Clairol Natural Instincts is an ammonia-free, demi-permanent formula, available in 22 shades. It's less damaging than permanent hair colors, but it can't change hair color as dramatically. Hair colors last longer, however, than semi-permanent formulas -- up to 28 washings making it a demi-permanent hair color. If you want to lighten your hair, you're better off with a permanent formula, such as L'Oreal Paris Superior Preference (Est. $9).
Spruces up your natural color. Clairol Natural Instincts has won several awards from professional reviewers for its fade-resistant color and its ability to cover gray hair. In one professional test, hair treated with the dye held its hue through 16 washings, the equivalent of about a month of regular wear. Natural Instincts beat out other demi-permanent formulas for Good Housekeeping's annual anti-aging awards. The formula does an excellent job of covering gray hair, especially in brown and red shades. Testers say the hair dye leaves hair smooth, soft and silky.
Users at MakeupAlley.com and TotalBeauty.com love the vibrant colors but say they have a tendency to run darker than what is advertised on the box. Some also complain that the formula isn't capable of lightening hair by much. Experts say that semi- and demi-permanent hair colors are best for slight changes to hair color and covering gray hair. For more dramatic changes, a permanent hair dye is needed.
Ten minutes and you're done. Natural Instincts comes with a classic squeeze bottle with applicator tip, which reviewers say is easy to use. Furthermore, the formula only takes 10 minutes to process, adding to its overall convenience.
Pleasant scent. Clairol Natural Instincts is ammonia-free, which means that it doesn't have the strong chemical scent that is common in hair dyes. In fact, testers at Good Housekeeping say it has a pleasant, fruity scent.
ConsumerReports.org tests 13 home hair color kits, including Clairol Natural Instincts, for efficacy in covering gray hair. Testers also evaluate ease of use and features of each of the products tested. Clairol Natural Instincts performed exceptionally through 16 washings.
Review: Hair Dye Buying Guide, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, March 2013
2. Good Housekeeping
Good Housekeeping tests nine home hair color formulas for gray coverage and fade resistance. Results vary by shade, but Clairol Natural Instincts proves to be the best formula overall for all shades. Editors note that the at-home hair color provided shine and fade resistance in brunette and red hair, but didn't cover grays as well in blonde hair.
Review: Best At-Home Haircolor, Editors of Good Housekeeping, Not dated
3. Good Housekeeping
Good Housekeeping lists Clairol Natural Instincts as the best demi-permanent hair color in conjunction with the magazine's recent Anti-Aging Hair Awards. The formula is said to do an excellent job of covering gray hair, both immediately and after four weeks. Furthermore, testers say the colors are true to the swatches on the box.
Review: Anti-Aging Hair Products, Editors of Good Housekeeping, Not dated
4. Real Simple
Real Simple magazine turns to professional hairstylist Rita Hazan for hair coloring tips and product recommendations. Hazan says she favors Clairol Natural Instincts for brunette shades. She says the formula lasts through 28 shampoos and rinses out slowly. She also notes it is gentler than permanent hair color because it's ammonia-free.
Review: Expert Tips on Hair Coloring, Sarah Smith, Not Dated
Nearly 600 reviewers at MakeupAlley.com weigh in on Clairol Natural Instincts, giving it an overall rating of 3.7 out of 5 stars. Seventy-four percent of reviewers say they would repurchase the formula, but some are dissatisfied with formulary changes and preferred the semi-permanent formula; it is now demi-permanent.
Review: Clairol Natural Instincts Hair Color, Contributors to MakeupAlley.com, As of June 2013
More than 250 reviewers at TotalBeauty.com give Clairol Natural Instincts an overall rating of 7.9 out of 10 stars. Many say the colors are excellent and cover gray well. Several also note that the formula is easy to use and doesn't take too long to set.
Review: Clairol Natural Instincts Reviews, Contributors to TotalBeauty.com, As of June 2013
The author of this article lists the top-performing at-home hair color kits based on her experiences. She's been dyeing her hair since the seventh grade. She says Clairol Natural Instincts is her favorite semi-permanent hair color because it doesn't dry her hair out and the color is always even.
Review: Great Drugstore Hair Color: Tried, Tested, and Loved, Popsugar Beauty, Sept. 8, 2010
BeautyHigh.com, a beauty blog operated by StyleCaster Media Group, lists the top at-home hair color kits as chosen by a group of hair color fanatics. Each is given a brief description, but none of the products are rated or compared. Clairol Natural Instincts is praised for being gentler than permanent hair color and still offering vibrant, rich color.
Review: Cheap Thrill: The Best At-Home Hair Color Kits for Red Carpet Results, Kristin Booker, March 4, 2013