Is There an App for That?

The Basics of At-Home Color Application

for best results, prep first
Before all else, make sure your hair is in good condition and is safe to be dyed.

It’s essential to keep your hair well hydrated as a part of your regular hair care regimen:  One, for the sake of beautiful, shiny, healthy hair.  And two, because your hair will best take color when it’s moisturized and in good condition.

To optimize color results it’s also good to use a “porosity equalizing treatment” before you color (especially on hair that has been processed a lot).  A product like Ion Color Brilliance will even out the porosity level of the hair from root to tip so that the color can take evenly.

test it out
Although I admit that I very rarely do strand tests myself, they can definitely save you a lot of trouble and frustration, as well as save you from having to spend a lot of money on corrective color or from frying your hair.

At Sally Beauty Supply, they now even offer this Color Guarantee:  If you perform a strand test and decide that for any reason (be it the way it left your hair feeling or that you didn’t like the way the color turned out) you aren’t satisfied, you can return the unused portion of the product to the store with receipt for an exchange or refund.  Not a bad deal at all, and a wise one for anyone uncertain about a color!

gather the goods
If you’re going to be coloring your hair at home regularly it’s definitely best to get the basic supplies and keep them on hand, then just get your color as needed and restock your supplies whenever it’s necessary.

The essentials:

  • Gloves
  • Bowl & Brush (some people prefer to use a bottle; I prefer crème formula colors applied with a bowl and brush because there’s more precision and less drip)
  • Sectioning Clips
  • Color (traditional permanent and demi-permanent colors will require both the actual color and the appropriate developer it is mixed with; the color I use, a long lasting semi-permanent, does not require additional products)

To avoid staining your skin, it’s a good idea to apply petroleum jelly or stain barrier crème to your hairline and ears before applying color.

Divide and conquer.  It’s nearly impossible to try to efficiently tackle your whole head at once.  Instead, focus on small sections.  I recommend making one part from ear to ear, one part down the middle from forehead to neck and one part dividing each of those two sections made in half, going across the crown, as shown in the picture.

Although I often have a bad habit of working back to front when applying my own color, it’s actually best to work front to back so that the hair that’s most visible gets to process the color longest (particularly important for those with gray hair).

Unclip one section at a time, applying the color to the roots first and then to mid lengths and ends.

Once I have saturated all the hair thoroughly in color, I like to twist it up into a sort of bun and clip it while it processes.  You can also position a processing cap (or disposable plastic shower cap) over the top to keep color from getting on anything else.

Or, in a pinch, use an old bandana folded into a triangle and tied up 50’s housewife style.  The bandana option is also fantastically useful if you have to answer the door with color on your hair and you don’t want to look silly.  With a little luck, you can actually pull off “cute!”

wash out dye & seal in color
After the appropriate processing time has passed, wash out the color.
*This can vary with kind of color, hair type, etc.  Be sure to check directions for specifics.

If you have applied a semi-permanent color, simply rinse the color out with water.  Since they are ammonia and peroxide free, there is no oxidation process to be stopped.

If you have applied a demi-permanent color that requires mixing with a developer or a permanent color, you must shampoo the color out to stop oxidation and processing.

To really lock in your color, follow this up with an after color sealer to seal the cuticle of the hair, replenish lost moisture and help your color stay vibrant longer.  There are two available at Sally Beauty Supply, both by the Ion brand, both available in single use packets or in bottle size.  When I use these directly after coloring my hair, I notice a significant difference in how well my color holds.

keep it brighter longer

Maintain vibrant color (and healthier hair) by using color-safe, sulfate-free shampoos.  Sulfates are essentially one of the cheapest foaming agents on the market; so many things we expect to lather contain sulfates.  However, they strip out your hair’s natural moisture as well any color you have on your hair.  Using sulfate-free shampoos designed to protect color will help extend the vibrancy of your hair color.

Try Ion Smooth Solutions Shampoo, One ‘n’ Only Argan Oil Moisture Repair Shampoo or Hairtrition Sulfate Free Color Protect Shampoo — all available at Sally Beauty Supply.

