If social distancing from your hair colourist is secretly one of the toughest aspects of lockdown, chances are that right now several weeks in, you’ll really be feeling it. My grey roots had been giving me the evils for some time with a good inch or so of regrowth.

While it's all relative of course right now, revealing your roots is still something that can make you feel incredibly self-conscious. I’ve found myself apologising on Zoom for my glaring badger stripe even though others say (politely, I suspect) that they hadn’t noticed until I felt compelled to draw attention to it.

My colourist Jodie Searle from Michael Van Clarke  tells me that the salon, like many, has been inundated with calls from desperate clients – both existing and new –  desperate for help.

“Even though we are not going out and seeing people when your roots are through you just don’t feel yourself and it’s such a pick me up to have your roots done.”

Like many other salons under enforced closure, Michael Van Clarke are offering online consultations and even a step-by-step hand-holding session via virtual meeting to help you apply it. Since restrictions began, they have sent out hundreds of bespoke tinting sets and talked many nervous home-colourists through the process of covering their grey roots.

Although they’ve had many enquiries about how to do highlights and balayage at home, this is a specialist technique you should not attempt, says Jodie. “I wouldn’t even attempt to do it on myself,” she cautions.

MORE GLOSS: Best root touch up brushes, sprays and powders

The service costs £35-£45 (plus p&p) and includes enough product for two applications. The clincher for me was knowing I’d be getting a good colour match; I’ve had enough bad experiences with off-the-shelf-home colours that turned out to be much darker or redder than my natural shade.

If you want to tint your roots at home, find out how I got on with my virtual consultation over Instagram Live in the video above where Jodie demonstrates the correct technique (and I find out how fiddly it is – respect to all colourists!) and answers your most common questions. Allow about an hour from prep to washing.

How to ace your at-home root tint

Step 1. The online consultation

Contact your hairdresser or colourist to ask for a virtual consultation. At Michael Van Clarke clients and new customers can email salon@vanclarke.com to register their interest. They will organise for a one-to-one phone call and Zoom video consultation with one of their technicians, which take place on Friday mornings. I was asked to email over a photo of my roots (shocking) and my hair in general.

Step 2: Sorting out your kit

Two days later, my bespoke root-tinting kit arrived. Because I’m an existing client, Jodie had sent me the permanent colour she’d used on me before. For new clients, they offer a semi-permanent dye, which still lasts but is less heavily pigmented and comes with less risk as it can be more easily corrected. Jodie also errs on the side of caution choosing lighter home shades as again this is much easier to correct. You may need to do a 48-hour allergy skin patch test if you’re a new client.

The kit comes with full mixing instructions. If you’re a confident tinter then you are good to go, but I found the virtual hand-holding from Jodie invaluable as she talked me through what to do. You can watch the video above for instructions.

My kit contained:
Tube of Wella Pure Naturals Koleston Perfect Permanent Colour Cream, shade 8.0
60mls of colour developer
Tinting Brush

You’ll also need:

A plastic or glass bowl for mixing (not metal). I used a jam jar
An old dark towel or flannel for wiping your brush or your gloves if they get too messy.
An oily balm such as Vaseline to protect the hairline (your skin not the hair) to avoid colour staining
Kitchen roll tissues. Colourists make it look easy but in my experience, the stuff can get everywhere and will stain worktops. Acetone is good for removing mishaps on surfaces.
Hair clips or bands
A comb
If you a glasses-wearer, some tin foil to wrap around the glasses arms to stop the dye staining them

Step 3: Mixing your colour

Lay everything out in easy reach in a bathroom or kitchen so if there are spillages you can wipe down any surfaces

Mix colour and developer – in my case 20mls/20g of each in your jam jar or bowl. It’s all about ratios of colour to developer. My kit used 50/50, but check your instructions. The easiest way to measure is on a weighing scale. The exact amount is less important than having the right ratios (in my case 50:50) of each. This mixture stays good for 40 minutes – no point in doing it ahead of time. The mixture will appear white but gradually turn darker to your required shade.

