Home hair colouring 101.

{Or Home Hair Coloring 101 if you’re in The U.S.}

Now I know I’m not a hairdresser but this past year I’ve put my hair through the wringer. From dark brown to light brown, with reds, balayage ends, copper and pink thrown in, I’m now just desperate to get back to a natural colour and repair the damage I’ve done.

Perhaps unsurprisingly I’ve learned a lot more than I ever needed to know about colouring hair in the process. Well that and the fact that I’ve been colouring in some way or another for almost thirty years.

I’ve also learned that some people are incredibly fucking stupid.

Not stupid people. Just some celebs with good hair.

Doing my homework before dying my hair at home on the weekend I trawled through product review websites to see which brands deliver the best results.

But the reviews mean absolutely nothing when some of them include the following feedback:

  • My hair is black and I used light brown. It did nothing, don’t waste your money on this product. {So dumb I can’t even.}
  • It smells like rotten eggs, don’t use it. {I did, it does, but also works like it says it will.}
  • I used Warm Copper Brown on my mousey blonde hair and my hair turned out orange.
  • It was uneven and didn’t cover all my hair. {Yes, I face palmed too.}

Ok, folks:

hair colouring 101 time.
The facts:
  • all hair falls into one of three categories as to it’s tone: warm, cool, or neutral/natural.
  • about all those numbers on the boxes: 1 is at the darkest end of the spectrum with 10 being the lightest platinum blondes.
  • the first number on the pack represents the shade: generally speaking 1=black, 2 to 5= browns, 6=dark blonde, 7=medium blonde, 8- light blonde, and 9 to 10=very light blonde.
  • the next number or two will represent the tone, as in how warm or cool it is, and if any further tones have been added. With most brands the lighter the number the cooler the tone, with numbers like five and six being really warm red tones. For example: 1 will always mean that it has a cool tone and the word ash will usually be in the description {8.1 being a light ash blonde}, while numbers 3, 4, and higher will represent warm reds, coppers, and mahogany {5.45 being a warm dark chocolate brown}. Double numbers reflect an intense level of that shade, so 4.66 would be a vivid red based brown.
Paul Mitchell hair colour chart, courtesy of Google images.

Paul Mitchell hair colour chart, courtesy of Google images.

  • take a hint from the name: anything with warm or golden in the title will be orange or red based, while the words cool or ash will mean it has a gray or silver base. Words like chocolate, caramel, honey, in fact almost anything that can be used to describe food, is generally very warm.
  • you cannot go blonde at home unless you are a medium or dark blonde to start with. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.
  • home box dyes cannot replace the skill of your salon colourist, who will be able to blend colours to give you what you want. Box colours offer you the one colour, but if you’re confident you can mix them yourself. {Like I did one time when I wanted 6.1 and all they had was 8.0 and 4.15. The zero in the level 8 balanced out the warmth, or the 5 part of the 4.15.} Apparently you can also hang on to the leftover colour for next time but that’s one I’ve not tried yet.
  • they will usually come out darker than you want, so if you want a brown shade I’d recommend starting with a shade at least one shade lighter. For example, on the weekend after stripping all dye from my hair I was left with a light copper brown with a lot of warmth {i.e. orange tones}. I wanted to tone down the orange with a semi permanent colour and I wanted to get back to a light to medium brown. So I used dark blonde 7.0. It did exactly what I wanted and left me with a medium brown with lighter brown where I had been pre-lightened in the past. I obviously didn’t want to go blonde but if I had used the level five or six that looked like what I wanted I would have ended up way too dark.
Ginger nut after colour strippping...

Ginger nut after colour strippping…

  • temporary colours last about a week depending on how often you shampoo, semi permanent will last about a month, and both will fade away or wash out.
  • permanent colours will cover greys as well as any lighter colour, whether it’s natural or dyed with a semi or temporary colour. They will cover a permanent colour if it is lighter, but the result will be darker than what is shown on the box due to colour build up. Those fucking before and after colour panels on the back of the box are based on virgin uncoloured hair not on your dyed-twenty-different-colours-in-two-years strands.

Application tips:
  • if it’s your first time colouring at home ask a friend to help, preferably someone who knows what they are doing.
  • expect mess and plan accordingly.
  • make sure to clean up any dye from your face, neck, and ears as soon as all colour has been applied.
  • sectioning your hair will help to get even coverage.
  • if you go all professional and use a tinting brush make sure you apply the colour close to the root line and not on your scalp.
  • I use regular latex gloves that are a snugger fit and easier to work with than the ones supplied in the box.
  • DO NOT be clever and leave the colour on longer than stated. Just don’t.
  • I like to use an intense conditioner or treatment after colouring to help prevent damage.

the obvious:

If you really think you’re going to mess it up and you can’t find a friend to help then it’s better to either stick to a salon or try a temporary colour.

If all you want to do is enhance your natural colour or add some richer tones and you’re not sure which kind of colour or shade you need speak to the people in the store or call up the brand itself to make sure you have the right colour.

If you want to get all dramatic and go fire engine red or try some at home ombre then please make sure you get the right advice first. Call the help number on the box or even pop into a friendly salon to make sure you get it right.

Again, if you’re anything darker than dark blonde don’t even think of going lighter at home. Blonde is such a complicated and skilled process, and if a good colourist tells you it will take a few months to get you lighter then why would you think you can do it AT HOME, UNTRAINED, and BY YOURSELF in one go?????

to sum UP:

If you are just looking to add some punk fun to your hair then I suggest you grab a tub or two of Manic Panic temporary colour and have some fun. If you look after it you can get a couple of weeks, I paid mine little attention and the pink had almost all faded after a week. {I have heard that the Dare brand of temporary colours last a lot longer before washing out completely.} Dark hair will work with the darker jewel tones but even a medium brown will show up pinks and reds. If you’re blonde or light already then you can go to town and I am very jealous of you for that.

One week rinses are a great way to add some highlights and shine to your hair with little commitment, and semi permanents will help to cover greys as well.

Keep in mind colour build up, and if all you need to do is touch up greys then leave the ends til next time. Continually applying medium to dark colours over each other every time will gradually just keep getting your hair darker each time.

I definitely recommend JoBaz Max Strength colour remover to strip all permanent colour from your hair. It’s not a bleach or a lightener, how it works is it allows the colour molecules in permanent colours to be shrunk, loosened, and washed out of your hair. It will not remove temporary or semi colours. If your hair has been pre-lightened in the last year or two it will take it back to that colour, otherwise it will get you back to what nature gave you. Beware you are likely to have a lot of warmth. Tone with a semi colour and let your hair rest for a few weeks before doing anything else to it. For more info click HERE.

And at the end of the day remember, it’s only hair. Live a little.



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