If you're looking for a dramatic hair color change — one that is two or more shades lighter or darker than your natural color — you'll need a permanent color. The ammonia and peroxide blended in permanent hair color works in two ways: It first strips the old (natural) color, then deposits the new color into the hair shaft.

Permanent color is an excellent option for making a radical hair color change, but also for covering grey hair. The downside is that you'll have to condition more often with a rich formula in lieu of shampooing, (which you can still do once or twice a week). Also, permanent hair color means that you'll need root touch-ups every six weeks or so. You can touch up your own color at home, but it's always best to have it done by a professional.

First-time Hair Coloring

Go to a stylist. It's a great way to be sure you'll get professional advice, expertise and eliminates any "oops" moments you may encounter doing your own color at home. Ask your stylist to talk you through the procedure. If you choose to color at home after this point, at least you'll have an idea of what hair tints are right for you and how to apply it. Book yourself an extra hour after your treatment to get a deep conditioning. All hair color processes are drying, so you'll definitely benefit from the added moisture!

Hair Coloring and Relaxing

Hair coloring and relaxing can be very damaging to hair. The chemicals used during these processes can further dry out coarse and moisture-deprived hair. If you're set on both coloring and relaxing, be sure to avoid them on the same day. In fact, it's best to wait about two weeks in between processes. To avoid unnecessary damage: relax the hair first, and then you can move on to hair color. Here's why: relaxers contain sodium and calcium hydroxide. These actually strip small amounts of color from the hair. By coloring first, you may end up with a lighter shade than you intended. Always follow up chemical treatments with a deep conditioner, preferably with natural oils.

Highlights for Your Hair

Sometimes coloring your whole head of hair isn't necessary.You can get a great look regardless of your hairstyle by adding highlights or lowlights to your hair. In general, highlights should be done in a salon the first time. This is because it's very difficult to section the pieces to be highlighted when you do it yourself. Plus, professional stylists know exactly how long to keep the chemicals in your hair to achieve the right tone.

Not sure how light to go? If you're new to highlights, start with a shade that's, at the most, three shades lighter than your own. Lowlights, on the other hand, provide a balance to highlights (usually with warmer shades of reds or caramels), by blending them with your own color. Ask your stylist if highlights, lowlights or a combination of both is right for you.