How to Color and Dye Your Own Hair and Save Money

Updated on November 1, 2019
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A true DIY enthusiast, Shasta enjoys everything from coloring her own hair to taking on repair projects around the house.

Advantages of Coloring Your Own Hair

There are several advantages to dyeing your own hair.

  • You save money since it is much cheaper than going to a salon.
  • You don't have to wait for an opening in the schedule for a hair appointment.
  • You don't have to plan your day around the appointment.
  • You can dye your hair anytime you want. (This is especially useful if you have young children at home. You can dye your hair while they are sleeping without having to make arrangements for their care.)

Best of all, do it right and nobody has to know you dye your hair!


Buying the Hair Dye

The first step in coloring your hair is buying the hair dye. There are many different brands to choose from, such as L'Oreal, Revlon, Clairol, and Garnier, but the brand-name ones all basically do the same thing. Find one at a price you like that has the color you like.

I have tried many different brands, and they all have their pros and cons. None of them stood out significantly from the others.

Types of Hair Dye

There are several different kinds of hair dye. There are temporary products that will let you color your hair for a short time, but will wash out in the first wash. This is great if you want your hair to be some wild color for a party.

The other kind is semi-permanent. This kind lasts about twelve shampoos, which means it will wash out before you can see noticeable roots. Most experts recommend this type for general coloring. It has fewer harsh chemicals since it doesn't lighten your hair. It covers the old color with a different color, so it is best when you are darkening your hair color.

The last kind is permanent. It stays on permanently. This does mean that your roots will wind up a different color as they grow out. You can touch up the roots if you want though. It works better if you want to lighten your hair. Hair dye, particularly the permanent kind, is really not good for your hair, so you may want to find a product that does not use ammonia.

Choosing a Color

It is best to get a hair color that is one or two shades lighter or darker than your original hair color. While some people are able to make drastic changes and look just fine, others have found that their hair turned purple or orange or some other shade they were not expecting. It might be best to let a salon handle bigger changes.

The color of the hair dye will vary depending on the color of your hair. The color of the hair of the woman on the front of the package may not be the color you will get when you buy that box. Look on the side of the box, that shows you the before and after results, so you can be sure you are getting the shade you want.

Getting the Necessary Supplies

Be sure to read the label of the box to see what it includes. If you buy a box like Revlon or Clairol, they generally have everything you need to dye your hair. If you buy it at a salon or a store that sells salon products, you may need to purchase a developing cream separately. If you have long hair, you may want to buy two boxes to make sure you have enough for all of your hair.

Take the Tests Before Coloring Day

You may think that once you have purchased the hair color, you can start coloring your hair. The directions tell you to take two tests first.

One is a skin-allergy test to make sure you are not allergic to the product. There have been people who have developed allergies and had serious effects even if they had used the product without issue previously. That's why the salon makes you sign a waiver before they will dye your hair.

The other is the strand test to see how long you need to leave the hair color in to get the results you want.

Anna dyed her own hair for the first time with the help of her boyfriend.  Notice the subtle hints of reddish brown where sunlight hits it.
Anna dyed her own hair for the first time with the help of her boyfriend. Notice the subtle hints of reddish brown where sunlight hits it. | Source

Coloring Day Preparation

In addition to completing the allergy test and the strand test, there are a few steps to complete before taking on your new do.

Detangle Hair, But Don't Wash It

On coloring day, you do not want to wash your hair first. The color actually latch on to the dirt and oils, making coloring better. Simply brush out the tangles, and your hair is ready to go.

Prep Your Coloring Space

Choose where you will color your hair. You want a well-ventilated space, since the chemicals usually have a very strong smell, even if they are masked with some perfume.

You may also want to spread out some newspapers on the floor and on any surfaces, which will absorb the color. I know the lady in the picture on the box is wearing white and has a white bathroom, but she is obviously an actress. Coloring your own hair isn't an extremely messy job, but sometimes the tip of the nozzle squirts the dye in weird directions, and you may not notice a fine spray.

Put on Clothes You Don't Care About

The other thing I would highly recommend is to put on your grungiest clothes. Coloring your hair is not cheaper than a salon if you stain your clothes and have to get new ones. I have an outfit I have reserved for painting the house and dyeing my hair. I also use a grungy towel.

Protect Your Hairline

You may also want to spread a little bit of oil on your skin around your hairline to protect your face from absorbing any of the color.

Find a Helper (Optional)

It helps to have a helper, since you can't see the back of your head, but it is not necessary. Just use a mirror and feel for dry spots.

