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By: Kristin Bugden 

Kristin Bugden is a New Jersey-based mom and communications consultant. She loves to write, take barre classes and believes in a good reality television binge-watching session. Here, she interviews expert colorists about what to know before you dye your hair at home.

You’ve decided you want to try dyeing your hair in the comfort of your own bathroom – that’s great! But before you do, there are some things you’ll want to know to avoid a hair 911 situation. We recently spoke with a few professional colorists who shared their expert tips with Lively on switching up your shade at home. Read on before you head to the drugstore to pick up a box.

Always Prep

Before jumping straight into coloring your locks, you’ll want to do a bit of homework. As far as how clean or dirty your hair should be, Christine Silverman, an expert colorist, tells Lively there’s no hard or fast rule for this. "If you typically have more sensitive skin, or an irritated scalp, leaving your hair dirty (two days without washing) is a good idea because you'll have a layer of your natural oil protecting your scalp from the hair color,” she explains. You’ll also want to make sure the hair dye doesn’t cause any irritation in advance. “If you have never colored your hair, I would recommend a patch test on your skin to see if you have any allergies,” adds Chelsey Pickthorn, celebrity hair stylist and founder of Pickthorn Studio in N.Y. and L.A. One more important tip has to do with what to wear. “If you are doing the color yourself, wear an old button-down shirt or t-shirt that has the neck stretched out, so it’s easy to undress and you won’t mind if some color accidentally gets on it,” says Kelly Van Gogh, CEO and founder of No. 8 Organics.

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Go Natural

What not  to do when dyeing your hair at home is just as important as what you can do. “When using at-home dye, try to stay within a shade of your natural color. At-home hair color is less specific to the individual, as it is made for a general audience and they typically come with one developer, so you have less control over what you are doing,” says Meri Kate O’Connor, senior colorist and educator at Eva Scrivo Salon. All our experts agree to leave any major changes to the professionals as it can put your hair at risk of being significantly damaged. “Hair that is dry, brittle, off-color, and breaking is not pretty, and makes a person look older. If you are stressed, and are ‘stress coloring,’ put down the bottle,” adds Van Gogh.

Keep These Basics on Hand

Most at-home hair coloring kits have the basics covered, but there are a couple other tools worth having around once you’re ready to roll. “Have a brush and a plastic bowl or color bottle ready, clips, gloves, an old hand towel available, and remove your bathroom rug before you begin. You also might want to put an old towel down on the bathroom counter before you start to mix your color in case you spill.”

And now you’re finally ready to apply the color. “It's a good idea to put a layer of barrier cream around the hairline to prevent staining on your skin. Any petroleum-based product will work well for this. I use Lucas' Papaw Ointment, but plain old Vaseline will do the job,” suggests Silverman.

“Start applying where you see the color needs it the most, for example, where you are most gray, or where your roots show the most. This is usually in the T-zone (your part and around your hair line). After you apply to the T-zone, then you can easily apply to the rest of your re-growth area,” adds Van Gogh.  

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Don't Wash Your Hair Right Away

Once you’ve completed the job, our experts agree it’s best to wait a bit before washing your freshly colored strands. “Waiting 72 hours to shampoo hair is generally suggested as it takes time for the cuticle to close. Of course, the longer the better,” says O’Connor. “Make sure to use a shampoo that is color safe and apply a deep conditioning treatment (and sleep in it) two to three days after,” adds Van Gogh.

Remember: There's Always a Solution

You might have had the best intentions, but let’s face it, hair accidents happen. If you’re freaking out due to a dye job gone wrong, the important thing is not to immediately try and fix it yourself. “Sometimes trying to solve the problem at home will actually make it much worse, so make an appointment, and be sure to disclose all processes/products and information to your hair colorist,” says Silverman.

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Try These Expert-Approved Hair Products

Finally, we turned to our experts to hear what products they’re loving now. “I really love Brazilian Bond Builder Shampoo and Mask for the way they prevent color fading and make the hair feel. They are great products for maintaining the vibrancy of your color and keep your tresses silky and shiny,” says Silverman, adding: “I love Vital Proteins Marine Collagen for maintaining the health of hair, skin, and nails from the inside out as well!” 

"Shu Uemura Color Lustre Shades Reviving Balm in Cool or Warm work for all hair colors and help to give you back the tone your color may have lost over time from shampooing and styling,” adds O’Connor.

Pickthorn is a fan of brand Wella and its Illumina COLOR line. "I’ve also had some fun with Artic Fox which has super vibrant colors – note, it’s not the easiest to remove, but has some serious dye load if you want the color to hang on,” she adds.

Lastly, Van Gogh tells us she’s in the process of launching an organic line under her brand No. 8 Organics, which she says will be great for color treated hair. Stay tuned!