When you color your hair at home it often looks better than when your hairdresser does it. This is because colors should never be put evenly over the hair. Dense, all-over color is not natural.

When you decide to change the color of your hair, it’s because you want to liven up its natural shade. You might have dull or mousey hair, or signs of grey showing through – or you might just want to add a little excitement to the hair you’ve lived with all your life.

Work with your natural color in mind and don’t aim to change your hair more than three shades either lighter or darker than it is now. Anything more dramatic needs professional attention.

Before you start, ask yourself a few basic questions. Would I like to be lighter or darker in tone, cover up grey or just add a shine and new excitement to my hair? How long do I want the color to last – until the next wash, for six weeks or until the hair grows out?

Our list describes the types of colorants and their uses, to help you pick one to suit your purposes.


Goes on with your shampoo and takes no longer to apply than a shampoo. It also washes out very quickly. This coloring is easy if you want special highlights for a glamorous occasion. It’s also a very good way to test a color against your own skin tone and decide whether it really suits you before you have the same color applied more permanently.


This is normally shampooed on and the coloring foam is left on the hair for anything from 5-20 minutes, depending on the depth of color you want. You comb it through your hair to coat each hair shaft, then rinse it off after the required developing time.

The color lasts for up to 6 shampoos, and fades gradually each time you wash it. A semi-permanent rinse can’t lighten your hair color because it generally doesn’t contain peroxide. It often contains a conditioner and hair will shine and feel silky afterwards.


Usually applied to dry hair with a small brush to ensure that the roots are well covered, this coloring requires up to 30 minutes to develop before being shampooed out. If you intend to go a lighter shade, you will have to apply the process in two stages: first, a lightener (which contains a little hydrogen peroxide) to bleach your own hair or lift out some of the natural color.

Then the color you want is brushed on in seconds and allowed to develop before being shampooed out. You will need to condition your hair afterwards. This type of colorant lasts until the hair grows out. and hair roots will need re-touching regularly.


If you’d like to go the whole way and try life as a blonde, this is simpler than you think. Blonding treatments come in different strengths. Some shampoo in and just color hair one shade lighter, this will lift the color of fair, brown or red hair but will not turn you into a blonde. Used consistently, a blonding shampoo will lighten the hair one shade. First effects are very slight.

Stronger blonding creams will lighten hair up to three shades, but this sort of coloring needs special care, and a rich conditioner should be used afterwards to keep hair healthy. Blonding creams and shampoos for treated hair should be used if hair has been previously colored.

Once the hair has been lightened, the pigment is broken down and does not re-construct itself, so it is not necessary to re-apply blonding creams to previously colored areas. To maintain your new blonde hair, only color the regrowth.


There are two kinds – the first is the safest. Holes are evenly punctured all over a plastic cap which fits closely onto your head. With a crochet hook, pull strands of hair through the holes and apply a blonding preparation on them, using gloves.

Not quite as exact but probably easier is a paint kit. This method of streaking involves use of a fine paint brush which you dip into the blonding cream and paint over fine strands of hair. To get the most natural effect with either method, remember that the sun, a natural blonder, only hits the top layers and lightens these. So keep streaks to the top layers and don’t do the underneath ones.


Your natural hair color will tend to fade and grow dull after about 30 years, and at this point you might want to liven it up. Don’t aim for the color you had as a child. Work towards something that is fairly close to your current color but has warmth and shine. A subtle mixing of two hair colors can be very successful.

Grey-blonde hair can be toned by streaking. The little strands of blonde hair will give the necessary lift and brighten the color. To do this sort of streaking, first use a hair lightener, then separate some strands of hair carefully, and wrap them up in foil to prevent color penetrating them. Work a toner through your hair, then remove the foil, work through again, and then rinse. The wrapped strands will have less color than the rest of the hair and provide highlights.


If you have all-over white hair and you would like to give it a soft grey color, use a very dark water rinse (not a semi-permanent color). This will result in a gentle grey. Other alternatives are soft silvers, lilacs and shades of rose, in semi-permanent colors.

Take your age and skin tone into consideration when choosing a color.

Some advice: if hair is damaged or in very poor condition, avoid bleaching it. Wait until the condition improves. And if you’re generally worried about using a hair colorant, try a natural vegetable dye.