How to Dye Your Own Hair

  1. Put on the gloves that have been provided (they are stuck to the directions so they might be hard to see).
  2. Mix the product according to the directions. (In the video below, Nutrisse has a fruit extract that other products don't, so don't be surprised if you have just a color and a cream developer to mix together.)
  3. Cover your hair thoroughly. Make sure you get the sideburns and any gray spots. You don't want blobs of color in your hair, so I try to color groups of hair at a time, vertically instead of horizontally. That way, if I miss any, it looks more natural. There is a special brush you can use, but my gloved hands work just fine.
  4. Be sure to clean up any spills right away. My tile and marble surfaces clean up easily, even if I don't see the spot right away, but the curtains, linoleum floor and bath mat absorb the color right away.
  5. Wait the time period—generally 25 minutes. This could be more or less depending on your strand test. I highly recommend setting a timer. For me, the first few minutes go really slowly and the last few minutes go by really quickly.
  6. Jump in the shower. It is so much easier to wash in the shower than the sink. Add a little bit of water to your hair and mix it in. There is some soap in the product that will wash your hair. Then rinse it all out. And rinse and rinse to make sure you get all of the dye.
  7. Add lots of conditioner. This is no time to skimp. Your hair has been damaged and conditioner will help repair it. Plus it leaves your hair really soft.
  8. Style as usual.

Tips to Help Dyed Hair Retain Its Color

To retain the color, you may want to avoid washing your hair the next day just to make sure your hair has time to absorb all the dye. There are also shampoos on the market that are gentler on hair color and help retain the color longer.

Coloring Your Own Hair

Coloring your own hair is more convenient than going to a salon, and is much less expensive. If the young women in the photos can do it, so can you.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Shasta Matova

    Comments: "How to Dye Your Own Hair and Save Money"

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      • profile image

        Sherry DiPuma 

        5 years ago

        My hair is salt and pepper grey. I have my foils (4 in number done at a salon) colour, blue and they had increased their prices for colouring. Consequently I cannot afford the colour. Can you please advise as to how I might do this process at home. I love the blue highlights on my bangs and get loads of comments. Thank you.

        Sherry DiPuma

      • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

        Shasta Matova 

        7 years ago from USA

        Thanks nancynurse, I have never had any orange results either, because I also choose a color close to my own hair color. I did have a friend whose hair turned out more purple than she wanted, but I am not sure whether she went to a salon or dyed her hair at home.

      • nancynurse profile image

        Nancy McClintock 

        7 years ago from Southeast USA

        Interesting. I have done this often. Usually I buy a color close to my hair color. Never had any orange results. Thanks for sharing.

      • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

        Shasta Matova 

        8 years ago from USA

        Thank you Sunshine625. I have colored my daughter's hair as well, and it is fun to have a salon at home. It provides great bonding time!

      • Sunshine625 profile image

        Linda Bilyeu 

        8 years ago from Orlando, FL

        I always color my own hair and my daughters. At home coloring keeps getting easier especially with the new mousse method! Fabulous hub!!

      • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

        Shasta Matova 

        8 years ago from USA

        Thanks Daisy. I do enjoy being my own stylist and saving money.

      • Daisy Mariposa profile image

        Daisy Mariposa 

        8 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)


        Thanks for publishing another excellent article. Your tips are the greatest.

      • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

        Shasta Matova 

        8 years ago from USA

        moonlake-I'm glad you were able to fix your mistake. What was the mistake and how did you fix it?

        Barbara Kay, I hope you were able to find another color number that you like. I like variety and have come up with a color range that is acceptable for me, so I don't try to find a particular color. It would be frustrating to find that your favorite color was discontinued.

        Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • Barbara Kay profile image

        Barbara Badder 

        8 years ago from USA

        Another note is that the examples on the side of the box can look different at the store than once you get the box home. Stores like Walmart have weird lighting. I've returned the box so many times that I've try to stay with the same color number. Sure enough they'll quit carrying the number I need the next time.

        Sometimes I'll just pay my daughter to do my hair for me. It is still a lot cheaper than having it done for me. Afterwards I'll wash it out myself. They want a small fortune to do it at the beautician.

        By the way, you did an excellent job on this hub.

      • moonlake profile image


        8 years ago from America

        I have put dye in my hair since I was 15 and I still make mistakes. My husband just had to run to the store the other day and buy me another kit because I made a big mistake..ha didn't look good. Looks good now.

