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In Defence Of DIY Colour

Why this beauty editor is a dye-hard fan of at-home hair colour kits

By Sherine Youssef

Every three or so weeks, I look heavenward and thank the beauty goddesses that I’m not a blonde. That’s because every three weeks, you’ll find me in the bathroom, in a stained housedress that belonged to my grandmother, hair sectioned and hands gloved, applying box dye on my greys.

For me, the only home hair colour I trust is Clairol. You know how there are brands that do one thing, and do it really well? Sally Hansen is queen of nails, CeraVe has cleansers covered, and Clairol is the best at hair colour, imo.

I have flirted with other brands, but always come back to Clairol. Where other brands sometimes leave my hair red-brown after a few washes, or don’t latch onto my greys with the death grip that’s required, I find Clairol Nice’n Easy Root Touch-Up in #5 Medium Brown to be the best match for my particular shade of brunette, and it truly delivers 100 per cent grey coverage. And it only takes 40 minutes! Why on earth would I sit in a salon for a couple of hours?

Beauty editor Sherine Youssef

Clairol tells me #5 is the bestseller in Australia, and I believe it: I have such a hard time finding it that I tend to buy it in bulk whenever I spot it or, even better, when I spot it and it’s on special. Yes, I’m one of those annoying shoppers who clears out the shelf. Sorry.

A note to my blonde friends

I’m aware the only reason I can DIY colour is because I’m a brunette. Box colour is unquestionably more forgiving on brown and black hair, and mistakes are less noticeable on darker hair. (Trust me, I have first-hand experience with “mistakes”, including going too dark, too light, and having to venture out in public with stained skin because I was too haphazard in my application.)

I know blondes, with their nuances in tone, don’t really have the same option. I mean they do, but they don’t, not if they want the kind of blonde that looks radiant and not washed-out.

Box colour is much easier to apply on brunette hair; you’re just matching up regrowth

“Box colour is much easier to apply on brunette hair; you’re just matching up regrowth, looking at the back of the box and finding the shade you’re aiming to achieve without dramatically changing your colour,” agrees Belinda Jeffrey, a celebrity colour expert (she’s had Kylie, Miranda Kerr and Carey Mulligan in her chair) and Clairol expert.

“With blondes, there are so many variations and shades, and it could go wildly wrong if you don’t choose the correct shade.”

Jeffrey is also known around town as The Blonde Whisperer, so I asked her in what universe a blonde could successfully DIY her colour. “It depends on how blonde you want to go, and depending on your skin tone, eye colour, eyebrows and regrowth, it can be hard to choose the right shade for you,” she said. I took this to mean that it’s salon-only for you, friends. (Sorry).

How to do DIY colour right

Jeffreys had some tips I’ll definitely be taking onboard next time I’m playing colourist:

Choose the right colour. Sounds obvious, but this is easy to mess up. “Look on the back of the box and choose something close to your natural colour,” advises Jeffrey, who recommends sticking within two shades lighter or darker than your natural base.

Dig out that tub of Vaseline. Smear it “around the hairline to protect the skin so you don’t get that ‘just dyed hair’ look, and prevent staining of the skin.”

Start at the nape. Hair is naturally lighter at the front and darker, thicker and coarser at the back, which is why Jeffrey suggests you start there. “People tend to use at-home colour on the front first because that’s the most visible, but the hairline is a lot finer and tends to grab colour more easily, so it’s best to start at the back,” she explains.

Skip the shampoo… “Don’t shampoo for up to 48 hours before dying so the scalp has a protective filter on it,” says Jeffrey. “When you wash your hair, you open the cuticle, which means as soon as the colour is applied, especially a permanent colour that has a peroxide to activate, it may irritate the scalp.”

And the swim. “When lightening and lifting the hair a few shades, it’s a good idea to let the colour set after colouring, which is why I advise clients not to go swimming in chlorine or salt water, and to avoid washing their hair for a couple of days.”

Let me conclude by saying this: whenever I’m interviewing top colourists and they inevitably ask about my own hair colour habits, I very proudly tell them I’m a box dye girl. At-home hair colour is the hill I will die on. But only because I’m brunette. NOT SORRY.

Collage created by Laura Mowat


BY Sherine Youssef

Sherine is a beauty journalist and co-founder of gloss etc

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