This Has Got to Be the Most Sophisticated At-Home Hair Color Kit Ever

And yet, it's still only $20.
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Wendy
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And yet, it's still only $20.

I haven't had my hair colored at the salon since I was in college, and to be honest, I'm not sure how my $5.15-an-hour work-study self was able to afford it. There must have been a point when I realized it wasn't the best investment, though, as I distinctly remember the first time I decided to skip the $100+ salon appointment and hire my friend, Josh, to color, cut and highlight my hair for a fourth of the price.

On numerous occasions, after completing ungodly textbook reading assignments and writing what felt like endless papers, we'd meet up in my dorm room, throw on America's Next Top Model or Project Runway, and go to town. I loved that I still had my "salon" experience, but at an hour that was convenient to me and at a price that allowed me to buy food.

After graduation, without Josh (who's a fabulous hairdresser to this day, by the way), I moved on to drugstore box dyes, and bleach and highlighter caps from Sally's. It's been working well, and I've even earned myself a few compliments on my hair color. But the other day I came across a picture on some social media channel of a woman whose hair I felt needed to be mine. Also, I've been dealing with brassy hair and couldn't wait to fix it. 

In that moment, looking at the picture, I was really tempted to book myself a cut and color at the salon. But then I remembered that my car needed its regular maintenance and four brand new tires. About $600 later, that splurge-y salon visit seemed like a very bad idea, and my adulting angel said, "Wendy, dear, find an alternative."

Meet Madison Reed, the kit I'm reviewing today.

Meet Madison Reed, the kit I'm reviewing today.

So I did. And that alternative was Madison Reed's at-home kit. It's still a boxed hair color you do yourself, which means it's affordable, but it's a step up from the variety you'll find at the drugstore. And while I'd never knock a drugstore hair dye, I was happy to have a product that offered a slightly more luxurious experience. 

It felt like a happy compromise, especially at $20. 

Barrier cream and a cleansing wipe.

Barrier cream and a cleansing wipe.

Cap and gloves — and they're the nice gloves!

Cap and gloves — and they're the nice gloves!

Shampoo and conditioner.

Shampoo and conditioner.

The Madison Reed kit contains more than you'd get in a standard box dye, including a barrier cream and cleansing wipe (to prevent staining your skin), as well as two sturdy sets of gloves and a hair cap. It also contains a shampoo and a conditioner. It really does feel like you're getting a lot more than in a normal kit, and the products are nicely packaged as well. You can tell that a lot of thought went into the entire presentation and products. 

Also, ordering the dye online makes you feel like you're getting a customized experience. You start by selecting your hair texture type, then length, and the amount of gray hair you have. You can then select your current hair color and desired hair color. I chose Bologna Blonde, which was a really close match for my current hair color, but would cool down the brass. 

The color and activactor. 

The color and activactor. 

The activator and color are pretty standard. Mix together, then apply to your hair starting at the crown/roots and then through to your ends. I appreciate that the formula is ammonia-free, giving the product virtually no smell. 

Dyeing.

Dyeing.

Capping and cleaning up.

Capping and cleaning up.

I let it set for the full 45 minutes and then rinsed it out. My hair felt clean and healthy — not parched or stripped — while cleansing and styling. Speaking of — let's do some before and afters. 

Before

Before

After

After

Still a golden-blonde, but definitely less brassy. And I love that it didn't turn into one blanket color, but picked up lighter and darker sections of hair. 

You can see about an inch of roots here, as well as a few gray hairs. How about that.

You can see about an inch of roots here, as well as a few gray hairs. How about that.

And here's the after. 

And here's the after. 

I am really impressed with the results, and impressed that I didn't have to stink up my entire home with those harsh chemical smells that burn your nose for two days following a dye event. I also love how effectively it colored my hair, and that it gave multidimensional results versus a flat wash of color. 

I'd definitely repurchase, especially for $20. 

  • Have you tried Madison Reed?
  • Do you swear by box dyes or the salon? Would you ever switch?