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Not Ready for the Salon?

Experts on how to revive your hair from home.

Bumble and Bumble color stick and hair powder.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Bumble and Bumble.

Salons have been among the first wave of businesses reopening in many states as social distancing measures reduce. However, some people may still not be ready to visit their hair dresser––a recent survey of Slate readers revealed that 44 percent of people were not yet comfortable returning to a barber shop or salon. But even if you aren’t prepared or able to visit a professional, that doesn’t mean you have to be miserable with your hair.

We spoke to stylists about what you can do on your own to improve your color or boost your hair health. They emphasized that at-home color can be complicated: It’s wise to exercise patience and wait to see your hair dresser, as any drastic measures may be costly to fix. That said, there are some steps you can take while you wait to see your stylist. Here’s what they recommend.

For Dyed Hair

If you normally dye your hair and are desperate to cover your roots, you should only treat the spots you can see in the mirror—the hairline and part. In selecting a product, Kimberly Christoph, a colorist at Salon ILO in D.C., recommends choosing a brand that offers a wide range of color. Brands like Clairol boast enough options that the color will neatly match the shade of your hair. Choose one of the root kits that come with a small brush to help you apply color precisely, which will be helpful for those new to treating their hair.

Dailey Greene, owner of H2 Salon in Brooklyn, New York, says another option is to reach out to your stylist to get the professional hair color formula they typically use on your hair, so that you can then purchase that same product online. (Greene likes Clairol’s Professional Liquicolor Permanente collection because its color is “prismatic,” meaning it gives your hair highs and lows rather than flat color.) If you go that route, you’ll also need to purchase a developer to activate the color and a hair bowl and brush to apply it.

If you don’t work regularly with a stylist, online charts can help you match your hair to a professional color formula. Christoph suggests Madison Reed’s online quiz to help determine what color might work best for you .

For Temporary Coverage

If you aren’t ready to commit to permanent or semipermanent hair color, Christoph recommends Bumble and Bumble hair makeup products. These products come in a stick or powder form, and you can apply them precisely where you need them—to conceal roots or thinning patches, for example—but then wash them out in the shower. Christoph notes to be careful of the product rubbing off on your hands if you touch your hair a lot, or on your pillow, if you don’t wash your hair before bed. Greene warns it’s best to stay away from both temporary and permanent black-colored dye, because the pigments stay in your hair even after washing.

For Color and Shine

If you’re able to live with your roots, but your hair could use an overall perk up, Christoph recommends dpHue’s color-enhancing gloss conditioner. This product won’t transform your fundamental hair color, or create any dramatic changes, but it will enhance hair with some overall richness. It works like a toner, adding a bit of color and gloss to the outer cuticle of the hair, which brings dimension to lightened locks and helps replenish the color on darker, dyed hair.

Perhaps you simply miss that fresh-from-the-salon feeling. Greene suggests picking out a few different travel-size deep conditioners based on your specific hair type and experimenting with what works best. One deep conditioner she likes that’s designed to work for all hair types is Olaplex No. 5, a moisturizing, reparative product.

Christoph also recommends a treatment called Crystal Angel from Kevin Murphy. This is a shine coat used in salons and made from a variety of oils and plant extracts, along with murumuru seed butter, to add some sheen and moisture to hair.

Another option for replenishing hair moisture is an overnight mask. Christoph says these work particularly well for people whose hair is dry, like those who highlight theirs regularly, or those who have very curly hair. Greene explains that the curlier your hair, the more likely it is to be dry. She says you can “think of each hair follicle as a staircase,” and the less straight your hair is, the less likely it is for oils from the scalp to travel all the way down the hair shaft.

If you feel like getting creative, Greene says now is a good time to experiment with different ingredients to create your own concoctions, like adding avocado to conditioner, or making an entire treatment from scratch. She notes, “Some ingredients that are great for textured hair are palm nut oil, avocado oil, and almond oil.”