The Pro’s Guide To Coloring Your Hair At Home

All over the world, people are practicing social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19. For most, it's proving to be challenging in ways we didn't expect, including our beauty routines. Sure, removing our own gels and waxing at home isn't as timely or pressing as most of the issues facing the world at large, but it can help restore some dignity and a sense of routine to people who feel upended by the changes around them. If there's one beauty treatment that's especially intimidating, though, it's hair color.

"It's best to leave big color changes to the professionals," says Nikki Lee, Garnier Celebrity Hair Colorist. "You don't want to try new colors and techniques at home just because you're bored." While some salons have resumed offering services with restrictions, some people still feel safer sitting out close-contact services. That being said, successfully using toning gloss, root touch-up, or even a temporary color mask for Halloween is totally possible with the right tips and tools.


"Before attempting to color your hair at home, it's important that you understand what color your hair is," Lee says. "Are you a medium, warm brown? Or maybe a light, cool blonde?" She recommends paying close attention to color guides on product websites and at-home boxes to match your natural color. Plan to grab two boxes if your hair is super thick or long and, regardless, always do a patch test on a small, bottom section of hair before doing the full job.

Still nervous? For extra clarity around your color and formula choice, Lee suggests checking in with your hairdresser. "Call your colorist and talk to them honestly about what your goal is," Lee says. "This will help to avoid color correction later." Keep scrolling for more pro tips, plus the products that make it easy, ahead.

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Good For: Toning brassy hair, softening old highlights, and reviving faded color

What It Does: Think of at-home gloss like a topcoat for your hair. A clear gloss smooths hair and adds tons of shine, while a tinted gloss tones, brightens, or darkens existing color to make it look refreshed.

For example, if your blonde highlights are looking more brassy than bright, applying a cool-toned tinted gloss will neutralize warm tones. On the other hand, if your dark hair is looking dull or red, a gloss can make it look richer. Gloss is also great for subtly darkening old, summer highlights, just pick a shade that matches your natural color.

How To Use It: "Apply gloss in the shower and comb through for even distribution," says celebrity colorist Kari Hill, who works out of L.A.'s trendy MèCHE Salon. To prevent staining around your neck and hairline, Hill recommends applying petroleum jelly or lip balm to create a barrier. "If stains occur, use an eye makeup remover on a cotton round to gently remove."

Kristin Ess Signature Hair Gloss

This two-step system from hair pro Kristen Ess is super easy to mix up and apply at home, all in under 30 minutes. It comes in eight versatile shades, like Chocolate Cosmo (which warms up red or brown hair) or Smoky Topaz (which cools off brassy highlights).
Kristin Ess Kristin Ess Signature Hair Gloss, $14.00 Buy

Madison Reed Color Reviving Gloss

Madison Reed's formula is just as convenient because there's no mixing necessary. Choose between the eight colors, which range from vibrant red to bright blonde to rich espresso, and apply in the shower to reveal a boost of color and shine.
Madison Reed Madison Reed Color Reviving Gloss, $25.00 Buy

Rita Hazan True Color Ultimate Shine Gloss

Celebrity colorist Rita Hazan created a foam gloss that comes in five, no-frills shades to enhance your color in the time it takes to shower. According to Hazan, even Beyoncé uses the Breaking Brass shade when she wants a cooler blonde tone.
Rita Hazan Rita Hazan True Color Ultimate Shine Gloss, $26.00 Buy

DpHue Color Boosting Gloss + Deep Conditioning Treatment

Consider this DpHue formula the ultimate color reviver without all the guesswork. The gloss comes in 11 shades to tone platinum to dark red hair. Even better, the deep conditioning treatment hydrates your strands while perfecting your color — without adding an extra step to your routine.
dpHUE dpHUE Color Boosting Gloss + Deep Conditioning Treatment, $35.00 Buy

Root Touch-Up

Good For: Regrowth of any kind

What It Does: Whether you want to disguise color regrowth or grays, Lee says that a root touch-up kit is your best bet. "If you can get your color match right, then the process should be fairly easy," she says. "The biggest mistake made with at-home hair coloring is choosing a shade you want to have rather than what you do have."

How To Use It: Once you have your color choice locked down and your patch test is finished, Hill suggests starting at your hairline. "Once you've applied as far as you can see or reach, use a wide-tooth comb to loosely break up the line of demarcation."

