With salons closed, here's how to refresh your hair color at home

Tanya Edwards, CNN Underscored
Updated Thu April 2, 2020

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Many of us are now on week two of practicing social distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus. It's difficult not to be able to see friends, go to work or leave the house to run normal errands, so one way to keep a feeling of routine is to continue the beauty rituals you know and hold dear.

For a lot of us, that means keeping up our hair color. Unfortunately, covering grays, giving natural color a little bit of a boost or going all-out with a fun fashion color is challenging when many salons and stylists have closed up shop.

Fortunately, with the advice of some master colorists, you can keep up your color while staying at home and flex your major look on your next Zoom happy hour.

If this is your first time coloring your own hair, Megan Graham, owner and master colorist at Megan Graham Beauty in Boston, has a few quick tips. "Be reasonable," she says. "Staying within two shades of your natural color is achievable at home. A major color change is left to the pros."

And those who have good relationships with their colorists should reach out and ask for some direction. They may be able to help you match your color, based on their knowledge of your custom blend, and give you advice about managing the process.

Permanent color

Coloring your own hair and covering your roots is easier than you think, even if you've never done this at home. Miguel Angarita, master colorist at Oscar Blandi Salon in New York City, shared some advice. "Applying the color only on the visible areas, minimizes mistakes and prevents you from getting overwhelmed," he says. "So apply only the part and the hairline. Do not run any permanent dye on ends of hair. This can darken or make ends flat."

Another key tip? Follow the directions to the letter. "Any brand can be safe, but it's crucial to follow the manufacturer's directions, as well as to perform a patch test to rule out any color allergies," says Graham.

L'Oréal Paris Feria Multi-Faceted Shimmering Permanent Hair Color ($17.98; amazon.com)

L'Oréal Paris Feria Multi-Faceted Shimmering Permanent Hair Color

If you're looking to match a salon color, the L'Oréal Paris Feria line offers a rich color with great definition. The line has a large selection of red tones, and is worth looking to if you're having difficulty matching your salon red. More colors may also be available at Target for $8.99.

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L'Oréal Paris Superior Preference Glam Lights Highlights ($23.94; amazon.com)

L'Oréal Paris Superior Preference Glam Lights Highlights

Touching up highlights at home is not something we'd normally recommend, but these are desperate times. Be sure to follow the directions closely.

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Garnier Nutrisse Nourishing Color Creme ($6.99; target.com)

Garnier Nutrisse Nourishing Color Creme

Made with a blend of avocado, shea and coconut oils, this line has 45 colors and is priced for every budget.

Semipermanent

A semipermanent color can last around six weeks, with proper application and maintenance. "Buy more hair color than you think you need," says Graham. "The amount of color in a store-bought kit is usually very small."

Also, give yourself time. "Plan plenty of time, and be patient," she says. "Leave the color on for long enough, since proper processing ensures beautiful results. Do not wash your hair the day that you intend to color it. Your scalp will thank you!"

Clairol Natural Instincts ($6.99; target.com)

Clairol Natural Instincts

This box color has been a favorite for years, and it's no surprise, as the ammonia-free formula leaves hair shiny and healthy, without the look of over-deposited color. The line has a wide array of shades, so matching your shade shouldn't be difficult.

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If you're just bored of your look and want a drastic, colorful change, but not one that's going to stick around forever, Angarita says, "then a gloss, semigloss or semipermanent is recommended."

Good Dye Young Semi-Permanent Hair Color ($18; sephora.com)

Good Dye Young Semi-Permanent Hair Color

If you're touching up a fashion color, this line has a solid selection including pink, purple, green and bright red. These semipermanent colors have a rich pigment level that will upgrade your shade.

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DpHue Gloss+ Semi-Permanent Hair Color and Deep Conditioner ($35; sephora.com, dermstore.com)

DpHue Gloss+ Semi-Permanent Hair Color and Deep Conditioner

This collection of glosses is meant to enhance your natural color, or perk up an existing color, and add dimension and shine to your look. It's packed with conditioner, so your hair will be left soft and shiny.

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Manic Panic Semi-Permanent Hair Color Cream ($13.99; amazon.com)

Manic Panic Semi-Permanent Hair Color Cream

This classic line has been offering fashion colors since the '90s, and is a great bargain at just around 10 bucks. If it's your first time using it, be sure to have an old towel handy, as the color can get everywhere.

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Lime Crime Unicorn Hair Tint Semi-Permanent Hair Color ($16; nordstrom.com)

Lime Crime Unicorn Hair Tint Semi-Permanent Hair Color

In colors like sky blue and lilac, this adorably packaged hair dye leaves a light wash of color on your hair.

Root coverage

Rita Hazan Root Concealer Touch-Up Spray ($25; sephora.com, dermstore.com)

Rita Hazan Root Concealer Touch-Up Spray

This celeb-loved line created by colorist Rita Hazan is the best spray root concealer on the market. If you're nervous about coloring your own roots, this spray is a great option. Just know it will wash out, so daily application is necessary.

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Oribe Airbrush Root Touch-Up Spray ($32-$32.99; dermstore.com, overstock.com)

Oribe Airbrush Root Touch-Up Spray

Beloved by the beauty community for years now, this touch-up product sprays microfine pigments to match black, blond, dark brown or light brown hair.

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Clairol Root Touch-Up Permanent Hair Color Kit ($7.99; target.com)

Clairol Root Touch-Up Permanent Hair Color Kit

For permanent root color, this mainstay from Clairol includes a brush for super-easy application and has a wide array of colors to choose from, to make sure you can find your match.

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L'Oréal Paris Magic Root Cover Up Gray Concealer Spray ($9.99; target.com)

L'Oréal Paris Magic Root Cover Up Gray Concealer Spray

Another drugstore spray, this fan-favorite is available in eight shades.

Pro tools

New AF Bowls and Brushes ($7.99; arcticfoxhaircolor.com)

New AF Bowls and Brushes

A bowl for your hair dye and a brush (which is great for roots) to help delicately swipe it on, all in a cute lime green color.

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Salon Care Highlighting Kit with Tipping Cap ($4.29; sallybeauty.com)

Salon Care Highlighting Kit with Tipping Cap

If it's highlights you're after, then this kit has everything you need, including a tipping cap which you can pull your selected soon-to-be highlighted hairs through, a mixing spatula, disposable cape and one pair of disposable gloves.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed prices at the time of publication.