Step 4: Section your hair

Brush your hair really thoroughly so it has no tangles at the ends and can easily be divided into sections.

Part your hair down the middle with a comb or the pointed end of the tinting brush.

Take the back section of your hair and tie it back on a ponytail to keep it out of the way. Leave the sides behind the ears. This is the bit you’ll be colouring. If you have someone to help you with the back and you have product left afterwards, go for it.

Apply a thick layer of balm along your forehead hair line but not touching the hair.

Put on your gloves

Q: Should I wash my hair before I colour it?

A: It’s better to put your colour on dry ‘dirty’ hair rather than freshly washed, says Jodie, as you have natural oils on your head that will protect your scalp that acts as barrier. Also, freshly washed hair can be flyaway and harder to manage.

Step 5: Apply your colour

You’ll be doing one complete side of the head from parting to ear first, followed by the other side.

Tension is key, so with one hand pull the hair on the side you are dying downwards.

Take product on the ends of the brush and apply with a dabbing motion along the line of your parting in the direction of hair growth. You only need to cover the centimetre or so that is grey.

Then take the comb or the pointed end of the tinting brush, draw another ‘parting’ alongside the first about 1cm away and take that section of hair up over towards the opposite ear (you might need it watch the video for this bit). Apply product all the way along this new parting on both sides of it.

Keep going like this in 1cm steps each time folding the hair up toward the centre.

Keep your gloves clean – try not to get the product on the as you don’t want it to transfer to the hair that you are not colouring. Use the dark flannel to clean them as you go.

Go over all the baby hairs at the hairline.

Repeat on the other side – you will end up with both sides of your hair being brushed up towards the middle.

Tip: Start with the side that has most grey side first as this will have the product on for longer.

Step 6: How to let your home hair colour develop

Leave on for around 40 minutes (set a timer!) after you have finished covering the last of your roots. You can apply a prewash mask to the back of your hair as an extra bit of nourishment. In the last five minutes of developing time, you can brush the remainder of your product through the mid-lengths and ends (dampen them first) to refresh your colour. For brunettes this technique works really well, says Jodie.

If you are sitting outside avoid direct sunlight as it can cause uneven development.

You might go under the heat for 20 minutes at the salon to speed it up but at home, the development time is longer, between 30 and 40 minutes.

Q: How do I know if it’s ready?

A: Scrape a bit of the colour away from the roots at the front using the handle of your tint brush and you can see what colour the hair is underneath. If it’s still not ready, leave on for a few more minutes.

Q: Can you use a plastic bag and a hairdryer to speed up home hair colour developing time?

A: Step away from the hairdryer. The salon heaters are designed to distribute heat more evenly, the hairdryer may be hotter and you might inadvertently concentrate only on certain areas as it’s more comfortable for your arm. You can use a plastic bag on your hair (not your face, obvs) to keep the warmth in.

Step 7: Wash out your root tint

Put on your second pair of gloves supplied with kit and shampoo twice until the water runs clear. You can use makeup remover or even cow’s milk, says Jodie, to wipe any stains off the in. Use acetone to wipe spillages off surfaces. Rinse any remaining mixture product away as you can’t use it again.

Q: How do you cover grey roots on highlighted hair?

A: It’s a bit trickier, says Jodie, because you need to be extra careful only to apply your colour on your regrowth and not to touch your highlights as it will darken them. If you have highlights, leave your roots for six to eight weeks so your roots are bigger making it easier for you to apply. In general, wait at least four weeks of regrowth to do a root tint.

Q: Is there a root coverup that works for highlights?

A: Color Wow do a good blonde Root Coverup Powder, £28.50  that can help to reduce the contrast between the roots and ends, says Jodie. There's more in our edit of t he best root touch-up powders, sprays and gels.

A root tint consultation and colour pack from Michael Van Clarke costs £35-£45. Email salon@vanclarke.com