Expert Advice on Dyeing Hair at Home

05/31/2012 at 06:00 PM ET

Giada De Laurentiis
Courtesy Clairol

When Giada De Laurentiis showed up for her Clairol Natural Instincts shoot, she wasn’t exactly ready to add color to her hair. “She was nervous about it,” Clairol color director Marie Robinson tells PEOPLE.

But after a little of the brand’s “Toasted Almond” was added to her strands, she was thrilled. “She just needed some refreshing, some sparkle and shine,” Robinson says. “For spring, and for TV, you want to have a little flair.”

Though De Laurentiis had the help of a pro, Robinson says it’s easy for women to try color at home. “There are a few rules,” she shares. “Stick within two shade ranges of your natural color.” She recommends looking at the side panels or back of the box, too, to find out where your starting range is and what the boxed color will do to enhance it.

If you’ve never done your hair at home, first “do a little test strand to make sure you don’t have an allergy,” Robinson cautions. “If you like what you see, and don’t have a reaction, just apply root to end and leave on for the recommended time.”

Robinson says that common at-home hair dye mistakes include choosing drastic colors right off the bat. “Are you blonde and want to go brunette?” she asks. “You can do it, but try a light golden brown or darker blonde first, and do it in stages to get the depth you want.”

But the pro picks Natural Instincts, which lasts for about 28 shampoos, as a great option for first-timers. “This is a non-permanent way to tone down hair, especially for summer,” she says. “It doesn’t leave a root line, or visible regrowth. Even Giada was surprised — she said her hair felt softer and glossier after we used it.” Tell us: Have you ever dyed your hair at home?

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