All over the world, people are practicing social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19. For most, it's proving to be challenging in ways we didn't expect, including our beauty routines. Sure, removing our own gels to waxing at home isn't as timely or pressing as most of the issues facing the world at large, but it can help restore some dignity and a sense of routine to people who feel upended by the changes around them. If there's one beauty treatment that's especially intimidating though, it's hair color.
"It's best to leave big color changes to the professionals," says Ashley Streicher, celebrity colorist and Garnier consulting stylist. "You don't want to try new colors and techniques at home just because you're bored." That being said, successfully using toning gloss, root touch-up, or single-process color is totally possible with the right tips and tools.
"Before attempting to color your hair at home, it's important that you understand what color your hair is," Streicher says. "Are you a medium, warm brown? Or maybe a light, cool blonde?" To do so, she recommends paying close attention to color guides on product websites and at-home boxes to match your natural color. Plan to grab two boxes if your hair is super thick or long and, regardless, always do a patch test on a small, bottom section of hair before doing the full job.
Still nervous? For extra clarity around your color and formula choice, Streicher suggests checking in with your hairdresser. "Call your colorist and talk to them honestly about what your goal is," Streicher says. "This will help to avoid color correction later." Keep scrolling for more pro tips, plus the products that make it easy, ahead.
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Good For: Toning brassy hair, softening old highlights, and reviving faded color
What It Does: Think of at-home gloss like a topcoat for your hair. A clear gloss smooths hair and adds tons of shine, while a tinted gloss tones, brightens, or darkens existing color to make it look refreshed.
For example, if your blonde highlights are looking more brassy than bright, applying a cool-toned tinted gloss will neutralize warm tones. On the other hand, if your dark hair is looking dull or red, a gloss can make it look richer. Gloss is also great for subtly darkening old, summer highlights, just pick a shade that matches your natural color.
How To Use It: "Apply gloss in the shower and comb through for even distribution," says celebrity colorist Kari Hill, who works out of L.A.'s trendy MèCHE Salon. To prevent staining around your neck and hairline, Hill recommends applying petroleum jelly or lip balm to create a barrier. "If stains occur, use an eye makeup remover on a cotton round to gently remove."
Kristin Ess Signature Hair Gloss
This two-step system from hair pro Kristen Ess is super easy to mix up and apply at home, all in under 30 minutes. It comes in eight versatile shades, like Chocolate Cosmo (which warms up red or brown hair) or Smoky Topaz (which cools off brassy highlights).
Kristin Ess Kristin Ess Signature Hair Gloss, $, available at Target
Madison Reed Color Reviving Gloss
Madison Reed's formula is just as convenient because there's no mixing necessary. Choose between the eight colors, which range from vibrant red to bright blonde to rich espresso, and apply in the shower to reveal a boost of color and shine.
Madison Reed Madison Reed Color Reviving Gloss, $, available at madison reed
Rita Hazan True Color Ultimate Shine Gloss
Celebrity colorist Rita Hazan created a foam gloss that comes in five, no-frills shades to enhance your color in the time it takes to shower. According to Hazan, even Beyoncé use the Breaking Brass shade when she wants a cooler blonde tone.
Rita Hazan Rita Hazan True Color Ultimate Shine Gloss, $, available at Rita Hazan
Good For: Regrowth of any kind
What It Does: Whether you want to disguise color regrowth or greys, Streicher says that a root touch-up kit is your best bet. "If you can get your color match right, then the process should be fairly easy," she says. "The biggest mistake made with at-home hair coloring is choosing a shade you want to have rather than what you do have."
How To Use It: Once you have your color choice locked down and your patch test is finished, Hill suggests starting at your hairline. "Once you've applied as far as you can see or reach, use a wide-tooth comb to loosely break up the line of demarcation."
Now's the time to enlist a friend to do the back. When it comes to rinsing, you have two options. First, comb the color down, through your lengths, and let it sit for a few minutes before washing with lukewarm water for an all-over color refresh. Or, if you want to avoid the color covering your highlights, rinse quickly with very cold water to prevent the color from grabbing onto your lengths.
DpHue Root Touch-up Kit
This kit, which comes in five different shades, is ideal for covering greys. The straightforward applicator and ammonia-free formula makes it easy to mix, apply, and rinse.
dpHUE Root Touch-up Kit, $, available at Sephora
Revlon Root Erase Touch Up
One of the downsides of at-home hair color is the mess. Luckily, this root touch-up kit comes with an innovative pump that deposits a mixture of formula and developer directly on your roots.
Revlon Revlon Root Erase Hair Color and Root Touch Up, $, available at Target
Clairol Nice 'N Easy Root Touch-Up
This cult-favorite kit has over 20,000 reviews on Target.com. It comes in 27 shades that are easy to mix and apply for long-lasting results.
