Hair Coloring Tips

Read these 38 Hair Coloring Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Hair tips and hundreds of other topics.

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I am trying to switch from permanent coloring done at salon to henna which I'll do from home. I need to know if this is healthier for my hair as I'll be living in the beach.

Safely Coloring Hair At Home

Deciding to take your hair coloring out of the salon and into your bathroom at home can be a big step. To avoid hair color disasters follow these steps for coloring your hair at home.

First you must find out what color your stylist has been using. Chances are she's not going to want to give up the formula so you may have to be sneaky here. Instead of asking her what she uses, which may raise suspicions, ask something like, “I get a lot of compliments on my hair and they ask what shade it is. What color would you say my hair is?” or something along those lines. Now listen closely for the words that will describe the tone and the base so you'll know what to use when coloring hair at home.

For example, if your stylist says it's a golden brown then you know you'll be looking for a product that says something light or medium golden brown. Words like ash blonde will mean you'll be looking for a blonde that has an ash undertone and no red tones in it. If you can't get the scoop from your stylist try going to a drug store that has small color swatches (pieces of colored hair) with the boxes of color. Match your hair color as closely as possible to the swatch and buy the corresponding color.

When coloring hair at home always use a good quality, reputable product. Henna is not a good option. Though many people like the idea of henna because of its natural properties, it is an unstable product and the results cannot be guaranteed. Worse yet, hair that has henna in it cannot be colored over if the results are not pretty. Instead the hair must grow out or be chemically stripped, which can be very damaging.

What if I cannot find a semi-permanent color I like?

Semi or Demi-Colors

Many times you want to blend gray or just give your hair some life without using a strong permanent hair color however, when you go to the store, you can't find any of the semi or demi-permanent colors that you like. Here is a good tip: find a permanent color you like that is in a kit. The peroxide that is in there is almost always 20volume (that is the strength used for permanent colors).

In order to create a long-lasting semi or demi-color, you can dilute the peroxide with distilled water to make it 10volume. Here is how: The instructions call for two ounces of developer which is supplied to be mixed with the color. Pour out one ounce of the developer and mix it with one ounce of distilled water (This will dilute the developer to 10volume, which will only deposit color). At this strength it cannot lift any of your natural color and will give you a good long-lasting color.

What's the difference between home hair color kits and a professional hair color?

Home Hair Color Kits vs. Professional Hair Color

There is a big difference between home hair color kits versus professional hair color. You'll get more choices with professional hair colors and greater variety in the strength of developers. Home hair color kits are aimed more at covering gray and only offer one to two levels of lightening. If you're a brunette who wants to be a blonde, for example, that'll usually require about 5 levels of lightening. Wants some advice on hair color? It's not always wise to do it yourself. Unless you're a semi-pro yourself, you probably can't do the highlighting a professional stylist can, apply the low lights, or apply different shades creatively. The money you pay a professional stylist is payment for his or her time, expertise in application, and knowledge of style. Get your money's worth. As a rule of thumb, if you are using a home hair color kit, don't color hair more than two shades past what your current color is.

What is a quick fix for color that is grown out?

A Quick Color Touch-Up Trick

*Here's a quick color touch-up trick for those who might be ready for a color touch-up and have an important event coming up before being able to get one. If you have light hair, take a dry facial powder that is close to the color of your hair and, with a make up brush, apply this right on the root area in the part. For those of you who have dark hair, use some mascara or eyebrow pencil and apply it right at the part (this will temporarily cover up the new growth and camouflage it so your hair color will not appear in need of tint).

What can I do? My hair is too light.

Reverse Frosting

Sometimes, after having highlighted hair touched up several times, it begins to look too light. This can be a problem. Have no fear, however, there's a solution: Reverse frosting.

In order to reverse frost your hair you pull the hair through a frosting cap and apply a semi or permanent color that is close to your natural color. This will break up the too-light hair and still allow it to be a highlighting for the darker hair and will keep you from having to have it completely tinted back before re-doing your highlighting.

I like to color my hair red but it fades quickly. What can I do?

