Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to the question of "To DIY or not to DIY?" And it doesn't just apply to the indoor herb garden you've been thinking about re-creating or that really cool storage hack you saw on Pinterest. At-home beauty treatments are another topic that can be polarizing. People may be totally fine with giving themselves a DIY manicure but cringe at the thought of at-home waxing. Others might trim their bangs themselves with ease, and some wouldn't even touch their eyebrows without a trusted professional.
Coloring your hair could be something that you feel very strongly about, and for some of you, it might not even be possible because of your particular color. But who hasn't had a passing thought in their lifetime that was something like, "What if I just went to town on boxed hair dye right now?" because you were bored or needed a change or were going through a breakup or it was just a normal Tuesday night.
Listen, I'm not here to pass judgment on any of those reasons. Do whatever feels right. I'm just here to give you some tips on how to choose the correct box dye so when the moment comes that you need a touch-up, don't want to spend money at a salon, or it's that aforementioned Tuesday, your hair will come out looking GOOD.
So take a look at these highly reviewed drugstore hair dyes that won't set you back in the cash department. (And please, follow the directions on the box, okay?)
I've only gotten my hair dyed at the salon once in my life—unfortunate highlights when I was 15. But I've had grays since I was 15 (coincidence?), so every so often (aka when I'm not feeling lazy), I get rid of my grays with boxed dye. And full confession: My mom helps me dye it. I always use Clairol's Natural Instincts dye, which I find non-irritating on my scalp and lasts me for a month or two. It comes with a conditioner, and I normally use it for a few days after.
Garnier Nutrisse is labeled as an Amazon's Choice with over 4000 ratings and 4.5 stars. The formula contains grape seed, avocado oil, and shea so you don't have to worry about it leaving your hair dried out. One reviewer wrote, "I've got dark blonde hair and like my hair to be a lighter blonde. For years, I went to the salon for color but after having the kids, I couldn't afford to go for time and money reasons. I was super hesitant about using at-home color because I've had some BAD experiences that made me have to get an emergency, expensive color correction just to be able to go back in public. I researched like crazy to find an at-home blonde color and have been using this color for years now. So happy I'm able to do my color at home!"
L'Oréal's Excellence Creme is guaranteed to get at even the most stubborn grays and leave you with rich, shiny locks. It has a triple protection system with ceramide, pro-keratine complex, and collagen to protect and moisturize. One Amazon review reads, "The dye has a creamy consistency which was easy to work with. I got great color, including good stubborn gray coverage. It comes with a comb which attaches to the developer bottle... The cream rinse that is included in the box is enough to use several times. This product is very economical, and I think my hair color looks as good as it does when I have it colored in a salon."
Ammonia-free, this hair dye has 3D color gel technology that's supposed to give some dimension to your stands. It's enriched with keratin and silk amino acid, and it comes in 41 different shades. An Amazon reviewer wrote, "I have been using this brand and color for years and I absolutely love it. I have thick natural curly hair and over 50% grays... so my hair tends to be resistant to color but this works amazingly. I couldn't be more pleases with the results."
If you want to go for a bolder look, Feria's a popular at-home line from L'Oréal that has unique colors (like silver, teal, and purple), along with the usual suspects like dark brown. It leaves a "shimmering" finish while conditioning your hair. An Amazon reviewer said, "This is the most awesome product I have ever used! It actually lightens your hair several shades without getting that brassy look or without bringing out the red in my hair. My hair actually looks light brown with some blonde highlights, and I did not need to use a highlighter! L'Oreal has found a magical product. This product also makes your hair very shiny. It is worth every penny."
Another Amazon's Choice, this kit comes with a pre-color serum to condition your hair before coloring. The keratin in the dye formula is actually supposed to repair the inner structure of your hair. One reviewer raved about the color: "The color is very true to what is shown on the box. This is the best hair color I have ever used for covering gray AND for not fading. I guess it's the best hair color I've used period."
