Review: Comparing eSalon to Boxed hair dye

Okay, let’s talk about hair dye. I’ve done it all – salon highlights, salon overall hair color, box dye and now eSalon. I thought it would be fun to give you a full review. Let’s compare eSalon’s dye and service to my typical box dye experience.

First a little background. I started dying my hair on my own when I was about 15 years old. I’ve had pretty much every color of hair – red, blond, dark brown, burgundy, streaks of purple, green, blue, yellow, etc. Around 2010, I stuck with my natural light brown shade and started getting my hair professionally highlighted.

In 2015, my colorist was on leave and I couldn’t handle my roots for a minute longer… so I bought a $6 box of hair dye and ruined my hair. Rather than turning out “natural copper red” as it promised on the box, my hair ended up dingy brown with black in the mid-lengths and ends. I tried to live with it for a while. I cut off the ends. And finally, when my colorist came back to work, I made an appointment and threw money at her to fix it. That appointment took three hours and she had to fully strip the color out of my hair, add in highlights and then an all-over color.

I consider that my ‘scared straight’ moment. From then on, I stuck with my colorist. And that worked great for about 5 more years… and then a pandemic hit.

I went back to box dye and THANKFULLY this time it turned out mostly how I wanted it to (you can find the post here: Quarantine Hair: Revisiting Box Dye)

For the past year, I’ve been using Feria Intense Copper C74 every 7 weeks or so to cover my roots. The only problem is, it tends to be a little more ‘cherry’ red than ‘natural spicy ginger’ red. It wasn’t a huge deal though… since it only stayed that shade for a couple weeks before fading into the shade I loved. Once it faded a bit, I’d use Overtone Ginger conditioner to make the perfect gingery concoction.

This month, when it was time to do my regular color upkeep, I decided to give eSalon a try. I had heard good feedback from a couple friends who use eSalon. I was curious if I could go straight to the natural spicy ginger color I was hoping for, without having to deal with the too-cherry shade for a couple weeks first. At the earliest, I won’t be back into the office until mid-May, so if I were going to totally mess up my hair color this gave me time to get it fixed before I saw other humans in person.

I went to the eSalon website, opened an account and filled out the survey on what my current hair color was like and what I was going for. I also uploaded a couple photos of my current hair color:

I don’t know why I take my hair color photos in the car… maybe the light is extra flattering? Anywho, now it’s time to do some comparing!

Price Comparison

  • eSalon Price: $27.50 if you order once, $22.00 if you autoship
  • Feria Box Dye Price: ranges from $6 – $9 on Amazon

My first order from eSalon included a free second bottle of color for my mid-lengths and ends (I’ll talk more about this below). I just logged in and it looks like if I add it to my second order they will give me a ‘first order special’ deal to add the custom ends refresher for $9.

So, my next order total will be $38.31 (this includes auto ship color, auto ship custom ends refresher, shipping and tax). When comparing box dye to eSalon, it is about $30 more. However, when comparing eSalon to an actual colorist appointment you are saving lots of money (plus tip)!

Box Contents Comparison

Let’s take a look inside what comes with each box!

In the eSalon box we get: Julie’s custom instructions, Julie’s Color bottle 1, Julie’s Color bottle 2, 2 containers of 20 volume developer, 2 sets of gloves, an application brush, stain guard, stain remover, shampoo and conditioner.

In the Feria box we get: instructions for all over color or root touch up, C74 color, developer (25 volume?), 1 set gloves, fragrance ampule, color booster, shampoo and conditioner.

For the price, eSalon is doing a great job of giving me a set that feels super personalized, organized and contains everything I need. My only suggestion would be to include 3 pairs of gloves, rather than 2 pairs of gloves. But I’m super happy with everything included. They even have a sticker so you can stick the instructions to your mirror while you are working on your hair – how thoughtful!

Color Comparison

eSalon color: Julie’s Color bottle 1 for roots and Julie’s Color bottle 2 for mid-lengths and ends

Feria color: C74

In the notes section, I said that I had been using Feria C74 for about a year, but wanted a less cherry red color and more of a natural-ginger-just-grew-out-of-my-head color. My natural color is light brown and I don’t have any grays yet. According to their survey results, my custom color is light brown (copper golden) and they sent me two bottles of my “custom blend” – one for roots and one for mid-lengths to ends.

