If you’d sooner shave your head than color your own hair, we feel you—coloring your hair takes time and money. Plus, the salon can be expensive. But thanks to these 11 at-home hair color tricks, hacks, product recommendations, and tips, the once-laborious act of DIYing your color can kinda turn into the best, easiest spa day ever. The key? Make sure you’re comfortable (a pair of these luxe PJs should do the job), have everything you need (we’ve got you there below), and aren’t pressed for time. We culled the best insider at-home hair-color tricks and tips for achieving salon-worthy results.

1. Don’t trust the model on the box.

Sure, the woman smiling on the front of the box looks beautiful, but the color of her hair is a fantasy. “The color always ends up lighter than the model’s hair on the packaging,” says colorist Dana Ionato of the Sally Hershberger Downtown salon in New York City. “The developer in at-home permanent dyes is very strong—stronger that the ones we use in the salon—so it lifts the color and makes it lighter than what you see on the box.” A better estimate on how the color will end up is the chart on the top of the box, which shows you the final color you get from a range of different hair-color shades.

2. Know when to go lighter—or darker.

The rule is as follows: For permanent dye, choose a color a smidge darker than what you want because of the strong developer, says Ionato. With semipermanent dye, however, err on the lighter side of the color you’re looking to achieve. “Semipermanent formulas don’t have a developer, meaning they get darker and darker the longer you leave them in your hair,” says Ionato. “It’s safer to choose a color that’s a bit lighter from the get-go.”

3. Buy two boxes.

If your hair is past your shoulders, or shoulder length and extremely coarse, use two boxes of the same shade to ensure full coverage. Just make sure to mix the dyes in a glass or plastic bowl—a metal one will oxidize the dye and cause it to change color.

Save these ideas for later—and follow Allure on Pinterest!

4. Consider your hair texture.

Hair texture matters just as much when dyeing your hair as it does when cutting it. “Coarse, curly, frizzy, or unruly hair sucks up color faster and will become cooler-toned when you dye it, so it will look ashier, or slightly bluish,” says Ionato. “Fine to medium hair textures don’t absorb color as easily and will become a slightly warmer tone when you add dye, meaning it will have orange, red, or copper undertones.” So what does that mean for you when you’re standing in the aisle at the drugstore? If your hair is frizzy or curly, pick a color that’s warm (golden, copper, bronze), but a little lighter than your natural hair color; if your hair is fine and straight, choose cooler shades (champagne, beige) that are slightly darker than your natural color.

5. Touch up your roots—and only your roots.

“I’ve seen so many clients who come in because they touched up their roots but accidentally dyed their ends, too,” says Ionato. “The ends of your hair are more porous, so they suck up color very quickly.” So quickly, in fact, that the runoff from rinsing out your roots can stain them. To avoid this, apply conditioner to your ends right before you rinse out the color at the top of your head. Or you could try this quick tip: Mix about one teaspoon of cornstarch into the dye to prevent it from dripping down through the rest of your hair.

6. Section, section, section.

To avoid patchiness, create a middle part that runs to the back of your head and split the hair into four sections—two in front of the ears and two in back. “Always apply the dye from back to front,” says colorist Aura Friedman, of the Sally Hershberger Downtown salon in New York City. “That way the dye is sitting on the back of your hair the longest, which is naturally darker than the front anyway.”

The trick for that naturally sun-kissed look? Choose a kit that’s only one shade lighter than your base color, says NYC celebrity colorist Rita Hazan. Madison Reed’s Balayage Kit ($45) is perfect for at-home highlights thanks to its wishbone-shaped brush that paints on color more flawlessly.

Step 1: Once you’ve done a strand test and read the instructions (see Allover Color, steps 1 through 3), blow-dry, style, and part hair as you normally would. This will help show off which pieces to highlight.

Step 2: Here’s where you want to ignore the directions slightly. Instead of pulling out random strands, do this: Starting at the front and working back toward your crown, section out 10 quarter-inch-wide pieces a quarter of an inch apart. Don’t space them evenly though; the most natural-looking highlights are asymmetrical.

Step 3: If you’re not using a pro-level highlight kit, try using a toothbrush to paint on the solution from root to ends, which can be more precise than some brushes. To prevent color from bleeding, prop each piece up away from your head with a cotton ball.

