Types of Hair Color
Permanent Hair Color
This is the only type of hair color that can dramatically lighten hair. It strips the hair's natural color away and opens the hair's cortex to deposit a completely different color. The vast majority of hair-color kits at the drugstore are permanent colorants. Most use ammonia, which open the hair cortex so it can be colored.Hair Color For Roots
One of the drawbacks of permanent hair color is that after a few weeks, you're sure to see the telltale signs of your natural or gray roots peeking through. Root coloring products can help stretch how long your permanent hair color lasts.Non-Permanent Hair Color
Non-permanent hair color falls into two broad categories: Semi-permanent and demi-permanent. Semi-permanent hair color stains the outside of hair with dye that largely washes off after four to 10 shampoos. Demi-permanent hair color is used to match or deepen hair color, and to cover grays. It penetrates the hair's inner cortex (like permanent dye), but it can't lighten hair much. However, it lasts longer than semi-permanent color.Hair-Highlighting Kits
Home hair-highlighting kits are not for the faint of heart. Highlighting hair is a more difficult and time- consuming process than single-process color, even for professionals. But as long as you're not looking for anything drastic and simply want to brighten up your look, hair-highlighting kits make it possible to do your own highlights at home.Hair Color For Men
Although most hair color products are aimed at women, you'll find a handful of them specifically for men. Of course, men can also use hair products that are marketed to women. It all comes down to preference.
Is at-home hair coloring as good as
professional hair dye?
Hair stylists are likely to say that
the best hair color comes from professionals. Although this is true in some
cases -- for example, if you're making a radical change in your hair color --
plenty of people have success dyeing their hair at home.
According to experts, the hardest part
of coloring your hair might be choosing the color you want. To be safe, they
recommend going no more than two or three shades lighter or darker than your
natural hair color when dyeing your own hair. Make sure to match your hair
color to the chart on the side of the box -- that's a better indicator of the
color you'll get than the model pictured on the front of the box. Also, if your
hair is severely damaged, professional hair color is your best bet for avoiding
more damage. But for everyone else, expert and user feedback says that a $7
drugstore hair coloring kit is a perfectly fine option.
Labels can sometimes be misleading
Hair dye comes in a multitude of
shades and strengths, both of which are described in entirely different ways at
the salon than they are at the drugstore. For the purposes of this report, we
focus on at-home hair color, which comes in three strength levels:
semi-permanent (level one), demi-permanent (level two) and permanent (level
What's most confusing about drugstore
hair colors is that companies do not label their products in a consistent
manner. Semi- and demi-permanent products, for example, are often labeled as
"non-permanent." But the terms aren't exactly interchangeable, as the
two types differ in how they color hair and how long they last.
Finding The Best Hair Color
Getting good results from at-home hair
color is possible if you choose the right product and shade for your needs. We
found expert recommendations from professional hair colorists at Today.com, MarieClaire.com
and Elle.com, and professional, head-to-head comparison testing comparing the
performance and fade resistance of hair color products from ConsumerReports.org
and GoodHousekeeping.com. For opinions on real-world results, we turned to
thousands of user reviews on sites like Amazon.com, Ulta.com, Target.com, InStyle magazine and MakeupAlley.com. We combine feedback
from professionals and expert tests with user feedback to come up with our
recommendations on the best hair color, the best non-permanent hair color, the
best root touch-up and temporary root coverage products, as well as the best
hair color products for highlights.
The best hair color is long lasting, vibrant and fade-resistant
According to experts and users, L'Oreal Excellence Crème (Est. $8) is the top choice among permanent hair color products. Professional
hair colorists say this line of home hair color comes in a variety of options
(a choice of 38 shades), has clear instructions and top-quality ingredients.
Plus, it's great for covering grays.
Thousands of users on sites like
Ulta.com, Amazon.com and MakeupAlley.com, where reviewers tend to be highly
discerning, say it's easy to use and creates rich, natural-looking color.
Several users say it's especially good for emergency touch-ups and offers
excellent coverage, even for stubborn grays. The comb applicator is also a hit,
and users say that it makes it easier to ensure that the thick, creamy color is
evenly distributed throughout your hair for better, more consistent coverage.
There are a few detractors, however,
who say that their hair color didn't last as long as expected, with some users reporting
dullness and fading within three to five weeks. On the other hand, other users
say their color lasts for several months before showing any signs of fading or
brassiness. A few users also say they didn't notice a difference in their hair
color after using this product, although this is sometimes a result of choosing
the wrong shade.
