Whether you’re looking to refresh your current colour without stepping into a salon or have always been curious about at-home colouring systems, using box hair dye has its advantages. It cuts down on time, saves money and, above all, it’s rewarding. Who doesn’t want to take credit for their own fabulous colour?

But in order to get the best (and most professional-looking results), it’s always a good idea to get advice from the pros before getting started. Below, everything you need to know about sharpening your at-home colouring skills.

Choose the right product

When you’re at the drugstore, refer to the chart on the box to make sure you’re choosing the right shade for your hair. Use your current colour as a guide to ensure that the final result lives up to your expectations. Pro tip: if your hair length is past your jaw, make sure to buy two boxes so you have enough product to saturate your entire head. If you run out of dye, the result is likely to be uneven.

If you want to become a brunette – or if you want to maintain your current brown colour – look for a dye that removes buildup both on the surface and inside the hair shaft. ”Properly priming our hair before colouring makes a huge difference to the uniformity, dimension and shine of the final result,” says Carin Freidag, senior manager of global retail hair education at Clairol. The new Clairol Nice’n Easy Pure Brunettes at-home colour range contains a chelating agent to get rid of the any mineral residue that has accumulated on hair fibres for a better-looking – and better-feeling – end result.

Prep & protect

Don’t skip this crucial (and often neglected) step before embarking on a at-home-hair-colouring adventure: the famous allergy test. “Our body chemistry changes every 48 hours, says Carin Freidag, Senior Manager, Global Retail Hair Education at Clairol. “Even if you’ve been using the same hair colour kits for years, apply a small amount of the product to the inside of the wrist to check you’re not having a reaction,” she says.

Use a full strand of hair at the back of your head to check how quickly the colour develops. On very fine or porous hair, the colour is likely to develop more quickly, meaning you’ll need to rinse it out a few minutes before the suggested application time. If you have a lot of grey hair or have textured hair, you may need to leave the dye on for another ten minutes or so.

Accidents happen in the blink of an eye, so wear clothes that you don’t mind ruining before applying the dye. To prevent stains on the skin, apply a moisturizing cream or petroleum jelly on the back of the neck, forehead and ears. Finally, put on gloves and line up all the tools you’ll need in front of you: a dye bowl (this allows for better control than the bottle usually supplied in the box), an application brush, a wide-tooth comb, hair clips (to divide your hair into precise sections) and two or three small towels to clean up any mess.

Impeccable application

Divide the hair into four equal sections, then start applying the colour one zone at a time, starting at the roots and working gradually up to the ends. Our neck and shoulders emit a lot of heat which can speed up the development process, so it’s best to start with the top sections. Make sure you have a mirror in front and behind you to completely saturate the back of your head and ensure even coverage.

After the application time – whether it’s the time indicated on the box or the time required according to the strand test – rinse the product out under a warm shower until the water runs clear. To ensure shine and softness and prolong the life of the colour, make sure to coat the lengths with the conditioner tube included in the box. Avoid washing the hair for the first 48 hours after colouring to allow the colour to set completely.

Follow-up care

Don’t skimp on maintenance. To prolong the life of your freshly coloured hair for as long as possible, opt for shampoo and conditioner that is specially designed for coloured hair.

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