Red Hair Color

Red is a fabulous hair color and also the one that fades the fastest. Red is a fun shade but requires a fair amount of upkeep. How can you avoid the frenzy over fading? Choose a hue with a touch of brown, which penetrates hair better.

Try using a color-extending shampoo. Before you take the plunge to red, however, let your colorist assess your skin tone, eye color, and natural hair color to mix up the best hair color shade for you.

How do I keep my red hair red?

Keeping Red Hair Red

It is common for tinted red hair to fade fairly easily (usually because permanent hair tints do not have a great deal of color pigment in them). Want to know a secret about keeping red hair red? If you want to maintain a nice color in between tints, use a red colored shampoo.

Aura makes red colored shampoo called Madder Root Shampoo (companies like Wella, Loreal, Clairol and others also make shampoos that are made expressly for use on color treated hair).

*These shampoos are mild and will not strip out color.

Can I get a perm after I color my hair?

Hair Color and Perm

Of course you can get a perm after you color your hair. A perm formulated especially for color treated hair can complement your color with magnificent body, texture, and fullness.

As your new hair color grows out, use color enhancing conditioners to help blend root areas. Take care of your hair color and your perm by using a gentle shampoo created specifically for color-treated hair. Shampoo gently: Rough shampooing can dry out your hair or strip color. Pick an intensive conditioner and use it regularly to restore vital moisture and luster to your new hair color.

*If you're hitting the beach, treat your hair to a leave-in conditioner that contains sunscreen to protect against color fade.

Can I cover up brassiness without coloring?

Coloring Shampoos

When light hair or hair that has been highlighted begins to grow out, it often becomes brassy and dull. Many times you don't want to re-color it or, in the case of naturally blonde hair, maybe just don't want the chemicals on your head.

Try coloring shampoos with violet or purple bases. A very good one is Clairol's Shimmering Lights and another one is Simply Silver from Nexxus. Aura makes one called "Blue Malva" which is also good. These shampoos work on the principle that blue neutralizes yellow, and purple neutralizes gold. In other words, if your hair is yellowish or brassy these will neutralize that.

Be careful, if your hair is dry and porous, to dilute it a bit first and do not use it more than twice a week as it can give some blue casts. These shampoos are a good way to keep light hair looking nice without a color touch up.

What can I do for a color change?


When wanting a nice color change, highlighting or "frosting" can give nice results. Whether pulled through a cap, done with foil, or painted on, the effects can range from subtle to as dramatic as you wish and you are not changing your overall color.

*This technique is excellent for blending gray.

How can I get a non-brassy bleach?

Bleaching or Highlighting Without Being Brassy

Want to know about bleaching or highlighting without being brassy? One of the greatest developments in highlighting products lately is Clairol's BW Creme Ultra Drabbing Lightener. It has a violet base that will neutralize or "drab" (if you will) any unwanted brassy tones.

This creme bleach is excellent for on the scalp bleaching as well as being able to be used for frostings and highlighting. It is available in supply stores that sell to the public or you can ask your hairstylist to use it.

What is new in color? How can I do it?

High Impact Color

The latest color term will be "high impact" and it will be creeping into the terminology in salons and magazines. What this means is that hair color for the current season will be bright and bold and have more obvious differences of color on one head.

Currently coppers are the "in" color and they are often highlighted with bold light copper blondes and golden colors. These colors are easier to achieve than you may think:

1. Use the darker color of red or brown for your all-over color using a semi-permanent color that will gradually fade out.

2. After the color is done, shampoo, dry, and pull the hair through a frosting cap, applying your lighter color after.

*You may not even have to bleach first if your hair is light brown or lighter. However, remember to be brave and use colors that are vibrant and obviously contrasting for a new look.

