Whether you're having a spontaneous moment, looking for a change or simply need a quick fix to cover up roots, you don't necessarily have to head to the salon to get the hair color of your dreams. (And hair color certainly makes a difference, as many of our Ambush Makeover guests can attest.)
For those who would rather DIY the process, TODAY Style spoke to professional hair colorists to get their best at-home recommendations and application tips.
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1. Clairol Nice'n Easy Root Touch-Up, starting at $13, Amazon
Celebrity hair colorist Rita Hazan likes this product in particular because it's easy to apply. She recommends applying it on your hairline and sticking solely to the roots. Another great tip: When selecting a color, Hazan says to go for a hue 1-2 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 says.
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2. Garnier Olia Permanent Hair Color, $6, Amazon
“I like it because it’s an oil-based hair dye that leaves the hair in amazing condition," says Joel Warren, master colorist and co-founder of Warren Tricomi Salons. "It is similar to the product we use at the salon and contains no ammonia, which is very important."
This high-quality product leaves a salon-like finish, he adds.
3. L'Oréal Paris Excellence Creme, $6, Amazon
"They have many options, clear instructions and the highest quality of ingredients," Jerami Brown, a colorist at Shin Salon in Santa Monica, Ca., says of this L'Oréal hair color line.
Expert colorist Maisha Cogle, of Butterfly Studio salon in New York City, recommends using the Excellence Creme for emergency grey coverage.
"It's easy to mix and use. It gives great coverage and results with rich tones plus the additional benefit of conditioning," Cogle says.
Austin Medaris of Ted Gibson salon is also a fan of L'Oreal, as he works with the brand's professional line in the salon. When applying color at-home, Medaris suggests asking a friend for help so that you avoid missing any spots or putting too much in one place.
"Overlapping can cause color buildup and/or damage to the hair. Home color is extremely difficult to remove from the hair without causing significant damage," explains Medaris. "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."
4. Natural Instincts by Clariol, $8, Amazon
Natural Instincts is a demi-permanent formula, which means it's less commitment than a permanent color, explains 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 shiner than most permanent colors," he says.
Like Hazan, Connors advised going lighter than the shade you want when using this product.
"Stay away from warmer tones as boxed dies can pull more orange than you probably want. Stick to cool or neutral shades, they tend to deliver the best result," Connors suggests.
5. Wella Color Charm Permanent Hair Color, $6, Sally Beauty
"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 says. "If you're going for a drastic change, remember to go slow: one shade at a time. Depending on your hair (and skin!) you will have to do further research on what type of color will suit you."
For those who want to skip the boxed dye and try a DIY method, Chelsey Pickthorn, a color specialist and salon owner, has a suggestion that will brighter hair in an instant.
She recommends mixing 4 ounces of Davines Solu Shampoo or another clarifying shampoo with 4 caps full of peroxide and the juice of two lemons. Put the shampoo mixture all over, but focus on scrubbing the ends. Be gentle around the face as it's the most sensitive area, warns Pickthorn. After washing out the mixture, apply a hair mask for at least 15 minutes and you're good to go with your newly lightened locks!
This article was originally published on May 6, 2015 on TODAY.com.