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When it comes to hair color, it’s often been thought that people fall into one of two camps. One, there are those that hit the salon for professional (and often timely and pricey) color application. Or, you choose to take the DIY route and pick up a box of (inexpensive though often inferior) color at the drugstore. But did you know that there’s a whole world of options that fall in between the two? Enter professional hair color.
While yes, it’s largely meant to be sold to, well, professionals, there are plenty of options that the average person has access to. This offers somewhat of a happy medium between hitting the salon and traditional, at-home color. Because you’re dealing with a professional-grade product, the results are generally going to be of much more higher-quality than the usual, over-the-counter stuff. Still, the cost is much less than shelling out for a salon visit. The big caveat, of course, is that you definitely should be well-versed in DIY coloring and know what you’re doing since, after all, these products are intended for the pros.
That being said, if you’ve perfected a killer self-coloring technique, go ahead and check out these professional hair color lines to create all kinds of stunning shades.
Elgon Moda & Styling Cosmetic Hair Color Cream
This Italian brand (all the products are still made there) has two unique characteristics. One, it uses 50% ammonia than other products, making it both gentler on strands and reducing the unpleasant smell, always a win in our book. Two, the dye molecules are 50% smaller than others. Why is that important? Because the smaller the molecule, the less likely it is to “slip” out of the hair shaft and the longer your color will last. Plus, the tube also contains more product than other color lines, giving you some serious bang for your buck.
Goldwell Nectaya Nurturing Hair Color
Completely ammonia-free, this permanent color formula took over six years to develop and has seven different patents pending. Namely, a unique technology that delivers lipids (read: fats essential for strength and shine) back into the hair. The addition of argan oil makes it extra conditioning, and it not only covers grays completely, but can also lift your base up to three levels. A natural fragrance rounds out the list of noteworthy benefits.
Joico LumiShine DD Dimensional Deposit Demi-Permanent Crème Color
No matter whether you want to cover or blend in a few grays, add a touch of lowlights, revive faded hues, or balance out an ombré look, this cream gets the job done. There are 20 shades to choose from, all of which contain a strengthening amino-acid technology to keep your strands healthy. It lasts for up to 30 shampoos, not to mention has the distinction of actually smelling good, thanks to a fragrance that’s a mix of citrusy mandarin, floral jasmine, and woody sandalwood.
Kenra Permanent Color Creme Hair Color
The Balancing 5 Complex in this formula refers to five different attributes that make for the most easy-to-use, consistent, and reliable end result. The color is simple and straightforward and very long-lasting. Amazon shoppers love it and give it excellent reviews, no matter which shade they chose.
L’Oréal Professionnel Semi-Permanent Dia Richesse
If you’re looking for a more subtle end result, or just a little something-something that will enhance your natural hue, this is for you. The tone-on-tone processing is minimal yet effective, though it can also lighten ever so slightly. It lasts up to six weeks, and because it’s ammonia-free, it is completely odorless, too.
Matrix Biolage Plant-Based Hair Color
There’s really no way around it; traditional hair colors are by nature loaded with all kinds of chemicals. But this alternative contains only 10 ingredients or less in every shade; it’s also vegan and 82 to 100% plant-based. It lasts for up to 20 washes, strengthens your strands, and adds mega-watt shine. Also nice: There’s no developer needed, you just have to add hot water.
Paul Mitchell The Color XG
The iconic hair brand’s color lines have been around since the 1980s, a long-time favorite among the pros. This particular product comes in 78 (yes, you read that correctly) different shades, offering a little something for every preference. The added ingredients also read more like those you’d find in a skincare product; we’re talking cottonseed oil and rice milk to impart some serious shine. It also uses a special dyesmart system that allows for both maximum color penetration and staying power.
Pravana Chroma Silk Vivids Everlasting
For super fashion-forward shades (think deep violet or a scarlet red), reach for this option. There are seven dramatic choices to choose from, no basic blonde or brunette here. And while they’re great used alone, they can also be mixed with Pravana’s other ChromaSilk colors for those who want to branch outside the box, without getting too bold.
Redken Shades EQ Demi-Permanent Hair Gloss
This demi-permanent goes to work in just 20 minutes, both delivering color but also adding plenty of shine (credit an acidic, ammonia-free formula that’s ultra-gentle). You can definitely use it on its own, but it’s also the perfect choice to pair with highlights as a toner or to help refresh—or even correct—existing color.
Rusk Deepshine Conditioning Cream Color
Besides the fact that the color molecules penetrate deeper, this also touts ingredients that even out the porosity of your hair. That, in turn, means it absorbs the color completely evenly, which in turn makes for gorgeous, natural-looking shades. Those shades also have serious staying power and are great for covering gray, too.
Schwarzkopf Igora Royal Permanent Hair Color
For complete gray coverage, you want to go with permanent color, like this one. The one downside? Permanent colors can often come across as flat and muted. Happily, that’s not the case here. Despite the fact that it fully and completely camos silver strands, it still delivers multidimensional, natural-looking color.
Wella Koleston Perfect Hair Color
As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life, and when you’re looking for hair color variety, this option can’t be beaten; there are over 60 shades of the permanent formula to choose from. Amazon reviewers rave about how natural and shiny those shades turn out, and it also has an avocado conditioner built-in to help nourish your strands. Also nice: It’s dermatologist-tested, a boon for those with an easily-irritated scalp or skin.