I have gray hair. And the last few months my hair has had such a brassy yellowish color--not all over but mostly in the front of my hair. I bought a shampoo to help with this problem but it really isn't doing the trick. Can you advise me? ThanksBarb

Keeping Gray Hair from Yellowing

KMS and Nexxus make wonderful shampoos for gray hair to keep it from looking yellow and brassy. The trick is to lather up twice; once to clean your hair, and the second time, leave the shampoo in your hair for about five minutes. This allows the product to remove yellow tones. Next, before you style and dry your hair, apply about three cap fulls of Fanciful temporary color in White Minx. It has been a favorite for years due to its ability to bring out the brightness of gray hair. Remember, all these products will look PURPLE. They're supposed to; it's the chemical that brightens gray hair. Another great product is VO-5 smoother/conditioner for gray hair. Use only a dime-sized amount on dry hair to make your gray hair bright and manageable. If you smoke or swim in chlorinated pools, your gray hair will really be a challenge to keep bright.

How can I fight fading hair color?

Fight Fading Hair Color

Many people who have hair coloring say that the color often fades out before it is time to have it touched up. Don't let this happen to you—fight fading hair color!

A very good solution is to use a color shampoo. Reds fade especially quickly, so use a shampoo for red hair. Browns tend to lose vibrancy before a touch up, so you can use a shampoo for brown hair.

A very good color shampoo that is reasonable and can be found in most supply stores that sell to the public is Aura. They have color shampoo for blondes, brunettes, and red hair. It is only about $4 per 16 ounce bottle and is very good at keeping colored hair vibrant and fresh looking between colors.

How can I choose the proper color?

Choosing Proper Color

I hate to break it to you but what you see isn't always what you get. Choosing proper color for your hair by looking at swatches can be tricky!

When choosing a hair color, remember that color swatches are done on bleached, synthetic hair. On natural, human hair a tint will always appear approximately one shade darker than the color swatch. Find the shade that you like and use one shade lighter to achieve a natural look.

What corrective colors are available?

Corrective Color

Correcting undesired tones or colors in the hair is a basic as the color wheel itself. Red neutralizes green or ashiness (and vice-versa), blue neutralizes yellow (and vice-versa), purple or violet neutralizes orange (and vice-versa). Some corrective color solutions are as follows:

• If your hair is too red, use an ash color that has a green base.
• Too orange or brassy? Use a violet or purple based color.

Each company's color tells what its base color is to make it easier for you. If you are not sure and are doing your own hair color, most beauty supply stores have trained sales people who can help to guide you through the process of choosing the correct color.

Is ammonia in some hair colors bad for my hair? Or bad for me?

Ammonia in Hair Color

Ammonia gets a bad rap. In small concentrations, ammonia is not toxic to the body and is necessary for some colors to cover gray or lighten the hair.

Permanent hair color can open the hair shaft with either ammonia or monoethanolamine (a chemical with an odorless fume). Before putting this in your hair, know the facts:

• In large concentrations, it can be toxic

• Monoethanolamine doesn't cover gray or lighten hair as much as ammonia can

• Monoethanolamine color may be better if your hair fades quickly and is extremely porous or damaged, but it still depends on the brand

• Some ammonia hair colors can be extremely conditioning depending on the other ingredients in the hair color such as natural oils

How many types of hair color are there?

Types of Hair Color

Before you take the plunge and dye your hair Outrageous Cherry, you might want to experiment a bit with a form of hair color that's not permanent. Hair colors come in five types:

• Temporary hair color lasts from one shampoo to the next and is deposited on the outside of the hair shaft

• Semi-temporary hair color lasts from 4-6 shampoos. It usually does not contain ammonia and doesn't have a developer

• Demi-permanent hair color usually contains little or no ammonia and uses a low peroxide developer—the color lasts about 6 weeks and gradually fades back to the natural shade

• Semi-Permanent hair color usually contains some ammonia and uses a developer of 10 to 20 vol.

• Permanent hair color formulas change the natural hair color and require maintenance to new hair growth after 4 to 6 weeks—that means touching up those roots!

What hair color is good for a conservative man?

Hair Color for the Conservative Man

Especially in high-powered business situations, it is true that first impressions last. For any man who wants to look just a bit younger without changing his overall hair color, a semi-permanent color that closely matches his natural hair color can give depth and definition to a style without changing his looks drastically.

Good hair color for the conservative man can be found at most drug stores. Just for Men and Clairol for Men are two over-the-counter colors I'd recommend.