        Good information on your hub.

      • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

        Shasta Matova 

        8 years ago from USA

        Thanks sholland10! You made me feel so much better. I am glad I wasn't the only one that was so messy that I needed a whole outfit just for dyeing my hair!

      • sholland10 profile image

        Susan Holland 

        8 years ago from Southwest Missouri

        Hey MT! Great step-by-step tips! You are right about wearing grungy clothes. LOL My daughter dyes streaks into her hair about every 3 months... different natural color every time. She does a great job, too - except for my stained towels. I am afraid to dye my hair - I did accidentally turn it green once. LOL A Great Hub!! Votes and Shared! :-)

      • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

        Shasta Matova 

        8 years ago from USA

        Thanks for visiting alexandry. I'm sure you are going to look fabulous!

      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Farricelli 

        8 years ago

        Great timing! I need to get this done in the next few days for a wedding, thanks for sharing!

      • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

        Shasta Matova 

        8 years ago from USA

        Thanks Keri. Some people like to be able to get away and treat themselves to a day at the salon, and if you can afford that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I am a strong advocate for doing as much as you can for yourself.

      • Keri Summers profile image

        Keri Summers 

        8 years ago from West of England

        I haven't dyed my hair myself since about age 20, and have had it done in Salon's on and off ever since. But it is so expensive, I have been wondering about having a go myself. So this was a good reminder of the options, with some good extra tips too. Probably best I try with a non-permanent one first! Thanks.

      • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

        Shasta Matova 

        8 years ago from USA

        Thanks Simone. A lot of people do it just to have different color hair for a change. I have to admit to skipping the test steps sometimes.

      • Simone Smith profile image

        Simone Haruko Smith 

        8 years ago from San Francisco

        I don't think I'll ever dye my hair, but it's good to know how easy it is to do it at home! Hahaa, good point about taking the tests a day ahead though... I bet many impatient people skip that important step altogether.

      • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

        Shasta Matova 

        8 years ago from USA

        Thank you Shell-Belle for adding expert advice to the hub. I've never been unhappy with my hair color, but I can imagine that it would be very expensive to try to get it fixed.

        Good tip to not mix different brands together. I hadn't thought that someone might try that. Besides damaging your hair, there might be adverse chemical reactions and fumes.

        There are some boxes that do highlights, but I generally use the basic stuff. I think if I wanted highlights, I would try one of those boxes first.

      • Shell-Belle profile image


        8 years ago from Mesa

        Well put together article. As a licensed cosmetologist, I would stress the importance of the tests. Take the time to do them, if you color your whole head and it is horrible, you will pay a lot of money to someone in a salon to try to fix it. A lot of money. Plus, your hair may end up extremely damaged from multiple processes. Also, I would only recommend coloring your own hair with a store bought box, if you do not have color or highlights already. As that will change the results greatly. You can damage your hair badly by adding different brands together, and the color is less likely to turn out as you expect if it is not on virgin hair. I color my own, and it does indeed save me money, although it is difficult and time consuming. Your article was informative, thanks for sharing.

      • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

        Shasta Matova 

        8 years ago from USA

        Thank you Donna for reading and commenting. Those waivers the salon makes you sign scare me!

      • DonnaCosmato profile image

        Donna Cosmato 

        8 years ago from USA

        Good tips and advice, and doing it yourself is way cheaper than a salon service. I especially like the way you stressed the importance of doing the pre-testing as that is so important. Even if you have used a product in the past, you could have developed a sensitivity to it, so really it's wise to test every time before applying the colorant.

      • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

        Shasta Matova 

        8 years ago from USA

        Thanks Ruchira! I didn't include henna because it isn't easily available on the store shelves here, although we can get it if look for it. Henna is a more natural product so it is better for your hair, but my understanding is that you don't get a lot of choices of color for it.

      • Ruchira profile image


        8 years ago from United States

        Good tips, Shasta.

        I see streaks of grey hair and I am thinking of putting henna to them. You might wanna add the pros and cons of henna application as well as a hair dye. (my 2cents)

        voted up as useful :)

      • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

        Shasta Matova 

        8 years ago from USA

        Thanks alocsin. As you can see from the photos, it is not only the old who dye their hair. My daughter enjoys changing her hair color now and then as well, just for fun, as did I before I needed to.

      • alocsin profile image

        Aurelio Locsin 

        8 years ago from Orange County, CA

        Good instructions on a procedure that I suspect will become more common as we get older. Voting this Up and Useful.


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