How to dye your hair at home according to an expert colorist

Brush up on important tips to achieve the best at-home dye job.
woman dyeing hairs
Getty Images stock
/ Source: TODAY
By Erica Chayes Wida

Our editors independently selected these items because we think you will enjoy them and might like them at these prices. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time. Learn more about Shop TODAY.

Not everyone’s a stylist. But sometimes a little at-home dye job has to be done.

Gregorio Ruggeri understands this. Co-founder of New York City’s Salon Ruggeri, Ruggeri is a high-end colorist whose work has been featured in top fashion magazines and runway shows. But he realizes regular trips to the salon are not always compatible with every budget and wants people to know the best approaches to doing hair at home.

Ruggeri told TODAY Style he advises taking on a dye job only if you're doing something small, like a root touch-up to cover up grays. If you're looking to boost a dull shade, try using a color-enhancing conditioner. According to Ruggeri, just be sure to apply dye quickly and thoroughly from the ends in upward motions.

For those who want a drastic change — such as going from brunette to blonde, switching to a fiery red hue or getting balayage or highlights — leave it to the professionals. Social media may make before and after dye jobs look simple, but there's science, art and years of practice that go into major hair transitions.

When you're ready to get rid of overgrown roots, this is how to get the results you're looking for.

If you have a colorist, consult them first

Ruggeri suggests talking to a local professional before braving the drugstore aisle of boxed dyes. Whether you schedule a consultation (usually free) or bring it up at your next trim or phone call, it can be in your best interest to let a colorist know you'll be taking over any touch-ups.

They may have individualized recommendations if they've done your hair before and will have your back in case of any mistakes. Many salons also have colorists and stylists in training who can provide their expertise at affordable prices for clients who need to cut back on costs but may not want to do their own hair every time.

Purchase a hair swatch

Hair swatches can help you identify the name or number of your natural hair color before you settle on a dye. Look for swatches with a variety of natural shades. Made with human or synthetic hair, swatches run around $10 and can be found on Amazon and beauty supply stores.

Celebrity 100% Human Hair Testing Kit

Hold the swatch to your hair, see which one matches best and use that color name or number when buying a close match for root and gray touch-ups.

Choose the right dye for your budget

Ruggeri swears by Christophe Robin's line of dyes and hair products. They run a little steeper than many boxed dyes (about $33 per bottle on Amazon). Christophe Robin Temporary Color Gel is easy to apply, has natural-looking results and is also used at salons. It's less intense than permanent dyes.

Christophe Robin Temporary Color Gel

The majority of store-bought boxed dyes are permanent and can definitely cover up grown-out roots. There are several expert-approved brands if you're looking for something more affordable.

How to dye your hair

  1. Grab a dark towel and wrap it around yourself using a large clip to secure it so it doesn't fall off.
  2. Apply a barrier cream or oil around the hair line to help protect against the dye staining your skin.
  3. Using the pointed handle of the applicator brush, separate hair into sections, with an inch on either side of the part and one inch from the crown of the head.
  4. With a fine brush, apply the color in small amounts only on the areas of regrowth. Paint the dye on hair just until it connects to the part of the hair that is already colored.
  5. Continue to section off hair and repeat step 4. Each section should be no more than a centimeter apart from the last.
  6. Once regrowth areas are completely saturated in dye, let hair sit for around 30 minutes or for the amount of time the instructions on the dye packaging recommend.

Should you still have questions, visit the website of your preferred hair dye product, as there are usually additional tips and instructions that are specific to each brand.