Stepping out of a salon - at home
July 5, 2014 10:13 AM   Subscribe

I have dyed my hair at home for years, with box dyes (save one bleach + manic panic job when I was 17). Now my hair is quite short, I'm wondering whether I can pick up developer and colour at a beauty supply store so that I can use what I need, rather than wasting half a box kit. Any tips and tricks?

Useful info: my hair is red and I would be interested in keeping it that way - I prefer bold reds over red-brown or red-purple tones which I have read is easier to achieve with the products pros use. Sadly, now I'm an adult with a swimming habit and a rental deposit, vegetable dyes are less of an option. My natural hair colour is a very very pale brown (though I haven't seen it for sixteen years). i have access to a Sally's near my office and generally have the attitude that if it goes horribly wrong, it will grow out. I don't want to do anything scary like going from red to blonde - I would rather leave bleach to professionals - just colour my hair as I've always been doing but a little bit less wastefully.

I have absolutely no worries about mixing it up myself at home, and I know there are non-pros who do their hair this way - I just wondered what I need to be buying. I know I want a developer, but what level, and will any developer work with any creme colour? Is it very hard to do it properly at home? Any recommendations on brands, particularly for bright, bold reds?

I am not interested in doing my hair at a salon, as I have neither the money nor the time to sit in a chair doing nothing without being able to see anything - at home, I can keep my glasses on and spend the money I've saved on cake. So any experiences welcome.
posted by mippy to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've been coloring my hair for years and once I got out of the terrible first year when I accidentally dyed my hair purple, I've been doing a good enough job that my salon where I get it cut has no idea I even do my own color or that my hair is colored at all.

I recently went from long hair to bob to a pixie cut. I use Herbatint (I'm a swimmer too, good thing this is only marginally "natural" in terms of ingredients) I order off of Amazon which says on the package just to use 1:1 ratio of the developer to colour and store the rest in a cool dry place. So I've been using 1/2 of the original bottles with the bob and now 1/4 with the pixie and it's been going fine. I use the Aveda Madder Root Color Conditioner when washing it after swimming to preserve the vibrancy.

I'm betting you can do this with any drugstore color box kit as long as the containers are resealable. If you have time and the interest you can buy the raw ingredients for cheaper, but for me it's just so easy to order off of Amazon that I've never bothered.

The issue with Herbatint is the color names are BS. Like I use "Mahogany Blonde" and it in no way looks blonde- on dark brown hair it just makes your hair mahogany. When I did a more vibrant red, before I decided it looked too unnatural with my complexion, I used Henna Red, which is a brighter version. Both have a red-purple base. At one point I used the more red-yellow base colors and they were fine, but didn't last as long. I've used drugstore color when I haven't been able to get the Herbatint I want and that's worked fine too.
posted by melissam at 10:32 AM on July 5, 2014

Killer Strands has the best hair color advice, I think. And I use Goldwell color and developer, or did until I found my new colorist. Amazon available.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:34 AM on July 5, 2014

I've tried using half the box kit, but it doesn't seem to do a lot to my hair -maybe because I'm eyeballing the amount?

I've heard Pravana is great for bright red a, but looks like you can't get it in the UK.
posted by mippy at 10:35 AM on July 5, 2014

Mahogany Blonde? That's an oxymoron and a half!
posted by mippy at 10:36 AM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I did this for many years, getting everything I needed at Sally's. Honestly, I'm not sure why I stopped except I don't live really close to one anymore. With some advice from the staff there, I was actually able to mess around with peroxide types in order to get the amount of lift I actually needed rather than the mid-weight stuff in the box.

And then my hairdresser suggested using a capful or two of toner (from what I dyed my hair with) in my shampoo once a week to keep my reds red, and that was fantastic too. (Premixing doesn't seem to work well, the toner loses its oomph.)
posted by Lyn Never at 10:59 AM on July 5, 2014

It is super easy to color your own hair, especially if it is short. There are two main color lines that Sally's carries, Ion and Wella Color Charm. I prefer the latter, but not sure how bold a red you can get from that line. The staff at Sally's can help direct you to the best choice, from what I have seen of the staff's hair, many know a lot about saturated colors, and can help with volume. Any volume will work with any permanent color. Volume just controls the amount of lift you get. For example, 10 volume is deposit only (though there typically is some lift involved), and then higher volume is higher lift.
posted by nanook at 11:24 AM on July 5, 2014

I use Goldwell Elumen, which is a stain rather than a dye, and doesn't include any bleaching agent or developer at all. But the reds are bold and stay like you wouldn't believe -- I've had bleached cherry-red streaks that were still cherry-red with no touchup a full six months later. Here's what my dishwater blonde-brown-bronzey hair looks like after 35 minutes of the RR@all, no heat. It brings so much shine!

Elumen is a professional color, and it comes pre-mixed (unless you want to experiment with different colors.) I've heard complaints that it's hard to apply, but I used their applicator comb and it was a snap. Be warned, you need to Vaseline up your hairline and ears all the way around to prevent staining your skin. Wipe up any drops immediately. And it can bleed for a while, so maybe start with some non-beloved towels and use a swim cap in the pool.
posted by Andrhia at 11:35 AM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

My mom was a hairstylist until she retired, and I colour her hair every six weeks or so with Wella Koleston Perfect Creme Developer and a tube of the same brand's colour. Her hair is grey and about chin length, and she goes blonde. I'm not a pro, obvs, so what would take her half a tube takes me a whole one. She does red highlights in my black hair with quite a vibrant red (77/44?) from the same brand, and I find that they last a long time.

The creme developer bottle sitting next to me says 6%. It's a 1L bottle and seems to last forever. Wella Koleston is available at Sally Beauty as far as I can tell.
posted by sillymama at 12:00 PM on July 5, 2014

I'm very happy with Wella Color Charm Demi-permanent, which is available at Sally's. It doesn't bleach the hair, but deposits color that lasts very well for me. (Permanent hair bleaches hair before depositing new color.) I just redo the roots once a month or so, and then every six months pull the color all the way through my hair for the last few minutes.

My hair is about 50% gray, and this brand cover my gray very well.
posted by wryly at 12:39 PM on July 5, 2014

No input on colours, but as I think you live in London? as well as checking Sally's for any preferred brands, you might want to take a trip to Paks in Finsbury Park. They specialise in African hair care but have a huge selection of industrial-level dyes and dying equipment.
posted by citands at 5:00 AM on July 6, 2014

I had good luck with Loreal HiColor HiLights for intense color. It comes in a tube and you mix it with developer so you can get a bunch of uses out of one tube. I get it at Sally's in the USA but since its available on amazon's uk site I bet you can get it where you are. There is also HiColor regular dye (not highlights) but I've never used that.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:46 AM on July 6, 2014

I'd be very careful to follow the instructions to a T. The first time I mixed my own colour instead of just buying something at the drugstore, I left it on a bit longer because my hair tends to be weird, and instead of the darkish brown the lady at the salon told me they would become, my hair turned black. It looked very unnatural. (Or maybe she gave me the wrong colour, I don't know.)
posted by LoonyLovegood at 12:26 PM on July 6, 2014

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