Tips For Great Hair Color Without Going to the Salon

by Courtenay St. John (Connecticut/Massachusetts)

A Personal Decision Not To Go Gray…

There are two things I remember Grandmom saying that must have deeply imprinted my ideas about hair color.

Grandmom unfavorably viewed those blond TV personalities whose “roots were showing.”

And, in her 90’s, Grandmom still crowed, “I have never seen a gray hair on my head, and never will!”

Your Base Color

You have had your Personal Color Analysis and you are ready to harmonize your hair color with your new palette.

You have heard from your analyst that your natural color is best ….. but you are skeptical!

Perhaps you think your own color is too dull.

Or, maybe you are not ready to have gray hair!

I fall into the second category and have been coloring my own hair for 20 years.

There a number of problems with hair dye, and with doing it yourself, that you can avoid. First, it is a good idea to follow your color analyst’s advice: your natural color is the most harmonious base.

The Secrets To Good Do-It-Yourself Haircolor Are:

  • Color you hair often enough to eliminate the root problem (Grandmom whispering in my ear here!)

  • Avoid the monotone shade that comes from repeatedly using the same color.

  • Do not follow the product instructions to “comb the color through.” This dries and damages your hair. It also creates an unnatural monochromatic color.

  • Experiment with an under-layer to arrive at a good hair color shade. Just as all lipsticks suggested for those of your seasonal tone are not appropriate for you, because of skin chemistry and personal nuances in coloring, hair color reacts differently depending on the texture and porosity of your hair.

  • Look at pictures of yourself at different ages to find a reference for an appropriate base color that will not underwhelm or overwhelm the skin texture you have now. Your hair color in your late teens is probably a good reference color.

  • The length and texture of your hair makes a difference for the timing of “root jobs.”  My hair is short with layers and needs a touch up every 14 -17 days. My husband’s hair is only ½ inch long, and he needs to touch up every 6 days, because the white shows through easily. If your hair is very dark, and the contrast between the hair color you use and the actual color of your hair is great, you will need to touch up more often. And although I use only 1/3 of the product per coloring, higher contrast roots may require ½ “recipe.” But, don’t despair! This is easy to do, will give a natural looking result and is still very economical. 

My Hair Color

7th grade ponytail | Color – at 40

I happen to have a big ponytail of hair that I’ve been saving since 7th grade, and it is my reference for my hair-color harmony. In my 40’s my hair color was as dark as it would get.  Now, at my age, that color would overpower my face. 

At my analyst’s recommendation, I chose a color with beige undertones. It is not as dark as I once was, but not a light blonde shade either, which overpowers the peachiness of my Light Spring skin color and minimizes my turquoise/gold eyes. These effects distract from the natural harmony that exists between my native hair color, eyes, make-up choices and clothing.

I only color the roots, and color them every 2 – 2 1/2 weeks. I use only 1/3 of the container of product, mixing up a fresh batch (1/3 color, 1/3 developer) each time.

I do not color all of my roots. Usually I have two shades of color on hand, choosing a different one of them each time, depending on whether may hair seems a bit dark, or too blond. 

My favorite colors that suit my age and skin texture (and, of course, my Light Spring coloring!), are L’Oreal Excellence 7BB, Beige Blonde and one in a lighter shade – L’Oreal Excellence 8 Medium Blonde. These colors are colors that were present in my 7th grade hair. Because hair color can turn reddish on me, I don’t need to add reds to my hair color mix, they show up even with Beige Blonde. Using the Medium Blonde shade often takes away some of those red highlights and my hair looks a bit dull and bleached. Experimenting with under-layers has taught me this.

7 BB, 8MB and Current Color

People always ask whether my hair is blonde or red. It is really neither, just a lighter brown, with those shades mixed in.

This alternation of hair color also minimizes the appearance of roots. I only color the temples, forehead, bangs, some of the grayer areas, particularly where cowlicks frequently expose the roots, and the usual side part.

Doing The Job!

Using a hand mirror, I check the back of my head for part lines, and lighter areas that appear to need it in the back. I don’t worry about doing all of it.  A few gray highlights blended in, soften the color and add dimension.

Next, I make several parts along the top, searching for areas that I may have missed the last time I colored. I do the same thing with vertical parts near my ears and temple and move toward the back of my head. I work quickly, use the squirt tip, and massage gently with my fingers, trying not to spread the color beyond the gray areas. 

As I do this, some of the hair color I’m using spills over. This is nothing to worry about. It helps make the different colors I use each time blend in and appear to be very natural highlights.

At this point, I’m usually out of hair color! So I stop! This whole process takes me 10 minutes. I leave it on for 25 minutes. Then, wash and go. This is economical hair color – both in terms of time and money. The maintenance is simple and the look is “easy on the eyes.”

My husband’s hair gets the same treatment – every six days. Because his hair is so short, and frequently cut, we don’t have to worry about the hair looking dry and damaged. We leave the hair color in his hair for less time, 15-20 minutes, unless he has just had a fresh haircut. His hair shafts also pick up red-tones that are very distracting, so we have settled on one shade that minimizes that effect on him.

