How I mastered covering my grey hair using at-home hair dye

'The lure of only visiting the salon for eye-wateringly expensive highlights three times a year instead of every six weeks was hugely appealing,' says Lucia - Clara Molden

Some things should undeniably be left to the professionals; baking a soufflé, Botox injections and anything to do with a carburetor.

A few months ago, I’d definitely have added dying your hair to that list. Why on earth would you do something so risky, at home? Especially after spending thousands of pounds over the years on expensive blonde balayage and highlights. I’ve left it to the professionals since I was 15 and frankly, I didn’t ever plan on changing that.

But after bumping into a chic magazine editor in Claridge’s a few months ago, all that has changed. When I complimented her on her beautiful hair colour (expensive looking brunette roots with caramel blonde balayage ends) she confided that she only has highlights about three times a year and just covers her grey roots herself at home with box hair dye. She not only saves a fortune at the salon, but time on all those lengthy hair appointments.

Lucia Ferrari used a DIY root-touch-up hair dye kit from Josh Wood
Lucia Ferrari used a DIY root touch-up hair dye kit from Josh Wood - Clara Molden

I’ve been attracted to the idea of a darker “root shadow” (or “root smudge” as some hair colourists call it) for a while. It’s certainly not new. It’s quite French too – the less is more approach. My usual hair colourist, Leanne Fitch at Josh Wood (who I’ve seen for years) is known for it. She used to travel once a month to LA to perform this darker root combined with lighter ends on Hollywood clients (they are obsessed with it and call it “lived in” blonde).

Sarah Jessica Parker’s look is “one of the most requested hair colours of the moment”, according to John Frieda’s master colourist Zoë Irwin. It’s the original “lived in” blonde and makes it look effortlessly chic.

“Having a bit of a darker root (and not having highlights or colour right to the root) can be more flattering on the skin as we age,” says Irwin.

Hair colour specialist Josh Wood agrees: “Having a colour on your roots that matches your eyebrows will make your eyes look brighter and is less jarring than bleached blonde all the way to the root.”

Of course you can leave it to a professional hair colourist to try, but the lure of only visiting the salon for eye-wateringly expensive highlights three times a year instead of every six weeks was hugely appealing. And of course, I wasn’t going to attempt to do my blonde balayage at the ends. I simply wanted to cover the greys so I’d get a natural darker “root shadow” and leave the blonde balayage on the ends to my hairdresser.

According to Lucia, trickiest part of the process is choosing the right colour - Clara Molden

At-home hair colour has come a long way since its humble beginnings – and there are now many professional-quality formulas, a rainbow shade of options and ingredients to care for hair health and even customizable technologies.

Having visited the Josh Wood salon for many years, and seen so many famous blondes from Laura Bailey to Elle Macpherson leave the salon with expensive looking glossy hair, I thought his range of hair dye would be a good place to begin.

The trickiest part of the process is choosing the right colour. “If you’re unsure of your base shade, I recommend colour matching to the hair’s lightest shade,” says Wood, who has created a helpful online consultation tool where experts work out and guide you to the right colour.

“It’s really tricky when you’re in the colour aisle at Boots and you really have no clue where to start, and for so long consumers were on their own at this point.” If you’re really in doubt, even after the online quiz, you can book a one-to-one video consultation with a member of the Josh Wood team to get it right. That’s what I did and they were spot on.

This is a game changer and takes away the panic of thinking your roots will come out completely the wrong colour. I also was impressed how you can customise the box colour (mine was 7.0 lightest brown) with a Colour Corrector Shade Shot (in Icy to take away any brassiness). It’s all very slick and feels well thought out.

'Everything looked well blended,' Lucia said of the finished look
'Everything looked well blended,' Lucia said of the finished look - Clara Molden

“Lots of my clients go away for long holidays, especially over the summer, so I wanted to create a product that I was confident they could use and have professional looking results when they can’t get into the salon,” says Wood.

The actual process of dyeing the hair was also much easier than I anticipated. You simply mix your colour with the activator, apply with a brush (Wood suggests you get a more professional finish using a brush than simply squeezing from the tube), leave for 30 minutes then wash and condition with the glossy mask which comes in the box.

The moment of truth is of course when you dry your hair and I’m relieved to say it was a success. No brassiness, no tell-tale line; everything looked well blended. And I was thrilled when I did make it into the salon for a blowdry – Wood himself came to inspect my handiwork and congratulated me saying I’d done a good job.

It’s liberating not feeling enslaved to the salon for root touch ups and I’ll save hundreds of pounds every year. My husband has requested I don’t take my new found confidence to the carburetor of our car any time soon though.

How to tackle greys at home


L’Oreal Magic Retouch Instant Root Concealer Spray

£9.99, Boots

If you’re dye averse and simply don’t want to go there (for now, at least), this is one of the better hair “makeup” sprays which lasts until your next hair wash.

Josh Wood Expert Blending Brush, in a mix of colours

£19, Josh Wood Colour

A semi-permanent dye (it lasts about two washes) in an easy to use pump and brush applicator if you don’t want to fully commit to home hair dye but need to cover a sprinkling of grey hairs.

Josh Wood Colour Permanent Hair Colour and Shade Shot

£19, Josh Wood Colour

One of the best home hair dye kits available, with great advice for choosing the correct colour.

How to give fading colour a boost


dpHue Brightening Powder for Blonde Highlights

£28, Cult Beauty

This can be used on dark or blonde hair (despite its name) for removing a build up of dulling minerals on the hair. It leaves your hair looking shinier and less brassy.

Virtue ColorKick De-Brassing Shampoo

£40, Cult Beauty

Neutralises brassiness in all shades of hair colour.


Champo Vata Hydrating Conditioner

£20, Champo

A silicone- and sulphate-free conditioner that keeps colour looking fresh.

Rahua Hydration Hair Mask

£42, Rahua

One of the best silicone- and sulphate-free masks for deep hydration and shine