How To Do A Strand Test At Home – The Easy Way.

If you’re thinking about giving your hair a new lease of life with a gorgeous new box dye color, you’ll need to know how to do a strand test at home.

Your hairdresser will always do one of these tests when testing out a new color. You can too!

Here’s everything you need to know about why you need to do it, and how to make sure it’s as easy and mess free as possible!

How to do a strand test for hair infographic

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Gather the following items:

Hair dye kit
Disposable gloves
A small section of hair (preferably from an inconspicuous area)
Timer or clock
A plastic or glass container for mixing
Step 2: Mix Your Hair Dye

Follow the kit instructions to mix your hair dye. Use a plastic or glass container for mixing to avoid any unwanted reactions with metal.

Step 3: Apply Dye to the Strand

Wearing disposable gloves, apply the mixed dye to the small section of hair you've chosen. Ensure thorough coverage.

Step 4: Set a Timer

Set a timer or note the start time. Follow the recommended processing time from the hair dye instructions.

Step 5: Check Progress

After the recommended processing time, check the strand. Rinse off the dye with lukewarm water and a mild shampoo.

Step 6: Evaluate the Result

Examine the strand in natural light. Is the color what you expected? Does it match your desired shade?

Step 7: Assess Allergic Reactions

Check for any signs of an allergic reaction on your skin, such as redness, itching, or swelling. If any reaction occurs, wash the area thoroughly and seek medical advice.

Step 8: Make Informed Decisions

Use the results to make an informed decision about dyeing your entire hair. If you are satisfied with the color and don't experience any adverse reactions, proceed with confidence!

What is a strand test?

A strand test involves dyeing a small amount of hair that’s out of sight to test the color on your hair.

We know that’s always so tempting to skip this test!

If you’re excited about a new color, you might not want to wait a second longer to get that stunning new hue.

But experts at Madison Reed say it’s crucial perform a strand test beforehand, particularly when switching to a new color, coloring for the first time, or lightening your hair.

Everyone’s hair takes to dye differently, so you’d be wise to follow our step-by-step guide to make sure it really is the right color for you.

Expert Insights

“Go see a professional and get a strand test FIRST. I personally always do this,and never charge for a consultation or strand test. If you insist on doing this yourself,clip a decent amount of hair (1/8 inch or so) from the middle of the back of your head from against your scalp and strand test. This will show you what the results will be along the entire hair shaft,and not ruin your entire head of hair.”

Ing Sev, Salon Owner,colorist at Creative Hair Design

Why do I need to do a strand test?

Have you ever been so excited to dye your hair a new color, only to end up with unexpected and disappointing results?

It’s a common experience, but one that can easily be avoided by doing a simple strand test before the full hair dye process.

Here are a few reasons why it’s important to do a strand test and how it can save you from a hair coloring disaster:

#1 To test the color outcome

The number 1 reason to do a strand test is to test the color outcome of the hair dye.

It’s essential to make sure that the color you want is achievable and will look good on your hair type.

Sometimes the color on the box may not look the same once applied to your hair, or your hair may not take the dye as well as you thought.

By doing a strand test, you can tweak the dye or technique if needed before applying it to your entire head.

#2 To check for allergic reactions

A patch test before dyeing your hair is to check for any allergic reactions, but a strand test will do this too.

Hair dyes contain powerful chemicals that can cause severe reactions, so it’s essential to make sure you’re not allergic to the product before applying it to your whole head.

Doing a strand test will give you an idea of how your scalp and skin will react to the hair dye and help you ensure that you’re not putting your health at risk.

And yes, you will need to do this even if you’ve used the same brand of hair dye or color before!

Expert Insights

“The reason hair color patch tests are done is to make sure you don’t have some sort of an allergic reaction to the hair color, there’s no test kit, you apply a small amount of the color mixture in a small area & wait. If you are allergic, most times you’ll notice burning, blistering, your scalp will usually flare up pretty quickly …but to make sure, the waiting period is 24-48 hrs”

Laurie King, Professional Stylist

#3 To avoid uneven coloring

Hair dye application is an art, and it takes a lot of practice to get it perfect.

One mistake many people make is applying hair dye unevenly, which can leave you with uneven hair coloring.

A strand test will allow you to practice applying the hair dye to get it even and ensure that the color is consistent throughout your hair after the full dye process.

#4 To prevent hair damage

Finally, a strand test before dyeing your hair can help prevent hair damage.

