How to Color Your Hair At Home

I am going to get the disclaimers out-of-the-way at the beginning.  I am not a professional hairdresser.  I am not saying that you should stop going to your hairdresser and start doing everything yourself.  I am not saying that the way that I do this is THE way to color your hair at home.  All I am doing is giving you an idea of what you are in for if you do choose to color your hair yourself and perhaps give you the benefit of my fifteen years, on and off, of experience doing so by myself in the privacy of my own home.

If you have never colored your hair before, either in a salon or at home, here are my lists of “Don’t”s and “Do”s:


  1. Don’t make a huge change the first go round or really anytime at home.  No going platinum blonde from deep brunette, no fiery red from blonde.  Just choose a color that is close to your natural color with in a few shades for your first run and with more experience you can go a little more dramatic.  I am serious people.  In all of the years that I worked in salons the biggest money was spent on a color at home gone bad because the person wanted too much of a change too quickly.  If you have black hair and you want to be a blonde this is going to take some time and you definitely should not be doing it at home.  Go to a professional.
  2. Do not use a permanent hair color your first time.  You want to use a semi-permanent color or color that will wash out over a number of washes.  That way if you do choose the wrong color you aren’t stuck with it until your hair grows out.  Read the label on the color.  Semi-permanent will wash out after a few weeks or 4-6 shampoos.  Demi-permanent will last you a bit longer and Permanent is exactly what it says.  Most times you will have to wait for your hair to grow out to completely get rid of the color.
  3. For the love of all that is holy do not try to do highlights by yourself!  I know they look simple, but placement and volume are key with highlights and most of the time you are going to get that all wrong.  Let a stylist do this please.


  1. Consult your stylist.  If you regularly see a hair stylist you will want to talk to them before doing this.  Look at it this way, they are going to know you did something when they see you and will assume that you either did it yourself, or that you went to another hairdresser.  Either way they will be hurt that you were not honest with them up front and if they think you went to someone else that is just a slap in the face.  Will they try to talk you out of it?  Of course, but if you are honest with them upfront you won’t have to hang your head in shame if you mess up and need their help fixing the problem.  Coloring your hair can be pricey in a salon, but you are paying them for their years of expertise and skill.  A great colorist is well worth the money.  I don’t have the income to support my salon habit at the present moment, so I do this myself.  If I did have the money I would be on a plane back to California to see my Stylist Antonio so quick, it would make your head spin!
  2. Try before you buy.  There are tons of websites out there that can help you pick a color.  Two of my absolute favorites are:, this site is great for not only trying on hair color, but hair styles and makeup too.  Is it 100% accurate?  No, but is it better to find out you can’t pull off being a blonde before you have actually applied the bleach?  YES!  Use their virtual makeover tool just once and you will be hooked., This site will help you find a shade that is appropriate based upon your natural color.  It also contains links to video of how to apply that color.
  3. Pick the application process that is right for you.  If you go to the local beauty supply chances are you aren’t going to find boxes of Féria®, or Garnier® on the shelves.  You are going to find color cream, which comes in tubes, and liquid color that comes in bottles.  If you are a newbie I suggest you go to your local Drug or Grocery Store and head toward the beauty isle.  That is where you will find boxes with beautiful women with perfect color on the packaging.  Pick your color carefully.  If they have a cream version, that will be easier to apply than a liquid color.  I haven’t tried the new foam colors, but I have been told that they are very easy to apply as well.
  4. Always follow the instructions.  Read that little pamphlet that comes in the box carefully.  Test a small portion on your skin to make sure that you are not going to have an allergic reaction.  You don’t want to apply your color only to feel like its burning your scalp off.

Now onto the how of my process.

These are some of my supplies:

  • Mixing bowl (labeled with oz. markings to make mixing easier)
  • fine tooth comb with pick (useful for separating hair into sections)
  • wide tooth comb with pick
  • Variety of clips (to section my hair and help keep it up and out-of-the-way till I am ready for it.)
  • wide hair color brush (for regular application)
  • small hair color brush (for touch up application and hair-line)
  • mixing whisk (metallic whisks can only be used with some colors and will react poorly with other colors)
  • plastic spoon (Plastic may not look as pretty and will retain some of the dye on its surface, but will not react with most colors)
  • gloves (A MUST!)

Not pictured:

  • old towels (to place around the sink and on the floor to keep the area from getting stained.)
  • timer (I use my phone)
  • paper towels (you can wet them and use them to wipe off the color from your skin or surface areas to prevent staining)
  • color : I am using two, 2 oz. cream color tubes and 4 oz. of cream 20 volume developer.  Most bottles and tubes will state which developer to use and how much.  Always read your instructions!

