The 13 Best Professional Hair Color Brands for Long-lasting Color

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Best Professional Hair Color Brands

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

Maybe you're a DIY dye veteran, a salon devotee, a professional stylist, or are new to the world of hair coloring. In any case, if you want the best results, it's worth exploring higher-end formulas. Celebrity colorist Reece Walker says he uses a medley of professional brands. "Depending on what kind of work I'm doing, I change up what I'm using," he tells Byrdie.

Meet the Expert

Reece Walker is a bi-coastal celebrity colorist specializing in blond color work. He has worked with many high-profile clients, including Miranda Kerr, Victoria Beckham, and Eva Longoria.

While salon-grade formulations are generally better quality than the over-the-counter variety, high-profile colorist Matt Rez warns against buying them if you're not a trained specialist. "Pro hair color works on a level and tone system that only a professional knows how to formulate properly," he explains.

Meet the Expert

Matt Rez is a celebrity colorist who has worked with Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber. He is also the inventor of the midlight technique and brand ambassador for Redken.

With this in mind, we rounded up standout options that, for the most part, are reserved for color specialists to consider using on their clients. And if you're not a pro but just like to know exactly what's being applied to your head, you can ask your stylist about a specific brand of treatment.

Meet the Expert

Felicia Dosso, hair colorist at Nunzio Saviano Salon in NYC.

Ahead are the best professional hair color brands available today.

Best Overall: Wella Professionals Illumina Permanent Creme Hair Color

Wella Professionals Illumina Permanent Creme Hair Color

Walmart

What We Like
  • Gentle formula

  • Leaves hair shiny

  • Colorist-recommended

What We Don’t Like
  • Contains PEGs

What do buyers say? 91% of 500+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

"My first choice for tints (permanent hair color) is Wella Illumina," says Walker. "These colors are gentle on the hair and very versatile, depending on what result you're looking for."

This cream hair dye is available in 36 shades, ranging from mahogany brown to medium ash to pearly blonde. Thanks to the brand's MicroLight technology, it coats each hair with reflective, illuminating micro-particles. "The shine after using them is like freshly cleaned glass," Walker adds.

Type: Permanent | Active Ingredients: Ammonium hydroxide, trisodium ethylenediamine disuccinate | Shades: 36 | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Budget: L'Oréal Professionnel Majirel Permanent Crème Color

L'Oréal Professionnel Majirel Permanent Crème Color

Walmart

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • True to tone

  • Long-lasting

What We Don’t Like
  • Strong smell

L'Oréal makes some of the most affordable hair dyes in both the professional and drugstore categories. Available in an impressive 60 shades, the brand's Majirel line promises true-to-tone color, high-lift lightening, and long-lasting coverage.

Type: Permanent cream | Active Ingredients: Ammonium hydroxide | Shades: 60 | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best With Bond Protection: Matrix SoColor Pre-Bonded Permanent Hair

Matrix SoColor Pre-Bonded Permanent Hair

Walmart

What We Like
  • Protects bond fibers

  • Long-lasting

  • Budget-friendly

What We Don’t Like
  • Strong smell

  • Contains PEGs

If you want to keep damage at a minimum, Matrix SoColor might be your best bet. It contains a concentrate of bond protectors that work to safeguard the inner structure of your strands. And with 90 shades to choose from, there's something for everyone.

Type: Permanent | Active Ingredients: Ammonium hydroxide, sodium chloride, m-aminophenol, p-aminophenol | Shades: 90 | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Toning: Redken Shades EQ Gloss Bonder Inside Hair Toner

Redken Shades EQ Gloss Bonder Inside Hair Toner

Walmart

What We Like
  • Versatile formula

  • Colorist-recommended

  • Leaves hair shiny

What We Don’t Like
  • Not DIY-friendly

Rez and Walker both use Shades EQ for in-salon glossing, toning, color-correcting, and blending white or blonde hair. "I have used almost every brand of semi/demi gloss out there, and nothing compares," says Walker. "They make blondes glisten."

Type: Demi-permanent | Active Ingredients: Ethanolamine, sodium chloride, deceth-3 | Shades: 108 | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Demi-Permanent: Wella Color Touch Demi-Permanent Hair Color

Wella Color Touch Demi-Permanent Hair Color
What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Gradually washes out

  • Colorist-recommended

What We Don’t Like
  • Doesn't work as well on dark hair

Walker also often reaches for Wella's demi-permanent Color Touch. "These colors are a little denser than Shades EQ," he tells Byrdie. "I would use these on someone with a few grays that don't want or need to move to a permanent hair color."

