To dye or not to dye? It's an age-old question. Bleach-happy Ancient Greek heroes reddened their hair into a fiery symbol of courage, while their Roman counterparts used natural dyes to darken their locks. During the 1700s, French women used powder to tint their tresses shades of blue, yellow, pink and white (punk rock pioneers). Today, about half of all American women color their hair, and men are getting in on the game in record numbers.

Due to high salon prices (or temporary bouts of creativity), more and more people are dyeing their own hair. You've seen these people walking around-they can usually be identified by tufts of fried orange hair peeking out from beneath large hats. But a home-hair-colorist's best weapons against hair dye mishaps are careful planning and knowledge. So whether you're trying to bring back the color of your youth or are simply interested in trying something new, is happy to help you dye your own hair.


We understand that home hair coloring is much less expensive than going to a professional colorist (a box of hair dye usually ranges from $5 to $10, whereas a salon coloring usually costs $40 and up, depending on the method used and the length of your hair). However, if you screw it up, you'll end up paying for the cost of the home coloring AND cost of the salon (which is usually much higher when fixing already botched hair . . . Ouch, says the pocketbook).

While companies are constantly improving their home hair coloring products and making them easier to use, the following list outlines the times that you should go to a salon and leave your hair in the hands of a professional:

  1. Your hair is severely damaged. It breaks easily, and your brush and bathroom floor have more hair on them than your head does. Damage can come from many different things, including:

      • Excessive brushing and tearing of the hair (this can also come from constantly pulling it back in rubber bands).

      • Too much heat. You've heard the drill before. Keep your use of the blow dryer and the curling iron to a minimum.

      • Sun damage. Skin isn't the only part of your body that needs protection from UV rays. Summer sun worshipers are especially at risk for hair damage, but UV rays damage your hair every time you step outside into daylight-even in the winter. No, you don't need to wear a hat everywhere you go, but definitely be conscious of the sun's rays and cover up if you're going to be out in the sun for a while.

      • Over-perming. You should never re-perm hair until the original perm has grown all the way out. A normal perm damages hair, so a perm on top of a perm is a double whammy.

      • Over-washing. Yes, washing your hair too much can dry out your scalp, cause flakes, and lessen the natural oils on your head that protect your hair's roots.

    • You want to lighten your hair more than three shades. If you are a brunette and want to go blonde, get thee to a salon. Even if your hair doesn't appear to have any red tones in it, all dark hair contains some red pigment. Therefore, lightening your hair in one step will most likely turn your hair an unattractive shade of orange that hasn't been popular since the days of Queen Elizabeth I. In this case, you'll need to undergo what is known as a "double process." The first step is to "strip" the hair of its pigment. The second step is to "add" the new color of choice. It sounds complicated because it is complicated - there's a high likelihood of orange-y results. A professional colorist can prevent this by using a toner to cancel out redness, thus providing a more attractive golden hue.

    • You're feeling dramatic and you want to do something crazy, like go from blonde to black. At least go to the salon for a consultation about what colors will look good with your skin tones. You'll save yourself some heartache if you know in advance that burgundy is a color better reserved for your wine than for your hair.

    • You've already colored your hair, you screwed up, and you want to fix it. Don't stay in hiding, attempting again and again to correct your own mistake. The more chemicals you put in your hair, the worse it's going to get, and the more expensive it will be for a stylist to return you to your beautiful self.

    We hope that none of these apply to you. You just want to make a nice, subtle change to your healthy hair. You've come to the right place, so keep on reading.