Achieve vibrant and glossy hair colour in the comfort of your own surroundings with our pick of the best home hair dyes
A salon appointment is the best option for a radical colour change or tricky technical work; but for more subtle colour changes, grey coverage and root touch-ups, an at-home treatment using a box dye can deliver good results at a fraction of the price. Modern home dyes use foolproof formulas to ensure your hair comes out the expected colour, with even coverage and no fear of patches or streaks.
Even if you do prefer your colour to be applied by a professional, temporary and semi-permanent box dyes can be a good option for keeping your colour fresh and bright between salon visits.
No matter the colour you’re looking for – whether it’s blonde, black or even hot pink – we’ve rounded up the best temporary, semi-permanent and permanent at-home hair colours. Below, read our top tips on choosing the right hair dye to get your desired results, as well as things to look out for.
Best home hair dye: At a glance
- Best temporary root touch up: Colour Wow Root Touch Up | £30
- Best temporary colour for bleached hair: Bleach London Super Cool Colour | £6.50
- Best permanent colour for grey hair: Garnier Olia Permanent Hair Colour | £7.99
How to choose the best hair dye for you
What’s the difference between temporary, semi-permanent and permanent home dyes?
When picking a home dye, the first decision you’ll need to make is over how long you’d like your colour to last. The safest and lowest-commitment option is a temporary hair colour, which adds only a wash of colour to the surface of the hair; these colours usually last for between one to three washes and are great for adding a subtle tint to your hair. Since they contain no bleach or ammonia, temporary colours won’t radically change your hair colour on their own. However, since they’re safe for use over bleached hair, temporary hair colours can be used to create colourful bright or pastel looks.
Semi-permanent and demi-permanent hair colours deposit the colour for a longer time, usually between 12 and 24 washes, depending on the condition of your hair. Semi- and demi-permanent colours are great for refreshing your dyed hair between salon visits, adding richness to your natural hair colour, or blending grey hairs into your natural hair colour. Note that since such dyes do not penetrate the hair follicle, they’re not suitable for lightening the hair. Neither will they completely cover grey hair – rather, they’ll add a wash of colour that helps any greys to blend in.
Permanent hair colour does what it says on the box. Using a combination of ammonia and hydrogen peroxide, they penetrate through the cuticle to the follicle of the hair, permanently altering your base colour. Permanent colour is suitable for those who are absolutely certain about the colour they wish to change to; if you want to lighten your hair colour or change it by more than a few shades; and if you want to completely cover grey hairs rather than see them just blend in. Permanent colour will need to be touched up every few weeks to cover root regrowth. Plus, you may notice the pigments fading over time, so a full colour refresh every few months is a good idea to maintain the vibrancy of your colour.
If you’re not completely sure about a colour change, try a semi- or demi-permanent hair colour first to see how you get on. Permanent hair colour can be difficult to reverse – so check your chosen colour before you take the leap!
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When is it best to visit a professional hairdresser?
For a radical colour change (from brunette to platinum blonde, for example) a hairdresser can help you achieve your chosen look safely with the minimum of damage to hair from lightening treatments. A professional colourist can also advise on the best colours to suit your skin tone, and ensure that if you’re changing to a very different shade from your natural base colour, you achieve the expected results – not an unwanted shade of orange or green.
If your hair is delicate or prone to damage – natural afro-textured hair or hair that’s been permed or chemically relaxed, for example – then a professional will tailor the dying process to keep your locks in the best condition. It’s also best to visit a salon if you’re changing from one permanent colour to another, since removing dyed pigment is more difficult than simply working on unprocessed, virgin hair.
What is the safest way to dye my hair at home?
It’s important to do a patch test on a small area of skin 48 hours before taking the plunge. This is to ensure you’re not allergic to any ingredients used in the dye. We’d also recommend skipping at-home dye jobs if you have an irritated scalp, a rash on your face, a temporary henna tattoo, or if you’ve experienced a reaction from hair dye in the past.
With a strand test you’ll discover whether your chosen box dye achieves the expected colour result and that it won’t damage your hair. Always follow the strand test instructions, which usually involve taking two small sections of hair from different parts of the head and testing with a small amount of dye before applying to the whole head.