Before you apply:

Coffee Zombie

Oh how pretty I am the first thing in the morning.  YIKES!  Anyway, you want to start with dry unwashed hair. (UNLESS your instructions tell you differently.)  The oils from your scalp will protect it from the chemicals in the color to a certain extent hence why you don’t want to start with dry, freshly washed hair.  Also, wear something you don’t mind getting stained.  I suggest if you have a pullover shirt instead of button up you make sure you can get it off once your hair is piled up on your head and covered in color.  If you want you can purchase a tube or tub of hair color protecting gel or cream for your skin and apply that to the areas around your ears and next to your hairline to keep from staining.  I have also had hairdressers use Vaseline in a pinch.  You can also drape a towel around you neck if you are worried about staining your skin.  You can use a chip clip to hold the two sides together in the front.

Next you want to get section your hair into manageable portions.  Most boxes of hair color will tell you to do three sections, but I always do way more.  This will make the process go much faster for you.  I usually do two sections on each side of my head and three sections in the back leaving the last section on the bottom free as I will be starting with that.  I am not applying a first time color so my application process may differ from yours.  I start in the back on the bottom and work my way up.  If you are applying all over color the first time you may be asked to start on the top of your head in the center.  Once again, ALWAYS follow your instructions.  (I know, broken record, right?)


Next I put on my lovely gloves and mix my color in my bowl.  You don’t want to mix your color too early as there is a finite processing time.  Meaning, if you mix your color too early, by the time you finish applying it the color may have stopped being viable and will leave your hair looking spotty.


I start my application process in the back.  I apply my color about 3/4″ from the roots and pull it down my hair. I don’t start at my roots right away because I am applying a very bright red and sometimes that can cause a “hot root” situation.  Let me explain hot roots, because the rest of my hair already has color on it I apply there first then apply to my new growth area so that the color looks even and not super bright at the roots and darker at the ends.  Otherwise it might look like my scalp is on fire and that is an obvious color mistake.  Make sense?

Once my color is applied to through to my ends, I ensure that it will be even by combing it through with my wide tooth comb then use my gloved hands to press the strands together.  Then, I move on to the next section up.  I apply the color to the roots of the last section and start the new section at its underside, adding the color underneath of the section of hair and pulling it down towards the ends of my hair.  Next, I move to the top side of that section and start 3/4″ down from the root and apply the color pulling it towards the end of my hair.  I follow this pattern until I am done with the back side of my head.

Once again after each section is complete I pull the color through with my wide toothed comb then follow by pressing the sections together with my gloved hands.  With the back done I move on to the sides and alternate sides with each section to ensure even coverage and color.

You want to work quickly, but with an emphasis on even coverage and neatness.  You don’t want to be splashing color around like your Jackson Pollock.  Try to keep the color off of your skin if you can.

Once you have finished applying the color to your entire head you want to check and make sure you haven’t missed any.  Use two mirrors if you have to, or have a loved one give you the all clear, but check to make sure you have achieved total coverage.

Get your wet hair up off of your face and neck for it to process.  A good clip will work perfectly.  Once your hair is up and out to the way you can do some spot cleaning of your skin with a paper towel and some warm water.  This is also a good time to check your hairline and behind your ears for any spots you may have missed with your color.  Follow your instructions as to processing times.

Once your color is done processing you want to rinse it out of your hair.  Don’t use super hot water for this; warm water will suffice.  Once you water runs clear you have two options.  You can either apply a little conditioner or a conditioning treatment and then dry or you can use a really good color protecting shampoo and condition then dry.  I always use a color protecting shampoo and conditioner.  To each his own.

Full even coverage and no hot roots! Hooray!

Dry your hair and check your color.  In the summer time or anytime you spend a good deal of time in the sun it is best to use a UV blocking spray or cream on your hair and that goes double for colored hair, especially Red colors.  Red is the hardest color to maintain.  It doesn’t stay as vibrant as long as other colors and fades quickly, but if you don’t wash your hair with hot water,  you do use color protecting creams and shampoos and thermal protectants you can slow the process.  Treat you hair as you would your skin and you will be rewarded.

I hope this tutorial gave you some insight into the pros and cons of coloring your own hair and gave you some useful tips and tricks as well.  If you have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate to ask.  And if you are in the Southern California Beach Cities and need a good stylist I know the BEST!  Hit me up and I’ll give you his info.  😀

Have a great day and Happy Coloring!


7 thoughts on “How to Color Your Hair At Home

  1. Oh my gosh! This is a very very good how to article. I for one always color my hair at home and this taught me some stuff i can do differently. I also love the color you chose and it looks great.

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  4. Awesome article! I’ve gotta question, too..
    “I apply there first, then apply to my new growth area so that the color looks even and not super bright at the roots and darker at the ends.”
    Do you leave the color on longer at the ends? Or you just add the color to your ends and do all the roots last, then leave it all in the same length of time? I’ve always dyed my hair dark brown and never had hot roots. Going darker jewel tone red soon, so I don’t want the hot root scenario happening..

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