I tried personalized boxed hair dye, and the before and after pictures amazed me

I’m what I like to call a boxed hair dye connoisseur.  It has a much nicer ring to it than, “I’m way too broke to go to an NYC salon.” I’ve tried just about every brand in the hair color aisle at my local drugstore, in just about every color. (Why yes, my hair has been severely damaged in the past! However did you know?)

Needless to say, I was beyond intrigued when I heard about a brand called eSalon, which formulates boxed hair dye specifically for your hair type and color goals, and delivers it to your door.

The premise of the company is simple: hair dye isn’t a “one size fits all” kind of thing. The ash blonde, dark auburn, or cool brunette you buy at the drugstore simply can’t take in variables like texture, whether you’re looking to cover greys, or whether your hair has been color-treated (let alone how it’s been color-treated). Achieving the shade you actually intend (as opposed to one you can merely live with) is pretty much impossible if you can’t shell out mega bucks for a professional salon visit wherein an actual human formulates the color for you.

Hence, for a mere $25 plus shipping (and actually, a mere $10 plus shipping for your first order), eSalon seemed worth a shot!

How it works.

I started the process off by visiting the eSalon site and filling out my “hair profile.”  This part is super thorough — but in a good way. It asks for everything from your natural hair color to if/when it was last color-treated, as well as things like whether you’ve had a relaxer or keratin treatment in the last several months, your hair length and texture, and your ethnicity (which can be super important when it comes to formulating dye specific to your hair type).


You then move on to answering questions about your hair goals — i.e., your desired color. This part is actually super fun! You select a hair color that most closely matches your natural color, then a color that most closely matches your current color, and finally, you get to choose the hair color you want (you can also upload a photo of your current hair color, which is apparently super helpful for the colorist who will eventually mix your dye).


NOTE: Because the site is run by professional colorists who know their shiz, this also means you aren’t actually allowed to order absolutely any color. After filling out your hair profile, the site will provide you with options that you can realistically and healthily achieve at home (i.e.: if you want to go from raven-haired to platinum blonde, eSalon may help you achieve it gradually over time…but certainly not all at once). And honestly, as a veteran at-home hair dye user, I really appreciate this about the company. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent in my life trying to fix my own hair mistakes because I (shockingly) am not a professional.

After eSalon receives your order and a hair colorist has reviewed your profile, the colorist will mix your color and send it off in an adorable little box with instructions tailored specifically for YOU.


And I mean, like, really tailored for you. eSalon sent me two bottles of dye: one specifically made for my roots and another for the rest of my hair, with slightly different instructions for both. Your colorist will also reach out to you before making your dye if anything about your notes/profile was unclear.

(Note: The box comes with the dye, the developer, super high quality gloves, lotion to protect your forehead and temples, and one-time-use shampoo and conditioner).


You then apply the dye almost exactly like you would any normal at-home boxed dye (if you’re a regular boxed-dye user, you know the drill), wait the directed amount of time, and rinse.

The results?

Before I get to the before and after pics, know this: I have been searching for the exact right shade of red for years. Literally, years, guys. No matter what I do, the red I get from the drugstore is either too orange and brassy, or too dark and fuchsia. PLUS, I have come to accept that no matter which brand I use when going red, my hair will be like, RED red for a couple weeks until it fades to my preferred more natural shade.


This was me a few weeks before the big change-up.


And this was me the day after I dyed it (yes, I blow dried my hair for this pic…you caught me).


It’s the rich and rosy auburn I’m always trying to achieve, and I didn’t even have to wait several weeks for the color to fade into it. Plus, my roots and ends are the same color…which is kind of a miracle when it comes to at-home boxed dyes.

I would definitely order again, and as far as I’m concerned, $25 plus shipping is a total find for finally getting my perfect shade (and FYI, your first order is only $10, and there’s an auto-order option which will automatically send you dye at regular intervals at a discounted $20). Also, if you’re unhappy with your shade, you can send pics to your colorist and they will re-send more dye to get it to your desired color — free of charge.

So if you’re sick of your boxed-dye fails but can’t fathom spending hundreds of dollars every few months at a salon, eSalon may just be for you. Check out the site here (you can thank me later).