The roots blend has light brown, gold and copper (the image on the left) and the lengths blend has just gold and copper. They instructed me to color my roots, leave it on for 15 minutes, color my mids and ends, leave it on for 10 minutes. Then, fill my leftover bottle 2 with water, get in the shower, add it to my head and massage vigorously for 2-3 minutes.

This is where a 3rd pair of gloves would have come in handy. I could have used 1 pair for the roots, take them off while waiting 15 minutes, 1 pair for the ends, take them off while waiting 10 minutes, and then a third pair for the shower. As it is, I left my gloves on and just tried not to touch anything while waiting.

Shampoo & Conditioner Comparison

They all suck. I’m not even kidding. When you go to wash your hair with the included shampoo and conditioner for Feria or eSalon it feels awful — like absolute straw. Instead, I use the shampoo and conditioner they provide and then follow it with Moroccan Gold Hair Treatment Mask (you can read my review here). I leave the mask on for a couple minutes and then my hair feels as good as new. After that first wash, I go back to my Olaplex shampoo, conditioner and bond smoother (Olaplex review here) for my daily or every-other-day washes.

Final Look Comparison

eSalon did exactly what I asked for – they gave me a smidge brighter version of that elusive faded out shade. I was concerned that the roots would be too brown… but the roots blend in with the rest of the hair and you can’t even tell. The lengths are bright and coppery, exactly the shade I wanted. I’m SUPER impressed with how it turned out. With that being said, I am a little nervous if I just picked the root shade that the lengths would get too brown, so I added the custom ends refresher to my next order as well.

As for customer service, within a week of sending me my color, I received an email follow up checking in. I took that opportunity to give feedback and also upload a couple photos of the finished look for their files.

My typical concern whenever dying my hair a shade of red, is how long it will take to fade. Luckily, Overtone solved that dilemma. When the ends of my hair start washing out to more of a brown/blond shade, I just start using my Overtone Ginger Daily Conditioner. I usually just have to use it once a week or so, and it gives my color the perfect bit of boost.

Overall Thoughts

While this review is focused on comparing eSalon to box dye, it really is much more similar to having your colorist send a box to your home. My colorist always mixed up a special color for my roots and then another one for my ends just like eSalon did. However, by doing the work at home I’m saving so much time and so much money.

While this is absolutely not a sponsored review. I do have a referral code to share with you if you have been thinking about trying eSalon. New clients can use my link to get their first color delivery for $22: I will receive a $22 referral credit in my account towards future color orders.

Have you tried eSalon before? Do you have any questions about the service that I haven’t answered?

Like what you see? Share me with your friends!

6 thoughts on “Review: Comparing eSalon to Boxed hair dye”

  1. Itried esalon. I was hopeful, and was looking for that exact color! But, the color I got, even though it had plenty of copper, was just a mousey brown! It just didn’t take. I followed all of the instructions to the t. I really didn’t understand why I was throwing water and dye onto my hair – sort of strange, but I did it anyway. I went back to my Perfect 10 dye, and am pretty happy with that. I tried getting it done at a salon, and they really didn’t have a bright enough color for me. So, I guess I am stuck with the box stuff. I do save about 90 dollars, though! I like the conditioner that comes with my box dye, it always makes my hair so soft.
    I might try esalon again, but am happy for now.

    1. It is so hard to get the right red. I do like that I can pump up the color between dyes with my Overtone conditioner too if I need to. I’m glad you found something that works for you!

  2. Hi, I love the Feria colour on you. I came here after looking up what people think of eSalon. I like it though not sure about the value over box colour, which is pretty similar to your review.

    I see what you mean about car pics. They do have a better brightness to them.

  3. Hi Joules

    I’m concerned about getting a shade that’s totally natural (no pink tones, etc – ugh!) … The eSalon appears very natural looking in the photos, but what about in person?


    1. Hi Beth – I’ve been using esalon for over 2 years now and I’m very happy with my color — both in person and in photos. If you have concerns about the cherry tones, make sure to leave a note for the colorist who mixes your color. Also, you can check the color composite of your dye, to see how much ‘red’ they use vs. other shades.

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