7 Hair Dyeing Mistakes You're Making At Home, Plus Tips For Actually Getting It Right

I am down to DIY basically every single part of my beauty routine. I don't go out to get manicures (unless someone bullies me into it). I cut my own bangs (when I have them). I prefer at-home face masks to full-blown salon facials. But, after a disastrous mishap in which I accidentally colored my naturally blonde hair black (and watched it fade to a suuuuuper pretty shade of pumpkin orange...), how to dye your hair at home is something I refuse to master.

Since the Great Pumpkin Hair Mishap of 2009, I've dabbled in hair chalking, sure, but if I need to add some realistic highlights or jump on the whole ombre thing, I'm trusting the professionals in salons, thank you very much. However, if you're a regular dye-er, spending money to get your hair done adds up. Like, a lot. So I'm fully encouraging you to be braver than I and master a little DIY dye action to save some cash.

To help you perfect your box color technique, I consulted Vidal Sassoon Expert and Global Ambassador Duffy. Check out the mistakes you might be making when dyeing at home, plus his suggestions on how to fix them.

1. Only Using One Color

If you use a box dye, it's mostly likely going to give you flat, dull, one-dimensional look. It's better to buy two similar shades to layer, which gives you a more natural effect.

2. Treating Your Roots And Ends The Same

Going along with the above: The hair at your roots is totally different from the stuff at the ends of your strands, so dyeing them in the exact same way is just going to look weird. "Lengths become porous and drink in color easier than roots," Duffy said. Start by applying on your roots, then move downwards to the more damaged ends of your hair.

3. Picking Someone Else's Hair Color

Just like finding the perfect lipstick, you need to pay attention to your skintone and eye color when picking out a box of dye. That bright red that looks so good on Emma Stone could make your skin look totally washed out. Duffy's guide? "When it comes to blondes, a cooler type with a pinkish skin tone and blue or green eyes looks good with ash blonde shades; whereas a warm type with a gold-brown skin tone and brown eyes looks good with golden caramel or warm blonde shades," he said. The rules apply for all colors, whether you're going brown, red, blonde, or anywhere in between.

4. Or Going Too Light With Your Highlights

Unless you're purposely trying to channel Kelly Clarkson circa Thankful (no judgement if that's the case...), you probably want your highlights to be subtle little streaks that sparkle in the sunlight, not big chunks of bleach. "In order to make highlights look natural, it’s best to only go about two shades lighter to create dimension in a natural-looking way," Duffy said. You'll probably want to try out the balayage technique — painting on freehand rather than separating sections with foils or a cap — to get natural randomness.

5. Working With Oversized Sections

Not only was my hair a wayyyyy darker shade of brown than the box indicated (read: pitch black), but I had all these cool patches of blonde showing through at mid-shaft. It's a pretty common problem amongst inexperienced box dyers, but that doesn't make it any less annoying. "To ensure your color goes on evenly, make sure you are applying color in small sections starting at the top and working your way to the sides and then the back," Duffy said. "After you have finished applying the color, comb your hair a few times to make sure color is distributed evenly." Finally, add a tiny bit of water to your hair once it's set, and scrub gently to emulsify. This gives one last dose of allover color, in case you missed anything.

6. Washing Right Before You Dye

If you're going for a fresh new 'do, it makes sense that you'd want to start with a totally clean slate... but that's not always optimal for getting the shade you want. "For best color results, it’s always best to start with hair that has been washed 24 hours prior to coloring," Duffy said. "Your scalp has natural oils that help protect it during the coloring process."

7. And Not Washing Correctly After It's Done

Don't fret if you don't usually skip a day between washes: You'll want to clean up after you apply that dye. "Typically, I like to tell my clients to rinse out the colorant after dyeing their hair, followed by shampooing their hair with a color-safe product," Duffy said. You can show off your new look right away, no greasy strands included.

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