Salon closed? Here's how to touch up your roots at home without making your hairstylist cringe

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Nip your impending roots issue in the bud. (Credit: Getty)
Nip your impending roots issue in the bud. (Credit: Getty)

There’s a meme going around that says: “In about three weeks, we’re going to know everyone’s natural hair color.” If you’d rather keep this follicular info to yourself, you’re going to need a plan.

Social distancing and our nation’s health crisis means root touch-ups are, for many of us, out of reach. If you have a growing root issue (pun intended), we sympathize. Coloring roots is tricky business and an art itself. So we consulted Dana Ionato, celebrity color expert at the famed Sally Hershberger salon in NYC, on the best ways to cover grays, lighten roots, and match your color from home—with results that won’t give your colorist palpitations the next time you can visit the salon. Scroll for Ionato’s sage advice.

Choose a neutral matte color: “Go with a tone that’s less vibrant than your color. It will blend better with the rest of your hair and won’t draw attention to the new dye job,” says Ionato. If you’re between two colors, get both. “When you mix two boxes together, you’ll create a more neutral, matte tone.”

Take it seriously: “Treat your home like a salon,” says Ionato. Get all your tools together, set aside the time, and pay attention—“this isn’t something to take on in the middle of doing the dishes.” Take care with application. “Then sit while you process. It’s not easy to cover gray. If you overheat yourself or if the product slides, it's not going to give you coverage.” Stay alert.

Color only the roots: “Make sure you're putting the product only on the new growth,” says Ionato. “I highly recommend putting conditioner or some kind of blocker on your mids and ends”—in other words, covering every part of the hair but the roots with something slippery so it won’t absorb dye.

Skip the gloss and toner: “It’s too much of a risk; leave that to the experts,” says Ionato. “You also do not need tone in your root. It's could make the root too light or dark. With at-home dye, you have to be very careful.”

Do what you need, not what the box says you need: “I recommend shampooing after all box dyes, but most dyes recommend to just use conditioner,” says Ionato. Check your color before washing it out, too. “Put it on the dry hair, let it process the processing time, and once the time is up, go in the mirror, take a comb, and push the product off of the root.” Just like your colorist at the salon would do, if you need more time, you can take it.”

Dana Ionato’s top products for at-home root touch-ups

Clairol Root Touch-Up Permanent Hair Color Kit

"It's pretty foolproof," says our expert. (Credit: Target)
"It's pretty foolproof," says our expert. (Credit: Target)

“This is my favorite—it’s the at-home hair color that I would use on myself,” says Ionato. “It's pretty foolproof, the colors are matte, and it works in 10 minutes.” And even if something doesn’t go quite right, it won’t be a big deal; this color doesn’t contain strong, highly permanent dye molecules, so it will be easier for your colorist to fix a mistake.

L'Oreal Paris Excellence Triple Protection Permanent Hair Color

L'Oreal Paris Excellence Triple Protection Permanent Hair Color (Credit: Target)
L'Oreal Paris Excellence Triple Protection Permanent Hair Color (Credit: Target)

In this time of salon-shutdown, the best home hair-color options are flying off the (online) shelves—so it’s great to have choices. Another product Ionato recommends for root touch-ups is L'Oreal Excellence Creme, which has more than 1,000 positive reviews. “It’s great and foolproof—and it comes with everything you need,” Ionato says. “You mix it up, and you’re good to go.”

L'Oreal Paris Magic Root Cover Up

Last-minute life-saver. (Credit: Target)
Last-minute life-saver. (Credit: Target)

There’s also the option to just deal with your roots on a short-term basis—especially if there’s a chance you can get back to your colorist soon. “If you can wait it out, use a temporary root spray to tide you over,” says Ionato. She says to match your natural color with a product that comes in various shades, like L’Oreal Paris Magic Root Cover Up. Style your hair, then “spray the part and around your hairline.” Technique-wise, Ionato says, “Get close to the mirror to make sure you're spraying onto the right place, and be sure to angle the nozzle away from your face.” Then use a damp paper towel to wipe around your hairline and clean things up.

Bumble and Bumble Brownish Hair Powder

Dry shampoo with temporary coverage.  (Credit: Sephora)
Dry shampoo with temporary coverage. (Credit: Sephora)

A higher-end hair-powder spray, available in brown and blonde colors, this multitasking dry shampoo has a matte finish and brings fullness while masking grays and roots. That’s a big plus. ”Volume keeps roots from showing, disguising the gray better.” says Ionato. When roots are iffy, “don't wear your hair slicked back. You want to keep your hair fuller, because that hides root growth.”

Madison Reed Root Reboot

Madison Reed Root Reboot is a kit with everything you need. (Credit: Madison Reed)
Madison Reed Root Reboot is a kit with everything you need. (Credit: Madison Reed)

This set is great for roots, and Ionato says if you think you might want to do full-on at-home coloring, the company that makes it—Madison Reed—is the one to go with. “Madison Reed has a great thorough question-and-answer process that helps guide you to the right color for you. “I highly recommend Madison Reed if you decide to do your own hair color. This company helps you really learn about it. And if you stick with their plan, you’ll get consistent results.”

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