Home hair colouring, natural hair dyes and expert tips

We take a closer look at the world of hair dye including the myth of natural hair dyes.

woman dyeing hair

by Michelle Nightingale |

It’s cheaper and far more convenient than visiting a salon, but if you’re new to hair colouring it can be daunting knowing where to begin. But, with a bit of expert knowledge, you can colour your hair at home like a pro.

Expert tips for foolproof DIY colour

To set your mind at ease, Coty’s Styling and Colour Ambassador Michael Douglas has given us his expert advice.

Choose the right product

As simple as it sounds the type of product you buy is dependent on the final look you want to achieve. “If you want to cover your grey hair entirely, or go lighter, you’ll need to use permanent hair colour,” explains Michael. “Even then you shouldn’t expect a permanent colour to lighten your hair by any more than three shades.

However, if you want to go darker you can choose between a permanent or semi-permanent colour. Semi-permanent dye can stay the same depth, go darker or add colour. It’s milder and less damaging to hair, but may not cover all of your grey hairs.”

Find a formula you like

Whether you choose a lotion, gel or cream colour is down to personal preference. “All work extremely well,” explains Michael. “The real difference between salon and home hair colour is the application. A hair stylist is likely to be able to create better results, but if you find a formula that’s easy to apply with a bit of practice you should be able to get salon results.

“My personal preference is a cream formula, as it sits heavier on the hair, penetrating and doing its job.”

Pick a flattering shade

“Your perfect hair colour shade has a lot to do with whether your skin is cool or warm toned,” explains Michael. As a general rule cool tones should stick to ash, beige, cool brown and blue-toned red shades. Whereas warm tones suit auburn, caramel and warm red shades.

dying hair at home

Follow the instructions

“Application techniques can vary from brand to brand and also depending on the result you want to achieve,” warns Michael. “You don’t want to either under or over develop the colour so it’s very important to read them carefully.”

Give coloured hair extra TLC

While permanent colours should stay true even with frequent washing, semi-permanent colour requires a gentle approach. “Every shampoo takes a small amount of your semi-permanent colour away, so the longer you leave it between shampoos the longer the colour will last,” says Michael. “To maintain your colour always use shampoo and conditioner formulated for coloured or damaged hair as these tend to be milder.”


  • If you’re looking for a drastic colour change head to a salon.

  • Find your skin tone by looking at which jewellery suits you. Cool tones suit silver jewellery, whereas gold tends to suit warm skin tones.

  • Most hair colour brands will include a hair colour helpline number on the box.

  • After application pop on a shower cap and set a timer so you don’t forget.

  • If your hair is already coloured you’ll need to wait at least four weeks before colouring again.

Colour care

Home colouring needn't be a disaster.

"If you're new to home colouring, then start with a semi-permanent colour," suggests Kerry Capewell, Naturtint's in-house hairdresser and colour advisor.

"These are gentler hair colours that simply sit of the outside of the hair as a 'coating', which will gradually wash away over time."

Try Kerry's tips for colouring success...

  1. Do a skin patch test 48-hours before you use any hair dye. Follow the instructions carefully and never skip this step - even if you've used the dye before.
  1. Get everything to hand that you need and make sure you cover your clothes and protect surfaces in case of spillages.
  1. Follow the instructions exactly and leave yourself plenty of time. Wear gloves and keep them on for the whole process.
  1. Don't try to apply the whole bottle at once. Take small sections and make sure you have really covered the hair well, before moving on to the next section.
  1. Don't forget your roots and the hair behind your ears and back of your neck.
  1. Leave on for the recommended time, then follow by rinsing or shampooing, then with a conditioner as instructed.
  1. Hopefully you'll love your finished shade, but don't panic if not. Most hairdyes will have a helpline telephone number on the box for you to call if you have any problems.

You’ll need two boxes of hair colour if your hair is longer than shoulder length and thick

How to colour with confidence

The best way to check how your colour will turn out is to do a strand test. Here's how...

  1. Use the same mixture you prepared for your skin sensitivity test.
  1. Cut a small lock of hair from the root (underneath at the back so it's hidden) and secure the ends together with some sticky tape.
  1. Wear the gloves provided and completely cover the lock of hair with the mixture. Follow the cover instructions.
  1. Gently dry the hair (make sure it's taped down if you use a hairdryer!) to reveal the result.
  1. Check the condition of your hair by gently pulling it. If it springs back then you're good to go. If it snaps, it's too weak to colour.

Organic and natural hair dyes Q&A

If you're in the market for a more natural hair dye, there are a variety of recipes for natural dyes that use common household products such as tea, like the one in the video below...

We caught up with award-winning celebrity hairstylist Dionne Smith to get the lowdown on natural hair dyes.

Does natural or organic hair dye actually exist?

It’s definitely a dream! It isn’t true that hair dye is ever 100% natural or organic, but that doesn’t mean that chemicals used can’t be safe or eco-friendly to use. Even brands that claim their hair dye is natural or organic won’t entirely be what they say as colourants, dyes and preservatives are synthetic in order for the oxidation to work.

Is organic hair dye better?

More people are definitely turning to organic hair dye and I think this is going to continue. The most organic and natural hair dye avoids unnecessary harsh chemicals such as ammonia, parabens, p-phenylenediamine (PPD) or other harsh chemicals.

What is Henna?

Henna is a plant-based option for hair dye, but there are both positives and negatives to using this method. The positives with Henna is that it has been known to help the condition of your hair to make it healthier, stronger and even balance the pH levels on your scalp. The negatives are as you can imagine, it’s hard to lift the colour out of your hair, especially if the client is going lighter! Henna essentially acts as a barrier over hair strands so it’s also not something that can be a quick fix once hair is dyed.

What hair dye ingredients should be avoided?

Additional to the ingredients I mentioned to avoid, Hydrogen Peroxide is known to strip the natural hair colour away that will weaken the hair. PPD is very toxic and is made from coal tar – it’s often been used in dark colour hair dyes. DMDM Hydantoin is a shelf life preservative and is used for killing bacteria. Parabens, Resorcinol and Ammonia are also known to be irritable.

The best hair dye available to buy

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Natural hair dye

Tints of Nature permanent or semi-permanent colour

Tints of Nature Natural Light Brown Permanent Hair Dye

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Made with organic ingredients, all products are 100 per cent free from ammonia, resorcinol and parabens.

Age-defying hair dye

Clairol Niceu2019n Easy Age Defy

Clairol Niceu2019n Easy Age Defy

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Impressive grey coverage and a formula that promises to fight ageing for radiant and younger-looking colour.

Fuss-free application hair dye

John Frieda Precision Foam

John Frieda Precision Foam

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Available in 20 different shades, this foam is so easy to use and is drip and virtually mess-free.

Shine-boosting hair dye

Garnier Olia Permanent Hair Colour

Garnier Olia Permanent Hair Colour

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Ammonia free and containing 60 per cent oils to boost the colouring process and leave hair soft and shiny.

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