Now's the time to enlist a friend to do the back. When it comes to rinsing, you have two options. First, comb the color down, through your lengths, and let it sit for a few minutes before washing with lukewarm water for an all-over color refresh. Or, if you want to avoid the color covering your highlights, rinse quickly with very cold water to prevent the color from grabbing onto your lengths.

DpHue Root Touch-up Kit

This kit, which comes in five different shades, is ideal for covering grays. The straightforward applicator and ammonia-free formula makes it easy to mix, apply, and rinse.
dpHUE Root Touch-up Kit, $30.00 Buy

Revlon Root Erase Touch Up

One of the downsides of at-home hair color is the mess. Luckily, this root touch-up kit comes with an innovative pump that deposits a mixture of formula and developer directly on your roots.
Revlon Revlon Root Erase Hair Color and Root Touch Up, $5.29 Buy

Clairol Nice 'N Easy Root Touch-Up

This cult-favorite kit has more than 20,000 reviews on It comes in 27 shades that are easy to mix and apply for long-lasting results.
Clairol Clairol Nice 'N Easy Root Touch-Up, $7.99 Buy

Temporary Color Mask

Color masks make it easy to temporarily test out new hues without permanently compromising your natural shade. With color masks, pigment won't penetrate your strands; instead, Lee explains, it'll give you a boost of color between appointments. In many color masks, you'll also find conditioning ingredients to nourish your hair while you tint it. On dark hair, a color mask will give your strands a light wash of pigment. On pre-lightened hair, a color mask has a better chance of appearing more bold.

Moroccanoil Color Depositing Mask

This one by Moroccanoil is half-mask, half-temporary color. Leave it on your hair for five to seven minutes, depending on how rich you want the pigment to show up.
Moroccanoil Color Depositing Mask, $28.00 Buy

Joico Color Intensity Color Butter

If you're already blonde and want to switch things up temporarily for Halloween, try this color butter by Joico. It's functional and fun and will soften color-treated hair while depositing a pop of fun color like navy blue, red, or pink.
Joico Joico Hair Color Intensity Purple Color Butter, $20.00 $12.99 Buy

Overtone Chocolate Brown Coloring Conditioner

A scoop of this color-depositing mask will add chocolate-brown tones to your hair that'll rinse off in a few washes. The color payoff is intense, so we don't recommend going into this one without gloves (and bathtub cleaner) on hand.
Overtone Chocolate Brown Coloring Conditioner, $29.00 Buy

Splat One Wash Temporary Dye

While most temporary hair dyes rinse out after a few shampoos, this one from Splat disappears within one rinse. The vegan formula temporarily coats your hair in vibrant colors like Frankenstein green or mango orange, but doesn't penetrate the shaft, making it easy to wash out right after your upcoming Halloween zoom party.
Splat 1 Wash Temporary Dye (Eclectic Green), $8.99 Buy

Permanent Hair Color

Good For: Single-tone, all-over color

What It Does: All-over color is strong enough to cover hair, from root to tip, in one application. However, it's very important to note that going darker is way more foolproof than going lighter, so save your blonde ambitions for your colorist or you'll risk uneven, orange-toned results.

How To Use It: When applying color all over, Hill recommends dividing your hair into quarters and working with small sections for even coverage. Believe it or not, it's very easy to miss an entire section, so now is when you really will need a friend.

"I would start with the two quarters at the front of your head," Hill notes. "Work your way towards the back, so that color can evenly absorb." At the end of the day, getting every last strand saturated is key, so double check your work before processing.

Color & Co. Custom Hair Color

Picking your shade is one of the hardest parts, so why not try a custom color service?
Fill out Color & Co.'s quiz about your hair history, length, and goals, and its team of experts will create a custom color and ship it to your doorstep.
Color & Co. Color & Co Custom Hair Color, $26.90 Buy

eSalon Custom Hair Color Set

This option from eSalon is similar. Expect a quiz with tons of color examples that the team uses to design and ship your perfect hair color.
e salon Custom Hair Color Set, $27.50 Buy

Garnier Nutrisse Ultra Color Nourishing Hair Color Creme

This cult-classic formula from Garnier comes in 19 neutral and vivid shades that deliver a potent hit of color.

Garnier Nutrisse Ultra Color Garnier Nutrisse Ultra Color Nourishing Color Creme, $7.99 Buy
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