Savvy Consumer: Get great-looking hair, without the expense
Yes, you can get gorgeous, vibrant color straight out of the box. Don't believe it? With pro guidance and tips, three test cases prove it's easy to transform your hue without a trip to the salon.
The problem • "I found my first grays a few years ago," said Dana Vivinetto, 32. "I dyed my hair once, but some grays still showed. I want to hide them, with minimal upkeep."
The solution • "Try a permanent formula, especially if your grays are resistant to demi-permanent dye," said Julia Youssef, vice president of L'Oreal USA Hair Color Technical Center. For Dana's medium-brown hair, Youssef chose L'Oreal Paris Excellence Creme in Medium Chestnut Brown $9, drugstores.
The verdict • Easy. "I was hesitant to start coloring because I thought it would be a lot of work," said Vivinetto. "But now I'll definitely try it at home."
The problem • Alicja Wojczyk, 25, had her dirty-blond hair salon highlighted and four months later had 3 inches of dark roots. Alicja, along with 30 percent of Good Housekeeping DIY-color users, said fading was her biggest challenge. "I'd love to color at home to save money, but I don't think I will be able to lighten my roots without the color looking monotone," she added.
The solution • Clairol color director and New York City salon owner Marie Robinson suggests a two-pronged approach. Step 1: Permanent color for the roots using Clairol Perfect 10 in Medium Golden Blonde $12, drugstores. Step 2: A demi-permanent dye to further blend and transform the tone into a richer strawberry blond. Robinson mixed Clairol Natural Instincts in Medium Golden Blonde and in Light Auburn $6 each, drugstores.
The verdict • Natural color. "I am surprised that at-home dye could even out my dark roots," said Wojczyk. "At first, the color looked much more red; it gradually washes out and takes a few days to settle."
The problem • After several DIY disasters, Ivy Menchel, 53, opted for regular salon visits to highlight her brown hue. Ivy, not fully satisfied, said: "I would like a color that is brighter and shinier and softens my look. If I can do it at home, even better."
The solution • Garnier colorist Kyle White recommends a cooler hue. "If you have red or pink undertones in your skin, you can tone down the flush with a cooler hair color look for the word 'ash' or 'cool' on the box," White said. He used Garnier Olia in Medium Ash Brown $10, drugstores; 24 shades to add richness and de-emphasize some of Ivy's highlights.
The verdict • Easy, soft results. "I've never used color like this," said Menchel. "I'm very busy, so I love that I could do this at 3 a.m. if I had to."
Additional hair tips
Color isn't the only way to camouflage gray; side-swept front layers or long side bangs can cover grays along the hairline.
Color-treated blond hair can sometimes appear limp. To counteract this, add long layers or try misting on a volumizing dry shampoo.