The Pro's Guide to Coloring Your Hair at Home

Here's how to touch up your hair at home without having major regrets.

By Aimee Simeon

All over the world, people are practicing social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19. For most, it's proving to be challenging in ways we didn't expect, including our beauty routines. Sure, removing our own gels and waxing at home isn't as timely or pressing as most of the issues facing the world at large, but it can help restore some dignity and a sense of routine to people who feel upended by the changes around them. If there's one beauty treatment that's especially intimidating, though, it's hair color.

"It's best to leave big color changes to the professionals," says Nikki Lee, Garnier Celebrity Hair Colorist. "You don't want to try new colors and techniques at home just because you're bored." While some salons have resumed offering services with restrictions, some people still feel safer sitting out close-contact services. That being said, successfully using toning gloss, root touch-up, or even a temporary color mask for Halloween is totally possible with the right tips and tools.

"Before attempting to color your hair at home, it's important that you understand what color your hair is," Lee says. "Are you a medium, warm brown? Or maybe a light, cool blonde?" She recommends paying close attention to color guides on product websites and at-home boxes to match your natural color. Plan to grab two boxes if your hair is super thick or long and, regardless, always do a patch test on a small, bottom section of hair before doing the full job.

Still nervous? For extra clarity around your color and formula choice, Lee suggests checking in with your hairdresser. "Call your colorist and talk to them honestly about what your goal is," Lee says. "This will help to avoid color correction later." Keep scrolling for more pro tips, plus the products that make it easy, ahead.


Good For: Toning brassy hair, softening old highlights, and reviving faded color

What It Does: Think of at-home gloss like a topcoat for your hair. A clear gloss smooths hair and adds tons of shine, while a tinted gloss tones, brightens, or darkens existing color to make it look refreshed. 

For example, if your blonde highlights are looking more brassy than bright, applying a cool-toned tinted gloss will neutralize warm tones. On the other hand, if your dark hair is looking dull or red, a gloss can make it look richer. Gloss is also great for subtly darkening old, summer highlights, just pick a shade that matches your natural color. 

How To Use It: "Apply gloss in the shower and comb through for even distribution," says celebrity colorist Kari Hill, who works out of L.A.'s trendy MèCHE Salon. To prevent staining around your neck and hairline, Hill recommends applying petroleum jelly or lip balm to create a barrier. "If stains occur, use an eye makeup remover on a cotton round to gently remove."

dpHUE Color Boosting Gloss + Deep Conditioning Treatment

Consider this dpHUE formula the ultimate color reviver without all the guesswork. The gloss comes in 11 shades to tone platinum to dark red hair. Even better, the deep conditioning treatment hydrates your strands while perfecting your color — without adding an extra step to your routine.


Root Touch-Up

Good For: Regrowth of any kind

What It Does: Whether you want to disguise color regrowth or grays, Lee says that a root touch-up kit is your best bet. "If you can get your color match right, then the process should be fairly easy," she says. "The biggest mistake made with at-home hair coloring is choosing a shade you want to have rather than what you do have." 

How To Use It: Once you have your color choice locked down and your patch test is finished, Hill suggests starting at your hairline. "Once you've applied as far as you can see or reach, use a wide-tooth comb to loosely break up the line of demarcation."

Now's the time to enlist a friend to do the back. When it comes to rinsing, you have two options. First, comb the color down, through your lengths, and let it sit for a few minutes before washing with lukewarm water for an all-over color refresh. Or, if you want to avoid the color covering your highlights, rinse quickly with very cold water to prevent the color from grabbing onto your lengths.

dpHUE Root Touch-up Kit

This kit, which comes in seven different shades, is ideal for covering grays. The straightforward applicator and ammonia-free formula makes it easy to mix, apply, and rinse.


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