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12 Best Drugstore Hair Dyes for Professional Results at Home

Get pro-level hair color — for a fraction of the price.

hair dyes home hair color

Color processing at a salon can cost anywhere from $75 to more than $500 — which can be worth it if you want to completely change your look, but for those who just want to add subtle highlights or touch up those pesky grays for $10 or less, you can absolutely do this at home.

Today's at-home hair color options are easy to use and offer a quick and inexpensive way to update your look without the cost and hassle of a trip to the salon. The best at-home hair dyes from tried-and-true hair color brands last throughout regular shampooing, sun exposure and regular hot tool usage to remain shiny, healthy and vibrant.

After picking out the best at-home hair dye, there are a few things you'll want to do to keep your color vibrant and true for as long as possible. First, the product analysts at the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab recommend cutting back on washing your hair as much as possible, since contact with water causes dye to leach out of strands. Try applying a dry shampoo on days in between washes, and when you do suds up, make sure to choose a shampoo and conditioner formulated or color-treated hair. You can also give DIY hair color a boost to extend its life between dye jobs with an at-home gloss that matches your shade, suggests Rita Hazan, a celebrity colorist and owner of the eponymous salon in New York City; according to her, these glazes deposit subtle color pigments and enhance shine. Try L'Oreal's One-Step in Shower Toning Gloss, available in nine shades.

How we test at-home hair color

The GH Beauty Lab regularly tests at-home hair dye with both consumer testers and controlled Lab tests. In the Lab, scientists dye swatches with brown, blonde, red and black shades and evaluate them for their gray hair coverage in particular. We then challenge each product's color stability over a four-week period with a series of tests including 20 wash and dry cycles and 10 hours of UV light exposure. After, we check each swatch for final gray coverage, shine and fade-resistance.

We also send box dyes to a panel of women all over the country who evaluate them on factors such as ease of use and color performance, including gray coverage, color richness, uniformity and accuracy compared to the image on the box. They also provide real-life feedback on resulting hair shininess, softness and smoothness, as well as color fade over four weeks.

Here, the Good Housekeeping Beauty Lab's top-tested at-home hair color products you can buy, plus editor and consumer picks, including boxed drugstore dyes for all shades and needs, from dark, grey, and thinning hair to natural and semi-permanent formulas.

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Best Overall Home Hair Color
Natural Instincts

  • Great value
  • Colors gray evenly and resists fading
  • Leaves hair shiny

Numerous shades — especially dark hair like browns and reds — from Clairol's popular demi-permanent drugstore color impressed the GH Beauty Lab. In Lab testing, the at-home dye offered even coverage, left hair shiny, and was fade-resistant when used to cover up gray. 

Best Home Hair Color for Thinning Hair
Olia Oil Powered Permanent Hair Color

  • Ammonia-free and non-irritating
  • Contains conditioning ingredients
  • Pleasant scent
  • Resists fading

A top performer in GH Beauty Lab testing, Garnier's permanent color is made with no ammonia and a high concentration of nourishing oil so it's gentle on thinning hair or hair that's damaged from treatments like keratin. The formula scored high for its pleasant non-chemical scent, ease of rinsing, and not irritating, and it didn't fade over weeks after application. "Made my hair feel extremely healthy and looked very natural," one tester raved. 

Best Home Hair Color for Gray Hair
ColorSilk Beautiful Color

  • Bargain price
  • Complete gray coverage
  • Maintains shine

You can't beat this bargain: The GH Beauty Lab was especially impressed by Revlon's formula and gave this boxed dye perfect scores across the board in all our rigorous tests. It covered grays completely, retained shine, and didn't fade after four weeks. Great for brunettes and red-heads, its auburn shade, Burgundy, was a top performer in our Beauty Lab tests, covering grays well. The real hair it was tested on on kept its shine after multiple washes.

