Tress for Success
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The Best Hair Color At-Home Kits According to Stylists

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Tress for Success
Hirurg/istockphoto

Tress for Success

Let's get this out of the way — pretty much every stylist we talked to said the same thing: When it comes to coloring your hair at home, just don't. With that caveat, let's acknowledge that many of us will ignore that advice. And, when we do, it might help to have some best practices in place for at-home hair coloring, including the products that will do the best job and have the recommendation of stylists (and users) behind them. From all-over color to touching up grays, here are the best at-home color kits, as well as some tips for getting the best DIY results.

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eSalon
eSalon

eSalon

Price: $22 from eSalon
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Los Angeles-based Adrienne Florez, who's been a stylist for 16 years, says this is a kit she's been recommending to clients. "The company formulates the hair color to the individual, so they will get a better result than the traditional box color," she says. After answering a handful of questions about your hair and color preferences and uploading photos (which is optional but recommended) on the company's website, eSalon matches each client with a colorist. The expert will contact you via email, even letting you know if they think your preferences won't work. Once a color is decided upon, a kit is sent to your home that includes everything you need to get the job done, with detailed instructions on how to get the best results.

Clairol Root Touch-Up
Amazon

Clairol Root Touch-Up

Price: $10 and up from Amazon
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Florez says she's recommending this product to clients who don't want to wait for a delivery. "It comes with an applicator brush that’s easy to use on the hairline and part," she says. "This is great if the client is scared to do their whole head. They can color only the parts that are showing until they can see their stylist again." In addition to color "cremes," Clairol's Root Touch-Up product line includes concealing powders, blending gels, and sprays.

Pro Tip No. 1
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Pro Tip No. 1

When you are coloring your hair at home, Florez says, "prepare everything you may need before you start the process. Grab two old towels that you don't care about, one to wrap around your shoulders to protect your clothes and another for after you wash your hair, just in case there is residual color on the hair." The clothes you wear should also be something you don't mind staining, because "sometimes things can get a little messy." Have hair clips or rubber bands on hand to section the hair in quadrants, Florez notes — "this allows for equal distribution of color and you won't miss spots." Finally, she reminds at-home DIYers to "always read all the instructions and take your time."

Oribe Airbrush Root Touch Up Spray
Amazon

Oribe Airbrush Root Touch Up Spray

Price: $32 from Amazon
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Lindsey Loo, a color expert and stylist for J.L. Byrd in New York City, recommends this product to brunettes and redheads looking to cover exposed roots or gray hair. "It's super easy to use and comes in a wide range of colors," Loo notes. "It can help to camouflage any unwanted wisdom exposed" — a.k.a. gray hairs.

Wella Demi-Permanent Color Charm
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Wella Demi-Permanent Color Charm

Price: $7 from Amazon
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This is another product that Loo suggests for brunettes and redheads. She recommends applying it only on "the part, hairline, temples and, if you can reach, the nape of the neck. This does not guarantee permanent coverage but this will get you to a closer goal of wisdom coverage without messing your colorist's formula up too much."

Pro Tip No. 2
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Pro Tip No. 2

Loo recommends some unconventional methods that could get you through the period before you can see your colorist. For redheads, she says: "Use a shade of lipstick closest to your red, apply it gently at the root and bam, instant coverage! And no joke — this does work." For brunettes, use mascara or even an eyeshadow that is close to your hair color and "apply where you are wanting coverage." Neither is permanent, she acknowledges, but "a great option without using chemicals." There is a caveat, however, Loo notes: Don't use any cosmetic product used on your hair on your face due to sanitation concerns.

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Davines Alchemic Shampoos & Conditioners
Amazon

Davines Alchemic Shampoos & Conditioners

Price: $27 and up from Amazon
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For blondes and blonde highlights, Loo recommends Davines Alchemic products to give a boost to already-there color that has dulled since your last salon visit. The products come in shades of tobacco, golden, chocolate, red, copper, and silver, and Loo recommends using both the shampoo and conditioner together. "The shampoo preps the hair to receive the color pigments from the conditioner," she notes.

Christophe Robin Color Care
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Christophe Robin Color Care

Price: $18-$53 from Christophe Robin
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Loo also recommends this line of color-enhancing conditioners, which can be used alone. "Also one of my favorites," she notes, "and this too comes in a wide range of tones." Shades include copper; ash brown; warm and light chestnut shades; and baby, golden, and dark blonde shades.

Pro Tip No. 3
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Pro Tip No. 3

Michon Kessler, a stylist in Reno, Nevada, recommends that people call their colorist and ask if she or he would be willing to mix a halo touch-up kit for use at home. "It is just enough to touch up through their part and around the face," she says. Kessler gives her clients instructions and offers curbside pickup and delivery. While acknowledging that many stylists and colorists will refuse to do this — "this subject in the beauty industry is very polarizing" — Kessler says she'd rather offer this service than have her clients "go to Walmart and buy heaven knows what."

Avon Chi Essentials Color Kit
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Avon Chi Essentials Color Kit

Price: $32 from Avon
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Looking for at-home color with more natural ingredients? Houston-based Melissa Gonzalez, an Elite Artist and Education Trainer for Farouk Systems who's been in the industry for 15 years, recommends this Avon product that contains no ammonia or PPD (p-Phenylenediamine). "Most boxed color kits use ammonia in their color, which harshly opens up the cuticle and dries out your hair," she says. "They are also inconsistent in pH so you never know what color you're going to end up with." Avon Chi Essentials, she notes, not only smells better, but it has aloe, silk, and olive oil in its formula, which helps reduce scalp sensitivity, add moisture, and, notes Gonzalez, "leaves your hair feeling soft, shiny, and silky." The product comes in 12 colors.

Pro Tip No. 4
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Pro Tip No. 4

Gonzalez has suggestions for guaranteeing a more even, blended color application. "If your goal is to lighten up your roots or cover your grays," she says, "my best advice is to focus on applying the color only to the roots, (then) process and pass the color through the rest of your hair for the last 5 minutes." Another tip for coloring gray hair is to "always start your application to those areas where the grays are resistant (usually around the hairline) for extra coverage."

Manic Panic Vegan Hair Dye
Amazon

Manic Panic Vegan Hair Dye

Price: $10 and up on Amazon
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Jane Harris, a longtime stylist and founder of glueless wig company The Virgin Hair Fantasy and who's also a vegan, recommends this ammonia-, phthalate-, and paraben-free hair dye made in the U.S. "Manic is an affordable, semi-permanent hair dye that won't damage the hair like some products on the market. Colors fade and wash out over time," Harris says. With nearly 50 shades of vibrant color to choose from, Harris adds, "there are options to satisfy the daring home colorist and those seeking to merely cover gray."

Hair Color
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Surya Brasil Henna Color Cream

Price: $18 from Surya Brasil
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Harris also recommends this product, which she says is an "all-natural vegan option with more natural colors" than what's available in the Manic Panic line. The product, she notes, dyes hair with vegetable extracts and herbs "in a safe way," adding: "Another great benefit of Surya is that it not only colors the hair, but also enhances your hair's beauty, strength, and overall condition."

Pro Tip No. 5
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Pro Tip No. 5

Harris recommends doing your homework before trying anything drastic with at-home color. "If you know the name of the process, search YouTube for video reference," she says. "Watch the video all the way through to see if you like the finished result. If you can find videos from the hair color company, even better." Finally, she stresses, "Whatever you decide to do, approach it with confidence. If you can get it touch with your stylist, do so, and ask him/her to walk you through it. Commit to not do anything too drastic, and you'll be fine."