Five things to know before you color your hair at home

We've all seen sitcoms where a towel drops to the bathroom floor and our heroine is beset with a shrieking "OMG, my hair!" moment of terror. Here, how to avoid hair color trauma and tears with five simple tips.


If you've got Cher black hair, here's the truth: you're not going to become Gwen Stefani at home. Drastic changes seldom work in your own bathroom (didn't you see that episode of 90210?). Don't go more than two shades in either direction. Home color works best for people who want a subtle change or to cover up grays. Save the who's-that-girl? style transformations for the pros.

Like the color on the box? Cool, but you're going to need to decode the language on the box like a Girl Scout studying a map key. You know the color's black, brown, red, or blond. That's the easy part. Now look for the other defining clues to see how the color will look on you. Is the shade light, medium, or dark? Is the tone warm or cool?

Coloring your hair involves a lot of best effort guess work, but even after you've decoded the box, how do you know it will work for you? Just because your best friend can rock Elvira black doesn't mean it will look so hot on you. Stay within the confines of your natural color palette. General rule of thumb: if you have blue or green eyes and pale or rosy skin, stick with cool colors. If you have dark, olive, or golden skin with dark eyes, stick to warm tones. Again, use the language on the box for clues to figure out what will flatter you.

So many tears could be avoided if we didn't skip this step in a rush to reach the big reveal of our makeover moment. Test a few strands first. If it looks off after a test, there's still hope. But once your whole head is in the game it's much harder to change.

Like any DIY project, you want to get all your materials together at the outset to make the whole process run smoothly. Have your hair color, bowl, brush, an old towel, plastic gloves, and a clock all set out and ready to go before you begin. Rub petroleum jelly around your hairline to protect your skin from discoloration. And set aside the most valuable supply of all: time. If you're rushed and trying to put a little makeover your look before a cocktail date, you're more likely to be frazzled and prone to goofs.

What other tips have you learned the hard way from coloring your hair at home?

Here's one woman's experience coloring her hair at home with Fat Foam, a brand new foaming hair color product
you can only buy at Walmart. (The following video is sponsored by Walmart):