This Is How to Properly Prep Your Hair for (At-Home) Hair Color

Let me just say that, before we even get into all of this, if you want the best kind of color, it really is best to see a professional. They are trained in how to not only give you great results but how to treat your hair so that there is as little damage as possible. With all of that being said, because I am someone who enjoys doing my own hair, I’d be lying to you if I said that I haven’t dyed my hair at home far more than I’ve paid someone else to do it. And over the years, through a bit of trial and error, I’ve figured out a few things that absolutely must be done to prep my tresses; that’s what I want to share with you today.

So, if you’re seriously contemplating stopping by your local beauty supply, drug or even grocery store to get some color that comes in a box, here are some things that you absolutely must do if you want your hair to stay healthy once your at-home job is done.

1. Deep Condition Your Hair (the Wash Day Before)

It’ll be rare for you to see me write an article about how to take care of your hair and I won’t mention the importance of deep conditioning it. One of the main reasons why it’s such a good idea (especially for curly-textured hair) is because it deeply hydrates your tresses. Since permanent dyes that contain ammonia (more on that in a bit) can really dry your hair out, you need to prep your strands beforehand, so that there won’t be quite as much damage to them. That’s why you should definitely make sure that you deep condition your hair the wash day prior to the day you plan on dyeing it. And my “deep condition”, I mean, allow the conditioner to penetrate for no less than 90 minutes. That might seem like a long time but after you color-treat your hair, I promise that you’ll notice a real difference because you took this step.

2. Wash Your Hair Three Days Prior

A mistake that I used to make, quite a bit, when it came to coloring my hair at home, was I would attempt to do it when my hair was full of product buildup. This is a huge no-no because that makes it difficult for the color to take and you don’t want to keep dyeing your hair over and over again because that can lead to dryness and severe damage. That’s why it really is best that you wash your hair three days prior to color-treating it (don’t do it any sooner than that because it could leave mild abrasions on your scalp that could cause burning sensations when you do color your hair). That way, your hair will be a “clean slate”.

3. Keep Product Out of Your Hair Before Coloring It

It would be pretty counterproductive to wash all of the “gunk” out of your hair, just to put more back in, right? So, if you really rely on product to achieve the styles that you want, prepare to either wear a hat, scarf or to pull your hair up in a ponytail or back in a bun on the couple of days leading into your coloring day. If it’s not really hot or humid, a wig can work as well. Just make sure that you don’t do a lot of sweating because that technically qualifies as buildup too.

4. Dust Your Ends

The oldest parts of your hair are your ends. This means that when it comes to dyeing your hair, if anything is going to take a real beating, it’s going to be them. This is why I’m a huge fan of dusting your ends before coloring your hair. It’s a great way to reduce the chances of frizz, split ends or having super brittle ends altogether. If you’ve never dusted your ends before, while it might seem a bit overwhelming, so long as you have a sharp pair of shears and you really take your time, it’s fairly easy to do. For some tips, check out the video below or this video. You’ll be glad that you did.

5. Speaking of Your Ends, Apply the Color There Last

And since your ends are older, it’s best to apply the color there last. Oh, and if your ends aren’t as healthy as you would like them to be (even after dusting them), a cool hack is to not apply any concentrated dye at all. Instead, add a bit of shampoo (2-3 squirts of it should work) to the little bit of color that’s left in the bottle, shake the bottle up and put that on your ends for about 5-7 minutes or so. The shampoo will make the dye not as harsh while still applying some color to that part of your hair.

6. Avoid Ammonia-Based Brands (and Get More than One Box)

While there are definitely some hacks that professionals know when it comes to color-treating your hair, one of the biggest reasons why it can be a good idea to see one is because, a lot of times, we make mistakes when it comes to which brand to use when color-treating our hair at home. For instance, if you’re a newbie to the process or you know you’re not the best at moisturizing your hair, it really is best to go with a semi-permanent brand or one that contains absolutely no ammonia. The reason why is because both are a lot gentler on your hair.

Also, make sure to get more than just one box (I typically go with three). The reason why is, I can’t tell you if there has ever been a time when one box has thoroughly covered my entire head and length of hair. And you know what? Better to have too much than not enough (especially once you’ve already got the dye on!).

7. Prepare for Possibly Needing Some Developer

Another challenge with dyeing your hair at home is the models on those boxes will have you thinking that you can go from off-black to blonde in 30 minutes — and that couldn’t be further from the truth! While it can be pretty easy to go darker when it comes to hair color, it’s quite the project to go lighter. And this is where needing some developer comes in. This is also where the risk of damaging your hair can play a significant role too.

As far as where to get developer, most beauty supply stores carry it. As far as how high you should go, 30 will lift your hair 2-3 shades from where it currently is. Just keep in mind — and this really can’t be said enough — that if your hair is already damaged, you really should stick with semi-permanent, henna or something that won’t be nearly as harsh. Yes, switching up your hair color is great but so is keeping the inches that you’ve worked so hard to get. Right?

8. Get Some Vaseline

As far as the dyeing process itself, definitely use gloves (you might want to buy some latex ones that fight your hands a bit better; beauty supply stores carry them). Also, put some Vaseline along your hairline. Otherwise, you could end up dyeing your skin and some dyes stick around longer than others. By the way, if you do happen to get some on your skin, rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover (for skin and nails) should do the trick.

9. Only Do Your Roots If That’s All That Needs It

Another reason why some people prefer to leave color-treating their hair to the professionals is it’s a lot easier for professionals to only dye the roots. That said, if your hair is already color-treated or this is your second go at it and/or you want to cover up some grays, definitely take your time and avoid coloring your entire head again. All that does is dry your hair out and that is never good. In fact, if you think this is going to be super difficult for you, enlist one of your friends to help you out. They can see the back much easier and that can reduce your chances of ending up with brittle locks.

10. Deep Condition Once You’re Done

Yes, I know that there is a bottle of conditioner that comes in most box dyes. The reason why is because even manufacturers know that color-treating hair can do a real number on it. Still, that little tube or bottle is not even close to being what your hair requires in order to put some moisture and life back into it once your dye job is done. That’s why, just like it’s super important to deep condition your hair on the wash day prior to the time you plan on coloring your hair, it’s a must that you deep condition your hair again, immediately after color-treating your hair. That will make it feel softer, look shiny and be so much easier to care for — so that you can ultimately feel pretty good about dyeing your hair at home.