Dyeing your hair at home is a cost-saving measure for many. But like any beauty procedure performed by nonprofessionals, the degree to which you can pass off a self-job as the work of an expert is a source of anxiety. We wanted to know if there's one thing that enables professional hairstylists to spot a DIY dye job from a mile away—so we went straight to the source. Is there a dead giveaway that someone skipped the salon? Ahead, four top celebrity colorists tell us the answer. Keep scrolling to see what they have to say!
The dead giveaway that you color your hair at home? The colorists we spoke to unanimously stated that blotchy color is the telltale sign of a DIY dye job. Across the board, regardless of the color (be it blond, brunette, or red), "if the color is blotchy, you can tell it wasn’t applied professionally," says Rita Hazan, celebrity colorist and owner of Rita Hazan Salon in NYC. (Hazan also just happens to be the color expert who gave Beyoncé—yeah, that Beyoncé—her utterly epic blond hue for this year's Met Gala, so she knows a thing or two about hair color.)
Additionally, anytime the shade is orange, "that means you didn’t pick the right color," says Hazan. "Especially for redheads, if you have gray hair and dye it red, and it has a pink or an orange tone, you can tell it is from an at-home box dye." Echoing this, colorist Emily Mott from cult-favorite Los Angeles salon Spoke and Weal says, "When you see too much orange in the hair or too much unrefined yellow, you can tell it’s box color. It’s not refined color. The reflection of the tone doesn't look purposeful and luxurious." Famed colorist Sharon Dorram, who co-owns an eponymous color salon at Sally Hershberger, agrees that color that looks too artificially "pink" or orange for redheads is a giveaway of box color.
When it comes to brunettes and/or dyeing hair darker, we unanimously heard that color that's too dark and looks "shoe polish–y" is the giveaway. "With people going darker, sometimes it looks like shoe polish," explains Mott. "You can tell because it looks like dark hair that’s too saturated. Box color gives you one-dimensional, flat color, and it often lacks shine. It doesn't look reflective and toned. It should look shiny and rich and have depth and dimension," she says.
When it comes to going lighter, legendary colorist Kim Vo—who does the blond color on Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson, Britney Spears, and Katherine Heigl (i.e., is a blond maestro)—says the giveaway is what he calls "hot roots," which is when the roots look lighter than the rest of the hair. Additionally, anything too stripy for highlights, and when the highlights themselves are too white or, conversely, too brassy," he says.
But don't worry—we also got a ton of great advice from these color pros on how you can avoid these mishaps at home, so keep scrolling!
First and foremost, always do a strand test, recommends Dorram. Both Mot and Hazan advise not going too light at home, as going lighter is trickier than covering grays and going darker. Hazan also says not to use a hue too far from your original hair color: "Stay within one to two shades from your original color," she says. "If you are a redhead, pick a color that is more natural, like auburns and coppers, instead of intense vibrant colors."
For application, "never apply the color all at once," says Vo. "Apply it to the roots first and then ends." Hazan's advice is to make sure you rub it in so that it is more of a uniform color, even if you have to overlap sections as you work your way from front to back. "You can also keep color looking vibrant and shiny at home by using a gloss like my Ultimate Shine Color Glosses," she says.
If you darken to cover white hair, Mott advises only coloring the new growth. "Don’t put the color on the ends. It will look over-processed."
Lastly, we love Vo's adorable and useful suggestion to "think like a pro and build an at-home color kit for yourself that includes a timer, professional plastic gloves, petroleum jelly (for skin protection), conditioner (to apply to the ends of hair), and a robe (so you can jump in the shower to rinse out the color)." Genius!
Do you color your hair at home? Keep scrolling to shop five box colors we love!