Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Do I Need This? Root touch-up hair dye

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Welcome to the latest installment of my Do I Need This? series. In these posts, I offer my experience and opinions about whether or not I think a product or technique is worth it. Obviously, you don't really need ANY beauty products, so the answer to the question is always going to be no, to some extent. But is it going to change your life (or face)? Is it going to make things easier? Are you going to notice any difference at all? That's what I'm getting at. You may disagree with my verdict, because we all have different bodies/faces/brains/desires, but I'll try to offer a starting point, at least.

Do root touch-up hair color kits actually work?

Do I need a root-touch up hair dye product? 

Short answer: No, just buy a regular box of dye that's a good match and a brush to apply it to your roots.

Here's the story: A few months ago, I dyed my hair red, which is a color I love having, but which is one of the most difficult to keep up. Most reds fade like crazy. The two biggest causes of fading hair color are sun and water. I already stay out of the sun for the most part, but for good measure I also used a UV serum from Alterna that I bought from Hollar. At the same time, I cut back washing my hair from 6-7 times a week to every second or third day (and increased my dry shampoo use accordingly). My red still faded, but less than it might otherwise have done. The downside to my success was that my naturally dirty blonde roots became increasingly noticeable as they grew in.

At first I was just going to buy a box of the dye I'd originally used, L'Oreal Superior Preference 6AB Chic Auburn Brown, which I bought from Amazon. I like coloring my own hair. It's fun. It's cheap. And normally I'm pretty good at it. You can see how it looked right after I colored it on my Instagram here. But I had a CVS coupon. Unfortunately, neither of the CVS stores near me had that specific color in stock. So instead of paying full price ($9) for another box from Amazon, I decided to use the coupon for a box of Clairol Nice n Easy Root Touch-Up, which ended up costing about $6-7. The color range is quite small, so I went with what seemed closest to the current, slightly faded color of my lengths, 6R Light Auburn/Reddish Brown.

I quickly experienced some buyer's remorse and contemplated returning it and getting the real deal. But I convinced myself to give it a shot. If it worked, I'd have saved a little money. If it didn't work, I'd get a blog post out of it, at least.

Spoiler: It didn't work, and here's my blog post.

My first mistake was believing, without confirming, that this root touch-up stuff would be something like the Just For Men dyes, where you custom mix just the amount you need, and then you can reuse what's left in the future when your roots grow in a bit more. No, of course we ladies cannot have something as practical as that. It's a single-use product. You mix the two components of the dye in a little tray, and it comes with a brush to paint the color on your roots. The instructions tell you to start with the most visible roots at the front and in your part, and then work from there. Because I was paranoid that there would be a stark difference between my roots and the rest of my hair, I used the brush to pull some of the dye down in streaks from my roots, especially at the front. It was a good idea, because if I hadn't, I think it would have looked even worst than it did.

The thing with red dye is that for the first couple of days it tends to be WAY BRIGHTER than the color it soon settles into. So when I rinsed out the dye, let my hair dry, and found that I now had pretty intense, burgundy-red hair on the top of my head (light auburn brown my ass), I tried to remain calm. Give it a couple of days, and it might fade to the promised shade. Here's how it looked on day 1:

I actually think the contrast is somewhat less noticeable in the photos than it was in person, but you can see the darker red framing my face (again, that would have stopped abruptly had I not combed the color through a bit).

Okay, three days later:

Not better. I also took photos on the fourth and fifth and sixth days, but I won't bore you with them, because they're the same. On the one hand, kudos to this hair color for staying power! Too bad it's neither light nor reddish brown.

Eventually, since I'd created this mess just before moving, I found time about a week later to completely redo my hair color. I used Clairol Nice n Easy 6.5R Natural Light Radiant Auburn--which is much more radiant than natural and was definitely clown-orange for a couple of days. But it's more realistic, and very pretty, now. (I'd asked for recommendations on Instagram for good red dyes, and then ended up not using them, because with a combination of coupons and ExtraBucks, this box of dye cost me 12 cents at CVS. But I am keeping that excellent list of suggestions for future reference.)

In the end, I can't advise buying a product like this, particularly if you are touching up your roots after using a color that has faded significantly. Possibly with a dark brown, where you can be more assured of a match, and where the old color is more likely to have stayed deep and rich despite your roots growing out, you might have better luck. But with a red dye, it's a gamble. Since the regular price of one of these kits is $8+, you'd be much better off just finding your original color on sale (or not!) and using that to touch up your roots. Hair color brushes are not difficult to come by, so there's no need to buy a root touch-up kit just to get one of those. I got my mixing bowl and brush from Sally Beauty, but here's a set for $3 and free shipping on Amazon.

I walked around for a week looking like a failed beauty experiment, but at least I did it for science the blog.


  1. I've always wondered about root touch-up kits! You have confirmed my suspicions. I feel like unless you're using dye + touch-up from the same brand there's bound to be a colour mismatch even though they claim it matches "all shades of light brown" or whatever. I have a lot of hair and usually let my roots grow pretty long between touchups, so this wouldn't be cost-effective for me - I'd probably need at least 2 kits.

    1. I was able to cover all of my roots pretty well with this, including the layers underneath, but they were probably only 1-1.5" long. And yeah, they list a bunch of dyes that these are supposed to match on the box, so I'd thought maybe they'd make the color a little less intense to blend better with a ranges of similar shade, but nope!


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