Fifty one percent of women do it and 33 percent of those do it at home. What is it? They color their hair!
Covering gray is hardly the only reason; most women who choose a new hue go blonde or red. The brunette brigade, getting all the fashion attention this year, is adding highlights or shimmery tones and lowlights to their hair.
The best part: If you want to spark up your style, make dull tresses shine, lift your spirits or simply make a change, you can do it at home, avoiding the expense and inconvenience of salon color. Just follow this simple guide.
Choosing A Hair Color
There are two things you need to know before choosing a haircolor: the type of product you want and the specific shade. It's the latter that's most limiting when it comes to home haircolor. Home haircolor products are either semi-permanent, demi-permanent (also called tone-on-tone) or permanent.
The first lasts 6 to 12 shampoos, while the latter lasts months, although it will fade somewhat. Tone-on-tone colors are made to last 12 to 24 shampoos. However, these categories represent manufacturer's intent; individual circumstances can vary.
For instance, if your hair is very light in color, semi-permanent color will last lots longer—in fact, it may never fade 100 percent.
If you're in the sun a great deal, shampoo frequently, work out daily and perspire, or if you choose a red shade, tone-on-tone colors won't last as long and permanent color will lose its original luster faster.
When you choose a specific shade, consider your natural color and the results you want. If you want to go lighter, only a permanent color can give you what you want. I
n general, home permanent haircolor only lightens a few "levels," so if you are dark brunette and want to be a true blonde, home haircolor is not the way to go.
If you want to go darker, it's lots easier, but keep in mind that if your hair is permed or porous, it will grab color fast, so you're safer choosing a shade a bit lighter than what you want the end result to be.
Always check the charts on the back of boxes to locate your natural color and the results a specific shade will give you. If you're covering gray, results will be slightly lighter than shown on the box.
Now, consider what will look good with your skin tone. A good rule of thumb to follow: if your skin has a pink or blue-based undertone, stick with ash or cool shades; if your skin has a yellow undertone, stick with warm shades.
How can you tell? Get a pink scarf and an orange one and cover your head with each as you look in the mirror. It'll be obvious which looks best on you.
When you see a color you like, you might be tempted to color your hair impulsively; don't. Take your time and look at every shade.
Steps to Prep
For the best results at home, get hair in tip top condition for color before you apply it. Think of it as prepping a canvas to take on paint. Instead of rushing home and coloring your hair before a night out, take at least two weeks to deep condition your hair.
Snip off any dry, overly porous ends. The better shape your hair is in, the better your new color will look. If your hair is damaged, your color results will be uneven and you won't be happy with your new look.
If your hair is permed, don't even think of coloring it within two weeks of the perm; if it is relaxed, do not use a permanent color! Afraid of making a mistake?
Do a test strand on a section of hair behind your ear or underneath the nape and wait 24 more hours. This will also tell you if you have any allergic reactions to the product.
The Big Day
Shampoo your hair the day before coloring to remove any product build up that could interfere with color. You may or may not wish to shampoo immediately before coloring; doing so may cause scalp sensitivity. Also, most salons color hair when it is dry to get more even results.
Slip on gloves and an old, button-down shirt that you don't mind getting stained. It's also a good idea to have a color remover on hand, to wipe off any color stains around your hairline or ears. (They're available at beauty supply stores; a good one is Clairol's Color Remover.)
Cover any surfaces you are afraid of staining with plastic wrap and move throw rugs away from the sink. Rinsing at a stainless steel sink is the best way to avoid staining tubs, shower curtains and porous surfaces.
Now that you're ready, follow directions inside the box to the letter. Read them completely before you begin to avoid any mishaps. Use a timer, but if you should feel any burning or scalp irritation at any time, rinse out the color immediately.
Hair Coloring Tools - For more tips on gathering your hair color tools.
After Color Care
If you took your time and followed directions completely, you should have a great new color you love. Keep it looking great with color-protecting shampoos and conditioners, products that contain sunscreen and a little TLC. Your color will last longer, and you'll save money on frequent retouches.
If you don't like the results, don't fret. Wait a day or two to see if you adjust to the change. If you don't, call salons in your area and ask if they specialize in color correction. Avoid using a color remover on hair yourself, unless it's an emergency.
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Original Publication: 10/1/1999 - Revised Publication: 01/11/10
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