Happy coloring!  And may you always feel beautiful when you look in the mirror.  ♥

Anna is a colorful girl with a nomadic spirit and a love of all things “up.”

An extremely knowledgeable hair enthusiast, she has worked at a beauty supply store for two years and hopes to begin cosmetology school in the coming year.

An aspiring bush pilot, she plans on financing her flying dreams by capitalizing on her hair stylin’ skills.

Until then, Anna spends most of her free time chasing adventures — whether it be hiking, kayaking, camping, flying, concert going or traveling to see outer space related things.

How-To Photos by Shannon Horton of Fox & Owl Studio of Waynesville, North Carolina


  1. Maria says

    Anna, Fantastic job on the instructions you have given. Even if I didn’t know how to dye hair I would totally understand after reading this. Proud of you!!!!
    Love ya,

  2. teri says

    I sure did enjoy learning more about coloring your hair. I have been doing mine at home for years but I really did learn some good tips. I wish I had the guts to try a wild color but being in my 60’s I think maybe I better not. LOL Thanks for the interesting color section.

  3. Jennifer says

    As the editor and publisher of a beauty blog, I probably shouldn’t admit this; but prior to your blogpost, Anna, my knowledge of altering hair color was limited to lemon juice and sunshine. Uh, mystery solved!

  4. Anna says

    Thanks, ladies! If anyone ever has any specific questions, feel free to ask away! :]

  5. Jennifer says

    I think bright pink colorful streaks would be fun; but with my modeling, I really can’t make permanent changes. Can you recommend a temporary color system ~ something I could actually just wash out? As you know, I do shop at Sally’s, so be specific! 😉

  6. Malokia Steele-Cooper says

    Other than the tips you included, anything that helps keep reds “red”? Mine fades quickly ( I stay w/the coppers & light auburns), esp. since I’m in the garden every day of summer, lightening to almost blond. I use the “for reds” shampoos, but they don’t seem to really do much more than a normal shampoo. Are they worthless? Are the shampoos better that you cited, even for keeping reds?
    Thank You!

  7. Anna says

    I’m sorry it took me a while to get back to the last two comments! As for temporary colors, the main two options are spray in colors or hair “chalking.” Personally, I’d recommend the latter. Unfortunately, Sally’s hasn’t picked up on the hair chalk trend yet, but you can use regular soft art pastels (just don’t use oil pastels, as they will stain the hair) to create the lovely temporary look! Makeup artist Kandee Johnson does a fabulous video tutorial on hair chalking, which you can find on Youtube or her website :]

    As for keeping reds vibrant- red is the fastest fading pigment, whether it be in hair dye, pottery, or tattoos. Something about red just doesn’t like to stay. However, there are some things you can do to help them last a bit better. For starters, check to see if your shampoo has sulfates in it; even if it has red pigments in it to “refresh” the color, if it has sulfates in there, too, you’re practically canceling out the benefits right away.
    When I had fire engine red hair, I used a red glaze each time I shampooed to keep the color vibrant, and I know quite a few women with dyed red locks who I’ve recommended this to that swear by it now. Each time I washed my hair, after shampooing and before conditioning, I would saturate my strands with the glaze and let that sit for about 3-5 minutes. I used Beyond the Zone Glam Street Glaze in “Jaw Dropping Red,” available at Sally Beauty Supply, and I’ve also heard great things about Ulta’s Ultimate Red Color Restoring Glaze, available at Ulta Beauty.
    I would definitely recommend the One ‘n’ Only Argan Oil or the Hairtrition Color Protect shampoo + conditioner sets and using a color refreshing glaze. Not everyone uses theirs every time they wash their hair, I was just really particular about keeping mine bright. Also, make sure to use an after color sealer after you color your hair to help lock the color in! And one final thought, if you use a lot of styling products, some of them can be sucking your color out, too, so perhaps check into that as well :]

    I hope this helps! And I hope everyone is having a beautiful day 😀

  8. Anna says

    Also, in addition to using pastels to do the color chalking, you can achieve a similar effect with the following product: :]
    I couldn’t remember the name of it the other day when I wrote my last comment, but I just came across it, so I had to share!

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