Hair Colour Buying Guide

Achieving salon-quality hair colour at home begins with having the right hair colour products. This hair colour buying guide will help you get the look you want, when you want it.

Hair Colour 101

To get salon-quality colour at home you need to know three things: your tone, your starting hair colour shade and how much grey (if any) you want to cover. Only then can you determine the type of product that will achieve the result you’re looking for (permanent vs. non-permanent, modest vs. radical change etc.). Fortunately, there are a wide selection of at-home hair colour brands and shades available. From non-commitment, non-lightening products that last up to 28 shampoos, to 100% grey coverage permanent products, there is a broad selection of easy-to-use products with a variety of colour choices. For the most natural-looking results, choose a shade that complements your complexion, and a hue that is no more than two shades lighter or darker than your starting hair colour. So go ahead and cheat on your colourist. With a bit of research you'll soon be adding subtle highlights, hiding pesky grey hairs, or changing your look completely for a salon-quality result.

Types of Hair Colour


Non-Permanent Hair Colour

Non-permanent hair colour penetrates the hair shaft to deposit colour on the hair. It lasts almost as long as permanent colour, washing out in about 28 shampoos. Non-permanent formulas are best for boosting and enhancing existing colour, blending greys to make them look like highlights (up to 75% greys) and correcting permanent hair-colour results. Keep in mind that non-permanent hair colour won't lighten your hair because it contains no ammonia and only low levels of peroxide.

Permanent Hair Colour

Unlike non-permanent hair colour, permanent hair colour can be used to lighten your hair. Permanent hair colour uses peroxide to remove the natural colour pigment from your hair, and then replaces it with artificial colour pigment. The new colour penetrates the hair shaft and typically lasts six to eight weeks. Permanent hair colour can lighten your strands by one or two shades, darken your hair or cover greys completely. Only permanent hair colour can offer up to 100% grey coverage. It’s also ideal if you're switching to a dramatic colour. Note that a lighter colour will not remove previously applied colour: you’ll need to use bleach or colour remover first. 

Colour Rinses

Colour rinses are a great choice for covering grey hair and refreshing your overall hair colour. They’ve also become more user-friendly in recent years. For starters, there’s no more blending of products to achieve your desired colour. With such a wide variety of shades to choose from, you just select a colour that matches your hair and apply it straight from the bottle. Also, colour rinses do not contain ammonia or alcohol, so they’re gentle enough to use every day, and will wash out with shampooing. That makes them a nice alternative to permanent and non-permanent hair colour, and a practical way to test out new colours. 

Colour Mousse

Traditional colour mousse involves mixing a colour with a developing agent. The result is a mousse that you apply to hair as a permanent colour. But you should try some of the new formats too. Some still have two separate solutions, but the mixing is done for you inside the container (also a permanent colour). Temporary colour mousse is now available too. These products can simply be styled in and shampooed out. They are also designed to promote less drip and staining. 

Root Touch-Ups

Root touch-ups let you cover up regrowth and conceal grey hairs between regular colourings. They come in a variety of natural-looking shades that blend seamlessly with your permanent colour. 

Highlighting Kits

Highlighting kits allow you to add salon-worthy highlights to your locks for multi-tonal, multi-dimensional style. They’re great for brightening hair and blending in greys. If you're going for a natural appearance, you may want to choose a highlighting colour no more than two shades lighter than your base. For a sun-kissed summer look, try applying a few thin highlights around your face. Thin highlights look more natural, but bold streaks make a strong fashion statement and are frequently on-trend. 

Types of Hair Colour Care


Colour-Protecting Shampoos

Colour-protecting shampoos are specially formulated to maintain the health of your hair and prevent your colour and highlights from fading for as long as possible. They’re typically enriched with nutrients that nourish hair from root to tip and replenish moisture lost in the colouring process. Many also help protect hair from harmful UV rays. 

