5 At-Home Hair Dyes to Seriously Consider If You Can't Afford to Go to the Salon

I've tried them all.
Publish date:
April 14, 2016
hair color, wella, Garnier, Manic Panic, Vidal Sassoon, at-home hair color, L'oreal

It's not that I don't trust stylists and colorists. I'm lucky to know and love a great many hair professionals. It's more like I can't afford color services. They take a lot of time, especially if you are doing more than one process.

What's a brokeass to do?

Use all the at-home hair dyes until you figure out which ones give you hot roots no matter what, which ones end up patchy, and which ones make your hair feel like garbage. I've painstakingly done all the research — it only took me like 10 years.

L'Oréal Féria

Feria gets so much shit — maybe because they offer the most pigmented, often metallic dyes with the highest amount of lift, so it's hard to undo what you've done. I have another theory: Feria is the first choice of surly teens whose parents reluctantly agreed to "any hair color at the grocery store," only to find their kid's naturally black hair turned neon orange or dark cherry red, hence stylists everywhere hating the brand. I mentioned my love to the coven of stylists I know, and they just hissed and crossed themselves.

If you follow the basic rules of at-home dyeing you'll likely have great results.

Perfect for: Their bleach kits are the best in a box, and their high-lift colors are great for dark-haired folks.

Don't use: If you aren't positive you want fire-engine red hair. This will not come out easily!

Manic Panic

I like a lot of veggie dyes, but these are the ones that I use consistently. Why? It comes in a jar, the colors mix true, and a little bit goes a long way. The formula has changed since it launched — it's thicker and more pigmented than I ever remember, similar to old Special Effects Dye (which I do like too, but it's harder to come by and sometimes has colour inconsistencies.). I usually keep three to four colors on hand for emergency magic pony hair or toning — you just never know.

Perfect for: Wild colors — either full-strength or mixed down, they can be used on unbleached hair for a tint, or on bleached hair for vivid and pastel hues.

Don't use: For a temporary color — even the pastel lavender I mixed lasted about two months with hardly any fading.

Garnier Olia

If you just want to play with tone, add a bit of sparkle, go up or down a level, or even out your base colour with the absolute least amount of damage, try this magic. It's ammonia-free, has a low-level of lift — but lawd, the portion is about ¾ of a cup tops? I had to get two boxes for my lob — I've literally never had to do that. But it left my hair (which, mind you, has been bleached EIGHT times) silkier and softer than any other color. It's almost like a gloss.

Perfect for: Enhancing a colour you have, adding shine blending roots

Don't use: All over if you are going up or down more than two levels of lift — you'll have hot roots for days.

Vidal Sassoon Ultra Vibrant Color

Where were you, Vidal Sassoon, when I needed a dark, pigmented color? These are an idiot-proof way to get a vibrant, even, salon-like result, no pre-lightening needed, because they really only have dark deposits — which I actually really admire. At-home colouring can be really tricky, so they eliminated any high-lift shades, really guaranteeing great results. Clever, clever.

Perfect for: Dark-haired people especially, and covering up old ombre.

Don't use: If you have several layers of lift or dark dye already deposited on lengths, — you can get brighter, more vibrant color on light spots.

Wella Color Charm

This ish is next-level. You need a firm grasp on color theory and some experience lifting hair to use them, but Wella Color Charm dyes provide a limitless paintbox. Like most "professional" colorings, their offerings are categorized by base color, making it easy to get a good result. I especially like their ash tones — they are ashy without being gray, which is rare.

Perfect for: Skilled folks that have a really specific color in mind, bayalage or highlights.

Don't use: If you really aren't sure how to mix dye and developer on your own, or if you are doing more than two levels of lift.

  • What's your favourite at-home hair color?
  • Have you had a great experience with any of these?
  • Please, shamelessly post pics your sweet DIY dye jobs!