Dyeing your hair at home can be a total mixed bag. After willfully ignoring my hairdresser friend’s warnings about using Live Colour XXL as a teenager and managing not to completely destroy my hair with it, I thought that advice about home dyeing kits was a bit on the overdramatic side.

I’d managed to tint my hair dark red with pretty much no problems (other than forgetting Vaseline and also dyeing my ears!). Though my hair was a bit drier than it was pre-dye, it was manageable and I kept that colour for just over a year, fixing up my roots every few weeks.

Turns out that was just beginner’s luck. On complete impulse, I decided I wanted a brighter colour, and since all my previous experiences with permanent box dyes had been positive I figured that bleaching couldn’t be that hard to master! But even following the instructions carefully and only applying it to the ends of my hair, it was a complete disaster.

Within a few months, most of the hair I had bleached had snapped off or fallen out: I lost so much that friends I went a while without seeing would ask if I’d had my hair cut. Switching to semi-permanent colour on top of the bleached hair slowed down the amount of damage I was doing to it, but in the end, I wound up with nearly all of it gone. As someone with type 3A hair that grows slowly and is already prone to breakage, bleaching it myself was a massive mistake!

Bleaching your hair with a home kit is so very rarely worth it – yes, it’s much, much cheaper than going to a hairdresser, but unless you’re an expert the risk is way too high. Going up a shade or two isn’t so dangerous, but if you’re like me and you have dark hair that you want lifted to blonde, avoid box kits like the plague. It’s much better to fork out more money and have it done professionally.

Basically, make sure you do your research: semi-permanent dyes have less of a chance of wrecking your hair. Arctic Fox and Manic Panic were fairly gentle when I used them, though the colour didn’t last long.

If you already have naturally light hair and want to use bright colours without too much commitment, brands like these are a lot healthier and don’t dry it out as much as box dyes like Live Colour XXL. Darker hair is a lot harder to dye effectively at home. Manic Panic didn’t really alter the colour all that much if it wasn’t being applied to bleached hair, but the harsher alternatives definitely weren’t good for my hair’s health.

If you’re really stumped, it’s best to ask a hairdresser for advice rather than damaging it first and then going in for help afterwards!