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19 at-home and affordable hair dyes for a salon-quality 'do

Stylists love these budget-friendly brands!
Woman dyeing hair in front of mirror
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/ Source: TODAY

A hair salon appointment is a commitment: money, time and leaving the comfort of your own home. Luckily, there are a plethora of at-home box dyes that line the shelves of drugstores so you can easily take matters into your own hands.

If you typically shy away from maintaining your hair at home, finding the right products can make it less of a daunting task. Whether you're looking for a fresh change or simply need a quick fix to cover up your roots or gray hairs, you don't need to seek out a professional to get the hair color of your dreams.

The best at-home hair color doesn't have to damage your locks — and it doesn't have to break the bank either. We spoke to professional hair colorists to get recommendations for the best at-home box hair dyes and application tips so you can get the look you want on a budget.

How can you make at-home hair color last?

One of the best ways to maintain the color of your hair is by using a color-depositing shampoo and conditioner. According to Jamie Mazzei, hairstylist and creative director of NuBestSalon, these products slow down the fading process of the hair dye rather than prevent it.

"By using a color-depositing shampoo and color-depositing conditioner containing a semi-permanent direct dye, you can maintain your hair color and keep it free of fade until you need to color your roots again. Many customers even feel they can go longer between color applications by using a color depositing shampoo and conditioner regularly," said Mazzei.

What to look for when shopping for the best at-home hair color

First, you want to consider if you want a permanent color in your hair or just change your 'do for the season. If you're trying to achieve the latter, Mazzei recommends opting for a semi-permanent dye instead of a permanent dye because the latter is much harsher on your strands.

"Before you shop, think about the color you want to dye your hair, to help guide what color to pick at the store. It’s also a good idea to pick one color lighter than your ultimate goal. Most at-home hair dyes tend to look darker on real hair compared to the image on the front of the box," added Mazzei.

Is at-home hair color safe to use on all hair types?

According to Mazzei, dyeing your hair at home is generally safe but "is not going to take into account the nuances of your particular hair, including porosity, hydration, type, etc."

One thing he notes is how easy is to dye your hair darker at home. However, if you're planning to go lighter or add highlights, Mazzei suggests booking a professional colorist.

Best at-home hair dyes, according to stylists

Garnier Olia Permanent Hair Color

Joel Warren, master colorist and co-founder of Warren Tricomi Salons in New York City, loves this high-quality product because it delivers a salon-like finish.

“I like it because it’s an oil-based hair dye that leaves hair in amazing condition," Warren explained. "It's similar to the product we use at the salon and contains no ammonia, which is very important."

L'Oréal Paris Excellence Creme Hair Color

Jerami Brown, a colorist at Shin Salon in Los Angeles, likes this L'Oréal hair color line because "they have many options, clear instructions and the highest quality of ingredients."

Another expert colorist Maisha Cogle, at Butterfly Studio Salon in New York City, also recommended using the Excellence Creme for emergency gray coverage.

"It's easy to mix and use. It gives great coverage and results with rich tones plus the additional benefit of conditioning," Cogle said.

Austin Medearis, another colorist at Butterfly Studio Salon is another big fan of L'Oreal and works with the brand's professional line in the salon. When applying color at home, Medearis suggested asking a friend for help to avoid missing any spots or putting too much in one place.

"Overlapping can cause color buildup and damage to the hair. Home color is extremely difficult to remove from the hair without causing significant damage," said Medearis. "The developer in at-home colors can also be harsher than those used in the salon, as it is created to work on everyone and not formulated to your particular hair type."

Clairol Natural Instincts Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Natural Instincts is a semi-permanent formula, which means it's less of a commitment than permanent color, explained Fred Connors, owner of FRED salon in New York City. "It's ammonia-free and infused with aloe and coconut oil, leaving hair softer and shinier than most permanent colors," he said.

He also advised going lighter than the shade you want when using this product.

"Stay away from warmer tones as boxed dyes can pull more orange than you probably want. Stick to cool or neutral shades — they tend to deliver the best result," he suggested.

Wella Color Charm Liquid Hair Color

This is a favorite for celebrity hairstylist and creator of the Beachwaver hot tool, Sarah Potempa.

"First and foremost, you need to know what level your natural hair color is considered. Hair color companies will have diagrams and charts that show which color and undertone each color provides," Potempa explained. "If you're going for a drastic change, remember to go slow: one shade at a time. Depending on your hair and skin tone, you will have to do further research on what type of color will suit you."

Best root touch-up products, according to stylists

Clairol Nice 'n Easy Root Touch-Up

Celebrity hair colorist Rita Hazan told us she likes this easy root touch-up kit, which is available in several different blond and brown shades. She recommends applying it along your hairline and sticking solely to the roots. Another great tip: When selecting a color, Hazan says to go for a hue one to two shades lighter than what you think your hair color really is.

"At-home hair color tends to be a little darker than salon colors. Look for colors that sound natural like auburn, not cherry bomb," Hazan suggested.

Rita Hazan Root Concealer Touch-Up Spray

This Rita Hazan root touch-up spray is a favorite of celebrity hairstylist Irinel de León.

