How to color your hair like a pro

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By: The Beauty Experts at L'Oréal Paris

Coloring your hair at home can be sort of intimidating. But with a few easy-to-follow guidelines, it's really simpler than you'd think. And, because constant trips to the salon can bankrupt your grocery budget (hey, a girl's gotta eat!), it's basically a survival skill. Which is why we've enlisted a celebrity colorist to walk us through the basics of using a box. Here, Kari Hill (she's Taylor Schilling's go-to gal) spills some of her best tricks.

BEFORE APPLYING COLOR

Use the Side of the Box as a Guide to Choose Your Color
"This might be obvious, but it's often overlooked: If you've never colored your hair, the side of the box is a great tool," says Hill. "Just match your natural hair color to the 'before' shade, and your result should be similar to the 'after' shade."

Be Prepared With the Right Tools
Besides what comes in the box, you'll need a few additional items on hand to ensure a supersmooth coloring process:

1. A dark or light towel -- depending on if you're coloring darker or bleaching, and one that you don't care about that can be stowed for future use.

2. A shirt -- either a button-up style or one with a wide neckhole -- that you don't mind staining.

3. Clips -- to help section and hold your hair in place.

4. An extra pair (or two) of latex gloves (only one pair comes in each box).

Section Your Strands
"For a bit more control during application, pre-divide the hair into smaller sections and clip. Then color each section, one at a time, for a more even allover application," says Hill.

DURING YOUR COLOR APPLICATION

Start With a Strand Test
"If this is the first time you're coloring your hair, the easiest way to make the right color choice (especially if you're attempting an exciting change like Féria Intense Deep Auburn or Extreme Platinum) is by testing a small section of hair first," says Hill. It may take more time, but it's extremely helpful for at-home hair colorists (that's you!) and professionals, too. Choose a small section of hair close to the nape of your neck. Then follow the specific strand-test instructions in the box to apply the color.

Protect the Skin Around Your Hairline
To avoid staining your skin during application and while the color sets, Hill suggests "sealing your hairline with Vaseline, pomade or even lip balm -- anything with a tacky consistency will work." She adds, "The darker the shade, the more diligent you should be, but even blond hair color can leave staining behind." One thing to note: Petroleum-based products create such a strong barrier that if you accidentally get them on your hair, the color will not penetrate the strand. So, another option is to use a bit of hair color conditioner (which comes in every Féria kit), because it will keep color off the skin but still allow it to seep into the hair shaft.

Follow the Instructions
The actual application part of hair coloring is a bit like baking. If you follow the recipe, ahem, instructions carefully, you should get great results. Simple.

AFTER YOU'VE FINISHED COLORING

Remove Excess Color
Even the pros can't be perfect all of the time. If there's a bit of color left on your skin, don't worry -- there are some easy ways to help remove it. Hill suggests "scrubbing gently with a terrycloth towel soaked in eye-makeup remover."

Don't Wait Too Long to Recolor Your Roots
Plan to touch up your strands every four weeks. Your hair grows about one half inch per month (on average), and this half-inch area closest to your scalp will react best with your coloring formula (it's considered the "hot zone" because of the heat generated from your scalp). It's especially important to stick to this time line if you're going lighter blond or trying to maintain a balanced red.

Touch Up Your Roots Starting With the "New" Hair First
No matter what hue your hair is, you'll want to apply color to your regrowth (or natural hair) first. Hill's advice: "Brunettes and redheads should wait to pull the color through to the tip of the strand for the last five to 15 minutes (depending on fade-age). And blondes should not overlap new color onto already bleached hair to avoid breakage and unexpected color results."
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