Hair is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another.

By doing a strand test, you can check if your hair is strong enough to handle the chemicals in the hair dye.

Doing a strand test will also help you avoid overprocessing or damaging your hair with too much dye.

Take the time to do a strand test before trying out a new hair dye, and you’ll be one step closer to the vibrant and healthy locks you’ve always wanted.

How to do a strand test step-by-step

You’ll be doing a mini hair dye on a bit of hair, so you’ll need the same tools as you would for a full hair dye.

  • Clarifying shampoo to remove dirt, debris and styling products from your hair. 
  • A hair dye kit that will give you all the tools you need to apply it like a pro.
  • A hairdressers cape to protect your clothes. Towels will get stained and keep falling off.
  • A barrier cream to prevent the color getting on your skin.
  • Foils to isolate the test strand and help it develop.
how to do a strand test at home

Step one: Prepare your hair.

You’ll need to prepare your hair for hair dyeing.

Use your clarifying shampoo to wash your hair and clean it of any product build up or impurities that mess with your hair dye results.

Dry your hair without styling, or using any styling product before moving to the next step.

Step two: Mix up your hair dye.

You’ve found your dream color. Whoop! Now’s the time to crack open the box dye and mix it up using your hair dye kit as per the instructions.

Even though we’re only dyeing a small section of hair, you’ll need to mix up the whole bottle to ensure you have the correct color solution.

Make sure you cover your surfaces, and your clothes, and prepare to dye.

Step three: Locate your strand!

Ok, it’s called a strand test, but you’re not going to get much of a result if you dye literally one strand of hair.

You need to take a strip about an inch wide from an inconspicuous area and section it off from the rest. The best place is usually the nape of your neck.

You can use a clip or an elastic to get the rest of your hair out of the way.

Hair dye will deposit color wherever you apply it, so make sure your strand is safely away from the rest of your hair.

Step four: Dye it!

Paint the dye onto your strand from root to tip. Make sure it’s properly saturated so that the dye sinks in.

To help keep your test strand away from the rest of your hair, you can use tin foil to wrap around it. The heat from the foil will also help the color to develop quicker.

Leave the hair dye or bleach do its thing for as long as the instructions say to on the box.

Step five: Wash and review.

Once the development time is up, rinse your hair and dry it well to see the full effects of the color!

Expert Insights

“Proper timing is crucial when applying hair dye. Washing out the dye prematurely can lead to inaccurate color results. Conversely, allowing the color to sit for too long may cause overprocessing and potential damage. For safe and effective coloring, it’s essential to monitor the time carefully. An egg timer or your smartphone’s timer can be very useful tools. Set the timer immediately after finishing the dye application to ensure precision.

Stephanie Johnson, Senior Cosmetologist/Trichologist

Watch and learn: How to do a strand test and a patch test like a pro.

Here’s a great video tutorial from Bleach London that shows you the difference between a patch test and a strand test, and when to do each one, step-by-step.

What changes am I looking for after a strand test?

Is the color too light? You may have left it in for too long. You could try another test and leave it for less time, or try a new color altogether.

Is the color too dark? You may need to have your hair pre-lightened to achieve the color you want. Chat to a hairdresser about your options.

Is the color not showing? You may not have left it in for long enough. You can try another test and leave the color dye in for longer.

Don’t dye the same section of hair twice or the color will end up too dark or light!

Is a strand test the same as an allergy test?

If you want to check if you’re allergic to your chosen hair dye, you’ll need to do a patch test.

This involves dabbing a bit of hair dye formula onto your skin 48 hours before you plan to dye your hair and watching carefully for an allergic reaction.

There’s no reason you can’t do both at the same time, but you’ll need to wash it all off immediately if you start to feel yourself getting any of these symptoms.

How long does a strand test take?

If you’re tempted to skip the strand test when coloring your hair, don’t!

It doesn’t take as long as the full process, but it’s still an important step in ensuring you’re happy with the end result.

You’ll want to follow the instructions that come with your dye and kit, including preparing your materials and washing your hair.

Think of it as a chance to get familiar with the product and figure out if it’s going to give you the look you’re hoping for.

Plus, once you’ve done it, you can move forward knowing you’ve taken the appropriate steps to make sure your hair color will be a success!

When should I do a strand test?

It’s best to do it just before you plan to dye your hair.

This is because you’ll need to mix up the chosen dye to try it.

