There are so many different kinds of hair color kits, finding the right formula is probably the hardest part. The new foam formulas don't drip and are perfect for first timers. We love Clairol Nice 'N Easy Color Blend Foam ($7.99, target.com) and L'Oreal Paris Sublime Mousse by Healthy Look ($9.99, drugstore.com). If you have seriously damaged hair, we recommend Avon's Advance Techniques Professional Hair Color ($4.99, shop.avon.com) that is formulated with shea butter and lock-in technology to restore moisture and shine.
The key to picking the right color is to make sure it flatters your skin tone. The wrong shade can wash you out. "Ash/cool tones work best for women with fair skin and light eyes who tend to wear silver jewelry," said Marie Robinson, Clairol's Color Director. "Warm/golden tones work well for women with dark or olive skin and dark eyes who tend to wear gold jewelry." Neutral tones work for women who wear gold and silver jewelry. Robinson also advises to only go one or two shades from your current hair color. The color change will be more drastic that it appears on the box.
Robinson suggests shampooing your hair the day before you color, not the day of. "It's best to work with hair that was shampooed the day before as the natural oils in your hair will help it take to the dye better."
Being well organized is key. Before you start coloring, lay out all materials from the box and a clean towel nearby, "so you can wipe your hands between handling the dye and reaching for the timer, a hair clip, or anything else you don't want to get hair color on," advises Avon Global Hair Color Expert & Celebrity Colorist Lorri Goddard. Also make sure you have a timer.
Read all of the instructions to find out how to properly mix the formula. Before applying to your entire head, do a patch test. "For best results, clip a small section of hair at the nape of your neck and apply color," advises Robinson. Set a timer and keep track of how it processes over time. Depending on your desired result, you may only want to leave the product on for more or less time."
Once you know your desired shade, decide whether you want all-over color or subtle highlights. For first timers, Goddard suggests using a baby's toothbrush to paint in highlights. "This will create a nice glimmering look and give you a good idea of how the color would look all over." If you want to color all of your hair, use your fingers to massage the dye into your roots and then pull the color down to the ends.
After the hair color has processed, rinse it out thoroughly and apply a deep conditioner. Most kits come with one in the box. You should also use a weekly deep conditioner to maintain a vibrant hair color and lock in moisture. We love Aussie Deeeeep 3 Minute Miracle Moisture Treatment ($4.19, beautybar.com) and It's a 10 Miracle Leave-In Product ($18, haircarechoices.com).