In the winter of 2020, while Allure‘s deputy editor Kara McGrath was bored at home with grown-out roots, she cracked open a tub of pastel-pink color-depositing conditioner. About 40 minutes later, she had cheery, rosy hair and 58 selfies to mark the start of what has become a long-term relationship with temporary hair color. Even though we’re not stuck at home 24/7 anymore, you never know when you’ll look in the mirror and suddenly see your hair as a blank canvas, ready for some DIY hair color magic. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place to prepare for those moments.
When determining which hue is right for you (and your hair), colorist Matt Rez says warm shades like peaches, reds, and pinks will “always grab more evenly and are more forgiving,” so they’re probably your best option for the first foray into at-home color. Colorist Rachel Bodt advises that you test dyes on wet or damp hair first, so you can see how your hair will grab the color. (Use an inconspicuous strand, perhaps by the nape of your neck, for your test run.)
Unfortunately, hair-dyeing is an area where blondes really do have more fun: While some brands make a brunette option, you’ll get the most vibrant results from bright hair colors on bleached hair. Bodt strongly advises against using at-home dye kits, however. “You can do more damage than good,” she says. Instead, if you can’t make it to a colorist first, Kener suggests trying colorful clip-in extensions instead.
Because not everyone is ready to take the plunge into the world of vibrantly colored hair quite yet (even in temporary hair dye form), we’ve included a couple of temporary hair color products that can also enhance brown hair, cover up stray grays, and disguise persistent roots until your next colorist appointment. Gone are the sticky hair chalks of the past — some of these innovative formulas even have hair care and styling properties, because who says switching up your hair color from home has to come at a cost?
We gathered up a few of the best color hair dyes to try at home, including the products that McGrath personally put to the test. All of the choices below span the color spectrum for root touch-ups or full-on fantasy switches. While they’re all temporary or semi-permanent, Nine Zero One stylist Sierra Kener says you can extend their life by adding a couple of drops of the color to your conditioner — that way you’ll get a light refresh every washday.
A version of this story originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Allure. Learn how to subscribe here.