Expert Tips on How to Color Someone Else’s Hair

Been asked to color your friend’s hair? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with top tips on how to apply hair color like a total pro.


Home hair color is a new adventure for anyone who’s ready to ditch the salon, and for the friends who are enlisted to lend a hand. At eSalon, we see a lot of photos of friends helping friends apply custom hair color with a smile. We know that applying hair color can be a first for many of you, so we’ve got a few colorist-approved tips for successfully applying hair color from start to finish and everywhere in between. Ready to get started? Read on.

BEFORE YOU COLOR

Section hair in whatever way you are most comfortable.

Sectioning is everything when applying hair color—it helps you stay organized throughout the entire process. We suggest sectioning with hair clips and separating the hair into four equal parts at the top of the head. Start by parting the hair down the middle with a comb and then creating an additional part at the ear on each side, so there are four total. Clip, and go.

No hair clips? No problem. Secure the hair in buns with hair ties for an easy and secure solution. After you’re done you can rinse them off and hang them on the faucet to dry. For short hair, you may not need to create sections but use whichever technique works best for you.

Apply your Stain Guard.

Sometimes hair color can leave stains on the skin, but there are ways to avoid that. If you don’t have a Stain Guard Packette, use some petroleum jelly to border your friend’s hairline and keep the color from staining their skin. You won’t want to leave them with spots on their forehead, ears, and neck (you know those hair color stains), so save them some time and add a few swipes of a protective solution. They’ll thank you later.

Remember to brush.

To make sure the application process goes smoothly, first be sure to brush your friend’s hair to get rid of all tangles. We know—this may seem obvious, but you would be surprised by how many people skip this step. We recommend a wide-toothed comb since it loosely brushes without snagging your strands. Using a wider comb can also help prevent split ends and potential breakage. Plus, their color will go on smoother and absorb into detangled sections much better.

WHILE YOU COLOR

Find your technique.

Using our custom hair color? Check the color technique at the top of your friend’s personalized instructions beforehand to save you time. We recommend you use the bowl and brush technique for the front of their hair and the bottle technique on the ends. To use the bowl and brush, pour the Developer and color bottle into the bowl and mix it all up. The brush helps you apply color with precision and target the roots, where you see most of their peeking grays.

To use the bottle, pour the color into the Developer and with a gloved finger over the tip, shake it up. Then squirt the color on the length of hair while massaging into the ends for a more thorough application. The bottle technique is best for short hair since it’s much faster with a smaller area and fewer sections to cover. Combining both techniques is best for long hair since there’s a lot more of it.

Working with two bottles of color?

We often include a second bottle of hair color in our custom Color Set for clients with long hair, or for those who are refreshing or changing their overall color. When applying the second bottle, don't be afraid to really massage it through the hair, removing tangles as you go to help the color penetrate and ensure gorgeous, shiny results.

Hydrate and color.

Doing an all-over color? To prep their hair, apply a hair mask the day before, so the follicles hold more color. If you’re applying hair color the same day, skip the mask, since it will block the color from absorbing into the hair. If you’re only touching up their roots, you don’t want the dye to accidentally color the ends of their hair when the dye is being rinsed out. Apply a mask to the ends to create a protective barrier, to prevent the ends from absorbing hair color. Work on mixing up a natural hair mask with some household ingredients like olive oil and avocado together while you wait. Try a DIY recipe like this one made of strawberries, egg yolk, and olive oil.

Weave in a spa treatment.

Test out a fun sheet mask while your friend’s hair color processes for an all-over glow. You can do this one together and get a good laugh out of it. Snap a selfie and share this moment with us on social @eSalon for a chance to be featured. Don’t have a sheet mask? Try making a face mask from ingredients you have at home like coconut oil and banana or avocado and honey while you wait. Here’s a quick list of some fun DIY recipes.

Time to rinse.

In a salon, the stylist would shampoo and rinse you out over a shampoo bowl, but that’s a little fancy for a home rinse. No shampoo bowl? Have your friend lean over and stick their head under the sink faucet while you wash out their hair color. Bonus if you have a hose attachment. No hose attachment or a too-low faucet? Have your friend sit in a chair with the back facing the sink. Put a towel over the lip of the sink so they can lean back. Then use a measuring cup to pour the water over the hair and rinse. Rather rinse out over the tub? Lay a pillow on the floor next to the tub for them to sit on and lay a towel over the edge as they lean back, then rinse.

AFTER YOU COLOR

Touch up with a Stain Remover.

Previously we talked about adding a Stain Guard, but a Stain Remover is great for touching up the small missed spots after you’ve rinsed out your color. Simply wipe it across the skin and watch the color disappear. They can also take this into the shower and use it there. If you don’t have a Stain Remover, go ahead and use baby wipes. Just in case you missed a spot with your petroleum jelly before you started the application, this is your safety net.

Blowout to go.

Try using this time to trade hair-care tips and cocktail some of your favorite products for the perfect blowout. The best combo is a cream and serum like our Universal Leave-In and Shine Silk that can both double as a heat protectant. Do a quick blowout to smooth down any flyaways and add the finishing touches to a beautiful color. A ceramic, round brush can help tackle frizz around the hairline. For curly-haired folks, try a diffuser to coax their curls back to life. Congrats, you’re done coloring! Take a selfie together to show off the finished look.

Now that you’re a pro at applying hair color, we want to say thank you for lending a gloved hand as a partner in crime. Check out our social media pages for details on how to enter our #PartnerInColor giveaway for your chance to win a $500 American Express gift card for you and a friend, contest ends on August 12th at 5pm PT. We love seeing your photos, so share them with us on Facebook here or tag us on Instagram @eSalon.