Allure March 5, 2022



The 23 Best At-Home Hair-Color Kits for a Successful DIY Dye Job


When you don't have the time or budget to book an in-person salon appointment, these are the easy-to-use, pigmented, and hair-nourishing cocktails you should look into. Stylists and colorists also offer their best tips to safely and smartly bleach or dye your hair in the convenience of your own home.

​​Changing up your hair color can come with many refreshing perks. Whether you want to try out highlights or go for all-over color, today's best at-home hair-color kits have stepped their game in terms of formula, color selection, and ease of use. Many formulas have built-in or included conditioners and boost shine — who wouldn't want that? But the time (and cost) of getting a dye job at the salon can add up, especially since maintenance is needed to keep your new hue in tip-top shape. 

Still, there are a few things to know before diving hair first into the world of DIY hair dye. The first rule of thumb — and a solid piece of advice to live by — is that looks can be deceiving. It may seem like your dream shade is staring right at you, but our best bet is to turn the package around and see how the formula will actually look on your hair type, explains hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons, who the Kardashian-Jenner family has on speed dial.

"Be sure to thoroughly consult the chart on the side or the back, which gives a better indication of where your hair color will end up, based on your beginning hue," says Fitzsimons. Dana Ionato, a colorist at Sally Hershberger's Downtown salon in New York City, agrees: "The color always ends up lighter than the model's hair on the packaging [because] the developer in at-home permanent dyes is very strong — stronger than the ones we use in the salon — so it lifts the color and makes it lighter than what you see on the box."

Even if you do consult the back of the box for guidance, it can still be tricky to figure out your perfect shade. According to Ionato, for at-home permanent dyes, your best bet is choosing a color that's a touch darker than what you're going for because of the strong developer. But, for semi-permanent dyes, it's the opposite. "Semi-permanent formulas don't have a developer, meaning they get darker and darker the longer you leave them in your hair, so it's safer to choose a color that's a bit lighter from the get-go," she explains.

According to Fitzsimons, conditioning is another crucial step you don't want to miss. "Using a deep conditioner at the end of the dyeing process seals the cuticle, so your strands stop absorbing the color," he says. "If you skip conditioning, you'll end up darker than you expected."

Because we care about avoiding bleaching disasters, we're giving you the tools needed to nail your at-home color. Here, we rounded up the best at-home color kits — some of which are available at your nearest drugstore, and many more brands with just the click of a mouse.

Shrine Drop It Hair Color Kit

It's all about versatility with the Shrine Drop It Hair Color Kit, which comes in a whopping 24 shades. Depending on the hair color you're starting out with and the number of formula drops used, there's a wide spectrum of hues your hair can transform into. 

"Just add [the drops] to any conditioner and customize to the color you're going for," Beverly Hills-based colorist and hairstylist Cherin Choi of Roil Salon says of the easy-to-use formula. "Apply evenly to towel-dried hair and comb through for even application." Choi notes this product works best on hair with existing highlights as the pigments will not show on darker hair.

Kristin Ess Signature Hair Gloss

Not only does the Kristin Ess Signature Hair Gloss (available in 12 shades) boost your color's vibrancy, but it also keeps your hair feeling healthy and looking super shiny. Its Alkaline Neutralizing System adds a layer of much-needed protection, preventing hard-water minerals from being deposited onto your hair and scalp. 

"This is a great option for somebody who wants to adjust their hair at home and it works for all hair types," says Choi. To use, mix the two bottles together, shake gently, and apply the resulting elixir all over your hair. Wait 10 to 20 minutes, rinse, and then shampoo and condition as usual. The color will last three to four weeks and gradually fade depending on how often you wash your hair.

Color&Co Personalized At-Home Hair Color

What makes the Best of Beauty-winning Color&Co Personalized At-Home Hair Color by L'Oréal Paris stand out is the fact that you can video chat with a colorist to ask them for tips, tricks, and recs on which color will best suit their preferences and natural-hair situation. Just take a short quiz to determine your hair goals, and then you'll get matched with an expert. 

After the consultation, your personalized hair-color kit will arrive, ready for you to DIY without any unpredictable results. Lorena M. Valdes, a Chicago-based colorist at Maxine Salon, says, "Small sections are key to a great application." And to get even-looking results, she recommends you "avoid overlapping as much as possible."

Davines Alchemic Conditioner

Craving a hair-color update but don't want to commit just yet? Try the Davines Alchemic Conditioner, also recommended by Choi. Each of its six temporary shades will gradually fade more and more after each shampoo. How long the color lasts depends on your hair health and the shade you choose. Tip: For an even application, "it's always best to start in the back and work your way forward to the front of your hairline," says Choi, who says this formula will work best on lighter hair as the pigments will not be visible on dark hair.