Type: Demi-permanent | Active Ingredients: Ethanolamine, sodium chloride | Shades: 27 | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Gloss: L'Anza Liquids Demi Gloss

L'Anza Liquids Demi Gloss

Walmart

What We Like
  • Leaves hair shiny

  • Minimizes swelling

  • Works quickly

What We Don’t Like
  • Activator sold separately

L'Anza Liquids is available in 60 shades, ranging from blue-black to golden-brown to ultra-light violet blonde. It processes in less than 20 minutes and promises minimal swelling of your strands, which can be damaging. The demi-permanent treatment leaves hair super shiny and lasts for about 24 shampoos.

Type: Demi-permanent gloss | Active Ingredients: Ethanolamine, keratin | Shades: 60 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Natural Colors: Schwarzkopf IGORA ROYAL Permanent Color Creme

Schwarzkopf Igora Royal Permanent Hair Color

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • True to tone

  • Long-lasting

What We Don’t Like
  • Developer sold separately

If you're looking to cover grays or just want your hair color to look natural, Schwarzkopf's Igora Royal might be the way to go. The formula penetrates each strand with true-to-color pigments, then seals the surface to ensure full, long-lasting coverage.

Type: Permanent cream | Active Ingredients: Ammonium hydroxide | Shades: 52 | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Trendy Colors: Pulp Riot Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Pulp Riot Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Amazon

What We Like
  • No developer needed

  • Leaves hair shiny

  • Gradually washes out

What We Don’t Like
  • Contains PEGs

  • Works best on pre-lightened hair

Want to experiment with a trendy hair color like lilac, blush, plum, periwinkle, or maybe even orange (à la Ally from A Star Is Born)? Pulp Riot has you covered. It comes in 29 shades, including a few neon hues that glow under blacklights. And since this is a semi-permanent treatment, it's not a serious commitment.

Type: Semi-permanent liquid | Active Ingredients: Basic color, stearalkonium chloride, hydrolyzed quinoa | Shades: 29 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Bright Colors: Pravana ChromaSilk VIVIDS Everlasting

Pravana ChromaSilk VIVIDS Everlasting

Courtesy of ecosmetics

What We Like
  • No activator needed

  • Strengthening

  • Gradually washes out

What We Don’t Like
  • Doesn't work as well on dark hair

  • Contains PEGs

We're also loving ChromaSilk Vivids. The semi-permanent, ammonia-free cream comes in 20 statement shades ranging from aquamarine to emerald to magenta to red—as in fire-engine red. What's more, it contains strengthening amino acids and washes out just in time for you to choose a new hue.

Type: Semi-permanent cream | Active Ingredients: Basic color, amino acids | Shades: 20 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Cream: Sparks Professional Color Permanent Creme Haircolor

Sparks Professional Color Permanent Creme Haircolor

Amazon

What We Like
  • True to tone

  • Replenishes hair fibers

What We Don’t Like
  • Strong smell

Sparks Permanent Creme comes in a whopping 86 shades. The range includes dozens of natural colors, along with a few bold, trendy tones. In addition to true-to-tone pigments, it contains lipids that help bind the color while replenishing your hair fibers.

Type: Permanent cream | Active Ingredients: Ammonium hydroxide, lipids | Shades: 86 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Neutralizing: Pulp Riot High Speed Toner

Pulp Riot High Speed Toner

Walmart

What We Like
  • Works quickly

  • Cancels unwanted tones

  • Leaves hair shiny

What We Don’t Like
  • Doesn't work as well on dark hair

  • Developer sold separately

If you're looking to neutralize the unwanted tones of chemically lightened or tinted hair, reach for Pulp Riot's High-Speed Toner. Beyond bluish-violet pigments that counteract yellowish, brassy hues, you can choose silver, ashy, rosy, or icy treatments for a more custom effect.

