Review: eSalon Custom Hair Color

Review time! As promised, here are my thoughts on the eSalon Custom Hair Color kit. I should note that this review is a little late, so don’t be alarmed on the date listed on the bottles… I’ve just taken a bit of time getting around to finally writing this.

Let me start out by saying that I’ve been coloring my hair for so many years that I’m not even positive what my natural hair color is. For me, coloring my hair is not only a habit – but a “necessary luxury.” Could I survive without it? Probably. But it’s one of those little indulgences that just makes me feel more like “me”.

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Quick “Before” picture

Over the years I’ve experimented with different shades but find that I always tend to come back to dark brown. And while I started out over a decade ago with coloring my hair at home, I’ve also tried various salons too. Getting my hair done by a professional always does seem to look better – but the price? Sometimes I feel a little guilty when I see that final bill of over $100, knowing that I could have done it myself at home.

When I learned about eSalon, I was ecstatic – this seemed to be the perfect solution for me! The price for this service is only $20 for auto-delivery or $25 for a single kit (note: you can customize the time-frame of the auto-delivery to accommodate the needs of how often you color). Professional quality hair dye, custom mixed by a colorist exclusively for you, that is delivered straight to your home…at a price way lower than salon services?! I immediately rushed to sign up and after letting my colorist know exactly what I was looking for (as well as providing photos of my current hair color), I anxiously awaited the delivery of my kit.

The package arrived shortly after placing the final order (within a few days if I remember right). I will say that I was a little nervous on how everything would be packaged inside the box since there were liquids and mixtures inside to create the hair dye, but upon arrival, it appeared that everything was secure. Here are some photos to show you what came inside my kit:

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The eSalon kit contents, freshly opened – two bottles of dye/developer solution, a box containing accessories to apply the color, instructions and a brush.

Important note regarding my kit: when I ordered this, the first kit included two bottles of the hair dye for $15. eSalon has since changed their “first kit” program to include only one set of dye but at a lower price. Just keep this in mind regarding my review – I do think this new option is actually a better deal.

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Like I said, everything was secure inside the box. I did like that they printed when it was made and also the specific formula (while I’m sure it is available online as well, this is just a helpful touch).

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The instructions were printed on both sides of a long document. The first side gave a quick overview and also noted what exactly was in the kit.

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The second side gave a more through step-by-step instruction. I feel confident in saying this kit could probably be used by someone that has never colored their own hair before – these instructions are really easy to follow.

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Another nice bonus – there was a little sticker inside the instructions that you could use to stick the document to your bathroom mirror (because anyone that has ever colored their own hair knows it’s a pain to have to grab the instructions and figure out how long to leave the dye on, etc.).

In terms of application, I’m going to be honest and say that I did make a few changes. Since my hair is frequently colored (and was a darker shade to begin with), I did not use both bottles (one for roots and one for all-over color) – I only needed one. I did, however, follow the rest of eSalon’s instructions.

Here’s where we get to the part of my review that is a little critical: the smell. As I’ve said previously, I am not a stranger to hair dye. But oh my goodness, this product has the strongest chemical smell of any hair that I have ever used. I honestly did not expect the strength of the odor here – and considering I had to leave the dye on for about a half hour, this was a bit of a struggle for me. While it was processing, I did search online to see if others had noticed this smell and it was somewhat of a frequent complaint – eSalon actually commented that this is due to the color solution used, basically, it is “chemical grade” and therefore, has a strong smell. Everyone’s sense of smell is different so it may not bother you if you try it – but I would recommend having a fan or something in the room while it processes because I found it a bit overwhelming.

After my color was done processing, I went to rinse it out and apply the included shampoo and conditioner from the kit. Again, I am not a newbie with hair color, I know what to do here… getting the dye out felt impossible. No matter how much I rinsed it out, it felt like there was still sticky dye in my hair. The contents of the shampoo and conditioner packets weren’t much help either. It felt like I spent an eternity trying to rinse the color out but finally, I finished and got out. I immediately blow dried my hair (I usually don’t do this after coloring but I had to go pick up some medications from my dogs’ vet and didn’t have time to let it air-dry) but noticed that it still had a “waxy residue” feel… the best description I can give here is if you use way too much product in your hair, it felt exactly like that (yuck).

By the time I got home from the vet’s office – maybe 30 minutes? – I could still smell the strong chemical smell of the dye and the residue feel was driving me insane. It felt like I was about to get a migraine from the odor. I decided that I couldn’t wait to see if it would fade – I got back in the shower and washed my hair again… this time with my own shampoo and conditioner. For whatever reason, this worked. I got out and the smell was completely gone, along with the residue.

Here’s what I can tell you about eSalon – I absolutely love the color. My colorist created a shade that is 100% exactly what I wanted, truthfully this is the quality of color that I previously paid quite a bit of money for in a professional salon. That being said, the odor of the dye and the sticky feeling were turn-offs for me – though these issues were easily solved by using my personal Redken shampoo and conditioner, rather than eSalon’s included product. For this reason, I would recommend just tossing the included packets and using your own products instead (along with having a fan running in the bathroom while you apply the dye). Yes, these issues were literal headaches, but I would use this kit again because I am so thrilled with the resulting hair color.


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I do recommend this service, provided you’re aware of the issues I mentioned. That being said, you may not even experience these problems so I honestly wouldn’t let them deter you from trying eSalon – I did just want to mention them (along with the solutions I discovered) to make my readers aware. If you’d like to order it yourself, you can use my referral link here to get your first kit at $10. eSalon will also be launching a custom highlight service in the future, so keep your eyes peeled for that as well.

If you do try this service yourself, make sure to let me know what you think. I am looking forward to continuing to use this kit, especially now that I know how to “troubleshoot” and avoid some of the issues I originally encountered.

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Freelance writer. Equestrian. Fueled by coffee. Lover of luxury fashion, college football and used bookstores.

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