"It’s the ultimate secret weapon for covering any grays or sparse areas on the scalp or hairline," she said. "It also doesn’t leave any residue on your pillow at night, and it’s good enough to use once and last you until your next wash as well."

De León notes that using a root spray like this will not only cover up any incoming regrowth and grays, but it will also make your hair appear fuller in photos.

Oribe Airbrush Root Touch-Up Spray

Amber Maynard Bolt, a master celebrity hairstylist at Nine Zero One Salon, told us that she loves Oribe's Gold Lust Repair & Restore Shampoo for colored hair — and the same brand also makes a root touch-up spray.

According to the brand, it's made with natural mineral colorants, rice starch to absorb oils and a UV absorber to protect strands from discoloration. The highly pigmented formula is designed to absorb dirt and oil and has a powder-like consistency for a quick dry-down. It comes in a range of colors including black, platinum white, light brown, dark brown and blonde.

Other bestsellers to consider

Arctic Fox Semi-Permanent Hair Color

From neon green to eye-catching pink, there is no shortage of bright and bold color options from Arctic Fox's lineup of semi-permanent hair dyes. It has 51,000+ verified five-star ratings from reviewers who can't get enough.

Style Edit Root Concealer Touch Up Spray

With thousands of Amazon five-star reviews, this root coverage will quickly conceal any gray matter above the scalp. The spray comes in eight beautiful shades and its compact design adds a lustrous and natural shine to your roots.

"It adheres well, doesn't smear, is precise and not messy to apply. I use it frequently (my hair grows rapidly) and continue to order," shared one reviewer.

Manic Panic Semi-Permanent Cream Hair Color

If you're tired of your color fading away, give this product a try. The semi-permanent cream is for the creative soul that likes to experiment. No need for squeezes or combing through. All you need to do is dip your hands into the jar and apply the color. The best part? You can mix and match any shade.

Over 1,900 customers gave this product a five-star rating for its uncomplicated formula and color-pigmented dyes.

"Manic Panic makes my hair feel smooth and the color stays at least a month or two depending on the color," said one shopper.

Schwarzkopf Simply Color Permanent Hair Color

With a strong average from over 5,700 Amazon reviewers and ringing in at less than $10, this hair dye is a crowd favorite. Shoppers rave about how well it works on sensitive skin and provides stellar color without any irritation from harsh ingredients.

Celeb Luxury Intense Color Depositing Colorwash Shampoo

If you're a novice to the dyeing process and aren't sure you want to fully commit to a permanent color, this semi-permanent color-depositing shampoo is the perfect solution. Apply it to your hair and let it sit for a maximum of five minutes before rinsing out excess. You can repeat the process until you achieve your desired color.

IGK Permanent Color Kit

This hair color kit from IGK comes with everything you need before and after working on your new 'do with products like a color block barrier gel to keep dye from staining the skin around your hairline and ears to a stain-removing cleanser wipe to clear up any stained skin or work surfaces.

Revlon Colorsilk Beautiful Color

There's a good reason this ammonia-free permanent hair dye from Revlon has a high average from nearly 30,000 Amazon shoppers. It's a steal at under $4, and one reviewer says they have been using this hair dye for 10 years, preferring it to pricier brands.

According to Revlon, the formula delivers 100 percent gray coverage and has keratin and silk amino acids that condition your hair for silky, shiny results.

Dark and Lovely Fade Resist

The Dark and Lovely brand is designed to provide the largest shade palette — 19 shades — for women of color. The conditioning treatment has shea, avocado and olive oils to provide nourishment and protect relaxed and natural hair while coloring. The brand says it provides 100 percent gray coverage and will last for up to eight weeks.

Garnier Nutrisse Nourishing Color Creme

Like Dark and Lovely, this Garnier hair color has a blend of shea, avocado and olive oils. It also comes with a grapeseed fruit oil ampoule that you can pour directly into your mix. And for those who are scared about doing their own hair, multiple Amazon reviewers say it's easy to use and apply. The Garnier website also has a hair color quiz that lets you virtually try on shades.

Madison Reed Radiant Hair Color Kit

Are you a novice at at-home hair care? Madison Reed will walk you through a questionnaire to help you choose the best dye to suit your needs no matter your hair texture, type or color. Whether you need to cover up grays or go for all-over color, this kit is a popular pick.

Revlon Total Color Permanent Hair Color

This clean and vegan formula provides long-lasting color but is still gentle on hair. It provides gray coverage that lasts up to six weeks and is made with shade-specific botanical ingredients that work to enhance the color of the dye to give you bolder results. Almost 4,400 verified Amazon reviewers gave this at-home dye a perfect five-star rating, with one reviewer noting that it doesn't dry out your locks.

L'Oreal Paris Superior Preference Permanent Hair Color

For eight weeks of color and 100 percent gray coverage, L'Oreal's Superior Preference line is another top-rated dye. It's available in a variety of shades that deliver shine and deep color for less than $10. This bestseller sits among the top 10 hair dyes on Amazon and has amassed over 11,000 verified reviews.

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