Step 4: Let the dye sit for the amount of time indicated (if you’re nervous, rinse one piece five minutes early and check the color). Wash and finish with a clear gloss treatment to help seal the color and boost shine. An editor favorite? Rita Hazan Ultimate Shine Gloss in Clear ($26).

How to Dye Your Hair Blond (or Blonder)

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: Dyeing your hair more than one or two shades lighter at home is risky business. If you’re going for a dramatic hair transformation, it’s best to leave this to a professional; otherwise you risk seriously damaging your hair.

However, if you’re already blond and you just want to go a little lighter, it can be achieved at home. (Brunettes and redheads, get thee to a salon!)

Step 1: Before you do anything, follow the first three steps listed in the Allover Color section. Then, starting at the back of your head and working forward, apply the solution, keeping it one inch away from your roots. Massage the color in so every strand is covered.

Step 2: Let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes, but check the progress every five to 10. Don’t be alarmed if you see a tinge of red; hair exposes in stages as it lightens, says Robinson.

But, if you’re thinking about covering up your greys, going a few shades darker or adding blonde highlights to frame your face, here a few tips and tricks will help you get salon results at home.

How to dye your own hair at home

1. Buy two boxes.

Imagine getting halfway and realising you’ve run out. If your hair is past your shoulders, or short and thick, we recommend you will need two boxes to cover your full head.

2. Do a patch test.

You have no idea whether you’re skin is going to react to the chemicals from the hair dye or not, so you must always do a patch test. It’s better to find out now, rather than later…

3. Do a strand test

We know you’re excited about change, but you need to do this properly. You need to check that your current hair colour reacts well with the formula, because if the change resembles something more like swamp water, you won’t be so happy. (Keep scrolling with our tips on exactly how to do both a patch and strand test.)

3. Keep your hairline clean.

Swipe some lip balm along your hairline where you don’t want any dye to go. This will stop it from dying your skin, which can take days to get off. It’s one of the biggest tips on how to dye your hair.

4. Brush your hair.

Make sure your hair is untangled before you begin, even the smallest knot can cause a big problem.

5. Section your hair.

Professionals always section hair into four parts – down the middle, and then from ear to ear across the crown. Dye the front sections first because these are the most visible, so need the full processing time.

6. Don’t use the bottle.

Yes, that’s what’s normally provided in the box, but squeezing dye straight onto your hair won’t give you a salon finish. Instead, play colourist and use a mixing bowl and a colour brush to apply the dye.

7. Use a toothbrush.

If you just want to add some highlights, use a clean toothbrush or mascara wand and apply where the sun would normally lighten your hair (i.e, around your face and on the tips). This will give you natural looking highlights.

8. Start from the top.

Always start at your roots when dyeing your whole head a different colour – this area will need longer to develop the colour – then comb through to the ends.

9. Wash your hair properly.

Don’t shampoo immediately after dyeing your hair, just rinse out with water initially. When you do shampoo your hair, make sure it’s sulphate-free Sulphates cause your hair shaft to swell and encourage the colour to leach out.

The best hair dye

Josh Wood Colour Permanent Hair Dye, £10, Boots

Hair connoisseur Josh Wood released his own line of professional haircare for consumers to use at-home. The range includes shampoos, conditioners, root touch-up brushes and a ‘colour shot’ toning mask. The hair dye is exceptional, easily blending through your whole head of hair to cover all outgrown roots without painstakingly combing through paper-thin layers. It’s easy to use, with the results you’d get in the chair. Going that one step further, you can pop onto his website, answer a few questions about your hair’s needs and you’ll be directed to the products that you need. And you can even pop onto YouTube for extra tips and tricks from the man himself.

Buy now

Schwarzkopf Colour Expert, £6.79, Boots

The first at-home colour with ‘omegaplex’ anti-breakage technology. Complete with a serum shot, repair sealer and repair reviver, the product is designed to protect the hair bonds, seal colour and even repair the hair after three weeks. Think less breakage and a choice of 15 shades of vibrant colour, from blonde to black.