*The trick is to choose a men's hair color that is very close to the natural color.

Should I have permanent or semi-permanent color?

Permanent or Semi-Permanent Color?

Permanent or semi-permanent color? Confused about the difference?

Semi-permanent hair colors do not penetrate deeply into the hair shaft and only last only about two to four weeks (depending on how often one shampoos) and can give the user the ability to change colors or modify colors readily. Also, if unwanted tones such as brassy or ashy tones appear, these can give a good corrective color without further damaging the hair.

A permanent color is for those people who are sure of the color they want and realize that it will need to be touched up at the regrowth in about four weeks. This product is carried deeply into the hair shaft by use of a developer and will usually not fade as fast.

What should I know about coloring my hair at home?

Home Hair Color

Most American women who want to cover gray, sport a new look or simply brighten up their appearance and color their hair at home. You can get the same good results as going to a salon by using home hair color if you follow a few simple rules:

1. Stick close to your natural shade. Color only one to two shades lighter or darker than your natural hair color. Staying within your natural shade range minimizes the chance of mistakes.

2. If you have your heart set on being blonde, head to the salon. Lightening dark hair is tricky. It takes expert technique to get good results.

3. Do the patch test, even if you've been coloring for years. Allergies to hair color chemicals can develop at any time. Follow the patch test instructions for your hair color product every time you color your hair. It'll take a bit longer, but will save you from ending up with an itchy rash or burned scalp.

How does color blend with gray?

Blending Gray

Generally when we notice gray hair, the rest of our hair is beginning to become dull and lose its color some. No worries, blending gray hair is possible.

A very good coloring technique is to have the hair tinted back to a color just slightly lighter than the natural and then have soft highlights added throughout the hair to give texture as well as make the color more natural looking.

Why doesn't my new hair color look like the color I picked out in the book?

Hair Color and Pigment

You may not believe this, but your hair is a mix of 3 colors: the primary colors red, yellow, and blue. Orange, green and violet are secondary colors and, these colors directly opposite each other on the color wheel negate each other.

If your hair is an orange color, blue will make it black/brown. If you hair has a yellow tone, violet will cancel it out. The best advice on hair color is to determine your hair's underlying pigment (the hair's natural color).

*Keep in mind that you may pick what you consider your perfect color from a swatch book, but it may not turn out that color because of your hair's underlying pigment.

Why does tinted red hair fade quickly?

Tinted Red Hair Fades Quickly

Often it is true that tinted red hair fades quickly. For the most part, permanent colors are activated by a developer (such as peroxide) in varying strengths and the chemical process is such that color is lifted slightly before the tint can penetrate. There is not always enough pigment in these tints to penetrate deeply enough in the allotted time.

Pigment is what gives the hair its color and permanent colors are not formulated with as much pigment as semi-permanent colors because of the penetrating action. Semi-permanent colors have more of a staining process because they are not meant to penetrate as deeply. Also, the condition of the hair plays a major role in the fading of tints.

Run a strand of hair between your thumb and forefinger. If you feel little bumps, that means the outer layer or cuticle is raised. This layer is the protective layer for the hair and helps to protect the inner layers as well as to keep the hair's natural chemicals inside the hair shaft. Products that are called "finishing rinses" are designed to work on this layer and this will help keep the color from fading as fast.

*Wella, Clairol, Aura, Aveda, Paul Mitchell, and several others make shampoos and conditioners especially for color treated hair.

How can a man color his moustache and sideburns?

Coloring Mustaches and Sideburns for Men

Facial hair on men is very resistant to color and often times we want to cover gray or unwanted tones in our beards and side burns. There are very good, inexpensive products on the market that do an excellent job.

Coloring moustaches and sideburns for men can be tricky—don't let it be. There are many good products available. Just for Men and Clairol Moustache and Sideburn Color are two I'd recommend. I can tell you that these products do not sting the skin or irritate the eyes as much as the professional products in a salon and they give very good results.

How to color as I mature?

Hair Color as we Mature

As we mature our entire bodies change and one of the most visible is our hair color. hair color as we mature fades. Most of us don't want to look older and so we either tint our own hair or have it tinted to a color we had many years before—this is not a wise decision.

