Best Hair-Color Kits

More than half of all women regularly color their hair, according to a new Consumer Reports ShopSmart poll. Testers just sized up more than a dozen hair-dye kits to see if you can color your locks for less than you pay at the salon.

Consumer Reports tested to see whether there's a less expensive way to cover your gray. Included in the tests-13 home hair-dye kits that cost $4-$13.

These kits were from big-name brands like Clairol, Garnier, and L'Oreal.

Jamie Hirsh of Consumer Reports says, "We tested both permanent kits, which are supposed to last until the hair grows out, and demi-permanent hair-dye kits, which generally last through 24 to 28 washings."

Following the directions on the package, testers applied dye to almost 500 tresses of gray, human hair.

Then they washed and dried the hair repeatedly. Testers then used a colorimeter to check how much color washed out after two, eight, and 16 washes.

Hirsh says, "But there's more! We also had trained panelists evaluate how well the color covered the gray."

This one didn't color evenly, with spots of gray still showing. It's L'Oreal Paris Excellence-to-go."

Hirsh says, "It also contains ammonia, which you may want to avoid because it has a strong odor and may irritate the respiratory system."

Consumer Reports did find some kits that worked well, including Clairol Textures and Tones, as well as Clairol Natural Instincts for men and for women.

Hirsh says, "They got high marks for covering the gray. And they're ammonia free."

And since these hair dyes cost under ten dollars, they're a lot cheaper than a trip to the salon.

Coloring your own hair can be messy. So be sure to wear gloves and cover with care. And for best results, do a "strand-test" on a single piece of hair to determine how long you should leave the dye on.

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