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So here we are again. Back in lockdown, with no hair salons to take care of our colour and fix up our roots.
Even if you were lucky enough to have nabbed an appointment just before the latest announcement, you’re likely to have regrowth to deal with by the time the restrictions are lifted.
The earliest salons can possibly reopen is Monday 15 February, and last time we had to wait nearly four months to get back in the chair. Even the best case scenario is six weeks away, and if you’ve got either greys or dark roots they’ll be peeping through by then.
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However, there are lessons to be learned from the first two lockdowns. And one of the biggest is this: home hair colour isn’t as scary or difficult as you might think, even if you need to use permanent dye.
For proof, see the celebrity hair ambassadors who have been proving that they really DO use the colours they promote, and sharing their application technique and tips.
Holly Willoughby and Davina McCall even coloured their roots together over a joint video call, showing it’s simple to fix stubborn greys or dark roots on bleached blonde hair.
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“For years everyone was like ‘there’s no way you colour your own hair’, but in lockdown it’s the only time people believed it because you couldn’t physically go out and our roots were being touched up at home,” Holly said, demonstrating how she uses Garnier Nutrisse Crème Baby Blonde 10.01, £5.79 here, to maintain her blonde. “It goes to show it’s all doable.”
Davina, meanwhile, showed how she maintains her zero tolerance to greys approach using shade 5, £5.79 here. “I don’t like any grey when I’m this dark, it looks terrible almost immediately,” she explained.
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Speaking as a fellow brunette who regularly fixes her roots at home, I can vouch the fact that DIY hair dye isn’t a disaster waiting to happen. It's quick and effective, it doesn't drip and it's been my must-have beauty product during every lockdown.
Obviously nothing beats seeing an expert colourist for a flawless root touch-up, and I’d never dream of attempting anything ambitious at home. However, long before lockdown ever happened, I'd realised I simple don’t have the time to go to the salon every eight weeks to deal with my greys.
For that reason I regularly switch between salon and home colour, and I’ve done my own roots for years with a host of great brands, including Garnier, Clairol, Josh Wood, L’Oréal and eSalon. And you can do it too, with a little help from this expert guide which answers all your burning questions on home colour.
Firstly, isn’t DIY colour inferior?
Not at all, says colour expert Michael Douglas. ‘The companies that make home colour are the same ones that make salon colour. The main difference between salon and home dye is having an professional to apply it perfectly and give you their expert advice on colour. That's something you'll have to wait for until the salons reopen, unfortunately.'
I’ve heard home hair dye is dangerous…
Allergic reactions are rare but can happen – for both salon and home colour. ‘That’s why it’s vital to patch test every time,’ says celebrity colourist Josh Wood.
Both the Josh Wood permanent colours and Clairol Nice ’n Easy use alternatives to PPD, the main potential allergen in dye, which is designed to minimise the risk of a reaction even further. However this is not the time to take chances and skip the patch test, whichever brand you use. ‘Hospital is the last place you want to be right now,’ says Josh.
How can I match the colour my hairdresser uses?
Most box and salon dyes use a universal colour code: 10 being lightest, 1 being darkest, plus letters representing additional warm and cool tones. If you can contact your hairdresser, ask for your shade and buy a matching box dye. If that’s not an option, it’s fine to look at box photos. ‘The tone match doesn’t have to be exact if you’re only trying to match a few centimetres of root regrowth,’ says Josh. ‘With my home dye system you just assess how dark you are and decide if you want a cool or warm finish. That’s it.’
What if I still need pro advice?
You can get it for free – most brands have advice lines or live chat. For instance, L'Oreal has a section on shade matching on its hair colour advice portal and Garnier has an online consultation service here which lets you virtually try on different shades and message its advisors for advice.
‘There’s an online consultation at the Josh Wood website to help you find the right colour and we’ve introduced expert 1-2-1 live video consultations,’ says Josh. eSalon is another brand that offers pro help to home colourists, and will then create a custom dye for you.
Or how about asking an expert directly? ‘If people get in touch via my Instagram, @mdlondon, and send photos I’ll always give them free advice,’ says Michael.
I’m still scared I’ll bodge it…
Use cosmetic root cover-ups that wash out – Josh Wood does a good range of crayon and brush-on versions. Or start with a semi-permanent colour like Clairol Natural Instincts, £5.99. ‘It’ll cover greys by 50% so you’ll still get a nice softening effect, and there’s no commitment because it only lasts 28 shampoos,’ says Michael. ‘Even if it’s not enough grey coverage for you, it won't affect any other dye you might try.’