As our skin tones change, darker or brighter blonde hair can make us look harsher. It is wise to color to a softer color. If your hair is dark, lighten it just a shade or so to cover gray. If your hair is blonde then soften it to a lighter, but less brilliant shade—this will minimize the contrast of hair color against the skin and create a more delicate, less noticeable contrast.

Are progressive dyes dangerous?

Progressive Hair Color

Progressive dyes deposit more color every time you use them. The color builds and builds. Be aware, however, that some progressive dyes may contain lead and other toxic metals and can become dangerous if you intend to perm or relax your colored hair.

You may run the risk of your hair melting away if the perm reacts with the metals in your colored hair. To be safe, use a special perm formulated for color-treated hair. Best advice: Go to a salon and have it done professionally.

What type of hair color product is henna?

Hair Color: Henna

Henna is a semi-permanent, botanical hair color product that comes in red tones. Some companies use metals, oxidative dyes, or other plant pigments such as indigo, madder root, turmeric, or walnut to alter the shade of the henna.

Pick your henna shade wisely, because metals can be extremely toxic. Henna usually comes in powder form and is mixed with water, coffee, or black tea. It's applied to dry hair as a paste.

*Depending on the effect you desire, the processing time varies from 15 minutes to several hours with a cap and heat so bring a book.

How can I frame my face with curly hair?

Facial Framing Highlights for Curly Hair

For those women who have naturally curly hair or permanents, a great deal of benefit can come from having the hair around the face colored just a shade or two lighter than the rest.

Facial framing hair highlights for curly hair soften the shading on the face and give interesting effects to the texture of the style. Having these highlights will allow you to pull down strands around the face and not have unwanted shadows cast upon the face.

What is the difference between tints,dyes,semi-perm,rinses?

Tints, Dyes, Semi-Permanent, Rinses

Many people are confused by the terms hairstylists use for color products so here's a tip: "dye" is no longer used. One dyes clothes, but tints and dyes are the same thing. They are permanent colors mixed with a developer to penetrate the hair and stay.

Usually, when the new growth reappears, one tints the hair again. Semi-permanent or the new demi-permanent colors are those that either have no developer or a developer that is very low in strength and does not penetrate the hair shaft as deeply. These colors fade out gradually and are retouched once the color has faded enough for the desired effect to be lost.

Rinses are only temporary and are water soluble. They are used to tone down unwanted shades in one's natural hair color and often rub off with brushing or rubbing one's head on the pillow at night while sleeping. They only coat the hair slightly.

What can I do if my hair color doesn´t cover anymore?

Hair Color not Covering Anymore

Often a person has used the same hair color formula for several years without any problems, and then it begins to not look the same. Hair color not covering anymore?

As our bodies change so does our hair and one's base color changes dramatically sometimes. Especially with gray, you have to use a hair color that is recommended for coverage on gray hair.

*L'Oreal's color for gray coverage is Excellence and Clairol's is Gray Buster. If in doubt, always consult a hair stylist.

What can I do if the color won´t hold?

Color Won't Hold in Previously High-Lift Colored Hair

Color won't hold in previously high-lift colored hair. Why mot? There are a couple of factors here.

The main factor is that so much of the color pigment has been removed by the high-lift tints that a filler (or staining product) must be used prior to tinting. The next problem is probably the condition of the hair. If the hair is in poor condition it is weak and the cuticle or outer layer is open so that nothing can remain inside the hair shaft where permanent color needs to penetrate and stay—it is vital to see a professional when this occurs.

Should I be concerned about the chemicals in hair color?

Chemicals in Hair Color

Many hairstylists become chemically sensitive because they are exposed regularly to chemicals and fumes. People who color their own hair can have the same problem. Some people are more sensitive than others, but repeated exposure to certain chemicals in hair color may cause nausea, rashes, itchy scalp, hair loss, and flaking scalp.

All hair colors are different and affect people differently. Some colors contain synthetic ingredients and toxic or allergenic ingredients in large quantities. Read the label and research the ingredients if you tend to be sensitive.

