Doing your own hair color at home is a great way to look your best without spending a fortune. If you’re new to home hair color, take heart: It’s not as complicated as you think. Here’s how to ace at-home hair color in three simple steps:

1. Take Your Pick

First, you’ll need to choose the right kind of color for the results you want. Semi-permanent color lasts about 28 shampoos and enhances your natural color (so don’t expect a huge change if you choose semi-permanent!). Permanent colors include either ammonia or peroxide; these ingredients lift natural pigment so that the dye penetrates the shaft more. Permanent formulas are a better choice if you’re seeing grays because they cover them much better than semi-permanent varieties.

2. Divide ‘n Dye

Once you’re ready to start coloring, divide hair into two sections by using a comb to make a part down the middle of the back of your head (picture an imaginary line going across from one end to the other). Start applying color at your front hairline to get good coverage at your roots. It’s easy to smear your forehead when doing your front roots, but no need to panic: you can easily remove hair color stains from skin with a cotton ball soaked in milk. Continue to work your way around your head, adding color to one-inch sections to ensure all strands get saturated.

3. Keep a Good Thing Going

To keep your new color looking its best, use a shampoo and conditioner that are specially formulated for colored hair. If you use a lot of heated hair tools or spend a lot of time in the sun, your color will inevitably fade, but going a few days between washings can help delay the fading process. Gloss treatments are helpful if you have brassy tones. It’s also important to avoid damaging your hair by dying it too often. Root touch-up formulas are a great solution¬†because you only apply them where you need them to go, which means no damaged ends.

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