Hair Dye Guide

Woman applying hair dye

So you’ve decided to color your hair, heck, you might even be one of the lucky ones that has already found the perfect shade. However excited you are to make the color transition, there are still some big decisions to be made to make sure you achieve the most spectacular results.

If you have ever strolled down the hair color aisle at the beauty supply outlet or grocery store, you will have been inundated with row after row of vibrant and perfectly coiffed beauties with impeccable color. So how do you select the best hair dye for you?

For those who decide they are ready to rock their locks in the privacy of their own bathroom, I have drawn up the below summary of the different hair color products available. Most, if not all, of these can be found in your local pharmacy or grocery store, but if you are lucky enough to live near a beauty supplier that sells hair dye to the public, I suggest starting there as they will have someone who may be able to offer some degree of advice. In most cases it is not so much the ‘quality’ of the product, as the skill in application and proper selection to achieve the desired end result.

When choosing a hair dye the major consideration (all shades and color choices aside) is the ‘type’ of hair color product you select. These not only affect the longevity and change potential, but your cost (especially if going professional), maintenance, and potential wear and tear on the hair fabric.


These are products from days of old when people rolled and set their hair. They come in natural shades (remember though, gray is natural, and so is mousy blonde) that are not the most flattering. They are meant to ‘blend’ gray until it is shampooed out. However, if you use them and are caught in the rain, beware. The best way to describe it is to have a child paint a watercolor picture and then hit it with the hose. You get the idea.


These are often used to complement existing hair color rather than replace it. Think of putting on sunglasses. The shade does not totally change what you see, but puts a filter over it. You change the hue. If you do not first enhance or alter what is underneath, often times the outcome is unnoticeable or unflattering. With no initial color change, using a clear glosser at least enhances shine.


Many time people claim that these ‘wash out in twelve shampoos’. Well, from twenty five years of doing hair, my experience is that this is somewhat untrue.

Even if the brilliance of the initial color has left, there is still evidence left behind which still means you have to maintain the process somehow. Semi permanent colors do contain a small degree of peroxide, or an activator that acts as peroxide to allow the color to work. Over time these can dry your hair if not properly applied as people have a tendency to ‘dump n’ rub’ them on the hair.

These ‘temporary’ hair dyes are best for subtle color enhancement, tone-on-tone coloring, and for the novice who wants to dip their toe in the waters, so-to-speak.


This is where the rubber glove meets the road. These products do contain varying degrees of peroxide. However peroxide is not the ‘big old meany’ that many make it out to be. It is a necessary component of the coloring process. However, if the hands of the ‘disrespectful’, it can sometimes lead to a scarring memory.

Peroxide simply softens and swells the hair to allow color to do its job. It removes some of your natural color to make way for the new selected shade. This allows for a deeper penetration as opposed to a more subtle ‘staining’ action of other color products. Peroxide also allows for greater levels of lift, hue selection, changes, and creativity.

However this extra room for creativity also also raises the potential for mishap in untrained hands (and at times, even the trained!) I recommend caution; or at least having a girlfriend in proximity who will give you her brutal opinion if you opt away from the salon. Plus it is good to have a set of eyes that can see the back of your head to make sure you don’t miss spots.


This is a process of taking randomly selected strands of hair to lighten for dimension, effect, and interest. It can be as subtle or as daring as the wearer chooses. This can be done with foils, balayage, or even through the ‘old-school’ frosting cap.

This is where dexterity, an adept practitioner, and a trained eye can really be useful. Lightening hair has the greatest potential for damage and disaster. I know, I know; the cute little kits you see on the television make it look so easy. Many hairdressers buy their summer homes with the fees they charge by correcting these mistakes!

If you must do this at home, enlist a trusted, skilled friend if you choose to avoid the stylists’ chair. As far as platinum blonde and toners – go seek a trained professional. ‘Nuff said.

So put your wish list together and decide your level of daring and commitment. The options are virtually endless. Respect your boundaries, seek help where you are unsure, and whether it be the box or the beauty salon, a beautiful new you awaits!
Hair Dye Guide, 4.4 out of 5 based on 9 ratings


  1. says

    i’m looking for a color comparison chart, and no luck. i’m switching lines and want a guide for using the new line as spot-on to what i’ve been using for years w/o too much guess work. different lines use 1-10, some 2-12 in levels, and the tonal differences are not always numbers, sometimes letters.
    can u help? thanks, jb

    • Susie B says

      Hi Johne,

      We are in the process of merging the singular hair color charts from the various cosmetic companies into a ‘mega-chart’, however as you mentioned it’s difficult as a lot of the companies have different scales and ideas of tone and level. We’ve been working on it for the last 6 weeks, and we hope you have it finished by the end of summer.

      In the meantime, we have collected the biggest hair color chart collections here:

      Susie x

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