If you haven't ever dyed your hair (in a salon or at home), coloring it for the first time can be pretty intimidating. To the rescue: Hair color experts Kari Hill, hair color ambassador for L'Oréal Paris, and Tracey Cunningham, Redken's creative consultant for color (and Lily Aldridge's colorist), who shared their insider tips for what you absolutely need to know before coloring your hair.
1. Book a 15-minute consultation before booking your actual appointment. It's crucial to be on the same page with your colorist in terms of what you want, and depending on many different factors, actual hair color appointments could take as little as an hour to complete, or they could require two different appointments. If you book an appointment without a consultation first, you'll likely not book it for the correct amount of time that you'll need to achieve the look that you want. That's why Hill says it's a good idea to meet with the colorist beforehand, so you both can decide on the look, shade, and technique that will best suit you. ”‹
2. Decide how often you want to be coloring your hair before going in for your appointment. If you don't want to be doing your roots every three weeks, speak up. Hill says having an open dialogue with your colorist will let him or her know how light or dark to take your strands and how much color to put in your hair the first time. If your colorist knows how often you want to come in for touch ups, they can quickly narrow down the color that you'll actually be able to maintain.
3. Use Instagram to research different colorists you might want to go to. Most colorists have Instagram pages and will post before and after photos that you should consider when deciding which colorist to go to. Hill suggests doing a little research to see what else they've done, which can give you color inspiration if you're not sure what you want.
4. Bring in photos of what you want. Hill says it's hands down necessary to bring in pictures of the looks you want. That way, you and your colorist both share your vision. If it's your first time and you're unfamiliar with coloring terminology, bring photos so that he or she will be able to tell you what is required for that look and how much of a commitment it will really be.
5. If you want to change your color but aren't really sure what it is you want, show your colorist photos of looks you don't want. If you sit down in the chair to consult with your colorist and say something like, "I don't know, what do you think?" you could end up hating your hair color, since you left the outcome entirely up to him or her. That's why Hill says it's just as important to know what you don't like as what you do like, and then your stylist can then weigh in on what they think will suit you and your skin tone.
6. Apply a hair mask all over your strands the day before you go in to get your color done. ”‹This will hydrate your hair and prep it for the grueling color process. Hill suggests applying it to your hair and leaving it in for longer than the mask recommends to make sure your hair is really moisturized.
7. Don't use a box color if it's your first time dyeing your hair. Cunningham says even if the box of a semi-permanent dye says it washes out in a few weeks, the artificial pigment color can linger in your hair for years (literally) and is very difficult to "lift" later on if you want to go lighter or add highlights. Most colorists can tell when you've used box color in the past because those areas of your hair tend to turn pink or orange tones when they go to lift the color. This leaves you with uneven hair color and a look you weren't expecting.
8. If you've never colored your hair before, Cunningham suggests getting something simple like a semi-permanent gloss or subtle highlights to enhance your natural”‹ color. A gloss will add shine to your hair and a little bit of pigment that will eventually fade away. Highlights that are very subtle aren't high maintenance and will grow out nicely.
9. Coloring your hair can make it more voluminous and easier to style. Any time you color your hair, it changes your texture. So if you get a gloss or a single process color, Hill says you might have an easier time styling it since the color will open up the hair follicle, which will plump it a bit, and in turn make it easier to build volume.
10. ”‹After you color your hair, you must change your shampoo and conditioner if you want to maintain it. If you've never colored your hair before, you probably don't own color-safe hair products. Make sure your shampoo and conditioner are made for color-treated hair (aka are sulfate-free). Hill recommends the L'Oréal Paris Advanced Haircare Color Vibrancy Collection. And toss out any clarifying shampoos you'd normally use, which will strip away your new color.
11. To preserve your hair color, sun protection is a must. Hats, scarves, and UV-protection sprays—Hill suggests you wear whatever you need to do to keep your hair color under wraps, do it. Otherwise, your hair color can turn brassy or dull a lot quicker than if it were to fade naturally.
12. You'll also need to protect your color from ocean or pool water by soaking your hair in regular tap water before hopping in. Salt water will dry out your hair, and chlorine can wreak havoc on blondes or make brunette colors brassy—and in some cases turn your blonde a greenish tinge”‹. But, if you get your hair wet before hopping in (or apply conditioner all over it) as Hill suggests, any holes in the cuticle will be filled in, keeping any salt and chlorine from soaking into your hair shaft.
13. You'll need to book an appointment for a conditioning treatment after you get back from a sunny vacation. A lot of people want to get their hair done before they go on a beach vacation, but Hill says to keep in mind that you'll most likely need a touch up when you get back.”‹
14. It's tough to estimate how much a coloring appointment will cost. Pricing varies so much depending on different factors, such as who you're seeing, what you're having done, and where your stylist is located. That research legwork is up to you!
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.