If you’re feeling adventurous and, rather than muted brunette, you would rather bright yellow or punchy blue tresses, then there really is no other brand to consider. Bleach London are the kings & queens of alternative colour and their completely vegan range is available in Boots for the deliciously low price of £tktkt. Incidentally, these are the colours that are used in their salons as well. With names like Awkward Peach, The Big Pink and Washed Up Mermaid these colours aren’t for the feint-harted, but you might just be tempted once you take a look at their Instagram…

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Our #RoseGold super cool colour is back in stock! Picture by @liamw91

A post shared by BLEACH (@bleachlondon) on Jan 15, 2019 at 9:15am PST

Bleach London Washed Up Mermaid Super Cool Colour, £6 Boots

Buy Now

How to do a patch test

Here are Josh Wood’s tips on how to do a patch test:

1. Mix a coin-sized amount of the colour activator and the colour together in a bowl.

2. Use a cotton bud to apply a small amount behind your ear.

3. Leave it on for 48 hours, you shouldn’t even notice it’s there. Try not to wash it off within this time frame.

4. Tip: It’s very important to fasten the caps on the bottles tightly after you have opened them for the patch test. If you do not, the products may oxidise, and the active ingredients will not work.

5. If you have any signs of reaction to the patch test, wash it off immediately and do not use the colour.

6. If you show no signs of reaction to the dye, go ahead and use the colour as instructed.

How to do a strand test

You may have heard of a strand test, but still be asking yourself, what the heck is it? A strand test is a preliminary test of the hair. It determines its suitability for processing, aka dyeing. Here’s how to do a strand test:

Do a strand test on a section of hair about 1/4 inch thick (choose from underneath so you can hide it) to see if your hair will pick up the colour you’re aiming for.

1. Put on protective gloves.

2. Choose a strand of hair to test.

3. Separate the rest of your hair away using plastic clips so that the strand does not touch the rest of the hair after the hair colour is applied. Then dye that strand.

4. Wait 24 hours to make sure you are happy with the hair colour results.

5. If you are happy with the colour, go forth and dye away.

How to dye your hair blonde

It’s a lot easier to go a darker colour because you’re adding pigment to your hair.; with blonde, it’s more difficult because you’re taking pigment out. Firstly, you should have an idea of the blonde hairstyles you like the look of. Secondly, read up on everything you need to know about going blonde.

The key to getting a great blonde shade is to work with the natural colour on the parting to allow for an organic texture that doesn’t look stripy. If your hair is naturally a more ashy tone, go for an ashy blonde. Similarly if your roots have a touch of redness, go for a champagne hue.

And remember, you might have to dye your hair more than once to get the blonde you want. The best thing you can do for your hair is have an Olaplex hair treatment to improve the quality of hair in between these sessions, as this will stop it form going brittle, and to use one of the best purple shampoos when washing your hair.

How to dye your hair silver

Many of the same rules apply to dyeing your hair silver, or any other lighter colours like pink and blue. The key is to ensure your hair is bleached beforehand. Once this is done, you can then apply your silver rinse.

First, don’t wash your hair for 48 hours. The natural oil will help protect your scalp against any bleaching irritation. Apply a purple toner first to take out any yellowness from your bleached hair. Then, apply your dye as per the steps above. Once you have the desired colour, maintain it by shampooing with the best sulphate-free shampoo.

Although most of us might have aspirations to spend an entire day having our hair dyed and generally being pampered, the reality is that more often that not we just don’t have the time.

Which means that whether we want an Insta-esque hair colour transformation or just to cover up those pesky greys, a home hair dye kit is usually the only option.

But, when the teenage bathroom sink Shaders & Toners plum hair dye disaster is still all too fresh, how can you get dyeing your hair at home right instead of horribly wrong?

We turned to expert colourist and founder of his eponymous home hair dye range, Josh Wood, for the tips and tricks you need to know to faux a pro hair colour at home.


How do you choose the right home dye colour for you?

I think it’s always good to get a balance between warm and cool tones; so say if your skin and eye tones are quite cool, go for a warmer tone for your hair to contrast.

Alternatively, I’ve created an online consultation that will guide and advise the right colour for you. It will ask questions in real-time with regards to your hair and your current regime. It’s completely free and available on your phone too, so you can even do it in-store!

How to dye your hair at home

1. Before you start, make sure your hair is properly brushed through so that any knots are teased away. It helps the colour distribute evenly and makes the whole process less messy.

