8 pro-quality hair dyes that let you skip the salon

We've rounded up our favorite at-home hair color kits that are all-but-guaranteed to give you gorgeous results for a bargain.

best at-home hair color eSalon


What it is: Custom hair color blended just for you and delivered to your door — for less than you usually tip your salon colorist.

Why we love it: Talk about personalization: The shade of hair color you receive from the delivery service is custom-blended according to your skin tone, eye color, color history, gray percentage and more. It's a pretty remarkable solution for anyone still struggling to find their most flattering shade. (The instructions are also personalized to each client, and a real-live colorist is available for phone and e-mail advice.)

To buy: eSalon hair color set, $19.95, esalon.com

Best at-home hair color kits L'Oreal Paris

L'Oreal Paris Superior Preference Mousse Absolue

What it is: This technological advance in home hair color not only eliminates the mixing process, a single purchase ensures more than one color application per box.

Why we love it: Hands down, this is one of the coolest things we've seen in a while. The bottle's ingenious dual chamber keeps hair-color chemicals separated, and then, the push of a button mixes them instantly, dispensing only as much as you need. The result? No mess and plenty of product left over for root touch-ups. 

To buy: L'Oreal Paris Superior Preference Mousse Absolue, $14.99, ulta.com

Madison Reed hair dye Madison Reed

Madison Reed

What it is: A hair color kit that delivers everything the pros use in salons right to your door.

Why we love it: Each richly-hued formula is free of parabens and hair-frying ammonia and packed with nutrients such as argan oil and ginseng root extract. Online hair color advisors can help you match your best shades, shop, and give you advice via email, an iPhone app and — wait for it — an actual one-on-one phone conversation. Another point in its favor: It really does qualify as “salon quality” hair color because, well, it's also actually used in salons. 

To buy: Madison Reed hair color kit, $24.95, madison-reed.com 

John Frieda hair dye John Frieda

John Frieda Colour Refreshing Gloss

What it is: An at-home version of the shine-infusing, color-boosting treatments typically used by professionals.

Why we love it: Pro colorists often apply a glaze to add shine and depth to hair. This DIY alternative extends the life of your color and embues hair with a glossy softness that lasts for weeks post-treatment.

To buy: John Frieda Colour Refreshing Gloss, $11.99, soap.com

Clairol hair dye Clairol

Clairol Expert Collection Pantene Age Defy Hair Color

What it is: A new way to seamlessly cover grays without blowing out hair color.

Why we love it: One of the toughest hair-color challenges is to cover grays without flattening your hue into a too-dark, single-tone mess. This new product homes in on offending strands, seamlessly blending them into a multi-dimensional color. Other ingredients in the formula also address signs of aging hair, including frizz, coarseness and breakage.

To buy: Clairol Expert Collection Pantene Age Defy Hair Color, $9.49, drugstore.com

Garnier Olia Garnier

Garnier Olia Permanent Hair Color

What it is: A gentle permanent-color formula that harnesses oil to minimize the risk of damaging hair.

Why we love it: The first permanent at-home hair color to use oil as the delivery system, this ammonia-free product pushes dye particles deep into the cuticle, increasing vibrancy, softness and shine.

To buy: Garnier Olia Permanent Hair Color, $8.97, walmart.com

L'Oreal Paris ombre color L'Oreal Paris

L’Oreal Paris Ombre Color Kits

What it is: At-home kits that paint hair in a two-tone "ombre" effect, which fades to a lighter shade at the ends.

Why we love it: Dip-dyed ombre ends might look too complicated to DIY, yet these hair coloring kits make the whole process quite easy. In addition to a subtle effect of Superior Preference Ombre Touch, L'Oreal's Feria line also offers the more vivid Colored Ombre, which delivers red ends for dark hair, and Intense Ombre, for women with dark-to-black base color. 

To buy: L'Oreal Paris Superior Preference Ombre Touch, $12.99 at drugstore.com; L'Oreal Paris Feria Intense Ombre, $10.94 at walmart.com; L'Oreal Paris Feria Coloured Ombre, $10.99, ulta.com

Vidal Sassoon hair dye Vidal Sassoon

Vidal Sassoon London Luxe Permanent Hair Color

What it is: Super-saturated color that's usually only found in cutting-edge salons.

Why we love it: Not everyone is satisfied with the standard blonde, red or brunette hues out there, so Vidal Sassoon has brought some of 2014's more adventurous shades to the home-color market. We’re talking lilac, cherry red, midnight black and the like. 

To buy: Vidal Sassoon London Luxe Permanent Hair Color, $8.99, soap.com