*Understanding the types of hair color available and their ingredients will help you avoid a hair color that is not healthy for you.

How do I choose a color for someone older?

Choosing a Complimentary Color

In general, as we age, our skin tone changes as well as the color of our hair. Even if we are not getting gray yet, our hair begins to lose some color. In order to pick a tint color that is becoming, it is best to go lighter as we get older.

Choosing a complimentary color isn't difficult—go lighter (this is more softening to the skin tone and less contrasting). Even on white hair, a very attractive effect is created by tinting the hair a very light blonde. This gives the effect of blonde hair, but does not look harsh or unnatural.

How will I know if I´ll like the hair color?

Try on Color

Many times someone may want to change hair colors, but does not know how it will look. Here is a very good tip to finding out what will look good on you: Go to a wig shop and try on wigs of the color you think you might like to try.

Some stores have wigs made especially for trying on that are sterilized so they aren't unhealthy. Trying on a wig can give you a good idea of how you will look.

How can I condition and color in one step?

Condition and Color in One Step

A very good conditioning hair color that has been around for centuries is henna. First used in Egyptian times, it is a vegetable dye that will give your hair a wonderful shine as well as color. Most of us think of henna as having a red look to it however, there are henna products on the market in a variety of colors. One that is most well known is Hennalucent. Here is a tip for you:

Buy the regular henna and, instead of using hot water that is suggested, use liquids such as grape juice, red wine, or strong boiled coffee to mix the product. Each of these liquids, as long as it is very hot, will impart its base color into the henna and you will have beautiful color and conditioning at the end of the time recommended.

The secret is that henna products have a staining action and also gently coats the outer layer of the hair to keep the cuticle laying flat and thereby allowing the hair to shine (it can condition and color in one step).

*Be sure not to use too often. Usually about six weeks is recommended between colors.

How can I give my color a boost?

Color Lift for Guys

Guys, sometimes we too want to have a lift in our color. Want to know a great color lift for guys? Here's a good tip:

Apply a lighter hair color that is one or two shades lighter than your own in streaks just to the top of the head. Or, if you are not comfortable with your own work, have a stylist do this. This look allows you to put some slightly lighter color in the top of the head where it shows and will comb in and blend with the rest of the hair. It takes a short time and can be redone when you feel a need to update it.

How can I reduce the mess of hair coloring?

Mess Free Home Hair Coloring

No one can completely avoid the mess of home hair coloring, but thankfully some measures can be taken to keep the dye in your hair and off your bathroom surfaces.

Before beginning the hair coloring process, it is a good idea to prepare the area where you plan to dye your hair. This means covering anything you do not want to match your new hairdo. Use an old sheet or a painting drop cloth to protect the floor and a worn towel to cover any nearby fixtures or countertops. No one plans to spill or splatter the dye, but unfortunately, accidents do happen. Also prepare a non-permeable surface where you can place all of your tools (gooey gloves, dye bottle, and comb). An old magazine or shoe box lid works well for this.

Not only do you want to prevent the dye from staining your bathroom surfaces, you also want to keep it off of your skin and clothes. An old long-sleeved t-shirt works well to keep your arms free of splotches. To prevent the dye from spotting your forehead and neck, apply a gentle lotion to the skin around your hairline prior to dying. The lotion will make it more difficult for the dye to stick to your skin and, as a result, easier for you to wash clean after dying. Do not forget to remove all jewelry before you begin dying your hair. Nothing spoils a diamond like dark hair dye.

After applying the dye and waiting the suggested amount of time for the dye to set, you will need to rinse it from your hair. Be sure to do this in the shower and not under the sink faucet. This will contain the splatter. In the shower, the running water will dilute the dye sufficiently enough that it does not stain the bathtub. If you notice, however, that it has splattered up on the walls of your shower, be sure to wipe the spots away as soon as you notice them. Otherwise, they will dry and stain your walls.

If after all this preparation and care you have still managed to muck up your bathroom with dye, the mess can usually be cleaned with white vinegar. If vinegar, however, is not strong enough, magic erasers work extremely well.

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