How to color your hair at home — and common mistakes to avoid

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Hey America! Your roots are showing.

As the nation weathers the coronavirus health crisis and remains largely at home in the fight against COVID-19, citizens have had to sacrifice some of their day-to-day activities — e.g., dining out, hitting the gym, visiting the salon — for the good of their communities.


But just because you’re stuck at home, it doesn’t mean you can’t whip up a fantastic meal, get in a good workout, and yes, touch up your own roots.

With a few simple tips, you can cover up your grays like a pro.

With a few simple tips, you can cover up your grays like a pro.

Kali Ferrara, a professional hairstylist with The Salon Project at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City, recently shared some of her hair coloring expertise with Fox News, but she warns that not all dye jobs are as easy to achieve.

Which hair coloring methods should I attempt?

“I first recommend to do some research on what kind of color [a person] should be using, and if the look that they receive from a professional hair colorist is achievable from a drugstore box [as] very few are,” Ferrara tells Fox News. “If someone is looking to just cover their gray roots on a medium brown hair color, that is much easier to achieve than a double-process blonde, or a natural-looking redhead.”


Which looks are harder to achieve at home?

“Never attempt a double-process blonde or anything dealing with lightener, or bleach, at home,” Ferrara warns.

She’s also against any drastic changes to hair color (going from very dark to light, or very light to dark), as it’s a tricky process, and not without “its fair share of hijinks.”

So what types of dyes should I look for?

It’s worth finding out if your favorite stylist or salon is offering at-home touch-up kits, which they can recommend based on your hair color. Ferrara, for instance, is currently offering custom-made kits for clients via the mail, along with detailed instructions for achieving your desired look at home.

If you’re at the drugstore, however, just make sure you’re choosing the right products.

You may not be able to achieve professional highlights at home, but at least you can touch-up your roots.

You may not be able to achieve professional highlights at home, but at least you can touch-up your roots.

For starters, Ferrara recommends using a semi-permanent hair coloring for anyone merely aiming to cover up grays.

“This way, if the color turns out less than optimal it can more easily be corrected once your colorist is back behind the chair,” she says.

“Also, be sure to choose a color a shade or a half-shade lighter than you think your hair color is, a lot of box dyes end up too dark and often over-saturated.”

While you’re out, you might as well pick up some gloves and a good hair or face cream for the next steps, because things are about to get a little messy.


OK, I have my products. How do I start?

Ferrara recommends making a “barrier” around your hairline with face or hand cream before getting down to business, so the skin around your hairline doesn’t get stained with dye. Next, put on those gloves, grab a brush, and brush your hair until it’s free of any knots or tangles.

After brushing, divide your hair into four sections, using hair clips to keep them all separate. (In a video tutorial shared by Ferrara, she first parts her hair down the middle before dividing each side into front and back “quadrants” on each side.) Maybe wear an old towel around your shoulders, too, to catch any dye that may drip from your brush or bottle.

Now for the dye: Using an application brush, start by applying dye to the front of your hairline, trying to avoid the skin on your forehead and face. Next, move onto the middle part, evenly applying dye back along the part, as this is “where the most dense area of gray” usually is, she says. Once finished with that section, Ferrara recommends using a hair separator to work horizontally down the side of your head towards the ear, applying dye every ¼ to ½-inch as you go. (Ferrara says this method also works when applying with a bottle — just “use your fingers to blend the product into the roots.”)

After finishing with the front quadrants, Ferrara recommends “outlining” the back two quadrants with dye at the hairline (after applying a face cream to the hairline, of course) before working through each section horizontally, little by little.

When finished, Ferrara uses one more application of dye on the hairline before brushing all hair out of the face and wiping away any dye from the skin with a cotton ball moistened with astringent or warm water. All that’s left to do now is set a timer, wait for the dye to do its job, and then rinse in the shower. (Ferrara advises keeping the gloves on, and using the fingertips to gently rub the scalp until the water runs clear.) Shampoo twice, condition once with an ultra-hydrating conditioner, then dry and style as you normally do.


How do I keep my hair from drying out after dyeing?

Ferrara is a proponent of haircare vitamins, like Vitafusion’s Gorgeous Hair Skin and Nail Gummies, for keeping hair in “optimal shape,” whether dyeing it or not. Regularly using a hydrating deep conditioner is key, too, especially if using the generic drugstore brand of dyes.

As for maintaining your color, Ferrara says folks can continue to dye at home at any intervals they’re comfortable with, but wouldn’t recommend more frequently than every two weeks. People can also choose to just touch-up certain areas where most grays usually show.


“The hairline and the parting are the most visible portions of new growth mostly because it is what frames the face and splits down the scalp. The hairline can be especially visible when the hair is tied back,” she says. “In men, the sideburns and the temples tend to be the first gray areas to show.”

Finally, be sure to reach out to your stylist once salons reopen for any cut or coloring needs you couldn’t pull off at home. After all, they’re missing you as much as you miss them.

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