Tips for dyeing your hair at home

Hair colouring at home

Dyeing your hair at home is tempting. It usually saves money and it’s on your timeline. But we have a few hints and tips, the first of which is: don’t only rely on the box instructions! To really have salon-looking colour, you need to do a bit of research first. We’re here to answer all your frequently asked questions. From how to do a skin test before colouring your hair, to how to avoid staining your bathroom. 

In this guide, we share our top tips for dyeing your hair in the comfort of your own home, ensuring your hair looks fabulous.

Safety first

If you’ve not dyed your hair at home before, or if you are planning to use a dye which is new to you, we highly recommend doing a skin patch test well in advance. 

The instructions on the box usually only talk about a strand test. We recommend you combine a strand and a skin test. Testing the dye on your skin will let you know if you’re likely to have a reaction or any irritation, without the discomfort of applying it on your full head.

How to do a skin test before colouring hair

The skin test, or patch test, can also serve to see if you like the colour. You can do this on the same day as you plan to dye your hair, but it should be done several hours before full colouring. Depending on the time between testing and colouring, you may need to buy two colour kits.

Tie or pin up the majority of your hair leaving a small strand behind your ear. Apply the made-up hair dye to the strand, following the box instructions. Ensure you dab a little of the dye directly onto the skin behind your ear. Leave it on for the full length of time according to the instructions unless you are experiencing irritation or burning, in which case it should be washed off immediately.

Following the test, you will know if you like the colour and if your skin is happy.

Being prepared

Make sure you have to hand:

  • Enough dye: If you have hair beyond shoulder length, or particularly thick hair, you may need two boxes. You don’t want to run out midway!
  • Wipes: Make-up removing wipes or baby wipes are brilliant for removing hair dye from the skin.
  • Disposable shower cap: Great for covering your hair as it colours.
  • Old towels 
  • Handheld mirror
  • Comb
  • Latex-free disposable gloves: These are usually supplied with the kit, but you tend to only get one pair. Two pairs make it easier: one for applying the dye, then another for washing out the dye. If you are touching up roots then we find it much easier to have three pairs so that you can simply dispose of one mid-way.
  • Lip balm or Vaseline: see why below.

Ok, you’re all set, so let’s dive into the top tips for dyeing your hair at home.

1. The last wash

We’re often asked if you can wash your hair and then dye it. Most home hair dyeing kits are designed to be used on not-freshly washed hair. We recommend you don’t wash your hair on the day you plan to colour it. However, the day before is fine. Most dyes are designed for application on dry hair.

2. Clothing and towels

Your skin is more forgiving to removing staining than clothes and furniture. As such, a nude top-half covered with an old towel is usually the best attire. Secure the towel around your shoulders using a large clasp hair-clip or bull dog clip. It won’t be your best look, but it’s practical! An alternative is to keep an old bathrobe just for hair colouring. Use another old towel as a surface to lay out and prepare the contents of the box, as well as a comb, handheld mirror, and everything else you need.

3. Protecting your skin

It’s impossible to completely prevent the hair dye touching your skin around your forehead and neck. It should wipe off easily. However, you can protect it quite well by using a lip balm or applying Vaseline along your hairline, taking particular care to apply it around your ears.

4. Stop the squeeze

Nearly all home hair dye kits tell you to squeeze from the bottle directly into your hair. This makes good and even coverage very difficult. Instead, we recommend one of two options.

Firstly, you can squeeze from the bottle into your hand, rub them together and apply to your hair, repeating until you’ve fully covered your hair.

Alternatively, you can be more professional about it and squirt the dye into a bowl and apply with a colouring brush in the way the experts do.

And don’t be tempted to become a home chemist and mix shades – that way, disaster lies!

5. Roots first, top first

Think about your natural hair growth and shading. Always apply to your roots (starting with your parting) and top layers of your hair first. Ensuring these areas get most coverage will lead to longer lasting colour and more natural coverage overall. Use a comb to ensure the dye is spread evenly. You can use clips to divide sections of your hair if it is easier. Use a handheld mirror to help you see the back of your head to ensure even coverage.

6. Timing matters!

We know it’s tempting to paint your nails whilst you’re waiting for your hair to be done. But don’t do anything that will distract you or leave you unable to wash out the colour when it’s ready. Know how long to leave colour on your hair by following the box instructions. We recommend using a timer.

7. Use a shower cap

Whilst the dye is developing, covering your head with a disposable shower cap ensures the dye won’t end up anywhere else. Don’t be tempted to tie it up out of the way as this can lead to uneven colour. When you wash out your hair, lean well over your bath, and wipe any splashes of dye off quickly.

Getting it right

If you follow the instructions on the box combined with the tips above, all should go well. However, if you want to start again, you’ll need to know how to strip the colour from your hair. There are lots of at-home recommendations for stripping the colour from your hair ranging from anti-dandruff shampoo to baking soda and vinegar. We actually recommend you call in the professionals.

At home doesn’t have to be DIY!

If home hair colouring seems too complex, or too much like high-school chemistry, then you can still have home hair colouring, but done by the Secret Spa professionals. This will ensure salon-glorious hair in the comfort of your own home.