I Tried eSalon & Here's What I Think

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It's been over three (probably closer to four) years since I last dyed my hair. I used to consistently dye my naturally dark brown hair dark red; it was a look that worked for me for a long time. Then, I just stopped; I didn't have the time or money to dedicated to the upkeep. And, in general, I just wasn't interested in doing it long term. 

I first learned about eSalon during one of my favorite podcasts (My Favorite Murder, which I've written about here); it's an at-home, mail order hair dye service. That's really the best way to describe it. I had heard the ad multiple times during My Favorite Murder and finally, I had to take the plunge; it had been so long since I'd dyed my hair and, especially after Forrest was born, I just needed to do something to change my look, if you will. 

The way eSalon works is that you use their website to answer a bunch of questions about your hair: your hair texture, your original color, whether your hair is currently dyed or not, what hair and scalp issues you have, and more. In the end, you get a range of colors to choose from; you pick one, a specialist formulates your color just for you based on everything you've told them, and you get sent it in a box along with instructions and shampoo and conditioner. 

You receive a box that looks like this. It includes the basic hair dye supplies: the dye solution and then a mixer bottle containing an activating ingredient. My kit also came with an application brush, although I ended up not using it. The Perfect Match kit includes a packet of shampoo, a packet of conditioner, a packet of stain shield, and a stain removal wipe, as well as two pairs of gloves.

The worst part of box kits you buy in the store is that they only come with one pair of not very good gloves. The eSalon kit gloves are like medical gloves and two pairs!? So I don't have to rinse off and try to reuse the same pair in the shower?! Genius. 

I hemmed and hawed about when to take the plunge. I've been pretty proud about the fact that my hair is "natural" right now: it's the color I was meant to have. However, family disposition means I am rapidly going gray and so I have pretty substantial grays through my part and bangs. Not a great look for a 28-year-old. 

Sunday night, I went for it--even though I was by myself and I've never dyed long hair on my own. Despite a few challenges (that back, y'all), I felt pretty confident about it and application was really easy. Also, the packet of stain guard is GENIUS; it kept my ears and forehead from getting stained like when I've dyed my hair in the past! 

The color sets for 30 minutes, then my instructions told me to do this thing where I used the leftover hair color and water to lather my hair. Uh, that didn't really work, but it was also freaking MESSY and I was terrified of staining my shower or shower curtain. The shampoo and conditioner from eSalon were amazing and smelled really good; each packet had enough for probably two washes and conditions for hair my length (just above the shoulder) or one for longer or thicker hair. 

I ended up having a TON of extra dye leftover; like almost half the bottle. I don't know if that's normal or not, but it kind of worried me! 

However, I loved my color. Plus, my hair ended up super shiny and pretty looking. Very silky. I couldn't stop touching it. 

The color I selected initially was called Intense Pearl. The thing about my natural hair color is that it is very, very close to black. In pictures, it often looks lighter, but it's really not; it's very, very dark. So when it comes to at home hair color, I don't have a ton of options. Bleaching my hair is something that just will never work--I've gone orange enough times to be able to say with sureness that it's just not ever going to happen, despite my dreams of white blonde hair. 

Intense Pearl was supposed to have mostly violet undertones. However, once I used it, it pretty much just looks like dark brown with red undertones. Which, isn't a big deal! But I'd really been looking forward to those violet undertones! It was a big leap for me and I was very excited about it. However, I don't hate it, so that's fine; I added a note to my eSalon profile for next time, so hopefully I will actually get violet next time. 


I had to update this post to share my experience adding notes to my eSalon profile. I added a note that the dye had turned my hair dark brown with dark, dark red undertones. Not a horrible thing! I don't mind! But's far from the cool, violet hair color I had chosen. It's like going to dye your hair blue and getting red, you know? 

Wednesday morning, I received a note from a colorist saying that, essentially, they cannot provide violet undertones because violet is a combination of blue and red (ok, thanks) and they cannot add more blue, so they could resend a violet kit, but it would just make my hair more red. So I replied asking why they showed that color (Intense Pearl) as a violet undertone if it's not possible to achieve. She replied that they can add violet, but they add violet with red, so the color usually shifts from violet to red overtime. But that's not true--my hair is dark red from the start. 

Which again, that's fine. It's not the worst thing in the world. It is absolutely not what I wanted, but it's not like my hair is totally destroyed. 

They offered to send me another kit. I replied asking, again, why they showed a color on their website, for my hair color, that they knew wouldn't look like the picture. So that's when they called me. 

I got a call from the colorist I'd been speaking to (that's what she said, at least) and she explained, again, that violet is a combination of red and blue. Which, I know what the color wheel looks like. She said, again, that Intense Pearl is supposed to go on with violet undertones and fade to red. But that is categorically not the case for my hair; my hair is dark red. Which, again, one more time, is fine. 

She said it was probably because my hair is so dark so it naturally has red undertones. But I'd selected the darkest brown hair they showed on the website and one of the options was a violet undertone hair color, Intense Pearl. If Intense Pearl can't go onto dark brown hair and show up violet, then why do they show it as an option? Why portray it as a cool toned, violet option if they literally can't do it, as she admitted they couldn't? That's when she told me that they actually cannot increase the violet undertone because they cannot add blue dye to their formulations because they don't have it. What is the point of advertising a violet undertone (a mix of red and blue, in case I hadn't been told that 400 times) if you don't use blue dye!? That's when I got frustrated.

My hair was my natural hair color before hair. It was fine! It was great! I just wanted to cover my gray hair! I just wanted to do something different. But right now, my hair is the same dark red I've been dying my hair since I was 16. If I wanted to dye my hair dark red, trust me, I know the hair dye to buy in the store for $6--not $25. I don't need to go to a salon or a specialist for dark red hair, trust me. I'm just really frustrated that something I wanted to do to spice up my look and feel good has ended up making me look about basically the same as I looked pre-pregnancy. It's not new or special. And it's frustrating to feel lied to and as if they really do not care about the fact that they are falsely including a hair color they admit they cannot achieve.