Hair Colouring

The 9 best at-home hair dye kits, according to experts

Get to the root of your hair color problems from home.

In a time when going to the salon isn’t just a hassle but may be limited due to COVID concerns, many are taking hair color into their own hands — literally. With the help of box dyes, people have been doing their own do’s forever, but many with questionable results.

However, those who have been on TikTok recently have seen some at-home hair color disasters, either in videos from the person themselves or in viral reenactments by accounts run by Siiri Parks (@siiriparks), Theresa Van Dam (@theresavandamstylist) and Taylor Burgos (@madeandtaylored), now dominating the subsection of the app dubbed HairTok.

Since we don’t want your dye job going viral for all the wrong reasons, we decided to have a chat with each of these hair colorists to see if they could provide us with any tips and tricks for a successful at-home dye session sans major fails. We asked them each to recommend their favorite brands, too, so you can revive your color between appointments or try your hand at an at-home color as safely as possible.

Is it safe to color your hair at home?

First thing’s first — all of our interviews were with professional hair stylists and colorists, and so they all obviously recommend going to a reputable salon when coloring your hair. However, they understand that not everyone can afford a professional treatment often, and with COVID-19 concerns, many have turned to the at-home route.

“I mean, quarantine taught us that getting to the salon is not always possible,” said Parks in an interview with The Post. “Obviously, I’m a professional, so I can’t lie, I will always prefer professional products and colors. But I feel like if anything within the past two years has shown us is that sometimes things happen, and it’s not always within your budget or your frame of availability to get professional color. So I definitely think that there’s a stigma attached to it [at-home hair color] that is necessary, but I also think that there’s a stigma attached to it that’s not.”

This being said, there are some things you can do to make your at-home hair dying as safe as possible, from the ingredients used to the process of dying and the color you choose.

“My biggest thing out of anything would be to make sure that it’s PPD free,” said Parks, referring to the chemical ingredient in some dyes called paraphenylenediamine. “It is not harmful for everyone, but it can cause allergies and has been known to be associated with cancer, so a lot of haircare companies both at home and professionals have really been steering away from including PPD in their hair color formulas.”

Added to that list are metallic salts, warned Van Dam in an interview with the New York Post, which can be found in a lot of henna hair colors.

“I would say metallic salts are like the big one because those are what truly cause chemical reactions,” she said. “They’re basically very flammable. So when peroxide is mixed with metallic salts, or put over metallic salts, that can actually cause smoking and combustion if you leave it on long enough. I’ve had that happen several times where I’ll put the bleach on and their hair will start smoking and get up to 450 degrees — it’s intense.”

Other tips and tricks from our stylist experts:

  • Don’t play chemist on your own: “If you go to a store like Sally’s, talk to your stylist first about what you should buy, and how they would suggest you mix it and you know what developer to use,” said Van Dam
  • Color doesn’t lift color: “People try to go from really dark to a really light color and think that once they put the light color over the dark color, everything is going to be light. That’s not the case, unfortunately. So people will get those really fiery hot routes and wonder why,” said Burgos.
  • Do a patch test first: “A lot of people are impatient, and don’t want to do an allergy test, but you’re supposed to put a little dab of color behind your ear or on your arm and just leave it alone to see if within 24 hours you ‘ve had a reaction. Most of the time color is going directly on your scalp, and next thing you know, their head is literally swollen because they were allergic to the dye. It’s just better to be safe than sorry, even if that means prolonging the hair dyeing process by a day,” said Parks.

How to choose the right color for you?

Aside from what to avoid, choosing the right color can be challenging but our hair color experts had some tips and tricks to share, many of which are as easy as opening an app on your phone.

“I’ve always used editing apps, and one of the apps that I’ve used for a very long time actually gives you the option to like edit your hair color,” suggested Parks, referring to the app FaceTune which is free on the App Store. “Sometimes I give people the opportunity rather than just putting like a swatch up to their face to let them see if it suits their skin tone or whatnot. I’ll just take a picture of them head on and we’ll change it to honey blonde or neon blue, if that’s what they’re thinking. And then they get to really see the full essence of what they’d look like.”

Another way to make sure you are happy with your outcome is to start small and use at-home color for touchups or gray coverage between professional appointments. Burgos suggests this, as what you see on the model on the box may not be what you will look like in the end.

“I really think if you’re going to be coloring your hair at home, it really should be like gray coverage and try to stick with your natural color,” warned Burgos. “So if you’re a brunette, don’t grab the box that has a blonde on it, because as much as you want to look like that picture, chances are, that’s not going to be the reality of what happens.”

How to remove hair dye from skin and hairline?

This was one of the most Googled questions we found, as we can only imagine the red or purple-stained hands frantically asking how to remove hair dye from the skin. Luckily there are products out there to help with removal, as well as some tips to prevent staining in the first place.

