At-Home Hair Color: How Not To Mess It Up

03_CleoBennettHairDyeingSteps_100Photographed by Winnie Au.
At-home hair color: Terrifying, right? Well, not necessarily, says James Corbett, Clairol color director and founder of James Corbett Studio in NYC. But, it is important to make sure you know the rules before embarking on a DIY color sesh. Read on for the pro colorist's top tips, and we promise you'll never end up with orange strands again.
When it comes to picking a hair-color formula, says Corbett, it's important to check out the ingredient list on the side of the box. Says the colorist: "Ammonia is a necessary ingredient to achieve certain colors, lighten the hair, or to get the maximum gray penetration you need." For intense color payoff, Corbett recommends a line like Nice 'N Easy — but, if you're looking for a more subtle color change, you can choose an ammonia-free color.
Corbett compares doing at-home hair color to following a baking recipe: Timing is everything (and no, you can't wing it). As a general rule, non-permanent hair color should only be left on for about 10 minutes; permanent will need a full 25 minutes to process. Nervous about how much time you'll need to get your desired effect? Try a strand test on a piece of hair at the base of your neck. It'll let you know how long you need before you take the risk on your whole head.
So, now that you've gotten the nitty-gritty, on to the fun part: trying out your DIY colorist skills! For lighter shades of hair, Corbett recommends trying out "shadow pieces" (his fancy term for lowlights). "Choose a shade to two shades darker than your current shade," he says. "Then, isolate a few strands, and paint through the hair with a mascara wand." This technique will add dimension to your current shade — ladies with darker hair can add reddish or darker brown pieces for a similar effect.
And, finally, Corbett warns against the one no-no of at-home hair color: super-drastic changes. Says the colorist: "If you have black or dark brown hair, never apply a blonde shade to your hair at home and think that it will take you light in one step! Doing this won't give you your desired results — and fixing it in the salon will require some serious time and effort." Stay within two to three shades of your natural hair color and you'll be golden (or brunette, or red).


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