It’s quick, cheap and convenient, yet many women still worry that box hair dye equals iffy colour results, damaged hair and splattered bathroom walls.
However, that’s all changing, says A-list hairdresser and Clairol colour expert Michael Douglas. He created our makeovers using Clairol’s new Nice’n Easy permanent colour (£6.49), which promises to be the biggest news in home hair colour for 60 years.
‘It’s a game changer – less damage, less smell, less mess and less allergy risk,’ he tells us.
How can I dye my hair at home without damaging it?
The new Nice’n Easy formula has a clever new tech that protects condition while you colour, says Michael. ‘It blocks the usual harmful reaction between dye and copper deposits in the hair. You’re stopping the damage happening, rather than trying to repair it afterwards.’
Keeping hair in better nick has big benefits, adds Michael. ‘You get really beautiful, even colour from root to tip. The healthier the hair is, the longer the colour lasts too.’
What’s the deal with allergies?
Dye allergies are very rare, but when they happen they can be nasty. The main risk factors are PPD and PTD, molecules that are brilliant at colouring hair but can be seen as foreign by your immune system, causing a new allergy.
The new Nice’n Easy formula has swapped PPD and PTD for a new molecule, ME+, with a much lower allergic risk (if you’ve never reacted to dye before). You still need to patch test each time you use it, though.
If you HAVE reacted to dye before, Coty’s head of toxicology Dr Carsten Goebel says the general advice is to not use any hair colourants, as you can’t rule out being allergic to ME+. ‘Those who might have an allergy would need to be referred to a dermatologist to see if they could tolerate ME+.’
Can I swap between home and salon colour?
Sure, says Michael. ‘Salon and box dye are essentially the same. In the salon you’re paying for someone to advise you and apply the product.’
There’s a universal shade code across salon and home colour, so you shouldn’t struggle to get a perfect match.
What do you need to know before you dye?
To get the best results, you have to understand what dye can (and can’t) do. The results guide on the back of the box only shows what you’ll get if you put that shade on natural, uncoloured hair. Remember, dye can’t lighten existing dye. It’s only virgin hair you can lighten with permanent dye.
‘If your hair is already permanently coloured, it won’t lift if you apply a lighter dye on top. Only bleach can do that,’ says Michael.
If your hair is permanently coloured, you can use permanent dye to maintain or darken the existing shade or adjust how warm it looks. But if want to go lighter, get the colour professionally removed.
How to be a DIY blonde
● First, be realistic, Expect no more than four shades of lift on natural hair from a box dye, says Michael.
● To choose the right blonde to put on virgin hair, look at dye packs and find the shade number that matches your natural colour.
● If you’re mousey (around a 6), your hair has more orange pigments, so use the palest shades (SB1 or SB2) to get the cleanest blonde.
● If you’re mid-blonde (7 or 8) you have fewer orange tones to neutralise, so you have more options – like a 9, a biscuity Jennifer Aniston blonde, or the golden honey tones of a 10.
● If you’re darker than a 6, go to the salon. They’ll use more peroxide to push your hair to a lighter, cleaner blonde.
● If you’re grey, try an 8 or 9 for a good, pale blonde. Stay away from blonde ash colours.
● If you’ve already gone blonde in the salon, ask which shade they used. Remember, pro and home dyes have the same shade codes, so you can buy the same colour to maintain your roots at home.
How to be a DIY redhead
● If you’re a natural redhead, enhance it with coppery reds, says Michael. To avoid the commitment of regrowth, pick a shade the same depth as your natural tone.
● If you’re naturally fair-to-mousey, going a coppery-red is an easy, flattering colour change.
● If you’re a bottle blonde you can apply red over the top, but expect a very bright result. For a more muted red, look for shades with RB (red/brown) after the number.
● If you’re grey, red will really show in your hair. If you’ve dyed your greys darker already, you might need to cover your roots in your existing shade first, then apply red over the whole lot. Otherwise you could get a very red parting!
● If you’re naturally brunette, you’ll suit cooler reds like burgundy. The darker your hair already, the more subtle the result.
How to be a DIY brunette
● Brunette is probably the easiest shade to do at home, as you can apply a darker dye over ANY colour, whether it’s natural or out of a bottle.
● Staying within two shades of your existing colour is a safe bet, says Michael. ‘You can go darker in one go, but if you want to go lighter again, you’ll need the colour professionally removed.’
● If you’re covering greys, section off the front of your hair, do the hairline first, then start at the back and work forward. You’re less likely to get bored and miss bits.
How to look after coloured hair
● Always use a shampoo for coloured hair, not one for dry or damaged hair.
● Use a weekly treatment to close the cuticles and prevent colour leaching out.
● Heat fades dye, so minimise irons and blow-dries, and always use heat protection sprays.
● Avoid the sun and use products with UV protection.
● Refresh colour between applications with semi-permanent gloss (the ‘6-8 washes’ kind is zero damage).
The new Clairol Nice’n Easy is available nationwie, RRP £6.49. For help and advice on choosing your shade, call the free helpline on 0800 028 4177 (UK), 1800 535909 (IRL)
Photography: Catherine Harbour
Hair: Clairol Colour Expert Michael Douglas using new Clairol Nice’n Easy
Make-up: Cassie Steward using Max Factor
Models: Sarah R at Sandra Reynolds, Selina at Mrs Robinson