Good Dye Young Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Unleash your creativity with Good Dye Young's Semi-Permanent Hair Color, one of news editor Nicola Dall'Asen's favorites. Fitting for essentially every hair type from straight to curly to tightly coiled, this Hayley Williams-backed formula provides fun, pigmented color that lasts up to four to six weeks. Check out their site to shop the variety of electric colors it comes in, like magenta, gold, peach, and teal. And because it's infused with bergamot essential oil, the citrus scent gives off uplifting vibes during application.

Oribe Root Touch-Up Spray

If you're looking to cover up grays and roots without having to do a full-on dye job, go for the Oribe Root Touch-Up Spray which comes in light brown, platinum, red, blonde, and black. "It's a great temporary color fix that's [suitable] for all hair types," says Valdes. 

Another benefit: The quick-drying powder formula absorbs oil and dirt, similar to how dry shampoo works. "I would recommend parting a clean line and spraying close to the root, pointing backwards to avoid getting any on your face, and then spraying a little hairspray over the top to prevent any flaking or transfer if you touch your hair," explains Valdes.

IGK Permanent Color Kit

Get head-turning, shiny hair with IGK's Permanent Hair Color. This easy-to-apply formula recommended by Valdes gives hair vibrant, dimensional color that looks as if you've just stepped out of a high-end salon. "It focuses on increasing the shine level, which many at-home color kits lack," Valdes notes. Plus, the formula also leaves your hair feeling softer and smoother. 

"If you have very thick hair, I would order more color to ensure you have enough to finish your application," Valdes adds. "And on fine hair, I would be cautious [about] overlapping too much, since it could give you a darker [than desired] result." Choose from 25 shades, including various shades of brown and black, as well as light cool lavender, dark coppery blonde, and more.

Hally Color Cloud

Hair color is indeed a tool for self-expression, and Hally Color Cloud makes that easy to achieve. The demi-permanent color (with a foamy texture) comes in six shades like Atomic Blonde and Lavender Avalanche, is simple to apply, doesn't leave a mess, and washes out in four to six weeks.

What makes this kit unique, though? It's also like a spa in a box. After prepping your hair with the included clips, you take out the provided gloves, mix the formula, add the foam into your hands, and fully lather it into dry hair for 30 minutes. While you wait for the color to process, you have the option of relaxing with the undereye gels and de-stressing putty (also included in the kit) before you shampoo and conditioner as per usual. The last step: Enjoy your fresh, new color.

Color Wow Root Cover Up

Color Wow's Root Cover Up, a four-time Best of Beauty Award winner for best root coverage, is a mainstay on the desk and bathroom counter of Allure executive beauty director Jenny Bailly because it covers grays in a pinch. 

The pressed powder comes in eight shades (from platinum to black), is free of waxes and dyes, and has the texture and finish of real hair. And because it contains fancy, double-ended zinc particles that attach the pigments to each strand of hair-like microscopic magnets, this powder won't budge, even through a downpour or a swim.

Madison Reed Light Works At-Home Highlighting Kit

Madison Reed's Light Works At-Home Highlighting Kit helps you achieve the balayage of your dreams in the comfort (and convenience) of your own bathroom. The set comes with a patent-pending, wishbone-shaped applicator that deposits a lightening cream with a bleaching agent along each section of hair to distribute a perfectly-spaced balayage effect. 

It also comes with a toner, which is standard in the salon highlighting process, but rare in-home kits. These, plus an innovative post-treatment mask that's included in the box, are the reasons we gave it a 2018 Best of Beauty Breakthrough Award — and we still can't get over this find.

L'Oréal Paris Féria Midnight Bolds

Looking to go dark and bold? An at-home transformation sans bleach is actually possible. L'Oréal Paris's Féria Midnight Bolds is an extension of the award-winning Féria family that encompasses five gorgeous hues of dark reds and violets (Violet Eclipse pictured above) — because pastels don't fit everyone's vibes. The included Power Shimmer Conditioner seals in the color for a smooth, conditioned, and healthy look.

eSalon Made for You Custom Hair Color

Take the guessing out of coloring your hair. eSalon's Made for You Custom Hair Color is a tailored service that allows you to get a color kit made just for you. Oh, and it's won three Best of Beauty Awards and three Readers' Choice Awards to date — no big deal. After answering a quick set of questions about your hair texture, skin tone, amount of grays, and so forth, one of their colorists whips up a bespoke batch of permanent or semi-permanent dye, delivered right to your door.

