The Best At-Home Hair Color for Women, According to DIY Dye-ers

·6 min read

At-home hair color has come a long way since the days of accidentally dyeing our strands orange before the winter formal. Between a much wider shade range to custom kits, there are plenty of user-friendly options to choose from, but let’s go over a few basics of DIY dyeing first.

To start, take a good look at the chart that’s typically printed on the back or side of the box to see how the color will turn out, based on your starting shade. And if you’re still unsure, a good rule of thumb is to choose a shade that’s within one to two shades of your natural color if you’re going lighter and no more than two to three shades deeper if you’re going darker.

Once you’ve settled on your shade, make sure to follow the instructions on the box carefully. (If it says to wait 30 minutes before rinsing, wait the full 30 minutes.) On a related note, you know that tube of conditioning treatment that comes with your dye? It’s not a suggestion; it’s a crucial step of the process. Not only will it add back some much-needed moisture to your freshly colored strands, but it also smooths the cuticle down, which prevents the ends from absorbing too much color.

Now that we’re caught up to speed on best practices, let’s shop some of the best at-home hair color options.

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1. Schwarzkopf Keratin Color Permanent Hair Color

Best for Dry Hair

If you struggle with brittle, lackluster strands and are looking for a way to cover your grays or even out your color without zapping your ends dry, this fortifying formula can help. Both the color and the accompanying conditioner feature a keratin complex to keep your strands strong and shiny. Each kit also comes with a pre-color serum that conditions your hair before you dye it, so you get more even results, and here’s the cincher: It’s the rare dye that doesn’t smell offensively strong.

Buy it ($10)

2. Clairol Age Defy Permanent Hair Dye

Best for Grays

For those with especially stubborn grays, this permanent color is a fan favorite for full coverage that lasts up to 8 weeks. The pointed applicator tip is great for reaching your roots and the rich color and color-seal conditioning cream leave your strands downright glossy. (Tip: Dab your hairline with a coat of Vaseline beforehand to prevent staining your skin.)

Buy it ($10)

3. John Frieda Precision Foam Color

Easiest Application

For the boxed dye beginner, we’d point you to this foam formula. The lightweight, airy texture makes application a breeze (and is much less messy than liquids and creams, which are prone to dripping down the sides of your face and back at times). Whether you opt for “medium chestnut brown” or “blue black,” rest assured, your color will come out evenly.

Buy it ($12)

4. L'Oréal Paris Excellence Creme Permanent Hair Color

Best for Blondes

This pick is popular among the boxed blondes who prefer to keep their strands sunny from the comforts of their home. Choose from an “extra-light ashy blonde” on the lighter end of the spectrum all the way to a “darker blonde” (and shades of gold, champagne and even reddish blonde in-between). Reviewers praise it for making their hair brighter without causing any brassiness or looking unnatural.

Buy it ($8)

5. Dark and Lovely Fade Resistant Rich Conditioning Hair Color

Best for Natural Hair

Formulated for natural hair, this rich color is safe to use on both textured and chemically relaxed strands. Packed with nourishing ingredients like shea butter, avocado and olive oils, it protects hair, while depositing color that lasts for up to 8 weeks. Available in 18 shades. (Tip: For extra TLC, after applying the enclosed conditioning treatment, wrap your head with a warm towel and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing.)

Buy it ($5)

6. Garnier Nutrisse Nourishing Permanent Hair Color Cream

Best for Shine

Fun fact: Mandy Moore used this formula (in “Almond Créme) to lighten her locks from brown to blonde earlier this year. Loaded with a nourishing blend of avocado, shea, and coconut oils (and a bonus ampoule of conditioning fruit oil to boost shine), this fan- and celeb- favorite also has one of the more expansive shade ranges with over 40 hues to choose from.

Buy it ($16)

7. Madison Reed Radiant Hair Color Kit

Most Customizable

For salon-quality results at home, this custom kit comes highly recommended by a colleague’s mom. (They do know best, after all.) To start, you can either take the Color Advisor Quiz or text a selfie to 34757 to get shade-matched by the brand’s color-recognition chatbot. Once you settle on a shade, you can pick up a kit, which includes barrier cream (to prevent stains on your forehead and neck), radiant cream color, conditioning color activator (that comes in a handy squeeze bottle), two pairs of gloves, a cleansing wipe and color protecting shampoo and conditioner to use afterwards. The color itself is enriched with hair-loving ingredients like keratin, argan oil and ginseng root extract to keep your strands looking and feeling as healthy as possible.

Buy it ($27)

8. Clairol Flare Me Dark Permanent Cream Color

Best for Dark Hair

Formulated specifically to work on darker strands, this cream color from Clairol comes in seven shades (though we’re partial to the rich plum, also known as “Keep Calm and Berry On”). Get up to six weeks of color that fades just a little bit with every wash.

Buy it ($12)

9. Revlon Total Color Hair Color

Gentlest Formula

Want permanent color without any ammonia, sulfates, silicones or phthalates? Revlon’s creamy formula is your best bet. Fans rave that this conditioning pick (it features both hemp and camellia oils) is gentle on your strands and scalp, while still delivering a rich, even color. Choose from 16 shades—from a bright blonde to an inky black.

Buy it ($8)

10. Arctic Fox Bleach, Please Complete Hair Lightening Kit

Best for Bleaching

For the more advanced DIY dye-ers out there who are comfortable using bleach on their own, it doesn’t get much easier than this kit. Included is a violet-toned cream bleach to counteract some of the inevitable warm tones you encounter when lifting your hair to a lighter shade. It also comes with a 35 volume developer and a pair of latex-free gloves. (Word to the wise: Make sure you’re in a well-ventilated space before using this; the scent is rather strong.)

Buy it ($20)

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