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Which hair color products are best?

When it comes to coloring your hair, you want to use the best products that will provide vibrant, long-lasting color without damaging your hair. With so many hair color brands and products on the market, it can be tricky to figure out which ones live up to their claims. This article will explore some of the top hair color products for achieving salon-quality results at home.

Permanent vs. Semi-Permanent Hair Color

The first decision to make when choosing a hair color product is whether you want a permanent or semi-permanent hair color. Permanent hair dyes contain peroxide developers that open up the hair cuticle and allow the color to deposit inside the hair shaft. This provides longer-lasting color that won’t fade or wash out quickly. Semi-permanent hair colors coat the outside of the hair and don’t use peroxide so they do not permanently alter the hair. Semi-permanent color washes out over 4-12 shampoos depending on the formula.

Here are some pros and cons of permanent vs. semi-permanent hair color:

Permanent Hair Color Semi-Permanent Hair Color
  • Provides longer-lasting, fade-resistant color
  • Can lighten hair up to 3 shades
  • Uses peroxide which can damage hair if used too frequently
  • Requires more caution when applying
  • More commitment since it lasts 4-6 weeks
  • Less damaging to hair as no peroxide is used
  • Good for subtle color changes or gloss
  • Color washes out gradually
  • Easier to use with less risk of mistakes
  • Less commitment since it washes out in a few shampoos

When choosing between permanent and semi-permanent color, factors like your natural hair color, how often you color your hair, and your color goals can help determine which option is best for you.

Top Permanent Hair Color Brands

If you decide that permanent hair color is the right choice for you, these top-rated brands consistently earn rave reviews for their effective gray coverage, true-to-tone color results, and nourishment for hair:

L’Oreal Paris Excellence

L’Oreal Paris is one of the most recognized drugstore hair color brands. Their Excellence line includes a wide range of permanent shades and tones. It uses a gel crème formula with keratin and collagen to condition hair while coloring. Benefits include:

  • Provides 100% gray coverage
  • Long-lasting color results up to 8 weeks
  • Sulfate-free and ammonia-free formula
  • Multi-tonal shades add dimension
  • Inexpensive at around $10 per box

Clairol Natural Instincts

Natural Instincts by Clairol is a top ammonia-free permanent hair color. It gently foams as it’s applied for full coverage. Key features include:

  • Conditions hair while coloring with aloe vera and vitamin E
  • Free of ammonia, parabens, and gluten
  • Long-lasting gray coverage and color
  • Vegetable protein formula strengthens hair
  • Can achieve lighter hair colors up to 2 shades

Revlon Colorsilk

Revlon is a drugstore favorite hair color brand. Their Colorsilk permanent line contains triple moisture proteins and silk amino acids to nourish hair. Benefits include:

  • Ammonia-free formula with keratin
  • Lasts up to 6 weeks with 100% gray coverage
  • Easy to apply at home with comb applicator
  • 55 natural-looking shades
  • Usually under $10 per application

Top Semi-Permanent Hair Color Brands

For lower maintenance color with less damage, give these top semi-permanent hair color products a try:

Clairol Natural Instincts Semi-Permanent

Clairol also makes a semi-permanent line that mirrors the benefits of their Natural Instincts permanent color without the stronger developer. Reasons to love it include:

  • Lasts up to 28 shampoos
  • Includes aloe vera, vitamin E and wheat protein
  • Ammonia-free, paraben-free and gluten-free
  • 24 natural-looking shades
  • Gentle no-drip crème formula

L’Oreal Paris Colorista

L’Oreal Paris Colorista line allows you to get creative with semi-permanent hair color in fun, fashion shades. Perks include:

  • Trendy colors like blue, purple, pink, red and more
  • Each shade washes out gradually in 4-12 shampoos
  • Easy no-mix, no-drip formula
  • Less damage due to no developer needed
  • Vegan and PETA-certified

Celeb Luxury Viral

Celeb Luxury Viral is a professional salon-quality semi-permanent hair color you can use at home. Reasons it’s a top pick include:

  • Does not contain harsh chemicals like ammonia or bleach
  • Conditioning formula with argan oil and keratin
  • Up to 40% gray coverage
  • Longer-lasting vivid colors up to 6 weeks
  • Over 60 shades from naturals to neons

Choosing the Right Shade

No matter which brand you choose, selecting the right shade is crucial for getting your desired results. Here are some tips on choosing a flattering, natural-looking hair color shade:

  • Base it off your natural hair color – try going just a shade or two lighter/darker
  • Factor in your skin tone – warmer tones for warmer skin, cool tones for cool skin
  • Read online reviews to see real photos of shades
  • Do an allergy skin test 48 hours before coloring hair
  • Ask a stylist for guidance if you’re unsure what shade is best

It’s always smart to strand test the color first to confirm you like the results before applying all over.

Tips for Coloring Hair at Home

Once you’ve chosen the right hair color product and shade, follow these tips for achieving a professional-looking color result:

  • Buy an extra box of color to make sure you have full coverage for your hair length and thickness.
  • Protect surfaces, skin and clothing from stains.
  • Section clean, dry hair into four quadrants and clip up the sections not being colored.
  • Wear gloves to avoid stained hands.
  • Apply petroleum jelly to hairline and ears to prevent skin staining.
  • Follow all timing and mixing directions precisely.
  • Use the included comb or brush to distribute color evenly from roots to ends.
  • Time the processing accurately and don’t leave on too long.
  • Rinse hair thoroughly until water runs clear.
  • Shampoo and condition a few days after coloring treated hair.

Maintaining Hair Color

To keep your hair color looking fresh and vibrant in between salon visits, be sure to:

  • Use a sulfate-free color-safe shampoo.
  • Rinse with cool water instead of hot.
  • Limit washing to every 2-3 days.
  • Use a deep conditioning hair mask weekly.
  • Blow dry hair with a heat protectant product.
  • Avoid chlorine, salt water, and sun exposure to make color last.
  • Use an at-home color enhancing gloss or glaze between colorings.
  • Get a root touch-up around weeks 4-6.

Most Common Hair Color Mistakes

It’s easy for hair colorings to go wrong if the right steps aren’t taken. Here are some of the most common mistakes along with how to prevent them next time:

Mistake How to Prevent It
Uneven color results Section hair properly so every area gets covered. Use a tint brush.
Roots are lighter than ends Apply product to roots first then ends to get even coverage.
Hair comes out too brassy or orange Use an ash or neutral shade instead of golden for a more natural look.
Skin or surfaces are stained Wear gloves, use petroleum jelly on skin, cover surfaces.
Hair is dry and damaged Only color every 6-8 weeks, use a conditioning color formula.


With the vast array of hair color products available, it can be daunting finding your perfect match. Now that you know some of the top-rated permanent and semi-permanent brands and formulas, you can decide which type of color is right for you. Always do a patch test before coloring hair. Carefully apply the product following all instructions to achieve gorgeous, salon-worthy results you’ll love. Take good care of colored hair with the right products and maintenance. With a little practice, you’ll be coloring your hair at home like a pro!