To keep yourself and your belongings free of dye, cover clothing and furniture in the immediate area in which you’re colouring your hair to prevent transfer; wear gloves and avoid contact with eyes, too. A little Vaseline or a thick moisturising cream around the hairline can prevent dye transferring onto the skin. Many box dyes can be applied directly from the bottle, but using a brush and bowl will allow the colour to be applied more accurately and evenly.
All hair dyes follow a different process, so even if you’re not new to colouring your hair, read the instructions and any guidelines beforehand to achieve the best results.
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The best hair dye you can buy in 2023
1. Colour Wow Root Touch Up: Best temporary root touch-up
Price when reviewed: £30 | Check price at Space NK
No hairdressers appointment? No problem. Colour Wow’s brush-in dye instantly perks up dull, colourless roots for a vibrant do that looks like it’s been freshly dyed. Not to be mistaken for your eyeshadow palette, the at-home kit features a precision mineral powder that’s available in seven shades – ranging from platinum to black – and a dual-sided brush that’s great for targetting specific hairs.
Whether you’re looking to conceal emerging roots or camouflage grey hairs, the lightweight powder has a surprisingly high colour pay-off that blends seamlessly with your hair for a natural finish. The blonde and platinum shades are great at lightening darkened roots, too. Colour Wow’s pigments are fully waterproof and transfer-proof, which means the root colour will stay put between washes and not stain your pillow or clothes. Since it’s ammonia- and peroxide-free, this temporary root touch-up will give your locks a well-needed break from harsh chemicals and treatments until you’re ready for your next salon visit.
Key details – Pack size: 2.1g; Colour method: Temporary (wash-out)
2. Clairol Nice n’ Easy Root Touch-Up: Best permanent hair dye to cover roots
Price when reviewed: £6.99 | Check price at Boots
Clairol has got you covered with the Nice n’ Easy Root Touch-Up. Guaranteed to extend the time between visits to the salon, Clairol has developed multi-tonal shades similar to those you’d find at a salon. That means you’ll enjoy a professional-looking finish without an obvious difference between the lengths of your hair and the touched-up roots.
And, as the name Nice n’ Easy suggests, the hair dye is a doddle to apply: simply mix both tubes in the supplied mixing bowl and apply to your roots with the Expert Control Brush. Just make sure to pay special attention to the roots around the parting, face and temple. It takes only 10 minutes for the colour to set, which is a lot faster than waiting in a salon.
The Nice n’ Easy Root Touch-Up wins bonus points for its easy application, budget price and stunning results. If you’re looking to cover those unwelcome roots quickly, this is the hair dye for you.
Key details – Pack size: 30ml; Colour method: Permanent
3. Bleach London Super Cool Colour: Best temporary colour for bleached hair
Price when reviewed: £6.50 | Check price at Look Fantastic
Tired of the same look, but not willing to fully commit? Partially responsible for the kaleidoscope hair that’s all over our Instagram feeds, Bleach London is perfect for anyone who is bored with their current style and wants to switch it up. Colours wash out anywhere between one and 30 washes, depending on the shade, and the dye is super-easy to apply, going onto the hair like a conditioning hair mask; colour develops in around 30 minutes. The conditioning hair colour, which also smells delicious, is safe to leave on for longer for a stronger colour result, with hair feeling super-soft on rinsing out the colour.
Made using only vegan, cruelty-free ingredients, you can choose between cutely named shades such as “Washed Up Mermaid”, “Awkward Peach” and “Violet Skies”. Bleach London’s temporary colour works best on bleached or very light natural blonde hair; the pretty, sheer finish may not show up well on darker hair. While the colour payoff is quite gentle, the Super Cool Colour range is a fun way to try something new. Perfect for a temporary festival look.