IGK is a brand that Parks suggested, and mentioned that they include both a color blocker that you can put around the perimeter of your hairline and a stain remover packet for the end to apply to any dye left on your ears or hands. However, to prevent stains from the start, Van Dam had a household suggestion that is even easier.

“One good thing to prevent it from getting on your skin in the first place if you’re doing your hair at home is to put Vaseline around your your forehead first without getting anything on your hair, and that can help prevent it from staining your skin in the first place,” she said.

Where to buy dye remover, as recommended by professionals:

  • IGK Permanent Hair Color Kit: Step 1 of their system is a Color Block Barrier Gel, to apply all around your hairline and on ears. Then use Step 5, which is a Stain-Removing Cleanser to spot treat any remaining dye on skin.
  • Vaseline: An easy-to-get product that you may already have in your cabinet is Vaseline. All you need to do is apply it to the hairline and ears to prevent staining.
  • Roux Hair Color Stain Remover: Head to Sally Beauty for this hair color remover, that works to gently remove stray spots of dye on skin.
  • Makeup remover wipes: This was another suggestion from our stylists as a great way to remove mistakes, as long as you do it quickly while the dye is still fresh.
  • Dawn dish soap: “Dawn dish soap is really nice and it’s really gentle,” said Parks. “I mean, they use it to get oil off of little baby ducks!”

The best at-home hair dye brands

1. IGK Hair

IGK Hair

This brand was recommended across the board as one of the best. Not only do they have a great shade range, but as mentioned above the kit comes with stain removers, a post-treatment mask and everything else you’ll need to color your locks at home.

“My favorite for virgin hair I would probably have to say would be IGK hair color,” said Parks, who actually uses this brand herself. “It’s a beautiful color match and makes my hair super soft and super shiny.”

2. Kristin Ess

A box of Kristen Ess hair color

This is a great brand to use for a gloss treatment, which is even more temporary than semi-permanent dye, but can be great to use between professional treatments or as a fun tint to test the colored waters.

“She’s also a celebrity stylist, so her tools and her color line are made by a professional,” said Parks. “Since glosses are non permanent, that’s a really good way, especially for lighter haired people, to experiment with going like a touch darker or maybe giving themselves like a rose gold or a nice honey blonde. It’s a really good way to experiment without the permanence of dye.”

3. Manic Panic

Three tubs of Manic Panic hair dye
Sally Beauty

This is a beloved brand for many, Parks included, who revealed that her TikTok famous black and red look was due to using the vegan hair color, sold at Sally Beauty.

“I love Manic Panic,” she said. “Whenever everyone was obsessing over my black and red hair last year, the red that was on my hair was literally Vampire Red by Manic Panic.”

4. Arctic Fox

An array of Arctic Fox hair dye
Sally Beauty

If you want to go for a vivid shade of red, blue, purple or any other rainbow hue, a top brand is Arctic Fox, as recommended by our pros. It is sold at Sally Beauty in a range of shades, which is also one of Van Dam’s recs.

A tube of lilac Moroccan Oil conditioner

For stunning color and healthy, shiny locks, our professionals love Moroccan Oil, and specifically their color depositing hair masks. These are semi-permanent, and like glosses, wash out after a few shampoos.

“Moroccan oil also makes a really amazing color depositing hair mask, and you can get that at Sephora,” said Burgos. “They have regular natural tones, and brighter color-depositing colors, so you can do like a brunette, blonde or red, or you can get a more vivid color like pink, red, green, purple — whatever strikes your fancy.”

6. Wella Professionals

A tube of Wella hair dye

This is another gloss brand, that you can easily apply yourself for a touch of stunning color and shine that washes out after a few shampoos. It is sold on Amazon and comes in an array of natural and bright colors, too.

“I actually got a chance to use Wella first-hand on one of my friends and it was a beautiful tone,” said Parks. “It was easy application and really liquidity so it spread especially well.”

7. Ion Color

Two boxes of ion dye
Sally Beauty

This one is used by professionals and DIY-hair colorists alike, which is why our experts recommend this brand. It is sold in a variety of vivid shades and natural hues at Sally Beauty, easily accessible to purchase.

“I have used ion before, and I’ve actually heard of a lot of salons that recently have been introducing ion and Wella into their salon settings,” said Parks. “I believe that they have like an external professional line that professionals have been using.”

8. dpHUE

A bottle of brown color conditioner

To find a hue for you, the brand dpHUE has some great options that won’t leave your hair as damaged as trying to do full color on your own. This is why Burgos likes it, especially for gray coverage and root touchups.

“dpHUE is a good one that a lot of people use, and they also make a lot of wonderful spray colors to cover your grays,” said Burgos. “I’ve also seen people on TikTok just spray their entire head and change from blonde to brunette or whatever they want to do.”

9. Madison Reed

A tube of orange colored conditioner
Madison Reed

This salon-quality brand is a great bet for both permanent and semi-permanent colors, approved for use at home and designed by a reputable salon. They also have a new gloss treatment that is great for a subtle change or a refresh between colors.

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