woman looking at boxes of hair dye
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8 Tips For Coloring Your Own Hair When A Pandemic Shuts The Salon Down

There’s a funny Facebook meme going around that reads: “Feels like we’re 3 to 4 weeks from learning everyone’s real hair color.” It's an all-too-true statement, as salons are considered "nonessential" businesses, and more and more states are shuttering nonessential businesses in an effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Will you be able to cover your grays or keep up with your highlights as effectively as your colorist? You'll definitely need some tips on how to color your hair at home.

In the middle of balancing work demands and being an impromptu home school teacher, your hair is probably in a perpetual mom bun plopped on top of your head right about now. And while maybe the only people you have to impress are your quarantined kiddos, you still kinda want to look cute, too. But breaking out a box of hair dye is a lot different than sitting in a stylist’s chair and getting your hair did professionally. “Getting our hair done and maintaining a self-care regimen is something that makes us feel good, even if we are not able to go outside and present it to the world,” Natalie Graf, a hairstylist at Poppy & Finch Salon in San Francisco, CA, tells Romper. So if you want to look your best for that Zoom work meeting — or just to teach your kid how to figure out fractions — at least your hair will be on point. Before you break out the plastic gloves, read the following tips from the pros.


Don’t Wing It

If you want to dye your hair, know what you’re doing. “If you’ve decided to color your hair at home, do it with a plan,” Jane Harris, owner of The Virgin Hair Fantasy, a glueless wig brand, tells Romper. “Knowing what color process you need to undertake and what supplies you need is the difference between all systems go, or a hard no.”


Do Your Whole Head


Sure, highlights might be a great way to welcome spring (and show off your cheekbones), but unless you know what you’re doing, you might be better off sticking to dyeing your whole head. “All over color is an easier process than highlighting, lightening roots or balayage,” says Harris. “If the color process involves bleach, timing and observation of color change are key to success. One minute can make all the difference between a successful or unsuccessful color job.”


Do Some Research

If you thought that you could just dip and dye your hair, think again. Knowing how to prep and color your hair takes some skill. That’s why you should study up before your hair pays the potential price. “If you know the name of the process, search YouTube for video reference,” suggests Harris. “Watch the video all the way though to see if you like the finished result.” And if you can find how-to videos from the hair color companies themselves, that’s even better.


Be Prepared

Before you begin dyeing your hair, you’ll need to get everything ready. For starters, you should designate the space where you plan to color your hair and set up all the supplies you might need. “Wear clothes that you’re okay to get color on,” says Harris. “Place a protective layer of petroleum jelly around the hairline, divide the hair into sections, and begin. Work slowly, and near a sink in case you need to wash the hair quickly.”


Choose Your Color Carefully

Don't let all those innocent-looking boxes in the health & beauty aisle fool you. “Box color is meant to cover a wide range of hair types, textures, and underlying pigments with ‘consistent’ color results,” says Graf. “To achieve this, these box color brands have to rely on levels of hydrogen peroxide that exceed many of the populations' need for lift and deposit.” The result: potentially having hair that is dull, brittle, and broken, advises Graf. Research brands and read reviews to find products that are less damaging.


Try A Temporary Color

Instead of going all-in on a color (and then later regretting it), you might want to use a temporary root color for now. “Some recommended brands are Colormark Touchback, Rita Hazan Root Concealer for Gray Coverage, and Color Wow Root Coverup,” says Graf. “Simply apply to hairline and your part for the day and then shampoo out.” And if you're not in love with the color, at least you know it'll be gone in just a few shampoos.


Ride It Out


Depending on the color you have in your hair, you might want to think twice before box dyeing it. “Clients with balayage, hair painting with lightener, highlights, and fashion color should wait it out,” says Graf. “These techniques are used to create natural-looking grow out anyway, so it's safe to say you can probably ride it out with a little extra desired root showing.”


Consider Alternatives

If you’re feeling cautious about committing to a color, you can try doing other things to your hair to make it more manageable — and beautiful. “Take some time to learn how to French-braid and diffuse the gray by interweaving your hair,” suggests Graf. “Wear hats, headbands, or simply enjoy your natural color for now and explore how it makes you feel.”

If you're sure that you want give your locks a new look, you can definitely dye your hair at home. And if it doesn't come out exactly as you expected, just take solace in knowing that the salons will once again be open, and your hair will be gorgeous once again.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all our Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here on this page, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.


Natalie Graf, a hairstylist at Poppy & Finch Salon in San Francisco, CA

Jane Harris, owner of The Virgin Hair Fantasy