2. Divide your dry, unwashed hair into four sections and apply generous amounts of barrier cream around your hair line to prevent staining.

TIP: If the kit you’re using doesn’t come with a barrier cream, try applying a light layer of vaseline around your hairline and over the tips of your ears.

Josh Wood Colour Permanent Hair Colour – £10

3. Put the gloves on. Squeeze your colour into the activator and shake vigorously until well mixed.

4. Start at the roots and apply in rows along your scalp, working from front to back. Then, apply the remainder of the colour down your hair lengths.

5. Massage the colour in with your fingertips to ensure all hair is evenly coloured.

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A post shared by Josh Wood Colour (@joshwoodcolour) on Jan 24, 2018 at 10:06am PST

TIP: If you’ve chosen a similar shade to your current hair colour and want a more natural look, don’t brush right to the very ends of your hair as these should naturally appear slightly lighter.

6. Leave on for 30 minutes (for Josh Wood Colour) or as directed on the box.

7. At the end of the developing time, use a stain removing wipe to remove any traces of colour from your skin.

8. Keep the gloves on and rinse off the colour with warm water until the water runs clear. Massage around the hairline to remove staining.

9. Finally, shampoo your hair, rinse and apply a deep conditioning colour treatment (normally provided with the kit) to lock in your colour and deep-condition your hair, then rinse off.

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Flavours of the day: rose, pistachio and tangerine

A post shared by Josh Wood Colour (@joshwoodcolour) on Jan 25, 2018 at 12:58pm PST

Does the method for dyeing your hair at home change depending on the colour you choose?

No, this is a pretty universal way to colour your hair if you’re just covering roots or blending in greys.

Does the method change if you have afro textured hair?

No, the process is exactly the same. I’d always recommend locking in colour and adding hydration with a hair mask after using your permanent kit.


Does the method change if your hair is already dyed?

If you just need a root touch-up as your hair has been coloured with a similar shade in the last 8-12 weeks, and only the root regrowth is visible, or you want to protect the ends of your hair from over-treating or becoming too dark I’d suggest the following steps:

1. Start at the roots and apply in rows along your scalp, working from front to back.

2. Massage the colour in with your fingertips to ensure all hair regrowth is evenly covered.

3. Wait for 20 minutes.

4. For a freshly coloured salon finish, apply the rest of the colour to the lengths for 10 minutes before the end of the developing time.

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Candy floss colour by @kierantudorhair

A post shared by Josh Wood Colour (@joshwoodcolour) on Jan 23, 2018 at 12:49pm PST

If you have very long or thick hair, would you suggest buying two kits?

If you’re just covering roots you should have more than enough to cover regrowth of up to eight weeks in one kit. If you’re starting afresh or changing your colour, you may need two.

Why should you do a patch test before dyeing your hair?

You should always complete a patch test 48hrs before each application of a permanent hair colour. It’s possible to develop allergies over time, and it’s much better to be safe than sorry.

To do this, mix a small quantity of your chosen hair colour and colour activator together and apply this to a little patch of skin behind your ear – think 5p size.

Leave this for 48 hrs (try not to get it wet if possible) and if you have no adverse reactions, you’re good to go.

How long should permanent hair dye last?

Depending on how quickly your hair grows, this can be anything between 3-10 weeks. You can always use a root concealer to cover any regrowth in-between your permanent colours.

Alternatively, you can refresh your colour with a ready-made gloss (or mix one using the Josh Wood Shade Shot and Everything Mask). It’s super simple to apply and helps boost the colour.

How you can you help the colour last as long as possible post dye?

Once you’ve invested time and money in your colour, you should make sure your hair is in premium condition to protect your shade.

Pick The Right Shampoo And Conditioner For You

Use a shampoo and conditioner that is specifically created for your desired hair colour as different ingredients will be required for different hair colours. My shampoos and conditioners for brown hair contain turmeric and saffron to make brunettes vibrant, whereas my blonde shampoos and conditioners contain natural anti-oxidants to keep blonde hair healthy and shiny.

Hair Masks Are A Must

I’m also a big advocate of regular hair masks. These should be applied a minimum of once a week to help prevent fade and improve hair texture.


What are common hair dye mistakes to avoid?

