Home hair colour tips: Choosing the right colour and formula

Planning on colouring your hair at home? Before you start, read these tips to find out about the best colours and formulas for your hair

Home hair colour tips: Choosing the right colour and formula

Source: Web exclusive: July 2008

Choose the right colour

If you prefer a natural look, choose a shade within two shades of your natural hue. Standard advice suggests looking to your skin tone when it comes to choosing a warm or cool hair colour: If you have golden undertones to your skin, warm will work for you; whereas if you have blueish undertones, look for cool colours. However, says Christopher Martin, colourist and co-owner at Shagg Salon in Toronto and consultant for Clairol Canada, many people have trouble identifying their undertones. "In that case," he says, "don’t worry about it; neutral or warm works for most."

If the hair colour brand you prefer has sample swatches in the store, "hold them up to your skin at eye level," advises Eric Del Monaco, official hair artist and colourist for L’Oréal Paris Canada and stylist at O Sole Salon & Spa in Toronto. "You’ll see right away whether it works with your eye and skin tone together."

Martin notes that "almost anything goes when it comes to colour these days; it depends on your personality, not on what colour is popular. If you’re sexy, you can be a sexy brunette or sexy blonde or sexy redhead—it’s up to you." But make sure the colour you choose works with your haircut. "Bold colour or bold highlights work better with a structured cut," he says, "whereas more natural-looking effects look great with softer styles."

Choose the right home hair colour formula

Do you want a bold, fashion look, or something more natural? Do you want to blend greys in, or cover them completely? Do you want to go darker or lighter? Once you know that, here’s the scoop on each hair colour formula:

  • Permanent: Darkens easily and can lighten slightly, such as from dark blond to medium blond. Usually covers grey fully and although it fades a bit in time, it won’t wash out.
  • Demi-Permanent: Pumps up natural colour and blends greys in as soft highlights. Darkens easily but doesn’t really lighten, and washes out in about 24 washes (more if you are starting from a much lighter shade).
  • Semi-Permanent: Makes greys look like highlights. Darkens, but will not lighten. Washes out in six to 12 shampoos (more if starting from a much lighter shade).
  • Temporary: Darkens a little, but won’t lighten at all. Washes out in one or two shampoos (or more if starting hair colour is really light).

Covering greys

If you’re trying to disguise greys, it bears saying that you want a formula designed to work with grey hair, which can be stubborn. "Permanent colour will cover them completely, but if you’re less concerned with coverage and mostly seeking to prevent regrowth from showing, try a semi-permanent formula," says Martin. "A semi-permanent will boost your natural hair colour and blend in your grey without looking like you’ve had a dye job." For better results with resistant greys, he suggests wrapping your head in a plastic bag and towel after applying dye, then blasting it evenly with a hairdryer. The heat will encourage better colour absorption.

Janine Falcon is the founder and editor of beautygeeks, a blog about the best beauty products and how to use them to your advantage.

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