I've mastered my at-home hair color routine and I'm never going back to the salon.

By Mary Honkus
Updated September 06, 2018
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
How to Dye Hair red
Credit: Getty Images

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a redhead. Everyone on my mom’s side of the family has gorgeous auburn locks and I always admired their unique hair color, plus I like the idea of having strands that stand out. The reality: My mom never let me dye my light brown hair.

Brunette to Redhead
Credit: @maredoll1997

As soon as I moved to New York City for college, I made my salon appointment to go ginger (sorry, Mom!) and I couldn’t have been more excited. I walked in with a picture of Emma Stone and hoped for the best. My hair turned out better than I expected, and I felt more like myself than I ever had before. I strutted out as a new woman… but was back again only two weeks later because my virgin hair wouldn’t hold the dye. It completely faded in just 14 days! I wish I had known then to use an at-home color-depositing product like dpHUE Color Boosting Gloss + Deep Conditioning Treatment ($30; urbanoutfitters.com), but that was just one of the lessons I’ve learned since making the switch to red.

Nowadays, I keep my hair fiery red without bi-monthly visits to the salon by dyeing my hair at home. After the fading incident, my stylist gave me the exact formula he used on my hair (#forevergrateful) so I would be able to do it—my bank account was silently thanking me. My own color combo is as follows: Half a tube of ColorInsider by Matrix Precision Permanent Color 7rc-Dark Blonde Red Copper ($12; amazon.com), a quarter tube of 5r- Medium Brown Red ($11; amazon.com), a quarter tube of 5n-Medium Brown Neutral ($13; amazon.com), and a quarter tube of Color Concentrate in Red ($9; amazon.com). For good measure, I also add in two ounces of the Matrix Oil Cream Developer ($20; amazon.com), which turns the mixture into a dense consistency for more precise application when I paint it on. I love these formulas because they’re ammonia-free, so they’re not drying or damaging to my hair, which is super important since I dye it so often.

Mary Redhead Selfie
Credit: @maredoll1997

Because red is the fastest hair color to fade, I find myself playing colorist every five weeks, starting at the roots and painting until fully saturated. Then, I take one-inch sections and coat those as well, followed by a massage to work the color into each piece. I put my dye-covered strands in a shower cap—the disposable kind like Donna Disposable Shower Cap ($2; cvs.com) are the best—and sit for 35 minutes, then hop in the shower and shampoo my hair until the water runs clear again. Upon first rinse, the bathtub turns a vibrant shade of crimson but luckily never leaves a stain–another bonus with this formula. While the fresh color can be a bit jarring because it’s so rich, I’ve come to expect it and then it subtly starts to fade.

While it may sound like a lot to dye my hair about once a month, it’s worth it for me because I feel so much more confident with red hair. Its been three years since that initial salon visit and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to my natural color, especially because I’ve managed to find a simple, at-home way to maintain it without breaking the bank.