Most people tend to over-dye their hair, particularly the ends; I think it’s a way of people trying to ensure complete grey coverage. You should never apply colour to the roots and ends at the same time. Letting colour develop on the untreated hair at the roots longer than the previously treated hair will give a much more natural result – your ends should always appear slightly lighter.

Why is ammonia-free hair dye better?

I believe that the kindest the formula can be for hair, the better the result. Ammonia-free products also tend to fade less than products that contain ammonia, too.

Related Story Related Story

The Be-All, End-All Guide to Dyeing Your Hair At Home

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For years, I’ve reached for box color to match my aesthetic, my lifestyle, and my rapidly-swinging moods. I’ve spent hours in tiny, unventilated bathrooms, breathing in chemical fumes while coloring my friend’s hair (a great way to pregame a night out, by the way). It’s a labor of love; a long process of trial and error that takes years to perfect. Once you find the perfect color and technique for you and your hair type, you can pull off beautiful, luminous color without ever setting foot in a salon.

The Rule of Two Shades

First off, keep in mind that dramatic changes may be better left in the hands of a professional. If you want to go from brunette to platinum from a box, my best advice would be to not.

Even if you’re an at-home hair color pro (but especially if you’re a newbie), a good tip to keep in mind when choosing a color is what we’ll call “The Rule of Two Shades.” This means when you’re choosing a new hair color, you’ll most likely get the best results going only two shades darker or lighter per coloring.

Applying a too-dark color can lead to discoloration, uneven color, and some nasty fading. On the other hand, trying to take dark hair too light with just once processing… well, we’ve all seen the results. Subtle changes can give you a vibrant, rich tone that will stay wearable longer, and help you achieve better color over time.

More Is More

Once you settle on a color, play it safe by buying two boxes—one may not be enough. While most at-home kits contain an ample amount of hair color, buying two ensures you’ll have enough product to coat every strand, regardless of your hair’s length, thickness, and texture. You don’t want to discover that you’re out of color in the middle of the application process!

Know Your Strengths

Not all dyes are the same strength, so knowing the difference in their staying power is important.

Semi-Permanent color lasts through 8-12 shampoos. These are the gentlest dyes, making them ideal for coloring fine hair, softly tinting grays and providing even coverage.

Demi-Permanent color lasts through 26-28 washes. Demi-permanent dyes color hair outside of the strand, coating it in color without permanently altering your natural hair. These are a great way to road test a new color without being tied down for good.

Permanent color will be there until the hair grows out. Permanents traditionally contain ammonia, which opens the hair’s cuticle, depositing color inside the strand—so there’s no going back on the color you choose. Many permanent dyes have been reformulated without ammonia or other harsh chemicals, in order to be more gentle while still providing lasting results.

Strong Is Better

The condition of your hair when you color it has a lot to do with how the color will last, and catching your hair in the perfect condition can be a bit tricky. Healthy hair always holds color the best, so as you’re approaching the big day, apply a moisturizing mask to ensure that hair is hydrated, resilient, and ready for color application. Living Proof’s Restore Treatment Mask always comes through in the clutch when my hair is in desperate need of hydration. It makes hair 20 times stronger after just one use, and works to protect hair from future damage. But most importantly, it makes my hair look like I just stepped out of the salon.

Masking isn’t only important before you color, it’s essential to replenish your hair’s strength after you color as well. Beauty writer Arabelle Sicardi stresses the importance of masks after lightening your hair. “I do a hair mask cocktail after I bleach it,” Sicardi explains, “Usually consisting of a protein mask (Arrojo has one) and a Kerastase mask, or whatever I’m testing at the time.” She notes that while protein hair products can be more difficult to find than moisture masks, protein is vital after any dramatic hair change.

Get Dirty

Conversely, hair color always takes better to hair that isn’t freshly washed. Your natural oils work as a barrier between the dye, which can irritate some people, and your scalp. Make sure hold off on shampooing at least 24 hours before you color.

Dirty hair is sexier anyway.

Photo: Getty Images

Cleansing Your Color

The sad truth is that every time you wash dyed hair, you’re stripping it of its color. After coloring, try to space out shampoos by a couple of days—two or three at least.