And, here we are, freshly colored! 

Courtenay St. John is located in Massachusetts where she offers in-person 12-Season Color Analysis. Studio St. John also offers Color Analysis sessions in Connecticut. Please click the link buttons below for more information.
Courtenay St. John

4 thoughts on “Tips For Great Hair Color Without Going to the Salon

  1. Alyson Neils says:

    Love this. Would love similar suggestions for Dark Winters who had very dark hair in younger years. Grateful.

    • Chrysalis Colour Admin says:

      Tsiky from Stellagraphy says:

      Dark Winter with very dark hair.

      What do Dark Winters with dark hair want to achieve ? – Having light hair or having it remain dark? Is a medium shade an option?

      Having it light means letting it turn silver.
      Medium may be having some streaks of silver and black : it requires patience and a very polished cut.
      Having it dark means knowing the hue. The hue is the key here – it’s dark and seems black or brown but it’s not really black nor brown. What is the hue? The hue is the missing word in the question to get the answer.

      What is the hue? The choices are endless. Looking for a specific brand on the shelf we go from Cherry to Chocolate to Violet and Sienna. There are 6 ranges of what they called cool brown and 12 ranges of dark brown and 3 cool black …overwhelming! Let’s narrow down the choice.

      You know your Season. You are a Dark Winter with:
      – High chroma (pure) and
      – Low value (dark)
      …And the hue?
      In your draping session, do you recall the colours of the test drapes? Let’s use those same hues here (yellow, red, blue, green) and let’s focus on the end-result. The end-result is dark but not black. Only few of us can handle a pure black. A pure black is too harsh and will dull you hair.

      Blue: In my case, for example, the end-result is an illusion of black. I use a blue-based black or pure blue tube with some black added to it. You will hear that the blue will fade away once you wash it. Please keep going. It won’t. It will fade away with the black. Please remember, you are not dying you hair bright blue. The hair won’t appear blue. The end result will give the illusion that your hair is black.

      Red: If your hair looks brown it may also contain some red as well…how dark is it? The red can generally be seen in daylight or when the sun rays go through your natural hair. So you could use the brightest pure red (not cherry, not violet, not fuchsia) and add black to it. Again, you are not dying your hair red. Your end result is giving the illusion that this is a very very dark brown but the truth is your hair is red. You could also use a mix of red and blue that is almost black.

      Using the right hue with black will keep your hair shiny.
      Your fears might arise along the way but if you focus on your end-result it will be okay!

    • Chrysalis Colour Admin says:

      Courtenay says:

      More on Dark Winter:

      Linda, a Dark Winter, learned to color her own hair. Actually, her husband does it for her, because she is all thumbs when trying to do it herself!

      Your individual strategy will depend on your age and what color your hair is now. Older, more wrinkled women and men with a helmet of dark hair, look older when their hair is too dark. Obviously, there are other possible contributors of overall dissonance – the wrong lipstick and the wrong color clothing, for example.

      Linda’s hair was gray (originally a darker brown), and she wanted to keep the darkness near her face. She is in her forties, wears her colors and minimal make-up – just lipstick and blush in her color. We addressed her roots every 10 – 14 days, because the contrast between the gray of her hair and the shades of brown that we alternated at each coloring was obvious. Her hair was already brown (from the salon) and she wanted a more fuss-free, convenient way to maintain her color without the weeks of white roots between salon visits. (Linda was able to maintain her color on her own, once she got the knack and a regular personal schedule.)

      Every Dark Winter would not choose the same shades of brown to experiment with. If you look at the L’Oreal color choices and formula selections, for example, there are about 20-25 choices for brown. Stick with something lighter to begin with, possibly alternating a level 5 medium and level 6 light brown. It is always possible to go darker. L’Oreal has warmer shades, signaled by ‘warm,’ ‘copper,’ ‘mahogany,’ ‘chestnut,’ ‘amber,’ and ‘golden.’ There are also cool shades and ash shades. Choose two shades that have a medium designation, rather than warm or cool.

      You will only be using 1/3 to 1/2 of the one of the formula each time (as noted in the blog above), so there will be lots of opportunities to adjust the color, without making a drastic change (or damaging mistake!) The level of contrast between the gray and brown, and your hair length and style will determine how much color you will mix up for an application.

      Gradually weave in 2-3 colors that give some variation to your hair color (see Light Spring hair color post, above). The level of warmth or coolness will depend on a slightly lighter version of your natural shade in your 20’s. With experimentation, you will learn how the formulations (Excellence, Preference, or Feria, for example) interact with your native color and texture. It is also easy to do under-layers of highlights by choosing a few thin strands of hair to color, always erring on the side of conservative application until you are sure of the color result. Your hair color should harmonize with your color palette.

      For the application, save the developer bottle to mix the 1/3 to 1/3 ratios of developer to color. The color is only applied to the roots.

      Remember, every gray hair does not have to be covered. Less is more.

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