Editors at GoodHousekeeping.com name Clairol Nice ‘n Easy (Est. $21 for three) one of the two best hair
color products for blonde hair. Editors say that most of the hair color
products they tested for blondes produced mediocre results, but Clairol Nice ‘n
Easy stood out for its excellent fade resistance and shine retention -- and
it's also great for covering gray hair. On the downside, they note that it has
a strong chemical smell. Clairol Nice ‘n Easy also earns accolades from InStyle magazine's editors, who named it the best
single-process color in their 2016 Best Beauty Buys awards.
Clairol Nice ‘n Easy, which comes in a
choice of 47 shades, also earns mostly positive feedback from thousands of users
across sites like Amazon.com, Target.com, MakeupAlley.com and Ulta.com. Unlike L'Oreal
Excellence Crème, Clairol Nice ‘n Easy has a thinner, liquid-like consistency
that can drip and become a bit messy while trying to work it through your hair.
Users echo testers at GoodHousekeeping.com, pointing out this product's strong
ammonia smell, and a few say that it irritated their scalp. Overall, though,
most users love the multi-dimensional, natural-looking color they get with
Clairol Nice ‘n Easy.
Another popular option, particularly
if you prefer a creamier texture to work with, is Garnier Nutrisse Nourishing Color Crème (Est. $7),
which comes in 50 different shades, including two with built-in highlights, and
gets nods from professional hair colorists at both Elle.com and MarieClaire.com.
Users at Amazon.com and Ulta.com are pleased with this hair color as well, with
hundreds of reviewers contributing to high ratings on both sites. Reviewers say
it's easy to use and creates a rich, natural-looking color. Several users say it
lasts longer and has a more pleasant scent than most permanent hair color.
If you don't mind spending a bit more
and find the liquid and cream hair color formulations difficult to work with,
you might consider John Frieda Precision Foam Colour (Est. $12), which has a thick foam consistency designed to
penetrate hair strands and spread easily to the roots and other hard-to-reach
areas for consistent, non-patchy coverage.
Reviewers at Amazon.com and Target.com
give John John Frieda Precision Foam Colour high ratings, noting that it's easy to apply and
mess- and drip-free while it develops, leaving shiny, healthy hair with rich
color. Professional hair colorists recommend John Frieda Precision Foam Colour, too, noting the foam formula's quick application.
Professionals suggest applying it to the roots for 15 minutes, then pulling the
color through to the ends for 10 minutes. It comes in 20 shades.
Hair color for roots helps your hair color last longer
To keep growing roots from spoiling
the look of your hair color prematurely, Clairol Nice 'n Easy Root Touch-Up (Est. $13 for two) gets great reviews from experts and users alike. It's earned the top spot for
two years in a row in InStyle magazine's annual Best
Beauty Buys roundup as the best root touch-up product. Professional hair
colorists tell Elle.com that Clairol Nice ‘n Easy Root Touch-Up is a "reliable
standby" for those hectic times when it's difficult to make it to the salon,
and professionals praise it in a review for Today.com for its easy application.
Users couldn't agree more: Nice 'n
Easy is by far the favorite root touch-up kit at Ulta.com, Target.com and
Amazon.com. Hundreds of reviewers rave about it, noting that the results are
indistinguishable from salon hair color treatments. Most reviewers say they
touch up their roots with Clairol Nice ‘n Easy Root Touch-Up every two to three
weeks, which extends the time between expensive salon visits. Because it takes
just ten minutes, it's easy to fit a root touch-up into a busy schedule, and it
works for covering up stubborn grays, as well.
The touch-up kit is available in 22
shades that blend in seamlessly with your base shade, according to users.
Clairol also provides an online tool that helps you match Root Touch-Up shades
to those of leading brands.
Another option is the L'Oreal Paris Root Rescue 10 Minute Root Coloring Kit (Est. $6), which comes
in nine shades and, like Clairol Nice ‘n Easy Root Touch-Up, takes just ten
minutes. It doesn't have the same volume of reviews as the top-rated Clairol
Nice ‘n Easy, but it does earn a good overall rating from hundreds of users at
Amazon.com. Praise isn't as consistent for this root touch-up kit, though, with
some reviewers saying the color didn't match their hair color well, and others
complaining that there's not enough product in the kit to completely cover
their roots. Most reviewers, however, say it's easy to apply, covers most
grays, and that the color lasts for a few weeks, making it ideal for a quick
touch-up between salon visits.
Most experts warn that color-processed
hair picks up new color faster than natural hair. It's important to apply new
color directly to your roots only. To blend and boost the color of the rest of
your hair, comb the color through to the ends a few minutes before rinsing.