Colour-Protecting Conditioners

Colour-protecting conditioners are specially formulated to lock in moisture and prevent fading. Apply colour-protecting conditioner liberally to your clean, damp hair after every shampoo and leave it on for intensive conditioning that strengthens hair, provides deep-penetrating moisture, removes residual peroxide and restores luster and shine. Using colour-protecting conditioners regularly, especially on the ends where the most damage occurs, creates a protective barrier to help prevent dye from washing out. Many colour-protecting conditioners also add UVB sunscreen protection to guard your hair colour from the sun’s damaging rays.

Hair Lighteners

Hair lighteners are bleaching agents that are mixed with developers to lift the colour from hair. You can use them to lighten your hair tone overall, add dramatic highlights or to blend roots. Lightening sprays work with styling heat to gradually lighten and brighten hair. Some formulas make your hair progressively lighter after several uses. Always read the enclosed instructions carefully before applying them to your hair.  

Your Starting Colour

Getting the colour you want starts with knowing your current colour. If you already colour your hair, then your current colour is your ‘starting colour’ (vs. your birth colour). In general, if your hair has not been previously coloured you can go two levels lighter or darker from your starting colour. However, if your hair is already coloured you can still go two levels darker, but only one level lighter (to avoid off-tone results).

Your Tone

Your tone is expressed in terms of warm or cool (or neutral if you fall in between). Your skin and eyes are key determining factors. Begin by thinking about the clothing colours you look and feel great wearing. The chances are good that those colours are in the same family as your own tone. Warm skin toned people usually have brown, amber, or hazel eyes with reddish-blond, red, brown, or black hair with gold, red, orange, or yellow undertones. If your tone is warm then you probably look better in earth colours and gold vs. silver jewellery. So hair colour with descriptors like golden, auburn, bronze and copper will probably work best. Cool skin toned people have blue, gray, or green eyes and blond, brown, or black hair with blue, silver, violet and ash undertones. If your tone is cool you likely wear blues and violets well, and look better in silver jewellery. So you’ll likely benefit most from hair colour with descriptions like ash, beige, plum, platinum and champagne. Note too that using a warm colour tone on top of a cool colour tone (or vice-versa) can lead to a greenish result.

Hair Colour Tips:

  • Get your initial ideas from the hair colour charts on the package, not to the hair colour of the models pictured on the front
  • Stick to hair colours that are within two shades of your natural hair colour for a more natural look
  • Choose a hair colour that blends well with your complexion
  • Avoid washing your hair for 24 hours before colouring for better absorption
  • If your hair is extra thick, pick up a second package of hair colour to ensure you don't run out
  • Using a warm colour tone on top of a cool tone colour (or vice-versa) can lead to a greenish result
  • If you have golden tones, avoid using ash or beige hair colour as these are opposite to golden tones and could result in a greenish tone
  • Anyone can try red undertones regardless of their tone
  • If you’re stuck choosing between 2 shades, opt for the lighter shade since it will be easier to further darken your coloured hair than lighten it
  • If you want to neutralize brassiness choose a shade with ash or cool tones
  • You can re-colour your hair as soon as 24 hours after colouring it, depending upon the condition of your hair and scalp
  • Always use the patch test to detect any sensitivity to one of the colourants contained in the product, because sensitivity can develop over time. 

Hair Toners

Hair toner evens out hair colour to create a flawless look from root to tip. You can apply hair toner to brighten or deepen your base hair colour, or to soften your highlights. It's also useful for cancelling the unwanted brassy tones that can appear in frequently coloured hair. Hair toner provides temporary colour that typically lasts from four to six weeks. 

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Hair Colour Maintenance Tips:

  • Use a colour sealant after colouring your hair and after every shampoo to lock in colour and shine
  • Use colour-protecting shampoos and conditioners to prevent fading
  • Deep condition weekly to keep hair soft and shiny
  • Wash your hair colour in lukewarm or cool water to help retain colour
  • Wash your hair less frequently by using a dry shampoo on off days
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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