Home hair colour review and compare

Which home hair colour did trialists prefer?
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  • Updated:2 May 2007

01 .Introduction

Woman dying hair

User trial of eight 100% grey coverage permanent hair dyes

113 women trialled the 100% grey coverage, permanent hair dyes for us.

Seven were popular supermarket brands and one was an ammonia and hydrogen peroxide-free product.

We asked our trialists to assess:

  • Effectiveness of colouring grey hair.
  • Evenness of colour.
  • Look and feel of the hair.
  • Fragrance of hair dye.
  • Durability and evenness over time.
  • Ease of use.
  • The look and feel of the hair three weeks later.
  • Effectiveness at covering grey three weeks later.


  • No product gave 100% satisfaction for covering grey hair, but some rated as definitely better than others.
  • The ammonia and peroxide-free permanent hair colour delivered disappointing results.

Brands trialled

  • ATLANTIS HAIR Watercolour
  • CLAIROL Nice 'n Easy Golden Romance Collection
  • DECORÉ Permanent Colour
  • GARNIER Nutrisse
  • L'ORÉAL Paris Excellence Creme
  • L'ORÉAL Paris Superior Preference
  • SCHWARZKOPF Live Salon
  • SCHWARZKOPF RevitalColor

Please note: this information was current as of May 2007 but is still a useful guide today.


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The following brands scored the best reults in our user trial.

What to buy
Brand Price
CLAIROL Nice 'n Easy Golden Romance Collection $11.35
L'ORÉAL PARIS Excellence Creme $14.10
SCHWARZKOPF Live Salon $12.10

Results table

Full results for all products are in the table below.

Product Score Number of trialists who said: Cost
Hair colour (in rank order) Overall score (%) It was very easy to apply It was very even It was very effective at covering grey It continued to cover grey for 3 weeks Trialists per product Price ($)
Clairol Nice ‘n Easy Golden Romance Collection 75 6 7 11 11 15 11.35
L’Oréal Paris Excellence Crème 75 11 5 7 10 14 14.10
Schwarzkopf Live Salon 75 5 4 10 8 12 12.10
Garnier Nutrisse 70 3 4 9 7 13 13.20
Schwarzkopf RevitalColor 70 4 6 6 8 12 13.95
L’Oréal Paris Superior Preference 65 8 7 8 7 13 15.40
Atlantis Hair Watercolour 55 7 5 5 9 14 25.95
Decoré Permanent Colour 55 5 5 4 4 11 10.60

Table notes

Score The overall score (rounded to the nearest 5%) is made up of:

  • Overall score of hair dye immediately after colouring 30%
  • Overall score of hair dye three weeks after colouring 70%

Prices are the average we paid in late November/early December 2006.

How we tested

  • 113 trialists - women with medium-length brown hair with some grey, were recruited. The number of people trialling each product ranged from 11 to 15.
  • Immediately after application they assessed ease of use, evenness of colour, look and feel of their hair, effectiveness of covering grey, fragrance of hair dye and whether they experienced any reactions to it. They gave the product a score on a scale of 1 (very poor) to 10 (excellent).
  • Three weeks later they assessed the durability and evenness of colour over time, the look and feel of their hair and the effectiveness of covering grey. They were also asked to compare the dye with their regular brand and say whether they'd use the product they trialled again. They gave the product another score at this stage.
  • The two scores for each product were averaged and converted into percentages, then combined to produce an overall score.

CLAIROL Nice 'n Easy Golden Romance Collection

Nice'n easyPrice: $11.35

Just under half the trialists thought their hair was "very soft" after dyeing it, but seven commented that the smell of the product was fairly unpleasant.

Trialists comments

  • "Grey coverage is excellent and after three weeks I have no sign of grey."
  • "Colour on the box is misleading - darker than expected but liked it."
  • "My hair was soft. The conditioner that came with the dye was very good."

L'ORÉAL Paris Excellence Creme

L'OrealPrice: $14.10

Half of the trialists said their hair was "very soft" after dyeing it and most found it very easy to apply.

Trialist comments

  • "A little bit streaky - some parts of hair near the roots were not quite covered."
  • "No splatters or drips."
  • "Good all-rounder. Nothing startling though."