Best Natural Hair Dye Without Chemicals
Radiant Hair Color Kit
Madison Reed
Madison Reed

  • Formulated without certain chemical ingredients
  • Cruelty-free

In addition to boasting an "8-free" formula (meaning the brand claims it's formulated without eight of the more controversial or chemical ingredients often found hair color: ammonia, PPD, resorcinol, parabens, phthalates, gluten, SLS and titanium dioxide), Madison Reed is also certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny, a coalition of animal protection groups that have created an internationally recognized standard for identifying animal-friendly products.

Best Blonde Home Hair Color
Nice 'n Easy

  • Full coverage for blonde hair
  • Natural look that resists fading
  • Conditioning

In GH Beauty Lab testing, experts found that Clairol Nice 'n Easy was the best pick for light hair and has a gentler, more conditioning formula. While all brands we've tested for blonde shades have only scored average (or worse) for covering up gray, Nice 'n Easy stood out for fade resistance and keeping its shine. In Lab evaluations, it scored high for giving a natural look; 79% testers said it left hair soft and shiny, and 90% said it didn’t cause irritation.

Best Home Hair Color for Roots
Hair Color Express Retouch Gray Hair Concealer

  • Temporary color
  • Precisely targets roots to cover
  • Transfer- and flake-resistant

Hide grays between coloring with this GH Beauty Award-winning Garnier root cover-up, with a sponge applicator to precisely apply pigment. In GH Beauty Lab evaluations, it scored high with testers for not transferring or flaking, and staying in place. “Easy to use and very targeted,” a tester reported. 

Best Home Hair Color for Highlights
Superior Preference Glam Lights

  • Includes highlighting brush for easy, targeted application
  • Brightens hair color

Highlighting your hair is pretty tricky to do on your own (we support hitting the salon for the best results), but L'Oréal's Glam Lights promises to make it easy by reducing it to two steps. Fill the included highlighting brush with the formula, and then brush it through your hair from root to tips. We haven't tested this in our Lab, but reviewers note that this DIY option can add brighter blonde to already-highlighted or lighter-colored hair.

Best Red Home Hair Color
Color Boosting GLOSS+ Deep Conditioning Treatment

  • Semi-permanent color
  • Enhances red shades

  • Pricey

A reviewer favorite, this semi-permanent color intensifier from dpHUE takes effect in as little as three minutes and comes in Copper and Auburn shades perfect for tinting or boost red hair. And although the shades won't cover grays, the brand's creative director, Justin Anderson, says "the deep conditioning will leave your hair feeling amazing."

Best Temporary Hair Color
Root Concealer Touch-Up Spray
Rita Hazan

  • Covers grays
  • Easily extends the life of hair color

A cult favorite among beauty editors and created by iconic celebrity hair colorist Rita Hazan, this waterproof and transfer-proof spray is easy to apply right where you need it most, thanks to a super-focused nozzle. The tinted spray conceals gray roots, makes hair look fuller, and can extend the amount of time you can squeeze in between coloring your hair.

Best Home Hair Color Booster
Davines Alchemic Conditioner

  • Tinted to enhance hair color
  • Revives faded color

  • Pricey

When you're trying to stretch out your time between salon visits, turn to this cult favorite from Davines. It's essentially a five-minute conditioning hair mask with one additional perk: It gives your hair color a temporary boost every time you use it, which can help to keep your shade from looking faded. 

Best Bold Home Hair Color
Creamtone Perfect Pastel
Manic Panic
Manic Panic

  • Semi-permanent color
  • Array of vibrant and pastel shades

It seems every brand is making mermaid hair hues these days, but Manic Panic has 40 years of experience and a loyal following for fun hair colors. The veteran fantasy-color company's Creamtone semi-permanent temporary colors are best for those who want a more pastel look when they go pink, blue or anything in between.

Best Bold Home Hair Color Enhancer
Daily Conditioner

  • Revives bold or pastel hair color
  • Easy to use

All hair color fades, but it's especially noticeable with fantasy colors. An easy way to keep less natural shades vibrant: these color-depositing conditioners from Overtone. Made in a wide array of punky and pretty colors, it's intended to replace your normal daily conditioner to maintain unique hair color. 

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