Scene: You're in the drugstore, innocently looking for a box of inexpensive at-home hair color to stretch the time in between pro colorings — but the options are just so completely overwhelming. Good news: We have your solve! We tested 9 formulas that claim to cover grays and resist fading. (To do this, we dyed swatches of graying hair with the brands' best-selling shades, then simulated a month of normal wear.) See the winners here.
Winners (this one was a tie!):
Clairol Nice 'n Easy ($6.99, Ulta.com) in Natural Dark Neutral Blonde tied with Revlon ColorSilk ($4.49, Walgreens.com) as the best dye for light hair. Every brand's blonde shades were average at best for covering gray, but Nice 'n Easy stood out for fade resistance as well as shine retention. Something to watch out for: Lab technicians noted that ColorSilk's products had a strong chemical smell.
The Good Housekeeping Institute started with a swatch of 50-percent gray hair. The result you see on the right-hand side is Clairol Nice 'n Easy, shown in Natural Dark Neutral Blonde, after four weeks of simulated wear.
Revlon ColorSilk ($2.97, Walmart.com) in Dark Brown earned perfect scores on the Good Housekeeping Institute's tests. It covered grays completely, retained shine, and didn't fade after four weeks. The only con: ColorSilk includes only enough conditioner for one application.
L'Oréal Excellence Creme ($8.99, Drugstore.com) in Medium Brown performed nearly as well, with only slight fading after a month of washing, drying, and UV exposure. It comes with a tube of great-smelling conditioner for weekly use between colorings.
GHI started with a swatch of 50-percent gray hair. The result you see on the right-hand side is Revlon ColorSilk, shown in Dark Brown, after four weeks of simulated wear.
Revlon ColorSilk's ($2.97, Walmart.com) auburn shade, Burgundy, was a top performer, acing GHI's gray-coverage and shine-retention tests. Red haircolor shades tend to fade faster, and this one is no different, with a bit of color loss after four weeks of washing, drying, and UV exposure.
Clairol Nice 'n Easy Perfect 10 ($12.49, Ulta.com) in Light Auburn covered gray completely after only 10 minutes of application time (some permanent products take 25 minutes or more!), but its shine and color-retention scores were only fair.
GHI started with a swatch of 50-percent gray hair. The result you see on the right-hand side is Revlon ColorSilk, shown in Burgundy, after four weeks of simulated wear.
Clairol Natural Instincts ($6.99, Ulta.com) in both red and brown impressed us with its even coverage, shine, and fade resistance when used to hide just a little gray. Its blonde shade gave results that were just as shiny, but it wasn't as good at covering gray, and it faded a bit after four weeks.
GHI started with a swatch of 10-percent gray hair. The result you see on the right-hand side is Clairol Natural Instincts, shown in Cinnaberry, after four weeks of simulated wear.
Add this to your Pinterest board, and every time you're in the mood for a color change,you'll always have the best boxes on-hand.
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