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How to DIY a New Hair Color (And Not Regret It)

Foolproof At-home Hair Color

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Visiting the salon for a fresh dye job is lovely, but often comes with a three-figure price tag and hours in the chair. If you're not into that lifestyle but want to change up your look, don't hesitate to try DIY color. With the right products and techniques, you can play colorist without amateurish results. The newest at-home formulas let you tint, tone, and highlight like a true artiste.

Here are some of your best options. (But if you want to go platinum blonde, read this first.)

Photo: Anchiy/Getty Images

Total coverage

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Products like Clairol’s Nice’n Easy Color Care ($7; target.com) are replacing harsh chemicals such as PPD and PDT (common ingredients known to cause allergic reactions) with ME+, a newly discovered, allergy-sensitive dye molecule. To condition strands while the color sets in, kits like Garnier Nutrisse Ultra Coverage Hair Color Creme ($8; garnierusa.com) come with fruit oil to mix into the formula yourself. (And try their online hair consultation tool to find your most flattering shade.) 

Choose a hue within one or two shades of your natural color for less obvious regrowth. And to help your look last, use an at-home gloss, such as John Frieda Colour Refreshing Gloss ($12; target.com), weekly. (BTW, here's how to make your hair color last longer when you sweat a lot.)

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Sophisticated Highlights

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“Traditionally, women have been cautious about DIY highlighting because kits are so difficult to use,” says David Stanko, the master colorist and vice president of technical design and education at Madison Reed. No longer, thanks to the company’s Light Works Balayage Highlighting Kit ($45, madison-reed.com).

It comes with an applicator that simulates the shape of the tool used for an in-salon “balayage” service (a salon technique in which lightener is painted on in streaks freehand). It includes a finishing toning glaze to refine and condition lightened strands. Pro tip: For a modern look, start highlights two inches from roots.

Photo: Madison Reed

Bold Streaks

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From rose-gold hues to metalics and pastels, temporary tints—such as L'Oréal Paris Colorista 1-Day Spray ($10; lorealparisusa.com) and Hush Prism Airbrush Spray ($24; sephora.com)—allow for experimentation (at least until your next shampoo) and instantly cover your hair, whatever your base shade.

“Focus the spray on the bottom half of your hair and ends if you want a subtler look, and on the pieces that frame the face if you want to go edgier,” says Nikki Lee, a consulting celebrity colorist for Garnier. Hold the can at least six inches from your dry hair, and keep the pressure consistent, spraying until you hit your desired hue.

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Zero Roots, Stat

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The frustration of grown-out roots between coloring sessions is real, but waterproof touch-up sprays, like Rita Hazan Root Concealer Touch-Up Spray ($25; sephora.com), can help in a pinch. On dry, styled hair, spray at your part line, holding the can six to 12 inches from your roots. For the best results, test color on a tissue, and don’t overdo it—a little goes a long way, says Shape Brain Trust member Rita Hazan, a celebrity colorist, a salon owner, and a product developer.

A touch-up stick, like EverProbeauty Gray Away Root Touch-Up Quick Stick ($10; drugstores), is also handy: Part hair and color over grays, then comb to remove excess product.

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Photo: Sephora

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