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Tips for DIY Hair Coloring Success

Whether this is your first or tenth time dyeing your hair, you can never have enough expert advice. It doesn’t matter if you’re only changing to one or two shades lighter or darker relative to your natural hair color, or if you’re doing something a little more extreme – things may not always go the way you plan. Thus, becoming educated on the topic before you start the process could save a lot of frustration, extra time and money if you end up having to fix or remove the color. To get you started on the road to perfect DIY hair colour, remember these expert tips and best practices for coloring your hair.

1. Think quality and quantity
If you have super-thick or super-long hair, pick up two boxes of hair colour so you have the extra on hand in case you discover halfway through that you don’t have enough.

2. Take precautions if you’re expecting
“Despite the cautioning, there are expectant mothers out there who just don’t want to give up their hair colour,” says Christopher Martin, colourist and co-owner at Shagg Salon in Toronto and consultant for Clairol Canada. He advises using an ammonia-free formula, or going with highlights, because highlighting colour doesn’t touch the scalp.

3. Know your limits
Want to make a big change? Note that you can’t go from brunette to blonde in one step. “A box colour won’t significantly lighten previously dyed hair,” says Nicole Dupuis, technical manager for L’Oréal Canada. If you do want to make such a change, she adds, “you need a specific lightening kit designed to bleach colour out.”

4. Assemble your backup team
If you’re uncertain how to proceed, you’re starting with very dry or damaged hair, or you’re trying something new, call your chosen brand’s toll-free help line or hit the related website for tips before you begin. They can help with a myriad of issues, from choosing a hair colour formula to counteracting brassy blond tones.

5. Do your homework
“Read the instructions very carefully,” insists Eric Del Monaco, official hair artist and colourist for L’Oréal Paris Canada and stylist at O Sole Salon & Spa in Toronto. The package insert will tell you everything you need to know, such as how to do a proper strand test (using the hair at the nape of your neck, Del Monaco emphasizes)—and why you shouldn’t skip it!

6. Wash your hair a day or two before
“You need the natural oils on your scalp to protect it,” says Dupuis—so let your hair get a little dirty before you dye. “Don’t comb or brush vigorously before colouring either,” she adds. “You don’t want to start with an irritated scalp.” If you’re a swimmer, use a lot of styling products in your hair or have been colouring for a long time and your hair lacks shine, consider using a clarifying shampoo a couple of times leading up to the week you want to colour.

7. Hydrate extra-dry hair
Dry, brittle hair is more porous than healthy hair and absorbs colour more readily. A strand test is a big must so you know how long it’ll take to develop the shade you want, but also consider deep-conditioning hair beforehand. (Yes, you still have to do the strand test on your hair afterward, ideally 48 hours before you plan to colour.)

8. Let your inner neat-freak take control
“Be as tidy as possible,” says Del Monaco. “The neater and more orderly you are, the less likely you are to make mistakes, and the better your results will be.” Del Monaco also suggests being methodical about the process. For example, make a sketch on paper of the pattern you want for highlights before getting started.

9. Maximize new colour with the right hair care products
Start by not shampooing within 24 hours of colouring; washing immediately will wash out some of the colour, too. Instead, notes Martin, “A lot of my clients like to use the enclosed deep conditioner as a treatment post colour.” For the best results, he says, instead of immediately rinsing out the conditioner, wrap your hair in plastic, use your blow-dryer for about five minutes to heat it up (from a safe distance!), then leave your hair wrapped, with the conditioner still on, for another 20 minutes. And when it comes to daily products, adds Del Monaco, “Take care of your new colour with the right shampoo and conditioner.” Use colour-friendly shampoo and conditioner and deep-condition weekly to help lock colour in. To boost fading colour, try colour-enhancing shampoo or conditioner, or a rinse-out hair colour treatment.

10. Know when to think outside the box—that is, hit the salon instead
Although it’s possible to handle almost any colour situation at home, sometimes it’s more efficient—and effective—to let salon experts take control. Such situations include drastic colour changes, such as going from dark brunette to pale blonde as well as going from pale blonde to brunette (you don’t want green hair!); starting with already overprocessed, damaged hair; and fixing dye disasters. Sometimes, peace of mind equals piece of wallet.

If you do go ahead with a DIY dye, after all that effort don’t forget to tip your fabulous home colourist—that’s you—for a job well done. And yes, let all those compliments go to your head.

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