Without hair dye, Marilyn Monroe might have spent her entire life as Norma Jeane Mortenson. And Jessica Rabbit? She'd just be another pretty rabbit in a red dress. Whether it's highlights, lowlights, or double-process blonde, hair color has the power to transform your look. Here, we suggest ten kits to get you started.
Going to a salon for ombré hair color is like paying full price for worn-in jeans. This new kit lets you customize your grown-out highlights by brushing on color a few shades lighter than your base shade.
For a dramatic effect, paint the color on all strands from chin-length to tips. Or keep things subtle by holding the brush vertically and sweeping it over small, staggered sections, focusing on the ends, suggests colorist Christophe Robin, creative color director for L'Oréal.
GARNIER OLIA OIL POWERED PERMANENT COLOR, $9
The oils in this formula aren't just for deep conditioning —they also help deposit color onto strands. In other words, your shade will last longer and look richer than it would with a typical at-home kit.
We went all-out and tested the most difficult of all hair colors to maintain: cherry red (060). And yes, it lasted until our roots grew in four weeks later.
CLAIROL NICE 'N EASY COLOR BLEND FOAM, $8
Nervous about your first time? This is your kit. The simple, three-step instructions are printed on both the pamphlet and the bottles—really, you can't miss them—and the foam dye is easier to handle than creams or liquids.
If you're still unsure, go a couple shades darker rather than lighter. It's almost always less damaging to hair, says colorist Kyle White.
REVLON LUXURIOUS COLORSILK BUTTERCREAM, $4.50
Perfect for those with damaged hair, this color system prevents oversaturation of dye so color comes out evenly from roots to tips.
Plus, the mango, coconut, and shea butters in the ammonia-free formula made our hair noticeably smoother and shinier.
MANIC PANIC SEMI-PERMANENT DYE, $10
We're not suggesting you go all Katy Perry and dye your entire head blue (unless you want to, of course), but a carefully placed streak of purple or soft pink tips can look totally cool when done correctly.
This brand carries the boldest shades (Purple Haze, Green Envy, Electric Banana); brush them on your lightest section to avoid ruddiness. And commitment phobes rejoice: color rinses out after four to six weeks.
RITA HAZAN POP COLOR, $18
If you want a dramatic color that will wash out by Monday morning, we found these to be the most reliable.
Developed by colorist Rita Hazan, the purple, teal, and pink color sprays are specifically designed to appear vibrant on both blondes and brunettes—and they rinse clean after one shampoo.
L'ORÉAL PARIS SUPERIOR PREFERENCE FADE-DEFYING COLOR & SHINE SYSTEM, $9
The extended applicator tip reached even our most stubborn roots, and the glossy brown color lasted for weeks without fading. But surprisingly, our favorite part of the kit was the multiuse conditioner. It made our strands so glossy and sleek, we want another kit just to get it again.
JOHN FRIEDA PRECISION FOAM COLOUR, $12
The whipped texture of this dye is "foolproof," according to colorist Rona O'Connor.
"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, we were left with pretty, rich brunette strands (and not a single drip on our walls).
AVON ADVANCE TECHNIQUES COLOR PROTECTION GREY ROOT TOUCH-UP, $8
If you don't have time for a full root touch-up, this temporary dye camouflages grays and roots until your next shampoo.
The applicator, which is shaped like a mascara wand, blends brown and black pigment evenly into hair for natural-looking coverage.
JOHN FRIEDA BRILLIANT BRUNETTE LIQUID SHINE COLOR GLAZE, $10
Any colorist will tell you: A glaze is the quickest way to fake fresh color (almost every celebrity gets one before the Oscars).
This formula boosts shine and temporarily enhances brunette shades between dye jobs.
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