Type: Toner | Active Ingredients: Ammonium hydroxide, neutralizing pigments | Shades: 8 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Bleach: Wella Professionals Blondor Multi-Blonde Lightening Powder

5
Wella Professionals Blondor Multi-Blonde Lightening Powder

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Gentle formula

  • Anti-yellowing agents

  • Colorist-recommended

What We Don’t Like
  • Not DIY-friendly

  • Developer sold separately

Walker likes to use Blondor for foil highlights, though it's also great for ombré color, balayage, and all-over lightening. "It's gentle on the hair and gives you incredible lift without having to use a high-volume peroxide," he tells Byrdie. "I also use this bleach for my clients' scalps when their natural hair is light brown."

Type: Permanent powder | Active Ingredients: Magnesium carbonate hydroxide, potassium persulfate | Shades: Up to 7 lift levels | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Kit: Madison Reed Radiant Hair Color Kit

Madison Reed Radiant Hair Color Kit

Ulta

What We Like
  • DIY-friendly

  • Gentle formula

  • Colorist-recommended

What We Don’t Like
  • Contains PEGs

"The only at-home hair color I would recommend for use when in a pinch is Madison Reed," says colorist Felicia Dosso. "Their products are more gentle than most boxed colors, being free of harsh ingredients like ammonia, parabens, and titanium dioxide."

Type: Permanent | Active Ingredients: Hydrogen peroxide | Shades: 36 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Final Verdict

When it comes to salon treatments, the best professional hair color line is Wella Illumina Permanent Creme Hair Color. Available in 36 shades, the colorist-recommended formula is gentle, versatile, and leaves hair oh-so-shiny. However, if you're looking for a DIY option, your best bet is the Madison Reed Radiant Hair Color Kit.

What to Look for in a Professional Hair Color Brand

Coverage Strength

“If you have a high percentage of gray or want to lighten your natural hair color, you must use permanent color,” explains Dosso. “Demi-permanent color will only cover a low percentage of gray—think someone who is just starting to get strands of gray that they want to cover. Meanwhile, semi-permanent hair color “should be used only for refreshing faded out ends and adding shine,” says Dosso. “It will not cover any percentage of gray hair or lift color.”

Color

Before buying a professional hair color, ask yourself whether the color you’ve selected is the proper level for your hair—you want to make sure it’s not too dark or too light. “Too dark of a color will be hard to remove from the hair, and too light of a color can cause a 'hot root,’" says Dosso.

Ingredients

Look for nourishing ingredients like keratin and argan oil to ensure hair won’t be damaged during the dyeing process. There are also certain ingredients you’ll want to avoid when buying any sort of hair dye. “Check for ingredients like ammonia, metallic salts, and henna,” suggests Dosso. “These are all extremely harsh ingredients that you do not want to use on your hair—and unfortunately, most box dyes contain them.” 

Product Size

If you have long, thick hair, keep in mind that you might need more dye than you'd think. “One box of color may not be enough to fully saturate longer or thicker hair types,” says Dosso.

FAQ
  • What key ingredients should someone should avoid in a professional hair color?

    Avoid using extremely harsh ingredients like ammonia, metallic salts, and henna on your hair.

  • How do you know if permanent, demi-permanent, or semi-permanent color is right for you?

    Demi-permanent color only covers a low percentage of gray (think someone who is just starting to get strands), so if you have a high percentage of gray or want to lighten your natural hair color, opt for permanent color. Semi-permanent hair color should be used only for refreshing faded-out ends and adding shine—it will not cover any percentage of gray hair or lift color.

Why Trust Byrdie

Theresa Holland is a freelance copywriter specializing in beauty and lifestyle within the commerce space. She interviewed two celebrity colorists for this article, who provided product suggestions and expert insight into usage. Next, she looked at dozens of professional hair color lines, pored over ingredients lists, and referenced several scholarly journals before landing on the final selections. Theresa covers hair care, makeup, skincare, and fitness equipment at Byrdie.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Towns A. (2021). A review of developments in industrial hair colorant actives for oxidative dyes. Coloration Technology. 137. 301-335. 10.1111/cote.12545.

  2. da França SA, et al. Types of Hair Dye and Their Mechanisms of Action. Cosmetics. 2015, 2, 110-126; doi:10.3390/cosmetics2020110

  3. Gavazzoni Dias MF. Hair cosmetics: an overview. Int J Trichology. 2015;7(1):2-15. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.153450

  4. Dodgson NA (2019). What is the opposite of blue? The language of colour wheels. Journal of Perceptual Imaging, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.2352/j.percept.imaging.2019.2.1.010401

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