to be patient. Most experts, including Gould, suggest seeing a professional colorist for this type of change. If you’re set on doing it at home though, here’s how he recommends you go about it.

First, you need to choose a high-quality hair lightening product specifically designed for dark hair, such as Garnier’s Nutrisse Ultra Color Blondes Lightening Cream ($9) which is formulated to lift seven levels of pigment. Make sure to follow all the tips we’ve provided so far (wash your hair 24 hours in advance, detangle, etc.) beforehand, and then once you start applying the dye make sure to follow the directions. “Pay attention to recommended processing times—it’s easy to leave bleach on too long and the results are never pretty,” warns Gould. Then, if you haven’t reached your desired shade, he says to space out your next dyeing session to avoid damage. In the meantime, you can use a color-depositing shampoo and toner to minimize brass and neutralize your temporary shade.

Choose the Right Shade

When it comes to choosing a flattering at-home color, McLean says to keep your skin tone in mind. “If you have paler skin, go for color with warmer tones,” he suggests. “If you have olive to darker skin tones, ashy or cooler tones will complement you.”

McLean says most manufacturers will include keywords such as “ashy” and “warm” in their marketing, so make sure to read the box carefully.

Do a Strand Test

Before applying dye all over, Gould strains the importance of doing a strand test first to make sure your hair reacts well to the formula. (You wouldn’t want to damage your hair to the point of breakage, now would you?) Plus, he says doing this will help you see how the hair color will actually turn out and how long it needs to process.

Follow the Directions On the Box

This tip may seem obvious, but it’s one worth mentioning. “Read and follow the instructions carefully,” says Morales. At-home hair coloring kits have been formulated to work in a specific way, so it’s important to use the instructions that come with your kit for any application recommendations like timing and post-color conditioners.

Use the Right Application Tools

When it comes to glistening, all-over color, it’s all about how you apply the dye. Instead of combing through with your fingers, which can lead to splotchy, uneven color, McLean says to use an application brush like the ones a professional colorist would use. Here’s a little secret: you can score them for less than a dollar at most beauty stores! He also recommends using disposable latex gloves. Most times, these tools come with the at-home dye box.

Don’t Mix Your Dye in Advance

Just because you have two boxes of hair dye doesn’t mean you should use them both at once. “Only prepare and mix what you are going to use,” Morales says. You don’t want your hair dye to go to waste if you don’t end up needing it. Don’t worry—the few minutes it takes to mix up that second box won’t lead to an uneven color.

Section Your Hair

When it comes to actually coloring your hair, it’s a good idea to work in sections rather than trying to dye your entire head at once. “For a better coverage, make sure you section you hair properly,” Morales says. The amount of sections you’ll need is dependent on how much hair you’re working with, but in general, create a minimum of four sections—two on the bottom half of your hair and two on the top. McLean also recommends stocking up on clips, like Fagaci Hair Clips ($13) to section off your hair.

Protect Your Hairline

We’d be willing to bet that one of the last things you want is a stained hairline post-hair dye. Luckily, this is avoidable. McLean suggests applying a barrier cream at the hairline to prevent staining. Try using Vaseline’s 100% Pure Petroleum Jelly ($4), which will keep any hair dye from adhering to your skin mid-application. When you’re done, you can wipe away any dye—and petroleum jelly—from your skin using a cotton pad and some lukewarm water.

Phone a Friend

Coloring your hair at-home can be challenging, especially if you’re doing it all on your own. To make sure you get even coverage, McLean recommends having a friend to lend a hand (who you’ll need when you’re craning to make sure you didn’t miss a spot) to help with your at-home hair coloring journey. If they’re not able to be there in person, a video chat will do.

Purchase Extra Hair Dye

It’s easy to think that you’ll only need one box of hair dye when coloring your hair at home—after all, it is an at-home hair coloring kit. But if you have a lot of hair, Morales advises otherwise. “Buy more than one box of color—you don’t want to be short on product in the middle of the process.”

Even if you think you won’t need a second box for your hair coloring session, having extra hair dye on-hand is great for when it comes time to touch up your roots.

Switch to Color-Safe Hair Care Products

After you’ve mastered the above dyeing hair tips, you may be curious about post-color care. To keep your new hue looking its best and prevent premature fading, it’s a good idea to swap your go-to shampoo and conditioner for a duo that’s specifically formulated for color-treated hair, such as Love Beauty and Planet’s Sulfate-Free Murumuru Butter and Rose Shampoo ($7) and Conditioner ($7). We also recommend using Innersense’s Hydrating Hair Mask ($30) at least once a week to give your ends some extra love.

Stay Clear of the Sun We

We’re not saying you can’t spend time in the sun, but prolonged exposure to sunlight can fade the color in your hair. “If you plan to spend time in the sun, consider wearing a hat or using hair products with UV protection,” suggests Gould.

According to Christine Arndt, a colorist at Baja Studio in New York City, leaving your at-home hair dye on too long can result in dryness and damage. Your hair could also end up looking too dark, inky, and/or dull.

You’ll want to wait at least 24 hours before washing your freshly-colored hair. (Some colorists recommend holding out for about three days.) “The pigments are just settling in and the cuticle of the hair shaft is still trying to return to its normal, closed state,” says colorist Kathy Debski. So the longer you can wait, the more locked in your new tones will be.

Colorist Kim Vo says to “apply [dye] to the roots first and then ends,” and to avoid applying the color all at once. If you’re covering white hair, colorist Emily Mott advises just coloring your new growth and avoiding the ends altogether to keep things from looking “over-processed.”