Hair Dye, Highlights and Treatments: 6 Best At-Home Dyes

According to a USA Today survey, about half of the 1,031 women polled regularly color their hair. On average, those who choose the professional route go to the salon about four times per year, shelling out about $65 to $230 for just hair coloring. That quickly adds up to $265 to $920 per year!

Meanwhile, the typical store-bought dye costs anywhere from $7 to $20, making them an easy and inexpensive way to change up your look. But, it begs the question: Are the savings worth risking a really, really bad hair (gasp) month?

Who Shouldn’t Do It at Home?

According to Becky Sturm, owner of a prominent beauty shop, “Store colors and professional colors are not created equal.” What that means is that you should go to a salon if you plan to go from a dark color to a very light one, or if you plan to dye your hair blond or red. Red pigment is the smallest pigment and fades the quickest, according to Latrice Strader, master stylist and owner of a hair salon and spa, so you’ll probably benefit from a professionally-mixed red formula. Strader also recommends that anyone trying to cover grey get the job done at a salon because grey is somewhat resistant to dye.

Similarly, highlights aren’t just about the color formulation, but also about perfect placement. So, says Nicholas DiGenova, creative director at an upscale hair salon, you need the eye of a stylist for those sun-kissed streaks.

Also, if you’ve already tried to dye your hair at home and dislike the result, don’t keep trying to fix it on your own, as adding more and more chemicals will only make things worse. Go to a salon for the most effective fix.

Who SHOULD Do It at Home?

Brunettes have it easier when it comes to hair dye, especially if they are only going a few shades lighter or darker. Brunette or not, dying at home is safest when you are shifting just a few shades from your natural color.

What Do You Need to Know Before You Jump in?

Have a friend help you dye your hair, especially if it’s longer than six inches. Read the directions carefully and use the conditioner that comes with the hair dye. Word of warning: Prepare yourself for a somewhat funky ammonia smell. Don’t worry, it goes away.

Which Are the Best At-Home Hair Dyes?

These are! We bring you a slide show of the best, expert-recommended brands for drug store dye and a wallet-friendly fix.

Click the first image to begin the slide show.

View Slide Show

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  • FormerBlonde

    How long do these dyes last? Are any of them semi-permanent? I'd love to try dying my hair sometimes (I always toy with the idea!) but can't stand the idea of becoming a slave to hair dye and having to keep touching it up all the time. I'd love to try something and have it wash out gradually over time so that I don't have to deal with the dreaded roots dilemma!

  • http://twitter.com/KathleneHestir Kathlene Hestir

    L'Oreal Preference is much much better than the others in my opinion. I've been dying my hair (blonde, 9G) for years and it's always been in great shape. But If you're trying to go blonde from a dark color you should definitely go to a professional the first time. Once you're blonde, you should only do the roots on a regular basis – every 3-4 weeks. And watch out for Ash colors – make sure you know what you're doing if you get one of those.

    Also you can always find coupons in the newspaper (Red Plum or SmartSource) or online (the L'Oreal website usually has one.) They're usually for $2-3 off so you should never pay more than $5 or $6 for a box.

  • recooper

    I don't color my hair often, but I tend to be more willing to spend money on getting it done professionally. Paying to repair color gone wrong or paying for hot oil treatments to repair fried hair can be more expensive than the coloring itself. I'd be interested in seeing the what those costs are. In-store products can be a lot harsher on your hair. Also, even when using take home coloring, make sure you use sulfate-free shampoo (you don't have to go to a salon for it any more. check out organix brand. it's only $8, compared to salon prices of $15 and higher).

  • Raanah

    I have very dark hair and I use to highlight it often. I agree with LV that for dying your hair from dark to light, going to a professional is your best bet. Bleaching and stripping your hair of color is a tricky business- you don't want to mess that up.

    But this year I used L'Oreal Superior Preference to dye my hair back to black (I was at school and couldn't re-touch up my highlights) and it lasted such a long time. I loved it!

  • Alexa

    I am thinking about getting that new treatment the Brazilian Blow-dry — any advice?? Would love some feedback on this new treatment if people have it? It's also nearly $400 apparently? any ways to save on that?

    • Fiona

      I've seen a few deals for it on Groupon and LivingSocial….today's LivingSocial deal actually has a deal for 1/2 price on that treatment. It's $125 instead of $250. Check it out! http://livingsocial.com/

  • Debora

    What is wrong with going natural and being grey? I decided to go grey in my late 40s and often get compliments on my hair. (key is to keep it short and neat). Besides, nothing looks worst when a woman has dark hair coloring that doesn't compliment her skin tones.

    • Fli_freebutterfly

      I agree Debora. I am to turn 40 in March of next year and I have only about 4-5 strands of non colored hair in my brown locks. I use professional products of my hair only (Joico) and have never dyed it, I don’t curl, blow dry or flat iron it. I wash, condition and let it air dry. I use a deep conditioning treatment once a month, it works great. I will never dye my hair and already have my haircut picked out for when it goes all grey. Nothing looks worse than a brilla pad for hair, natural is alway better and your skin changes with your hair, so it matches when you go natural, not when you harshly color your hair. I will never buy into the hair dye business, I hate chemicals!

    • Clittle44

      I’d love to go gray in my late 40s but not my 20s.

  • LisaR

    I just had it done and I do love it. You should wear a painters mask during the application. Your eyes will sting and you shouldn’t breathe it in. They were dishonest about the contents of the product. It DOES have formaldehyde in it – 10%. The stylist was tearing up while she was applying it but even more so when she flat ironed it (that’s how it’s activated). I paid $150 with a coupon. It’s NOT worth $400. You can do it yourself — buy it on Ebay. If you have someone help you do it, you can do the whole thing for about $35. You need to get sulfate-free shampoo. I got Peter Coppolla’s Keratin shampoo and conditioner (about $17 each). Don’t fall for the Braz. Blowout products — ~ $35 each (for 8 oz. – what a scam). Anyway…my once frizzy, wavy hair is smooth as silk, very shiney. I let it dry naturally and I don’t need to do a thing to it. Amazing!

  • http://www.hairsalon.com.au/directory/hair-colourist/ Ramona Miguel

    For best hair color results, always trust the professionals.

  • guest

    I buy professional haircolor and developer on ebay from a salon and do it at home. I had my stylist friend show me how and I just do my roots (key for dark hair to not look really drab). I spend about $3/month, since a $6 tube lasts me 2 months – so about $40/year with the developer.

  • Jg1886

    This brand is very damaging to hair! I used it for about a year and then had to stop because it dried out and damaged my hair so much before I realized it. Clairol Hydrience I had used for years with no problem. I also started trying L’Oreal Preference and it seems okay. Stylists always said the thickness and sheen of my hair was gorgeous, but after I used Nutrisse and it was ruined, they started directing me to repair remedies.

    • Gotgoat

      What brand?  They show the same comments on all the brands in the slideshow? :)

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  • Tay

    thanks for the info. i also got some info from http://besthairdyebrand.org