I’m not going to waste your time by telling you to use shampoos and conditioners specially designed for color treated hair, because that much is obvious. What I will tell you is that the game has changed: while there are a lot of great products out there for protecting your color, but you need to be using Purely Perfect Cleansing Crème.

This new product is ideal for all hair types. It combines aloe vera and essential oils like peppermint, sunflower, and primrose, without using any detergents, sulfates, or parabens. It’s the safest cleanser to use on your color-treated hair because its gentle formula won’t strip your hair of color and it causes virtually no fading, leaving your hair looking and feeling better than ever. It even takes the place of your conditioner. Purely Perfect is a true all-in-one.

Sun Protection

We talk so much about protecting skin when we’re out in the sun, but we forget that sun damages hair as well. Too much sun exposure can lead to brassiness in blondes, pull red tones out of darker hair, and cause discoloration for anyone.

The best way to avoid sun damage is just to cover up. Find a great sun hat or a vintage scarf to keep hair healthy and color vibrant—as if you needed another reason to accessorize.

Heat Styling

Half the fun of having beautifully colored hair is being able to style it, but be careful: one of the quickest ways to rob yourself of the color that you spent so much time and money achieving is to hit it with hot styling tools.

“Avoid heat styling too much,” Celebrity hair stylist Aura Friedman warns, “Any type of heat styling opens your cuticle and draws your color right out, especially flat ironing and curling irons. Always protect your hair before you dry it or before you use any heat.” She recommends a leave in conditioner from Shu Uemura’s Color Lustre line, saying it’s “a great protective barrier when heat styling.” The reason? The product burns off, keeping your hair from getting singed.

Think you’re ready to try it yourself? Here are some of the best at-home colors on the market right now:

If you want perfect color: eSalon

If you want color that’s totally customized to you—personalized almost to a level that you’d get in a salon—eSalon is the way to go. You begin by filling out a profile about your natural hair, its color, texture, how it takes to dye, whether or not its already color treated, and the color you’d like to achieve, and eSalon generates a number of options for you. And you can even—wait for it—talk to an actual colorist about any questions you have. Each color is custom blended to perfectly compliment your natural coloring, and to work with your lifestyle and how often you color your own hair.

If you want to nourish your hair (and avoid that hair dye smell): Madison Reed

Madison Reed wants to change the way you think about box color. It’s formulated with argan oil, keratin, and ginseng root to fortify, protect, and nourish your hair while it colors. What you won’t find in Madison Reed color is ammonia, harmful chemicals, or parabens. That means no foul smell or irritation, and less damage to your hair. They use a gentler coloring process involving smaller color molecules, which don’t open the hair cuticle the way that many permanent dyes do. This leaves your hair stronger, allowing it to hold color longer. The kit comes with everything you need for a no-mess, at-home dye job—including multiple pairs of gloves (one for application, one for the rinse #thoughtful), barrier cream, and cleansing wipes.

If you like things clean and simple: L’Oréal’s Superior Preference Mousse Absoloue

With all of the dyes, creams, bowls, and tools, coloring your own hair can be a messy process. L’Oréal redefines at-home color with their new system; the color and developer mix as they dispense into your hand, removing multiple steps from the coloring process, eliminating the mess, and allowing you to store the product for re-use and touch-ups.

Never again will unused product go to waste. Use the leftover color for root touch-ups, reglossing, or save it for your next recolor. The color mousse is very easy to work with—you won’t have to worry about dripping or running down into your eyes while it’s processing.

If you’re an old pro: Wella Colour Charm Permanent Haircolor

If you’re an at-home color veteran and you’re ready to upgrade from a box, Wella Colour Charm Permanent Haircolor puts the power in your hands, allowing you to customize the shade and strength of the color you’re using.

Alle Connell, Senior Beauty Editor of Daily Makeover swears by it, saying, “My best advice is to learn a little about how hair dye works before you start coloring. Just knowing what the numbers mean, the difference between permanent, semi-permanent and demi-permanent dyes and different developer strengths will aid you well; it gives you a way better idea of how your hair will turn out than staring at a box ever will.”

Photo: ImaxTree

Whether you’re enhancing your natural color or changing it completely, hair dye is nothing short of transformative. It doesn’t just change the way you look, it changes the way you feel. But if you color your hair yourself, you know that it comes with a whole host of problems—or it did until now.

