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What can you achieve with a home hair dye? And what can’t you?
Home hair dying is not the time to attempt full colour transformations, or techniques that need a professional’s guiding hand, such as bleaching, balayage, or ombre. Instead, look to it to cover greys, touch-up roots, or tone your existing hair/colour. (That said, we know some of you will absolutely take to bleaching, so we’ve included the best options below).
Preparing to dye your hair
Ahead of colouring, it’s wise to apply a moisturising hair mask if possible, to help keep your locks in good nick. When selecting a colour, pick a colour one shade lighter than what you like in the picture - it will usually turn out as you want, and hair that is too dark is a nightmare to colour correct.
Whatever colour you choose, ensure you do a skin test 24 hours in advance (the box will contain instructions) to ensure you are not allergic - if you’ve skipped this step in the past, don’t, as PPD allergies are potentially fatal and can develop at any stage of life.
Dyeing your hair
When it comes to colouring, make sure you follow the box instructions assiduously. Start where your hair is greyest (if it is) and cover your roots twice as much as the lengths. If you have someone else cohabiting with you, ask for their help - especially for the back of your head.
We asked a selection of testers to trial different market leading hair dyes over several months. The ones that didn’t make the cut have been excluded. Here are the products that impressed.
The absolute gold standard for home hair-dying is Josh Wood - who is famed for his work as a colourist, and has brightened the barnets of many an A-lister at his London-based salon. But we’re not endorsing his home dyes for his celebrity connections, we’re endorsing them because they’re awfully good.
His range consists of 12 hues, from lightest blonde to deepest brown, and each of the colours is salon-grade, ammonia-free, and gently on your tresses. They’re a cinch to use and don’t damage your hair the way many permanent home-dyes do. Our tester used the deep-mid blonde permanent dye and found it clung beautifully and covered her greys, leaving a shiny finish. Pricier than other home dyes, yes, but one that works well.
If you’re after a less permanent switch up, we’ve trialled - and love - the Josh Wood Colour Gloss.
Last summer we used the Copper Gold atop our salon-balayaged hair and lack-lustre blonde was given a new lease of life with shimmering copper tones, a lick of flame in the sunlight, that we found improved the quality of our hair and retained colour for about five weeks.
If the £19 price tag makes you wince - we got two uses out of our 100ml tube, making it value for money.
So you’re going to lighten your hair at home: this is the product to do it with. Designed to provide what it calls ‘anti-breakage bonding technology’ Bleach will lighten your hair up to six shades, an impressive job if you’re lightening at home.
Our tester had curly hair, a type usually susceptible to breakage and damage when lightening. Nevertheless, she reported on how it maintained the strength and integrity of her hair, while still lightening swiftly and effectively, from dark brown to something closer to honey-blonde.
We will say - as with any bleached hair - make sure you tone it, and utilise a good after-care conditioner to help it from becoming brittle. Our favourite is Evo Fabuloso Colour Intensifying Conditioner Platinum Blonde, which is brilliant at transforming brittle, colour-stripped hair into something soft and pliable.
There’s very little PurePlex doesn’t do well. Our tester noted there was no colour fade over 4 weeks use - an impressive longevity for a home dye. Easy to apply, it leaves hair well-conditioned - no brittleness, and it doesn’t have a hint of ammonia to it’s scent.
Colour results err towards the natural side, though have a pleasing vibrancy, making hair look a shade or two darker, covering greys, and pleasantly shiny.
John Frieda is lovely if you’re looking for hair dye that’s easy to apply - no gloopy cream in sight, instead an easily handled, thick foam that makes for full coverage and helps you avoid any irritating forehead stains.
Our tester loved how it totally covered her greys, and noted the colour was true to the box, and lasted for the four weeks she was monitoring. Results are also lovely and glossy, rather than flat.
This isn’t a permanent colour, but if you’re blonde, or have lightened your hair and want to take it somewhere outré, Bleach’s Super Cool range is amazing.
Our tester - a brunette who bleaches her hair regularly - has used Super Cool to reimagine herself with vivid blue, green, hot pink, and rich purple hair. In each instance the colour pay off was vibrant and head-turning, glossy, and lasted for at least three weeks ahead of fading.
Can’t be beaten if you want to make a colour statement.
Prior to dyeing, we recommend treating your hair with this cult product, which will do a fabulous job of strengthening your hair ahead of you applying chemicals to it.
It enters the hair level to revitalise and regenerate dry, damaged strands that have been broken due to chemical, thermal and mechanical effects. We use ours after dye treatments, too, to help keep our locks strong and lustrous.
Want to seal in colour and shine? This is how you do it.
An in-shower treatment - no sitting around with a damp, cold head - this gloss comes in five shades, and does a superlative job of nourishing each strand on your head, enhancing the colour and boosting shine.