Here’s Exactly How to Ace Your Next At-Home Hair Colour

Can’t afford a pricey salon visit? We tapped two colourists to share their expertise on exactly how to master your next dye job at home

Photographers: Saty + Pratha, Hair & Makeup: Tami El Sombati

Foolproof Upgrade: Gloss

What it is: “A gloss is a no-lift hair colour that applies a sheer tone onto the hair,” explains Clairol Colour Director James Corbett, who has worked with celebrities like Christina Hendricks. “It can be used for adding shine, vibrancy  and richness.”

Best for: Everyone—it’s great as a refresh in between salon appointments. It won’t actually alter your existing colour.

Shopping tip: Choosing a gloss is a lot easier than permanent hair colour because you’re selecting a shade that’s the same level as your current hair hue, says Corbett. “You’ll see in the description if it makes [hair] warmer or cooler—pick based on your desired outcome.”

DIY: Apply all over towel-dried hair, starting at the roots and working your way to the ends. Keep on for as long as the label instructs, and rinse.

Maintenance: Corbett recommends applying a gloss every six to eight weeks.

Toolkit: Clairol Natural Instincts, $9,; Rita Hazan Ultimate Hair Gloss, $32,

The One-Step Wonder: All-Over Colour

What it is: A permanent or semi-permanent hair colour that’s applied all over

Best for: Anyone looking to change their hair colour by two to three shades. Avoid doing this yourself if you want a drastic makeover, such as going from brunette to blonde, or if you are trying to correct another dye job, says Roger Medina, Garnier Canada hair expert. In those cases, let a pro handle it.

Shopping tip: If you’re doing a first-time application or have long, thick hair, you may need more than one box. Corbett recommends getting one box of permanent hair colour and another of a gloss shade, which will give you more dimension and a salon-quality look.

DIY: Start by applying the dye to your ends only and leave it for about 20 minutes. For the remaining 10 minutes, add colour to the roots and comb through to your ends. “Your body produces warmth from the scalp that’ll process the colour quicker than the ends. That’s why you notice people with warmer roots and darker ends—they put the colour on at the same time,” says Medina.

Maintenance: Look for shampoos, conditioners and leave-in treatments labelled “colour-safe.” It’ll extend your dye job and keep it from fading.

Schwarzkopf Color Ultîme, $TK; Redken Colour Extend Magnetics Sulphate-Free Shampoo and Conditioner, $25.49 each; Christophe Robin Shade Variation Care Nutritive Mask with Temporary Coloring, $67
Toolkit: Schwarzkopf Color Ultîme, $16, ; Christophe Robin Shade Variation Care Nutritive Mask with Temporary Coloring, $67, and Redken Colour Extend Magnetics Sulphate-Free Shampoo, and Conditioner,, $26 each.

Easy-ish Sunkissed Locks: Highlights

What it is: Highlights are a way of lightening select strands to give hair depth and dimension. “There are your traditional highlights that are right at the roots or there are highlights that are considered balayage,” explains Medina, which are painted on to create a graduated effect.

Best for: Anyone who’d like to enhance their existing shade

Shopping tip: You need to go two to three shades darker or lighter than your all-over hair colour in order to get noticeable results. Always look for the word “natural” on the box because that indicates it has a little bit of ash in it to control the warmth (translation: brassiness) that people don’t want in highlights, says Medina. If blonde highlights are your M.O., look for words like “natural blonde” or “natural caramel.”

DIY: Hair colour newbie? Medina advises practicing first with conditioner rather than the actual colour. “That way, you can learn how to precisely place the highlights and get a feel for how the brush works.”

Maintenance: Freshen up your highlights every four to six weeks. Maintain the colour by using shampoos and conditioners that will nourish and add moisture back into the hair.

Toolkit: Clairol Nice ‘n Easy Hairpainting Kit, $11,; KMS Moist Repair Shampoo, $21, and Conditioner, $23,

The Quick Fix: Grey Coverage

What it is: Whether it’s age, genetics, nutrition or stress that’s the culprit, grey hair is a look you either want to embrace or camouflage, stat. If you just want to cover the first signs of grey (usually at the front hairline and temples), Corbett suggests using a root touch-up product in the shade of your hair colour. 

Best for: Anyone looking to cover greys

Shopping tip: Look for a box dye that’s formulated for mature hair (regardless of your age!). White hair has no pigment so it’s harder for it to absorb colour, Medina explains. The combination of emollients and nourishing ingredients will make it easier for dye to penetrate strands.

DIY: Make sure to completely saturate stubborn grey areas: add more colour than you think you need (you may even want to get a second tube depending on how much grey you have) and use your fingers to massage it into the strands.

Maintenance: Every four to six weeks. You can also use a temporary wash-out root touch-up to quickly conceal greys.

Clairol Nice ‘n Easy Root Touch Up, $8; L’Oréal Paris Excellence Age Perfect Hair Color for Mature Hair, $14; Marc Anthony bye.bye Gray Root Touch Up Spray, $14; Bumble & Bumble Bb. Color Stick, $32.
Toolkit: Clairol Nice ‘n Easy Root Touch Up, $8,; L’Oréal Paris Excellence Age Perfect Hair Color for Mature Hair, $14,; Marc Anthony bye.bye Gray Root Touch Up Spray, $14, at your local drugstore; Bumble & Bumble Bb. Color Stick, $32,

Expert-Level Blonde: Platinum

What it is: “Platinum blonde is a colour that has no warmth or ash. It’s neutral. Think: baby powder,” says Medina.

Best for: Healthy, virgin hair is preferable over colour-treated hair. Natural blondes are also better candidates for platinum than brunettes.

Shopping tip: This one is easy, as there aren’t any shade variations with platinum.

DIY: Going platinum blonde isn’t easy, period—let alone going platinum at home. TBH, it’s best left to a pro who can assess your hair and knows how to deal with damage. Still determined to DIY? Medina suggests doing a strand test to see how light you can go and prevent colour catastrophes.

Maintenance: Consider purple shampoos and conditioners your friends. “If you have too much yellow in your hair, you use violet to help cancel that out,” says Corbett. And, don’t forget to stock up on hydrating masks and oils to nourish strands that may have gotten dry or damaged during the bleaching process.

Toolkit: Kérastase Masque Thérapiste, $66.,; L’Oréal Paris Féria Absolute Platinum Advanced Lightening System, $15,

Style-Savvy Unicorn Hues: Pastels

Description: Just like in art class, pastel hair dyes are created by taking colours like red or blue and diluting them.

Best for: Sorry, brunettes. You can’t just pick up a box and dye your hair pink. “You have to pre-lighten your hair to make it show up,” says Medina. The cheat? Wash-out chalk colours that can be applied on top of strands.

Shopping tip: If your skin has a warm undertone, pink and peach hues will suit you best. If you have a cooler undertone, go for blues and purples.

DIY: Set wash-out chalks in place with a finishing hairspray to keep them from transferring to your clothes.

Maintenance: Depending on the type of pastel hair dye you choose, some last for up to 10 days while others can last up to four weeks, says Medina. “The key to maintaining [your shade] is to rinse the hair in cool water—not hot. Cold water acts as a toner for your hair. It’s going to lock in colour.”

L’Oréal Paris Smokey Pastels Multi-Faceted Shimmering Colour in Smokey Blue, $15; For a wash-out version, try: Dippity-do Colorpop Pastels, $7.
Toolkit: For a wash-out version, try: Dippity-do Colorpop Pastels, $7,; L’Oréal Paris Smokey Pastels Multi-Faceted Shimmering Colour in Smokey Blue, $15,

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