DIY hair color: It's easier than you think
Color complaint: Stubborn grays
"I found my first grays a few years ago," says Dana Vivinetto, 32. "I dyed my hair once, but some grays still showed. I want to hide them with minimal upkeep."
The Solution: Permanent Color "Try a permanent formula, especially if your grays are resistant to demi-permanent dye," says Julia Youssef, vice president of L'Oréal USA Hair Color Technical Center. "While demis can make grays less noticeable, the color washes out within four weeks, whereas permanent dye lasts until it grows out."
"This is easy! I was hesitant to start coloring because I thought it would be a lot of work. But now I know it's fairly quick, so I'll definitely try it at home."
Tip: Dana's hair color was a medium brown, so, for the most natural results, Youssef chose a shade with those words in its name: L'Oréal Paris Excellence Crème in Medium Chestnut Brown ($9, drugstores; 49 shades). The warm auburn undertones brighten the color and make Dana look younger.
Color complaint: Uneven blond
Alicja Wojczyk, 25, had her dirty-blond hair highlighted at the salon—and four months later had three inches of dark roots: "I'd love to color at home to save money, but I don't think I'll be able to lighten my roots without the color looking monotone. Plus, I find that at-home color fades quickly."
The Solution: Two-Step Brightening Clairol Color Director and New York City salon owner Marie Robinson suggested a two-pronged approach to brighten Alicja's blond. First permanent color for the roots, then a demi-permanent dye all over to further blend Alicja's mismatched color and transform the tone into a richer strawberry blond.
"I can't believe the results! The warm tone of my color is perfect for summer. I'm surprised that at-home dye could even out my dark roots without making my hair look monotone…and by how much a demi-permanent color changes. At first, the color looked much more red; it gradually washes out and takes a few days to settle."
How to do it yourself: Robinson picked Clairol Perfect 10 in Medium Golden Blonde ($12, drugstores; 24 shades), because it works in 10 minutes. Robinson opted to mix Clairol Natural Instincts in Medium Golden Blonde and in Light Auburn ($6 each, drugstores; 22 shades) to achieve just the right shade and left it on for 10 minutes before rinsing.
Color complaint: Bland brunette
After a few DIY disasters, Ivy Menchel, 53, opted for regular salon visits to add highlights and lowlights to her brown hue. Still, she wasn't totally satisfied: "I would like a color that is brighter and shinier and softens my look. If I can do it at home, even better."
The Solution: Cooler Color Garnier colorist Kyle White diagnosed Ivy's brown as being too warm for her complexion. He selected Garnier Olia in Medium Ash Brown ($10, drugstores; 24 shades) to add richness and de-emphasize some of Ivy's highlights. A bonus: The oil-rich, ammonia-free formula helped hydrate her very processed hair.
"I've never used color like this. Since it was ammonia-free, it didn't smell, and my hair felt so soft. I'm very busy, so I love that I could do this at 3 A.M. if I had to!"
Tip: "If you have red or pink undertones in your skin, you can tone down the flush with a cooler haircolor—look for the word 'ash' or 'cool' on the box," White says. (If your skin is pale or tends to look gray, colors labeled "warm" or "golden" will be most flattering.)