Key details – Pack size: 150ml; Colour method: Temporary (1-30 washes depending on shade)
4. Glaze Super Colour Conditioning Gloss: Best semi-permanent colour for a glossy finish
Price when reviewed: £16 | Check price at Superdrug
If you’d like to add vibrancy and richness to your natural hair colour, as well as fantastic moisture and lustre, a glaze or glossing treatment can be a great option. Glaze’s temporary colour adds a sheer touch of colour alongside marvellous shine, thanks to nourishing babassu oil. Since the formula is richly hydrating and ammonia-free, it won’t penetrate the hair follicle or damage bleached or coloured hair, so it’s safe to use over a permanent colour as well as on natural, virgin hair. The sheer formula won’t lighten hair, but the blonde shades are good for temporarily toning bleached blonde hair.
Glaze promises the colour and shine will last up to ten washes; in our tests we found that the shine, in particular, lasted for fewer. We loved the softness of the hair after applying, though, and the treatment really did result in a richer colour and glossy shine for the first few days after using. A good option if you’re looking for a fairly natural look (with added shine) for a special event.
Key details – Pack size: 190ml; Colour method: Semi-permanent (up to ten washes)
5. L’Oreal Casting Crème Gloss: Best semi-permanent for blending greys
Price when reviewed: £10 | Check price at Superdrug
For those looking for a longer-term, semi-permanent dye with strong enough colour to blend greys effectively, or to enrich your natural colour, L’Oreal’s Casting is a great conditioning cream colour that lasts up to 28 washes. The ammonia-free colour is available in 30 shades, is super-easy to apply and smells pleasant. The formula contains coconut oil glossy, healthy-looking results; and the colour itself has a soft shimmer that lasts over several washes. The box includes a rich conditioning treatment that leaves hair soft and shiny.
Casting is suitable for those wanting to go darker, or to add warm red tones to their natural colour. It doesn’t contain bleach, so it won’t lighten your natural hair colour. However, since this demi-permanent formula is stronger than a temporary colour, it’s good for covering greys and lighter root regrowth. A great medium-commitment option if you’d like to colour for longer without going permanent.
Key details – Pack size: 239ml; Colour method: Demi-permanent (up to 28 washes)
6. eSalon Custom Hair Colour Set: Best custom permanent colour
Price when reviewed: From £22 | Check price at eSalon
If you can’t find quite the right colour for you on the shelf – or you’re not sure which shade would best suit you – eSalon’s custom colour-mixing service might just be what you need. To create your chosen colour, you complete a short online survey and upload a current headshot; this is then reviewed by a professional colourist who will make a colour recommendation and mix up a bottle of custom colour for you. You can optionally customise your order with a bottle of Tint Rinse, a sheer temporary glaze that can be used on its own, or over your coloured hair, to add rich tones to your chosen shade.
eSalon’s personalised hair colour can be ordered as a single item (£27.50) or on a regular subscription plan (£22); and there’s an opportunity to feed back to the team each time you colour your hair so your formula can be fine-tuned further. The instructions in the pack are easy to follow, helping you achieve the best results at home, and we loved the soft feel of our hair after colouring. eSalon’s products are a little more expensive than other box dyes, but are a good home colour option if you’d still like advice from a stylist.
Key details – Pack size: 130ml; Colour method: Permanent
7. Garnier Olia Permanent Hair Colour: Best permanent colour for grey hair
Price: £7.99 | Check price at Look Fantastic
As we age, hair tends to become dry, brittle and more prone to breakage – and regular colouring can make fragile hair even drier and more prone to damage. To cover unwanted grey hairs and keep your locks looking their best, Garnier’s ammonia-free permanent hair dye uses a 60% oil formulation that deeply conditions hair while it colours for a smooth and shiny finish. The range offers a selection of beautiful shades including rich, chestnut browns, intense reds and buttery blondes.
The vegan-friendly, non-drip colourant cream has a velvety texture that clings to hair without irritating the scalp, and delivers a good colour pay-off without a strong, chemical scent. It can be used to touch up grey roots or dye your entire head, but you may have to purchase two boxes if you have very long or thick hair. Combining maximum colour with healthy, soft and silky hair, the Olia range is also a fantastic contender for those wanting to freshen up and revive lacklustre hair colour.
Key details – Pack size: 150ml; Colour method: Permanent