That’s right: We’ve put together our ultimate list of hair-dye tips. These brilliant hacks are going to change your color-loving life and take your hair game to the next level, guaranteed.

1. Remove dye stains from skin.

Anyone living that bottle brunette life knows how annoying those dark dye stains left around your hairline and on your neck are. Sure, you could make a trip to the beauty supply store for those special makeup removing wipes—or you could mix a tablespoon of olive oil with a blob of whitening toothpaste, apply it to a cotton ball and rub away. Even the most tenacious dye stains don’t stand a chance against this gentle yet effective concoction.

2. Use the right developer.

You know how hair professionals are always telling you not to use box dye to make a major hair change? There’s a reason for that—and it’s because of the developer.

Developer is a totally crucial element in the hair coloring process. It comes in different strengths—usually referred to as “volumes”—which will tell you how much it can change your hair. Ten volume developer is the most gentle; it will let you deposit color only. Twenty volume developer will shift your hair one to two shades, while 30 volume developer will let you alter your hair 3 to 4 shades. You should never use anything stronger than this at home.

Box dyes come with developer and dye packaged together, but the developer is generally only 20 volume. This means that no matter what the color is on the box, you’ll only be able to make your hair one or two shades lighter (or darker) than its natural color. So if you have dark brown hair that you want to dye a sunny blonde, you’re going to end up with a muddy mess if you use a box. That weak sauce developer can only do so much!

Instead, if you’re looking to make a big change, get thee to a beauty supply store where you can buy dye and developer separately. This means that you’ll be able to get the developer strength that will actually work to give you your dream hair color. Bonus: the dyes sold in beauty supply stores are usually professional quality, which means you’ll also get a richer, longer-lasting color.

3. Get the right amount of product.

This is probably a little “duh,” but if you have hair longer than your shoulders (or if it’s very thick), make sure you have twice as much color on hand. Whether this means buying two boxes or mixing up a double batch of developer and dye, you just want to be sure you don’t run out halfway through. Having a half-dyed head is so not the look.

MORE: Eyeshadow Hacks That Will Change Your Life

4. Cover your roots…with makeup.

We’ve all been there: life gets so busy that you don’t have enough time to redo your color, and crazy visible roots are the result. To hide them temporarily, blend those suckers in with eyeshadow.

If your roots are darker than the rest of your hair (blondes, we see you), focus on softening the harsh line between your natural color and the dye. Take a powder eyeshadow the same shade as your roots and, using a fluffy, medium-sized eyeshadow brush, gently stroke the color about an inch out from your roots. This will help blend the two colors together in a really natural way.

If your roots are lighter—or a different shade—than your dyed hair, use a powdered eyeshadow the same color as your dye job. After styling your hair, gently brush the shadow anywhere that your roots are visible, making sure not to get too much color on your scalp or skin.

Once you’ve hidden or blended your roots, seal the shadow with a fine misting of light-hold hairspray. Your roots are neatly concealed, and will stay that way until you brush (or wash) the shadow out.

5. Metal is not your friend.

Using a metal bowl, mixing spoon or clips to hold back your dye-slathered hair? That’s a serious no-no. The metal and the developer can interact, causing the color to oxidize and change. In rare instances, this reaction can be so severe that hair breaks off—and nobody wants a chemical haircut. Use all-plastic everything when you’re coloring, and your hair will thank you.

6. DIY your own color-refreshing gloss.

Instead of buying an expensive color-refreshing gloss that might give your hair a weird tint, make your own quickly and easily. Mix a teaspoon of color with the corresponding amount of developer (this is usually a 1:1 ratio, but sometimes 1:2—check the instructions to be sure), then pour it into a plastic application bottle and mix with a big squirt of shampoo. Shake it up, then apply to damp hair. Let it sit for ten minutes, then rinse well and condition. Voila! Your color is perfectly refreshed.

7. The best home brow- and lash-dyeing advice…

Don’t. We’re serious: never ever under any circumstances should you do this yourself. Your eyes are so precious, and the risk of damaging them with chemicals is just too high. Go to a professional if you want this done.

MORE: The Best Deep Conditioning Treatment You’ve Never Tried

Home hair coloring tips

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