How Do I Retouch My Roots at Home?

Master colorist Denis De Souza is here to calm your DIY fears during quarantine.
How Do I Retouch My Roots at Home?
The memes about the world being three weeks away from seeing everyone’s true hair color have made the rounds and while there’s nothing wrong with allowing nature to take its course, there are many that would rather not reveal what’s under the hood.

If you’re ready to put an end to #rootwatch, master colorist and co-founder of Mare Salon in Los Angeles, Denis De Souza, is here to lend you a virtual hand at home. “Remember, this is state-of-emergency hair color—not the time to be creative,” he warns. In other words, skip the drastic dye jobs or highlighting kits that claim they’re “nice and easy” on the box. “It could cost you a fortune to fix your hair by a professional later on,” he adds. Keep things simple with this step-by-step guide that will help you say sayonara to that skunk-like stripe down your center part.

Mare Salon

Step 1: Meet Your Match

The panic buying began with hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Now, the people have come for the hair color according to Nielsen, which reported a 23% spike in sales compared to the same period last year. That said, it appears many major online retailers still have plenty of DIY dye kits in stock. The key to finding your shade on the internet? Compare the color closest to your roots to the before and after photos on the side of the box—being sure to do this in good lighting (i.e., not the dim glow radiating from your laptop at 2 a.m. while shopping online). “Even if a client’s color is single process, ends can be a few shades lighter than the roots,” says De Souza. Brands like Madison Reed and Color&Co offer online quizzes that help you select the perfect shade based on things like hair texture, percentage of gray, and skin tone.

Step 2: Find Your Formula

If you’re a rookie, opt for semi-permanent color. “Even though it might not cover your roots 100%, it will be easier to fix later if need be,” says De Souza. Try Clairol Root Touch-Up Color Blending Gel ($10). If you’re still wary of walking the at-home hair color road along, phone/text/DM your pro. “My assistant, John [Cadena], prepares kits for my clients with their exact color and writes down the instructions perfectly,” adds De Souza. “All they have to do is apply because the rest of the work is done.” If obtaining the dye used in your salon is out of the question, you could also coordinate a Zoom call with your colorist for one-on-one assistance—just don’t forget to Venmo a tip!

Step 3: Prep Your Space and Your Skin

“Hair is more manageable if it’s not clean,” says De Souza. “Natural oils help prevent an itchy scalp.” Adhering to this advice during quarantine shouldn’t be too hard seeing as social distancing has given many of us yet another excuse to skip a wash day (or three). After slipping into an old button-up shirt that’s easy remove when it’s time to rinse, apply a barrier cream to your hairline and ears using your finger or a Q-tip to prevent staining. “You can use Vaseline or even diaper cream,” says De Souza. Another affordable option: Salt & Stone SPF 30 Lip Balm ($5). After you’ve sufficiently prepped your skin, move on to the bathroom surfaces. Cover countertops and floors with plastic (trash bags or garment bags from the dry cleaner do the job) to keep color contained to your hair—and off pricey and porous materials like marble.

Step 4: Start In Sections

After thoroughly reading the instructions on the box and performing a patch test at least 24 hours in advance to rule out any allergies, divide hair into four even sections and clip each out of the way. Then, put your gloves on and get to it! “Always do your hairline first,” says De Souza. Next, working one section at a time, apply color only where needed, which is “most likely an inch or so from the root,” explains the pro. Ask your partner, roommate, or artistically-inclined child to help you with the hair at the back of your head. “Don’t pull the dye down through the length of your hair under any circumstance,” warns De Souza. Overlapping your base can create uneven color, dull shine, and cause breakage. If you have highlights, coat strands in conditioner after dying your roots “to prevent the color from bleeding” and tinging lighter pieces when you rinse.

Step 5: Rinse and Reveal 

Once you’ve let the color sit on your roots for the recommended period of time, it’s time to hit the showers. Make sure the water runs clear before shampooing your hair twice, says De Souza. Try Grown Alchemist Colour Protect Shampoo ($49) that cleanses while keeping color bright. Finishing with a hydrating mask, like David Mallet Mask No. 3 La Couleur ($75), for major moisture and shine guaranteed to radiate at your next Zoom meeting or House party fête.

Written by Amber Kallor

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