How to dye your own hair for a fresh, youthful result

By Jessica Matlin

iStock Photos
iStock Photos
New do-it-yourself rules for hair dyeing to make you look and feel a decade younger (sans salon!)

There’s nothing like a great dye job to turn back the clock. Hair colour not only covers grey – if that’s your desire – but also boosts volume and shine, makes fine lines less noticeable, and brightens a dull complexion.

That is, unless you’re still colouring the same way you did when you were much younger.

“What worked then might be aging you now,” says colourist Kim Vo of the Mirage Las Vegas.

To the rescue: the new rules for do-it-yourself dyeing that can make you look and feel a decade younger.


Extremely light or dark hair can look harsh and too much of a contrast to your complexion as you age beyond your 20s and 30s. For the most youthful effect, lighten hair about two shades from your current natural colour (for instance, from medium brown to light brown or dark blonde; dark blonde to medium or light blonde), while selecting a cool or warm undertone that complements your skin.

“Going lighter softens your face, so fine lines and age spots look less noticeable,” says Gary Howse, creative director of Seattle’s Gary Manuel Salon. Besides being more flattering, it also minimises the possibility of mistakes and avoids noticeable roots.


The vibrancy of youthful hair comes from the subtle contrast of colour – a mix of highlights and lowlights against your base colour.

“Nothing is more aging and looks more unnatural than hair that’s flat and all one colour,” says Brad Johns, Clairol’s global colour director.

Here are two easy ways to re-create this radiant effect:

Use a multi-tonal dye Both semi and permanent formulas of this type feature a combination of dye molecules that mimics the nuances of younger hair – dark strands will be deepened and greys washed into lighter glints.

You can tell when a dye delivers multi-dimensional colour if the product name contains words such as shimmering, blended, or tone-on-tone.

To hide a smattering of silver, choose a semi-permanent dye; if you’re more than 40% grey, opt for a permanent colour.

Add highlights If you want more visible contrast than a multi-tonal dye delivers, frame your face with a few strategically placed highlights.

Bonus: These winning streaks make eyes look brighter and give skin a healthy glow.

“Go two to three shades lighter than the rest of your hair,” says Mary Button, a colourist at Philadelphia’s Adolf Biecker Salon.

Opt for a warm shade to compensate for skin sallowness – look for words such as golden, honey, or amber in the product’s name. Stick with hues that are closer to your hair colour; for example, brunettes use light brown, not blonde, and redheads use copper.

Perfect your technique by “sketching” your pattern beforehand with conditioner, which has a similar consistency to hair colour.

Lightening your hair significantly can be a technical process, so a big change is best left for a visit to the professionals in-salon, but if you just want an all over refresh or to touch up your roots a semi permanent that will eventually wash out has the least commitment.


For foolproof home colouring that delivers salon-worthy results, try these tips:

Try a subtle change Hair dye can often end up darker – or in the case of a lightening product , much lighter – than it looks on the box as the product is made to work on all hair types and condtion. So bear this in mind when choosing and don’t try to jump too many shades away from what you currently have. One or two tones lighter or darker is a good goal. To start, find your own hair colour on the results panel usually found on the box, and consider the expected results shown.

Mask your hairline To protect your skin, ears and browns from staining, apply a bit of thick moisturiser or Vaseline to skin before beginning.

Concentrate on your roots When we’re younger, our hair is naturally lightest at the ends. To re-create this effect, apply dye to your roots, but not your ends (as some kits instruct) – they soak up colour the fastest because they’re so porous.

During the last three minutes of processing, splash water onto the crown of your head and then comb the colour through from top to bottom.

“That shot of water dilutes the dye, creating a more natural-looking hue,” says James Corbett, owner of James Corbett Studio in New York City. Rinse hair until water runs clear. Then apply the kit’s conditioning treatment, and rinse well. Wait at least 24 hours before shampooing.

Continually reapplying permanent box dye to your full head of hair will result in build-up on the ends with much lighter roots. Try a touch-up kit and wide application brush to tackle just your roots, or apply to roots first and follow the water splash approach above.

Employ heat Because heat opens hair’s cuticle, warming an old towel in the dryer and wrapping it around your head after applying the dye allows the formula to soak into gray’s more stubborn hair shaft.

Try a gloss There’s now a host of at-home glosses, including tinted formulas that help intensify a fading shade. “They contain silicones that coat and smooth the cuticle, allowing light to reflect evenly,” says Vo. Use monthly to maintain shine and vibrancy.

Buy two boxes If your hair is past your shoulders, or shoulder-length and extremely thick or coarse, use two boxes of the same shade to ensure full coverage.

Use the conditioner Always apply the conditioning treatment that comes in most boxes afterwards to help seal the cuticle of hair for healthy shine and even colour.


The no-ammonia formula in L’Oréal Paris Casting Crème Gloss Semi-Permanent Hair Colour leaves hair healthy and shiny and lasts for up to 28 washes.

Schwarzkopf Colour Specialist includes bond-protecting technology so it protects the structure of strands that are generally damaged while colouring hair.

With a cap and hook for evenly spaced highlights, Clairol Nice N Easy Hair Colour Frost N Tip Streak Kit allows you to create subtle or dramatic streaks with less damage.

L’Oréal Paris Excellence Age Perfect Permanent Hair Colour is designed to work on very grey hair that can be dry and porous, giving a multi-tonal naturally highlighted result, or try L’Oreal Paris Excellence Soft Tones Touch Of Pearl to brighten and remove brassy yellow tones in silver and grey hair.

Clairol Nice N Easy blends three different tones in each permanent colour so the result looks more natural while still covering greys.

All rights reserved by New York Times Syndication Sales Corp. This material may not be published, broadcast or redistributed in any manner


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