How often should I colour my roots?
If you have permanent dye on your hair, try to wait eight weeks before touching up your roots. ‘The longer the roots, the easier it is to avoid overlapping the dye which can create ‘bands’ in your hair,’ says Michael. ‘Stretch it out by using a cosmetic concealer on your parting in the meantime.’ One of my personal favourites is Garnier Express Retouch, £10, which is brilliant for greying brunettes.
How can I cover my roots properly?
If there’s one tip I can give you on permanent dye regrowth it’s this: do NOT just smother a box-full of permanent dye over your entire head of hair for 30 minutes. Yes it’ll cover your roots but when you over-apply dye on dye like this, it’ll over-process your hair and can look heavy and dull. If you're brunette like me, the colour builds up and goes too dark. I’ve made this mistake in the past and have needed the excess colour stripping out – professionally of course!
So read the instructions and just apply permanent dye directly on roots, working in small sections – clips and a tail comb will help. Josh advises putting little dots of dye onto the roots, then massaging in before moving to the next section.
A tinting brush is great if you have somebody to help, but if you’re doing it yourself, you’ll probably find it easier to use the product nozzle to apply the dye at the back of your head. ‘If you’re struggling, just do the bits people see, like parting and hairline,’ says Michael. Nobody will see the rest on Zoom. Clairol’s Root Touch-Up, £5.99, is one of my go-to products for between salon visits.
Any other handy tips?
A good tip from Davina is to prep your hair first to help you section it. "I always brush my hair very well before I colour it because I use the nozzle to part my hair, and if it’s not properly brushed through it turns into a knotty mess," is her advice.
She also recommends squirting an extra line of dye along the hairline to ensure the greys are completely covered at the temples. (Don't worry about stains, they come off your skin pretty easily.)
How can I maintain balayage?
Balayage itself can be left for months, but if you have roots to deal with, you won’t want to get dark dye on your lightened pieces. Michael suggests applying conditioner on your lengths to act as a barrier. Josh’s tip is to start applying dye at ear level and work upwards towards your parting, as there’s less chance of dark root dye transferring to your lighter lengths.
What if I’m all-over blonde?
Temporary root concealers like L’Oréal Magic Retouch, £8.99, are pigmented enough to hide the worst for a while. If your hair has been bleached far lighter than your natural shade, Josh advises sticking to temporary cover-ups only.
Be realistic – permanent dyes are only designed to lighten natural hair by a couple of shades. Josh points out he's 'built a career' correcting amateur jobs using more powerful DIY hair lighteners. Also, grown-out roots can look pretty cool.
If you want to lighten your regrowth with permanent dye, Michael advises doing a strand test on a tucked away roots area. ‘You want to get the shade right first time because you can’t easily lighten hair more once it’s been coloured,’ says Michael. ‘If you, say, use a shade 7 on your roots and that’s not blonde enough, it won’t do anything if you then put a shade 9 over the top.’
Holly's video demo, using a Garnier shade 10, gives a realistic idea of how much lighter you can go at home.
How can I deal with highlights?
Highlights often just turn into a kind of balayage when they’re grown out a bit, so don’t stress. The simplest way to make them look instantly better is to use a toning treatment to lift brassiness and improve condition – try Josh Wood Shade Shot Gloss, £15.
‘You can get DIY highlighting kits, but it’s tricky for amateurs,’ says Michael, who advises only considering it on hair that’s lob-length or shorter. ‘If you’re attempting it I’d recommend only doing a few small sections around the face,’ he adds. 'This is not the moment to attempt a full head of DIY highlights.'
How can I keep my hair looking good between root touch-ups?
See this time as a chance to give your hair a break, says Michael. ‘Lay off the heat and treat yourself to conditioning masks – Aussie 3-Minute Miracle, £4.99, is my favourite.' To keep your colour looking fresh, use tone-boosting shampoos and masks which deposit no-commitment pigments and shine into your hair, and/or correct brassiness. Charles Worthington Colourplex is a good high street range. The Philip Kingsley range is great for blondes.
Finally, is it OK to give a stuff about my roots at a time like this?
Absolutely. Don’t feel guilty about wanting to fix your colour. ‘It’s not vanity,’ says Josh. ‘I genuinely believe hair colour is fundamental to wellbeing. It’s the small things that really help in a time like this.’
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