So set aside an extra 30 mins to apply the dye and go through the testing process.

When can I dye my hair after the strand test?

If you’re loving your new color, hooray! You can dye your hair using the rest of the hair dye straight away.

Don’t worry about dyeing your tested hair a second time. If it’s in an inconspicuous place, it won’t be noticeable at all.

congrats your hair is amazing meme

How to do a bleach strand test.

If you’re thinking about taking the plunge and bleaching your hair, it’s important to do a strand test first.

But you may be wondering if the strand test for bleach is the same as for hair color.

The good news is that the process is pretty similar, but there are a few key differences to keep in mind.

Mix up the bleach according to the instructions, apply it to a small section of your hair (preferably one that’s hidden if things go wrong), wait for the color to develop, and then check out the results. It’s as simple as that!

By doing a strand test, you can make sure that your hair won’t be damaged beyond repair by the bleach, and you’ll feel much more confident about moving forward with your hair transformation.

Whether you’re wanting to achieve a bold platinum blonde or just want to lighten up a few shades, doing a strand test can help you avoid any unexpected results.

What happens if I don’t like the color?

Oh no! What happens when you don’t like the color after the strand test? Don’t worry!- there are a few things you can do to fix the problem.

1.Don’t panic and wait it out.

Hair color often looks different after a strand test.

Your hair may look darker or lighter than expected due to lighting, hair texture, or even the dye formula.

It’s important not to panic and wait for the full color to develop.

If you’re still not satisfied, consider doing a second strand test to make sure you’re happy with the new shade.

2.Adjust the formula or mix with another color.

If you’re not happy with the initial result, it’s possible to adjust the formula by adding a small amount of another dye color to the mixture.

This will help to achieve the desired tone or even lighten or darken the color.

Remember to keep track of how much dye you add to the mixture, so you can replicate it for the rest of your hair.

3.Use a color remover or toner.

If the color really isn’t what you had in mind, a color remover or toner may be the right solution.

These products are designed to counteract unwanted hair color and bring it back to a neutral shade.

It’s important to follow the instructions carefully and note that they may damage your hair if used incorrectly.

4.Go to a professional.

If all else fails, going to a professional hair stylist or colorist may be the best option.

They have the expertise and training to deal with hair color mishaps, and can suggest the best solutions for your particular situation.

They may need to strip the color or change it altogether, and it may end up costing more than if you had gone to the salon in the first place.

Trust us, it’s worth it to get the color you want without further hair damage.

Parting words

There you have it, the easy guide to doing a strand test at home.

With these steps, you can now confidently take your box dye over to your bathroom sink and start experimenting with new colors – no hairdresser required!

Of course, make sure that you do an allergy test as well; if in doubt about how one of the components of the hair dye might affect you, always seek advice from a professional beforehand.

Using these tips, you can find whatever color or impact that suits you best – and look fabulous when the result is revealed.

All that’s left now is for you to choose your color and get experimenting! Enjoy making yourself look fantastic and have fun!

We’re here to help you make your hair color dreams come true, safely and stylishly. If you’ve got any more hair care questions or need some color inspiration, just drop us a message at @colouredhaircare on social media. Happy coloring, and remember to always listen to your skin!

This article was written and reviewed by:

  • Nicola Freeman, Creative Director & Content Lead
    Creative Director & Content Lead

    With over two decades of passionate hair dyeing experience, I've experimented with nearly every shade imaginable. My journey began long before blogging; as an award-winning copywriter in London and New York, I shaped narratives for iconic brands. However, when friends sought advice during lockdown for at-home hair dyeing, I realized my true calling. Beyond being your hair color expert, I'm a mom of two girls, wife to artist Tony, and an avid soccer player!

  • Stephanie Johnson, Senior Cosmetologist/Trichologist
    Senior Cosmetologist/Trichologist

    I'm Stephanie Johnson, a licensed Senior Cosmetologist with over 25 years of professional experience. Not only am I deeply passionate about hair care, but I also own a salon, teach, and specialize as a holistic scalp specialist. My expertise extends to developing products, particularly in hair restoration for women. I'm proud to be a member of The National Association of Professional Women. Through my website and newsletter, I stay committed to keeping women up-to-date with the latest beauty, body, and business insights. In 2005, I launched The Hair Care Company product line, a project close to my heart. Currently, I'm based in the Washington D.C. area, where I continue to inspire and empower women through my work.