Clairol Clairol Nice 'N Easy Root Touch-Up, $, available at Ulta Beauty
Temporary Color Mask
Color masks make it easy to temporarily test out hair color, without permanently sacrificing your natural strands. With color masks, pigment won't penetrate your strands. Instead, it'll give you a boost of color between appointments, Streicher explains. In many color masks, you'll also find conditioning ingredients to nourish your hair while you tint it. On dark hair, a color mask will give your strands a light wash of pigment. On pre-lightened hair, a color mask has a better chance of showing up more potent.
Moroccanoil Color Depositing Mask
This one by Moroccanoil is half-mask, half-temporary color. Leave it on your hair for five to seven minutes, depending on how rich you want the pigment to show up.
Moroccanoil Color Depositing Mask, $, available at Sephora
Joico Color Intensity Color Butter
If you're already blonde and want to switch things up during your time at home, try this color butter by Joico. It's functional and fun and will soften color-treated hair, while depositing a pop of fun color like navy blue, red, or pink.
Joico Joico Color Intensity Color Butter, $, available at Ulta Beauty
Overtone Chocolate Brown Coloring Conditioner
A scoop of this color-depositing mask will add chocolate-brown tones to your hair that'll rinse off in a few washes. The color payoff is intense, so we don't recommend going into this one without gloves (and bathtub cleaner) on hand.
Overtone Chocolate Brown Coloring Conditioner, $, available at Overtone
Permanent Hair Color
Good For: Single-tone, all-over color
What It Does: All-over color is strong enough to cover hair, from root to tip, in one application. However, it's very important to note that going darker is way more foolproof than going lighter, so save your blonde ambitions for your colorist or you'll risk uneven, orange-toned results.
How To Use It: When applying color all over, Hill recommends dividing your hair into quarters and working with small sections for even coverage. Believe it or not, it's very easy to miss an entire section, so now is when you really will need a friend.
"I would start with the two quarters at the front of your head," Hill notes. "Work your way towards the back, so that color can evenly absorb." At the end of the day, getting every last strand saturated is key, so double check your work before processing.
Color & Co. Custom Hair Color
Picking your shade is one of the hardest parts, so why not try a custom color service?
Fill out Color & Co.'s quiz about your hair history, length, and goals, and its team of experts will create a custom color and ship it to your doorstep.
Color & Co. Color & Co Custom Hair Color, $, available at Color & Co.
eSalon Custom Hair Color Set
This option from eSalon is similar. Expect a quiz with tons of color examples that the team uses to design and ship your perfect hair color.
e salon Custom Hair Color Set, $, available at e salon
Garnier Nutrisse Ultra Color Nourishing Hair Color Creme
This cult-classic formula from Garnier comes in 19 neutral and vivid shades that deliver a potent hit of color.
Garnier Nutrisse Ultra Color Garnier Nutrisse Ultra Color Nourishing Color Creme, $, available at Walgreens
Revlon Colorsilk Beautiful Permanent Hair Color
You can also reach for this drugstore-favorite box, which includes an ammonia-free formula, that provides, even color distribution. Best part? It'll only set you back less than five bucks.
Revlon Revlon Colorsilk Beautiful Permanent Hair Color, $, available at Target
What It Does: So your colorist' calendar might be blocked off until further notice, but you can still try some hand-painted highlights at home. However, Streicher warns that this technique should only be approached if you're already familiar with hair color. "If you're at home and you're just bored, stay away from the bleach," she says. "If you understand color and pay close attention to the side of the box (which will let you know if the level of hair is ok for the product), sure, you can paint a few highlights in your hair."
Garnier Nutrisse Ultra Color Nourishing Hair Color Crème
Inside this Garnier box you'll find all the essentials, from the developer, a balayage brush, and a nourishing conditioner to keep your hair soft and hydrated.
Garnier Garnier Nutrisse Ultra Color Nourishing Hair Color Crème, $, available at Target
L'Oréal Paris Colorista Bleach Highlights
This kit contains all the necessary formulas to lift your hair color a few levels. It also includes a three-pronged brush to help guide your color application, if the idea of precisely free-hand painting stresses you out.
L'Oreal Paris L'Oréal Paris Colorista Bleach Highlights, $, available at Target
Madison Reed Light Works Balayage Highlighting Kit
This Madison Reed set up may look intense, but it's packed with everything you need to highlight your hair in two main steps: lightening and toning. In it, you'll find a lightening activator and cream, along with a toning glaze, so you aren't left with dry, yellow highlights.
Madison Reed Madison Reed Light Works Balayage Highlighting Kit, $, available at Ulta
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