We try it: cutting and coloring our hair at home

A home hair coloring kit.
(Jennifer Ianni)

While the salons are closed during quarantine, we tried doing our own hair; here’s what happened


Coronavirus has temporarily shut down hair salons, resulting in a lot of people trying out home haircuts and color kits.

All over social media, you’ll find tearful videos of bangs being cut way too short, color coming out in uneven stripes and very, very crooked trims.

But do we need to be doing this? Some local hairdressers advise against it.

“Don’t do it,” says Susanne Kende, owner of Me, My Curls and I salon in Kearny Mesa. “If you don’t know what you’re doing it could take a long time to correct the mistakes. It takes us years and years to learn how to cut hair, it’s just better to wear headbands, clips or hats and wait for your hairdresser.”

Erin McBride of Carlsbad’s The Shop Beauty & Art agrees.

“This is a good time to do less stress to our hair and make it healthy,” she says. “Put away the blow dryer and styling tools. Brush that greasy hair and bring those good oils to the end of your hair strand!”

Still, since no one knows how long we’ll be stuck at home with split ends and exposed roots, the team at PACIFIC magazine decided to try and chop and color their own hair at home.

Here’s what happened ...

Sara Butler: Haircut

PACIFIC staff writer Sara Butler before she cuts her own hair.
(Sara Butler)

After nearly half a decade of refusing to cut my long, highly damaged locks, I chopped it all off a few years ago and haven’t turned back. Though I usually keep it on the shorter side, I decided to play it safe during quarantine and stick to a trim.

For research, I turned to ... YouTube. After wading through the attempts of impulsive vloggers, I found a tutorial titled Hairdressers Guide To Cutting Your Own Hair And Not Ruining It by professional hair stylist Brad Mondo.

Per the video, I washed, blow-dried and straightened my hair. After finding my natural part, I separated my hair into two sections, then split those two sections again using the apex (top) of my head. Simple enough.

The two front sections only took me a couple tries. But when it came to the back ponytails, that’s where things got hairy.

After what felt like a million tries, the back ponytails were still uneven and messy. But because growing frustration, I decided to just go for it. For insurance, I placed the elastics lower than planned (so I could do a do-over if needed).

Instead of chopping straight across, I angled my scissors during the snips. (Horizontal cuts result in sharp lines and scary results. Save that for the pros.) I started slow, but began to speed up ... until I cut the tip of one of my fingers.

Then, I let it loose to reveal ... a mini mullet? OK, so it wasn’t that dramatic. But the front, was noticeably shorter than the back. By about an inch.

Sara Butler after her home haircut.
(Sara Butler)

So you know what I did next? I looked in the mirror and laughed. A real, genuine laugh. Sure, my new hair wasn’t great, but it wasn’t a disaster. And these days, I will take a laugh any chance I get -- even if it means a short-term, lopsided do that I need to tuck into a ponytail for Zoom calls.

Though I opted out of layers, I still wanted to go forth and conquer bangs. Which begged the ultimate question: would bangs be easier? Good news: yes! In fact, far easier than I expected.

HOW TO CUT BANGS LIKE A PRO by cosmetologist Sam Vay demonstrates how to cut five different types of bangs in 15 minutes.

I combed my soon-to-be-bangs in front of my face, held the comb across horizontally, and point cut across the comb. I went slow -- didn’t want to run out of band-aids during quarantine -- and repeated the process a few times until I got the length I desired.

And done. Seriously, that’s it.

After butchering bangs so many times in college, I had low expectations. But I honestly think these came out great. Now I’ll have all my future Zoom meetings with a ponytail and perfect bangs.

Jennifer Ianni: Color

Jennifer Ianni colors her hair at home.
(Jennifer Ianni)

I decided to test out an at-home root touch-up kit from dpHUE, a root color kit designed to freshen up color and cover grays at home. Even if I’m not out in public or seeing as many people as normal, I still want to look cute.

Before I took the plunge, I reached out to my stylist, Erin McBride to see if she had any tips.

Here’s what she suggested: “Be sure to brush hair first, then section into four quadrants, color ONLY the regrowth and take quarter-inch sections/slices to ensure full coverage. Leave on for the recommended time that that company says. Remember to wear a button up shirt so when you get ready to rinse in shower you won’t damage your shirt when you take it off.”

McBride also warns against trying anything too fancy or advanced at home. “Please stay away from doing your own highlights. That usually ends in a ‘polka-dot bleach bleeding fail’ and [is] pricey to fix.”

My kit contained two developer packets (the kit has enough product for two applications), an applicator brush, two bowls, two sets of gloves, two processing caps, a color fresh shampoo and conditioner sample, hair color cream and two developers. Mix a half tube of hair color crème (save the other half for a second application) with a packet of developer in the plastic bowl provided. I used the applicator brush to smudge the product along my part line and hair line around my face, only about an inch or so deep. The goal isn’t to color your entire head, only the roots, so you don’t need to go crazy.

After applying the color, I put on the processing cap and waited. After an hour, I washed my hair with the provided shampoo and conditioner sample packets. After blow-drying, I was very pleased with the results. The new color faded perfectly into my existing color. I plan to do it again with the second application when necessary.

Jennifer Ianni after coloring her hair at home.
(Jennifer Ianni)

Still, it’s not the same as going to the salon in person.

“Please know that as much as your hair misses us hairstylists, we really miss our clients,” McBride says. “Can’t wait to have you all back in our chairs.”