Whether you want platinum blonde or neon-pink locks, applying your own hair color at home is a great way to change your look without dropping a hefty sum of cash at the hair salon. Before you dive in and color your hair, gather all of your required materials and set yourself up for success. In addition to hair color, application tools and aftercare products, you may need a hair dryer to help process the color and achieve the look you want.

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A Word About Color

Select your hair color kit, sticking with the basic rule that you can go lighter or darker, but it's best to stay within one to two shades of your natural color if you're doing it yourself. That model on the box of dye might look fabulous, but your hair won't necessarily look like that color once it's been processed. By staying within a couple of shades of your current color, you'll avoid damaging your hair or winding up with a color you didn't intend. If you're looking to do anything besides naturally enhancing your color or covering gray, such as going from brunette to blonde, consider visiting a professional stylist.

Get Prepared

In addition to your hair color kit, which will come with everything you need to color your hair, you'll need some petroleum jelly, an old towel or shirt to protect your clothing, a wide-toothed comb, four large hair clips, a timer or a stopwatch and either a hooded dryer or a hand-held dryer. Deep-condition your hair two days before coloring, focusing especially on any dry or damaged strands. Your hair will absorb color more readily if it's healthy and moisturized. Because your nails could scratch your scalp, causing irritation when you apply the color, shampoo your hair the night before you color, not on the same day.

Get Colorful

Slip on the plastic gloves included in your color kit and follow the directions to prep your color. Some kits come with a bowl and a brush and others simply a plastic bottle, but a brush allows more control over where you apply color. Next, use the comb to section your dry hair into four parts, first down the middle and then across the center of your head from side to side. Twist the hair and secure each section with a clip. Apply petroleum jelly around your hairline to protect your skin from color. Then unclip one section at a time, starting with a front section. Apply the color at the roots first, then use your fingers to run the color down the strands to the ends. Repeat the process for all sections, and leave the color on your hair for the amount of time recommended on the box, checking your hair periodically to ensure you achieve the color you want.

Apply Heat

Note that some hair types resist color more than others, especially if the hair is thick or if you're going lighter than your natural color. During the last five to 10 minutes of processing, you can apply heat to improve the dye's penetration in your hair and achieve your desired results. If you don't already have access to a hooded dryer, simply use a hand-held dryer with a diffuser attached. The diffuser will help distribute heat evenly across your head. Once you have the color you want, follow the dye kit's directions to rinse, shampoo and condition, then style your hair for a salon-fresh look.