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.
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