How to Get the Right Hair Color

At home or at the salon, see how to achieve the perfect shade and avoid hair dye disaster.



Going Darker?

Use a semi-permanent formula the first time around. If you decide you like the shade, wait until it fades and then apply a permanent version.

Back to Front

When dying your hair darker, start in the back not the front. Save the strands around your face for last — they tend to be more porous due to daily wear and tear, so they'll absorb more color than the back and underside of your locks.

Going Lighter?

Look for a permanent shade that has the words neutral, beige, or ash in the name to prevent your hair from looking brassy.

dye hair lighter
Getty Images
Back Next

Front to Back

When you're dyeing your tresses lighter, start in the front and work your way to the back so that the pieces around your face are the brightest.

Getty Images
Back Next

Go to a Professional

Dark brown hair can sometimes turn orange if you lift it more than two levels, so go to a pro if your natural base is darker than a medium brown.

Timing Is Everything

If you’re coloring at home, start your timer as soon as you begin applying the formula—not when you finish—and don't leave anything on for more than 30 minutes or you'll fry your locks.

Coloring at Home?

Go half-and-half. A dye that's too "warm" might give you an orange hue. For example, if it's golden brown you're after, use one box of golden brown and one box of neutral brown. Mix the two, then use the combo on your hair.

Get Highlights

Adding a few light pieces around your face can brighten up your whole look. Keep them two to three shades lighter than your hair color for a sun-kissed, natural result.