At-Home Hair Color: How To Think Out Of The Box

Photographed by Winnie Au.
Even with all the advances in at-home hair color, not many of us are willing to, well, step out of the box and explore our options. Seems simple enough to block out some time, secure the area, and apply as instructed. But, what if you could get creative and get more out of your at-home hair color? Something like Salon Quality Advanced Hair Color: The Home Game.
We turned to three of the top colorists in their field — James Corbett, color director for Clairol and owner of the James Corbett Studio; Rachel Bodt, colorist for Cutler/Redken Salons; and Justin Jensen, colorist for Sally Hershberger Downtown — on how to get some interesting results using hair color you can buy at the drugstore. They, in turn, delivered some fun tips on how to get some pretty rad results from these boxed products.
Whether you're just trying to cover your grays, amp your natural color or you need a serious change, here are expert tips straight from the stylist's chair on how not to get boxed in.
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Photo: Courtesy of
The Basics
Let's talk basics before you get all creative up in there. "I always recommend coloring the hair around your hairline last, as those baby hairs tends to grab dark pigment more readily," says Bodt, who also advises applying Vaseline around your hairline to prevent stains. "If you get a stain, rub a little bit of the jelly into the stain to remove it." Learn something new every day, right?
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Photo: Courtesy of Clairol.
Dare To Go Darker
"If you are going all over darker, I always recommend buying two boxes of hair color: one with the desired color for your roots and the other one up to two levels lighter for your ends," advises Bodt. "This helps provide even results since your ends are more porous and grab color more quickly. We've all seen the lady on the train with almost jet black ends that don’t match her roots."
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Photo: Courtesy of L'Oreal Paris USA.
Create Your Own Rinse
What to do with the leftover color? Create your own gloss treatment. Jensen advises running the remainder of the product through your wet hair once you've rinsed your roots. "Leave it on for three minutes, then shampoo for shine and dimension." Since not all women are candidates for the strong developer in permanent hair color, Jensen advises using a semi-permanent gloss.
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Photo: Courtesy of Clairol.
Play With Dimension and Texture
Corbett is into the texture that can be achieved with DIY color treatments. "Texture is such a big trend in hair color, like with Jennifer Lawrence's hair," he says. "It's more than just highlights. It can be done with any hair color. If you're not necessarily going darker, just use a non-ammonia based color." Corbett advises painting a few strands in a warmer color than your base to add texture and dimension. "It's easier for darker or warmer tones, because there's no risk of bleeding," he enthuses.
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Photo: Courtesy of L'Oreal Paris USA.
Give New Life to One-Note Color 
"If you have one color/single-process color in your hair and want to add interest, buy an at home ombré kit," says Bodt, who adds that you won't go full ombre unless that's your desired result. "First apply the all-over color. Then, while it's processing, pick select pieces starting at your cheekbones and brush the lighter color on your ends for added sparkle and to remove the color build-up. Color always looks better slightly darker at the roots and softer on the ends, anyway."
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Photo: Courtesy of John Frieda.
Liven It Up 
"If your hair is feeling dull, do a semi-permanent glaze," says Bodt. "(It) creates lots of shine and more tone. Glazes are also great if you do a lot of styling to your hair, which can dry you out and leave the hair cuticle open. A glaze forces the cuticle down, which creates shine and adds luster back to your hair."
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