While nothing beats a professional pair of hands (and that glorious post-colour blow dry), doing your hair at home is pretty easy. Whether you’re just ‘dyeing’ for a change (see what we did there?) or simply want to revitalise your colour, it’s easier than ever to achieve the luscious locks of your dreams - without having to fork out on salon prices!
Pretty much anything is possible from home nowadays and, unless you plan on taking black hair to platinum blonde, there’s no reason why you can’t touch up your colour at home. However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could end up making a very costly mistake. So, to help you reach your home hair goals with ease (and avoid any mishaps along the way), we’ve put together this helpful at-home hair dye guide. Box dyes and brushes at the ready - it’s about to get colourful!
A (brief) history of hair dye
Our relationship with hair spans back centuries. From covering greys to imitating celebrities, humans have been altering their appearance since before we can remember. For many cultures, hair plays a huge role in identity and self-expression. It’s the one part of our bodies that we can change on a whim without causing any permanent changes and, for many ethnicities, hair is an intrinsic part of cultural expression and communication.
The ancient Egyptians have some of the earliest records of colouring their hair, using henna (a natural plant well known for its red-orange pigment) to cover grey hairs. A greek historian also detailed how the Celtic people would dye their hair blonde by washing it with lime. Thankfully, lime is no longer used in the hair colouring process and products have come a long way since these early versions.
In the 1800s, a chemical was discovered which changed the colour of hair when in contact with air and, from this, the first synthetic hair dye was created in the early 1900s. Since then, synthetic hair dye has become the most popular way of changing up our looks. But, until the 1940s, colouring hair was limited to visits to salons or hairdressers. It wasn’t until then that the first boxed hair dyes caused the hair dye industry to boom and become the multi-billion pound industry it is today.
How to dye your own hair
Colouring your hair at home is easier than ever and many box dye hair kits come with detailed instructions (which you should definitely read) to make it as easy as possible. If you’re new to the world of home hair dye though, here’s a general list to help you get familiar with the process.
Step 1: Choose your colour. Don’t just rely on the picture of the model on the box, as these can be misleading. Instead, read the description of the colour. You’ll often find some confusing jargon used to describe the shade and darkness, but it’s deceptively easy to understand once you know what you’re looking for.
The number will tell you how dark the dye will be. Hair colour is described on a scale ranging from 1 to 12 (1 being jet black and 12 being platinum blonde) - the lower the number, the darker the shade. Even colours described as blonde can be around level 4 or so, so don’t be fooled just by the number itself.
Colours are described in all sorts of different ways to communicate the tone of your chosen hue. Ones described as ‘ash’ will have a higher level of cool tones to help combat brassiness. ‘Golden’ tones will feature warm, yellow tones, so are great for concealing grey hair. Anything with the term ‘violet’ in the name will feature a lot of purple tones that serve to neutralise yellows, perfect if platinum blonde or silver is your bag.
Top tip: Check the shade guide on the side of the box. It’s a great guide on how the dye will look on your shade of hair and is much more reliable than the front of the box.
Step 2: Read the instructions and safety precautions. This step is really important, especially if you’re using a new brand of hair dye. Make sure you’re following all the instructions and safety precautions - yes, including the strand and/or patch test.
Step 3: Once your strand test is complete and you know you won’t have an adverse reaction to the dye, it’s time to apply it! The best method to apply hair dye is to section your hair and fully saturate each section before moving on. By making sure each section is well covered, you’ll be avoiding the patchy dye job that your regular hairdresser will scold you for. Make sure you get a friend to help you get the back parts if you’re struggling.
Top tip: Dirty hair is best when applying hair dye. The natural oils will give your hair an additional layer of protection against damage.
Step 4: After waiting the appropriate amount of time that the box says, you can wash it out. Some dyes will tell you to use shampoo while others won’t, so many sure you follow the instructions for the best results. When you’re done, dry and style your hair as normal and enjoy your wonderful new ‘do!
Luscious locks and terrific tresses
Now you know how to dye your hair, it’s time to decide on your next colour! To lend you a helping hand, we’ve put together a list of five of our favourite formulas from some of the biggest names in the business. With a vast range of shades, tones, finishes and application methods to explore, it’s easier than ever to achieve the colour of your dreams from home. So, whether you’re a home hair dye pro searching for a new look or a total beginner that’s after something to conceal the greys, we’ve got you (and your hair!) covered. Move aside Brad Mondo, there’s a new colour specialist in town!