LivePrice: $12.10

Over half the trialists rated their hair as "very smooth" after using the product.

Trialist comments

  • "[After three weeks] the grey area is starting to lighten a bit, but quite good results as I shampoo my hair daily."
  • Easy to use, hard to stuff up, great finish."

What about the rest?

  • Three weeks after applying GARNIER Nutrisse, five out of 13 trialists said their hair was fairly dull and six found the colour didn't cover greys for the three-week period.
  • Only half of the 12 trialists using SCHWARZKOPF RevitalColor thought it was very effective at covering grey hair.
  • Six out of 13 trialists thought L'ORÉAL Paris Superior Preference was fairly messy to apply, but eight found it very effective at covering greys. Over half said the product's smell was unpleasant.
  • ATLANTIS HAIR Watercolour may be kinder to your hair, but it was the equal lowest-scoring hair dye, with only five out of 14 trialists saying it had very effective grey coverage. Half said that their hair looked dull after three weeks.
  • Five out of the 11 trialists said DECORÉ didn't continue to cover greys for the three-week period, while two reported it didn't cover them from the start.

We wanted to know whether these 'complete' and 'permanent' grey coverage hair dyes are really permanent enough to keep the rest of your grey hair covered until you do your roots again. Some were better than others:

  • Eleven out of the 14 trialists testing CLAIROL Nice 'n Easy rated it as very effective at covering greys, both immediately after dyeing and three weeks later.
  • Ten out of 12 trialists thought SCHWARZKOPF Live Salon was very effective at covering greys immediately after dyeing and eight said it was still covering them three weeks later.
  • 10 out of 14 trialists said that L'ORÉAL Paris Excellence was still covering greys three weeks after using it.
  • DECORÉ received the lowest rating for grey coverage, with only four of the 11 trialists saying it continued to cover all grey hairs throughout the trial period.
  • ATLANTIS HAIR Watercolour also scored poorly for grey coverage. Only five of the 14 trialists thought this product was very effective at covering greys and four commented that it didn't cover them from the start

Washing in watercolour?

WatercolourOne product, ATLANTIS HAIR Watercolour, was ammonia and hydrogen peroxide-free, but it does contain p-phenylenediamine (PPD), so some people may still be sensitive to it (see Chemical reaction).

It works as a stain, 'wrapping' itself around the hair shaft. Unlike other permanent hair colours, which can be quite harsh, it claims to improve the condition of the hair. It was however, the most expensive dye tested, at $25.95.

Unfortunately for those who are thinking of using it for its lower content of harsh chemicals, it got the equal-lowest score. mainly due to its ineffective grey coverage. Only five of the 14 trialists thought this product was very effective at covering greys and four commented that it didn't cover them from the start.

Several trialists did comment on the softness of their hair. "Surprised that my hair still felt and looked soft [after three weeks]" said one.

Dying hairTo permanently colour the hair, hair dyes use a combination of the chemicals ammonia and hydrogen peroxide.

  • The hydrogen peroxide works by bleaching out the natural colour and releasing oxygen, which allows chemical reactions to take place.
  • The ammonia works by breaking down the outer cuticle around the hair shaft, allowing the other chemicals to enter the hair, where the colour development can take place.

These chemicals are quite harsh and can harden and thin the hair and they're also thought to irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory system. Another chemical that's been liked to severe allergic reactions is p-phenylenediamine (PPD), which works by reacting with other chemicals to develop the colour.

Around 4% of the trialists reported reactions to the dyes such as an itchy or stinging scalp, an itchy rash on the sides of the face and sensitivity to heat.

To avoid allergic or sensitive reactions, the packets advise you to perform a patch test 48 hours prior to application, even if you have used the product before, as it's possible for a reaction to develop after long-term use.

In the past, their has been some concern from health authorities that the chemicals in hair dye could lead to bladder and breast cancer, however in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there's no clear association between the two.

In the study, Canadian researchers conducted a review of the medical literature on varying forms of cancer and found there was no increased risk, including for people who dye their hair regularly.

The chemicals used in cosmetics are regulated by the National Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), to ensure they remain at safe levels and are clearly labelled for consumer safety.

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