Home Hair Color: What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

I don’t know about you, but I have to get my hair dyed. It used to be something I did for fun, something that was an expression of my fashion sense. Not these days. If I don’t get my hair colored, I start seeing huge grey patches of hair. The women in my family don’t grey all over, we just get it around our hairline. It’s like a giant crown of white hair running ear to ear. A skunk with the stripe going the wrong way. I cannot tolerate this kind of color change. Some women let the grey come in naturally and look so elegant. I am not one of those women. I NEED hair color.

For 12 years I’ve been going to get my hair colored professionally. Right after college, when many of my friends were running to the drugstore to try coloring their hair themselves, I found myself a colorist. “You see these natural highlights?” I asked. “I want this same color, just more of it.”

With the exception of a very unfortunate Princess Diana cut in 3rd grade, and a man hair cut to accommodate the shaved head I had back in 2004 from brain surgery, I’ve always had long hair. My goal is always to have it look “natural”. I never saw my friends get a “natural” look from a box from Walgreens. Boxed hair color always seemed flat, too brassy, or way too dark. Of my friends who I knew colored their own hair at home, no one inspired me to try it myself. I was willing to pay $125 every time for color that looked natural, and perfect for me. I didn’t want flat, one dimensional color. I didn’t want to look like Carrot Top. I didn’t want to look like a goth kid. I just wanted to look like myself, only better. I thought $125 was worth it.

Then last week, a tweet changed my life. It’s from my friend Freya: “Toplessness and a glass of wine. The keys to home haircoloring.” I was astounded. How is it that she gets that color from a box? First of all, you have to understand that Freya has the most beautiful blond hair. It’s not flat or one toned, it’s not brassy, or too bleached out. It’s perfectly natural. I assumed she payed good money at the salon for that color. Her tweet rocked my world. If someone I know and trust gets results like that from a box, then maybe, just maybe I can too.

So I jumped in with both feet. Which is to say that I recalled all of my previous research about home hair coloring and thought it over before going to the drugstore.

  1. Never go more than two shades lighter or darker than your natural color
  2. Don’t go by the model’s picture on the front, always look at the color swatches on the side
  3. Don’t choose a color by its name
  4. If you have long or thick hair, purchase more than one box. Nothing’s worse than running out when your hair is half up in color
  5. Read the instructions, and follow them

First I called Freya and asked which brand she used. She recommended John Frieda Precision Foam Color. After a chat and her encouragement to give it a go, I left to find my perfect natural color. One hour later I made it back home with two boxes of John Frieda color and a fearlessness I never thought I’d have. I told myself the worst thing that could happen would be a trip to the salon for a color correction. It would be expensive, but I’m already used to paying a lot for my hair color. The best that could happen was inexpensive natural color.

John Frieda Precision Foam Color in 6G Light Golden Brown

After foaming up and applying it, with my two kids and husband watching me like the freak show it was, I sat down for a break. My home hair color experience was messy, but it was my first time. After the rinse, I started to dry my hair and was amazed at the color I saw. It was a bit darker than I expected, but really quite lovely. It wasn’t a disaster. I hadn’t ruined my hair. I didn’t need to go and have that horrible conversation with my colorist about how I’d done something stupid, and could she please fix it for me. This is something I’ll do again. I did use two boxes of color because I have long and thick hair, but I only spent $26 dollars buying it.

With encouragement from the right people, and a little fearlessness, home hair coloring can be amazing. I’m a believer.


Before and after pictures. Salon color on the left, At home color on the right

P.S. If you loved Freya’s tweet and want to hear more from her, you can find her on Twitter @_Freya or here.

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3 thoughts on “Home Hair Color: What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

  1. Nice color job. Perhaps I will try it next. 🙂

  2. Freya says:

    Yeah, the messiness of the home hair color job is the reason for the toplessness. You think I just do that business for fun?!?

    Another tip I would give is using color-enhancing shampoo. I use John Frieda Sheer Blonde shampoo and conditioner, which enhance highlights. And I found them on sale at Big Lots. Score one for the cheap girl.

  3. Freya says:

    Also, according to my rudimentary math skills, I think the money you saved more than covers your Little Black Bag.

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