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

For super sexy and salon-fabulous hair, it makes sense to follow salon advice. Your hairdresser will always do a strand test when testing out a new colour. 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!

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What is a strand test?

A strand test involves dyeing a piece of your hair that’s out of sight to test the colour on your hair.

We know that’s always so tempting to skip this test! If you’re excited about a new colour, you might not want to wait a second longer to get that stunning new hue.

But it 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 colour for you.

funny strand test tweet

Why do I need to do a strand test?

If you dye your hair regularly, you may think that you won’t need to do it. You’re a pro, right? You know what you’re doing. Colours are your thing.

WAITAMINUTE! Dyeing your hair regularly makes your hair extra porous, so it may take the dye differently to the pictures that are shown on the side of the hair dye box.

And if you already have colour residue in your hair, it may end up patchy. You can check out How to remove hair dye at home if you need to get rid of any traces of old colours.

A strand test is particularly crucial if you’re planning to bleach your hair. There’s no going back if you dive in and use bleach without testing it first. Hello orange hair, goodbye all of your money while the hairdresser fixes it!

why didn't i do a strand test meme

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.

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.

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.

Which hair colour will suit me?

If you’re not sure which colour is right for you, you can take our quiz!

Just click on the image below to find out which kind of hair colours will suit you. You can also check out our Best Of Lists if you have a particular colour in mind.


which hair colour suits me

What do I need to do a strand test?

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 colour getting on your skin. (This one is amazing and smells divine.)
  • A wide toothed comb to separate your hair and comb through the dye.
  • An excellent colour-safe shampoo.
  • And excellent colour-safe conditioner.
  • A heat protection spray to protect your colour before drying.
  • An excellent hair dryer that’s suitable for coloured hair. Check out our Dyson Supersonic hair dryer Spotlight review here.
  • And your hair dye of choice! You can check out our favourites here in What are the best hair dyes to use at home?
how to do a strand test at home

How do I do a strand test?

It’s easy! Here’s our step-by-step guide.

Step one: Prepare your hair.

You’ll need to prepare your hair for hair dyeing so that if the test results are exactly what your heart desired, you’re all set and ready to go.

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 colour. 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 colour 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 a small piece of hair from an inconspicuous area and section it off from the rest.

You can use a clip or an elastic to get the rest of your hair out of the way. Hair dye will deposit colour wherever you apply it, so make sure your strand is safely away from the rest of your hair.

strand test hair instagram

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 colour to develop quicker.

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

strand test in action instagram

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 colour!

Watch the professionals in action.

What am I looking for with a strand test?

Is the colour 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 colour altogether.

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

Is the colour not showing? You may not have left it in for long enough. You can try another test and leave the colour dye in for longer. Don’t dye the same section of hair twice or the colour will end up too dark!

When can I dye my hair after the strand test?

If you’re loving your new colour, hooray! You can crack on and 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

What happens if I don’t like the colour?

Oh no! You’ve done the test and you don’t like the colour!

While it’s a shame to waste a box of good hair dye, it’s a small price to pay for not getting your hair colour totally wrong. Just think of the money you’ve saved in hats!

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