If you're just looking to touch up your roots or get rid of some pesky grays, this is a good option, and it lasts three weeks. It comes with a brush for easy and precise application and only takes about 10 minutes to set. One Amazon review reads, "Looks just as good as the professional color. I mix two colors together, just like they do in the salon, and the color I'm getting is indistinguishable from what I was paying for at a salon. It is NOT messy, much to my relief. It IS tiring, especially trying to get the roots at the back, but it is totally worth it. My hair is soft and shiny and looks like it's been professionally colored."
Another choice for root touch-ups, this one from L'Oréal has a built-in conditioning formula and covers all grays. The color will last for several weeks, so it's good if you're in between appointments. One Ulta customer wrote, "I liked the ease and convenience of this applicator bottle. I still used a regular comb to drag the color onto the previously colored hair. The gray coverage is impressive (left on 15-20 minutes). I've washed and washed and the color is holding well."
This dye won't leave your hair one-dimensional. It's supposed to give you natural-looking tones and highlights. It has conditioning ingredients and is also gentle on allergies. One Target customer wrote, "It gives my thin hair volume, it covers my gray like no other, and it only takes 10 minutes! I tried switching to other hair colors and they leave my feeling fried."
John Frieda's foam hair color is easy to spread evenly. It's especially easy to get to those hard-to-reach spots and doesn't leave a mess. The kit comes with colorant, color developer, after-color conditioner, a foamer for dispensing, and gloves. An Amazon reviewer said, "This is great—my hair was dark brown and it came out a golden blonde. Love the color but the main thing I like is the foam. I've dyed my hair numerous times with box dye and nothing beats the coverage of foam. No blotches."
If you're feeling brave enough to try highlights, this box dye from L'Oréal comes highly recommended on Amazon with over 1000 ratings and 4.5 stars. The kit includes a permanent base color and highlights, but the best part is the fingertip applicator and blue highlight formula that makes it easy for you to evenly apply so everything looks natural. One reviewer said, "This is a two-step system that is so user friendly, even a beginner will get gorgeous results."
Garnier Olia's formula contains no ammonia and is blended with natural flower oils to give your hair a healthier look and feel. An Amazon customer said, "I was afraid to dye my very damaged hair that I had accidentally over lightened. It wouldn't tone at all and I wanted to just go back to my natural color, I thought I'd give this a shot and lucky for me it worked like a charm and if anything my hair feels nicer than it did before. I'm so, so glad I tried this' I got exactly the color I wanted."
This boxed dye lasts for up to eight weeks and leaves your hair looking oh so shiny. The formula contains camelina oil, vitamin E, and a UV filter to protect and hydrate your strands. It's also available in over 50 shades. An Amazon review reads, "My hairdresser originally recommended Preference for touch-ups and I've been using it for my hair color (not just for touch-ups) for years. It gives my hair a lot of shine and great color."
If you want a bolder color like cotton-candy pink, purple, or silver, Manic Panic is serious business. The semi-permanent color has over 7000 ratings on Amazon and four stars. The cruelty-free, vegan dye will gradually fade in four to six weeks, so consider a low commitment of sorts. One reviewer wrote, "I absolutely love Vampire Red. I've been coloring my hair bright red for a few years, and this is my favorite red that doesn't fade heavily to orange or pink at my natural blonde roots. The color washes out a little bit every time, but the color lasts better than other brands. I do allover color once every 3 months or so. Bright colors simply won't last."
Another Amazon's Choice, Vidal Sassoon's dye will last for up to eight weeks and provides 100% gray coverage. The kit also comes with a conditioner to moisturize and protect the color from fading. A review reads, "No real fading, super easy to apply, and natural-looking color. Best of all, [it] covers even the most stubborn grays!"
Next up, a celeb colorist says these will soon be the most-requested hair colors
Sarah is lifestyle writer and editor with over 10 years of experience covering health and wellness, interior design, food, beauty, and tech. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she attended New York University and lived in New York for 12 years before returning to L.A. in 2019.
In addition to her work on THE/THIRTY and Who What Wear, she held editor roles at Apartment Therapy, Real Simple, House Beautiful, Elle Decor, and The Bump (sister site of The Knot).
She has a passion for health and wellness, but she especially loves writing about mental health. Her self-care routine consists of five things: a good workout, “me” time on the regular, an intriguing book/podcast/playlist to unwind after a long day, naps, and decorating her home.
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