Manic Panic Amplified Formula

If you want even more of a punch to your vivid hue, Amplified is essentially Manic Panic 2.0. The range of funky colors (with names to match) lasts 30 percent longer than the brand's High Voltage Classic color line, perfect if you want to keep your color around for more time. Bonus? It's also cruelty-free, vegan, and made without paraphenylenediamine (or PPD, a common chemical used in commercial dye kits and henna kits) or ammonia.

Garnier Nutrisse Nourishing Color Crème

"I like Garnier, especially for blondes. They have options ranging from ashy (for cooler tones) to more golden if you want a warmer look," explains Fitzsimons. Made with a blend of avocado, shea, and anti-inflammatory coconut oils, Garnier Nutrisse Color Crème is available in 45 shades, so there's truly something for everyone.

Arctic Fox Bleach, Please Complete Hair Lightening Kit

Arctic Fox's Bleach, Please kit comes with everything you need to lighten your hair in preparation for pastel colors like cotton candy pink, lilac, or platinum. You get a vegetable-based cream bleach made without beeswax, a mango and cocoa seed butter-infused developer, and a pair of latex-free gloves. What's more: The bleach has a violet base to help cool down yellow tones, just like a toner or purple shampoo would.

John Frieda Precision Foam Colour

"Anyone who's applied hair color knows that dripping is an annoying part of the application process," says hairstylist Damian Monzillo about the advantages of foam application. When you use John Freida's Precision Foam Color, you're left with a "clean bathroom and hairline," he says. 

To ensure no one knows you've just dyed your hair, Monzillo recommends using a little bit of Vaseline on and around your hairline skin to prevent any color lines from sticking around. He also advises dividing the hair into half-inch sections while dyeing to allow the color to absorb better. This may seem like overkill, but the results are always better when you take your time.

Keep in mind that most box kits come with 20 volume developer, which means that the formula can lift hair "exactly one level lighter than where you currently are," Monzillo points out. Colorist Rona O'Connor also loves the whipped texture of the dye. "The light consistency is easy to work through the hair, so the color stays even from roots to ends." After one application of Dark Chocolate Brown, our tester was left with pretty, rich-brunette strands (and not a single drip to be found on the walls).

DpHue Root Touch-Up Kit

Bailly once used DpHue's three-time Best of Beauty-winning Root Touch-Up Kit eight hours before a flight and found that her grays were seamlessly blended. "This one gave me full coverage and rich, shiny color that lasted until I could make it to my professional color appointment — a month later, before my next trip." What more could you ask for?

Clairol Nice 'n Easy Hair-Color Kit

Clairol revamped its original formula for its Nice 'n Easy hair dye using the ME+ molecule, which is supposed to diminish the risk of developing an allergic reaction to the dye — that is, if you don't already have an existing allergy. (Experts always recommend patch-testing prior to using box dye.) Of course, even with the upgrade, you still get the same gorgeous at-home color that makes this approachable box a drugstore staple.

Splat Natural Semi-Permanent Hair Dye

Splat Natural's Semi-Permanent Hair Dye features hyperpigmented colors that are fun and slightly kinder to Mother Nature — meaning they come in packages that the brand claims use 90 percent less packaging than other box brands. It also debuted as the first 95-percent natural bold color line on the market, which means you can switch up your 'do on the regular and feel good about it.

Christophe Robin Temporary Gel

Apply the tinted Christophe Robin Temporary Color Gel straight from the bottle (no mixing required) and rinse it off in the shower. Once you're done, you'll find that your color is more vibrant — and your grays less apparent — through at least four shampoos.

Garnier Nutrisse Ultra Coverage Nourishing Color Creme

In roughly 25 minutes, you can achieve reflective color full of depth and dimension with Garnier's Nutrisse Ultra Coverage Nourishing Color Creme. The icing on the cake? This full-coverage dye comes with a small vial of moisturizing and antioxidant-rich grapeseed oil to help protect your hair while it's processing.

Rusk Deepshine Direct Ready-to-Use Cream Color

Fitzsimons loves Rusk's Deepshine Direct Ready-to-Use Cream Color for anyone looking to try a vibrant shade. "This is a great at-home option because it comes ready to use," he says. "You don't have to worry about dealing with a developer and mixing everything properly." Beginner anxiety? No sweat with Rusk.

Revlon Total Color Hair Color

Revlon's Total Color Hair Color is a vegan cream formula made without ammonia, sulfates, silicones, and phthalates. Infused with a conditioning blend of hemp and camellia oils, it's gentler on both the hair and scalp than some of its competitors. Plus, it offers long-lasting permanent color (in 17 classic hues, like Darkest Brown pictured above) that won't fade on you after just a few washes.