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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.
The best at-home hair dyes
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."
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."
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.
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."
The best root touch-up products
Celebrity hair colorist Rita Hazan told us she likes this easy root touch-up kit, which is available in 20 different 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.
Justin Anderson, celebrity hair colorist and dpHue co-founder, told TODAY that he loves this coloring boosting gloss for the perfect root touch-up product to use in between salon visits.
"Once your hair color starts to fade, and you’re not quite ready to go back to the salon and spend the money, this is an amazing way to re-pigment your hair at home," he said. "This is a game-changer for anyone who colors their hair (at home)."
The dpHue color-boosting gloss comes in 10 colors, including dark brown, light blonde, black, red and more. "You can even mix and match to get your exact color, or you can just pick the one that you need," Anderson added.
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.
Amber Maynard Bolt, a master celebrity hairstylist at Nine Zero One Salon, told TODAY that she loves the Oribe 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
There's a good reason this ammonia-free permanent hair dye from Revlon has a 4.6-star average from more than 36,000 Amazon shoppers. It's a steal at under $3, 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% gray coverage and has keratin and silk amino acids that condition your hair for silky, shiny results.
The Dark and Lovely brand is designed to provide the largest shade palette — 18 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% gray coverage and will last for eight weeks.
Like Dark and Lovely, this Garnier hair color has a blend of shea, avocado and olive oils. It also comes with a grape seed 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.
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.
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 3,400 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.
For eight weeks of color and 100% 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 15 hair dyes on Amazon and has amassed over 9,600 verified reviews.
For more stories like this, check out:
- Reverse the effects of saltwater and sun damage with these 19 hair products
- How to get and maintain your best hair color this summer
- Your hair might need toner — here's why and how to use it
This article was originally published on May 6, 2016.