hair dye

photo by miss rogue

DEAR SARA: How hard is it to color your own hair? Is it messy? I want to use a more low-impact/natural hair color. However, all the hair salons in this town that use these products are so expensive. I don't want to pay $130 for a haircut and color. I'd like to try coloring my own hair. I have never attempted it. I can have my hair cut at a walk-in place at the mall. And you can get good haircuts at those places I have found. I'm also worried about coloring my own hair and having it stain the shower, since I rent. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. -- Theresa T., California

DEAR THERESA: Coloring your own hair can be easy, but it can be messy if you're not careful. It won't stain your shower, but it can stain your clothing, some countertops and flooring. I recommend that you have someone help you to make it easier, but it certainly can be done on your own. The directions are straightforward, and there's a customer-service number you can call for help if needed. As for professional salon costs, the price varies. Many salons offer specials, or you can call a local cosmetology school and see if they offer discounts on coloring hair. If your hair is long or thick, you might discover you need more than one box of dye. Pick a color that is only one to two shades different from your natural color and do a strand test. Many people have colored their hair for years, myself included. I color my roots in between salon visits. But results can vary from one person to another. I'm sure that you've heard stories about home hair-color disasters. Professional stylists/colorists can custom-mix the dye and combine the amount of developer that is needed for your hair. If you go to a reputable salon, you won't have to worry about over-processing your hair, and you'll get the color you want to achieve. But you can talk to a beauty expert at a beauty-supply store or ask a stylist her advice for home coloring next time you visit a salon, too.

DEAR SARA: How long does all-purpose flour keep? I was told that it keeps longer in the freezer. Is this true? Thanks. -- Dawn, Arkansas

DEAR DAWN: Yes, freezing does extend shelf life. Store flour in a dry, dark and cool place. It absorbs odor, so avoid storing it near items such as onions or cleaners. It can be stored for about a year in the pantry in a sealed container, but I recommend the freezer to prevent insects. If you prefer using your pantry, add a bay leaf to help prevent bugs. If placed in a sealed freezer storage bag and placed into a food-grade plastic container with an airtight lid in the freezer, it can be stored for years. Some people store it in the freezer in its original bag or in the original bag inside a freezer bag. That works fine if you're going to use it quickly. For larger amounts of flour, I recommend a plastic tub with a tight-fitting lid. You can go to a restaurant-supply store for the best containers for flour storage, or call a local bakery, pizzeria or donut shop and ask if they have any flour buckets you can have.