Pros: Gives a wonderfully glossy tone, long-lasting grey coverage
Cons: Upkeep is needed every four to six weeks, not ideal for very dark hair
Clairol was one of the first manufacturers of home hair dye kits, so by picking up this two-pack of Nice ‘N’ Easy, you know you’ve got the expertise behind your decision. Decades of experience has made Clairol a staple in home hair colouring - the formulas are safe and easy to use, resulting in beautiful colour every time. The Natural Medium Blonde colour of this hair dye boasts a wonderfully natural-looking hue that will shine in the light. It’s best used on hair that is already light in colour, as you may find that using it on very dark hair will result in a much darker colour than you are after. This hair colour is perfect for covering greys and boasts long-lasting coverage, letting you enjoy your life to the fullest without worrying about showing your greys.
Pros: Helps greys to blend in, easy to brush in for a natural look
Cons: Won’t fully cover the grey hairs, not ideal for longer hair lengths
For men who want to embrace - not entirely abolish - their grey hair, the Touch of Grey dye from the hair care specialists at Just For Men is the perfect solution. It comes with an easy-to-use, no-mix bottle with a brush attachment that makes application as easy as combing your hair. Simply give the bottle a good shake and brush it through your locks. Let it develop and wash it out for a refined look. This black hair dye helps your grey hairs to blend into your natural dark colour without simply covering them up, giving you a subtly refined ‘salt and pepper’ style. It’s the perfect way to show off your life experience without diminishing your vitality. And, with just a five minute application time, you can spend less time worrying about your hair and more time enjoying life!
Pros: A beautifully cool grey hair colour, permanent and fade-resistant
Cons: Not ideal for very dark hair, colour and developer bundle is quite pricey
This long-lasting permanent hair colour from Wella is the perfect change you’re looking for. The cool, violet tones help to prevent brassiness and yellowing of both treated and natural hair, from light brown to platinum blonde. This hair colour uses Wella’s Liquifuse technology to fully penetrate and fuse with the hair strands, leaving only glossy, glorious colour behind every time. The tried and tested formula means you can use it with confidence with less risk of accidents or unexpected results. And it even has a lovely floral fragrance, so you don’t have to put up with intoxicating hair dye that makes your eyes water! Choose between a few different options depending on your needs: the colour only, the developer only, or a bundle pack of the two - totally customisable to you!
Pros: 2-step process for salon-perfect results, beautifully healthy and rich results
Cons: May take more time to do due to the 2-step process, works best on dark hair tones
When it comes to hair colour, roots and lengths are not the same. They take colour differently. Roots (the new growth that has never been coloured before) are less porous than the rest of the hair. They are more resistant to absorb colour, so they require more time and colour for ideal coverage. For salon-perfect results every time, the Vidal Sassoon Salonist colour in Dark Intense Red is the perfect choice. The unique 2-step process of this colour imitates the way that salons process hair dyes by focusing on the roots before the lengths. Doing it this way means you end up with a much more even colour and far less damage than if you put it on all over and just hope for the best. This intense red shade is ideal if you’re looking for a change or to add a bit of fiery colour into your life.
Pros: Creates perfect platinums and brilliant blondes, home hair care backed by salon expertise
Cons: More of a toner than a dye, won’t lighten very dark hair colours
Wella is back with this long-lasting permanent hair colour. Color Charm in Lightest Ash Blonde is the perfect colour to beat the brassy tones. The cool, ash tones help to prevent brassiness and yellowing of your hair while the formula nourishes from root to tip, keeping it healthy and enviably shiny. This hair colour also uses Wella’s Liquifuse technology to fully penetrate and fuse with each hair strand, leaving only glossy, glorious colour behind every time. The gentle but effective formula lightens and hair without causing loads of damage and is perfect for creating bright, delicate shades of platinum and blonde. Mix together in a 1:2 ratio for the perfect results. Just like the other Wella product we mentioned earlier in this guide, it’s available as a single purchase (colour or developer only) or a dual pack of both - the choice is entirely yours!
No more bad hair days
Our final tip for colouring your hair at home is to manage your expectations. Undyed (or virgin) hair will take on the colour more evenly than hair that has been dyed in the past. Also, don’t expect for your dark brown hair to turn platinum blonde with one box of dye either (probably best to head to your salon for that one). Expect different results depending on your hair history and you won’t be left feeling disappointed or let down. If you’re ever concerned about using home hair colour, have a chat with your hairdresser for advice.
OnBuy has a huge range of pampering products to help you make the most of your home spa. Don’t forget to check out our whole range of hair colours and hair care products to keep those locks looking luscious. If you’re wanting to take your at-home pamper session to the next level, you can find all kinds of self-care tips and tricks in our blog posts. With everything from seasonal skincare tips to sexy self-care package ideas, it won’t be long before you’re enjoying some much-needed ‘me time’, leaving you glowing from the outside and within. Go on, treat yourself - you deserve it!
The information in this buyer’s guide is correct at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.