I have a complicated relationship with boxed hair dye. It makes me nostalgic for my college days when I'd want to switch up my look on a Top-Ramen-and-Charles-Shaw kind of budget. At the same time, it makes me cringe — I remember the unwelcome and unexpected shades of orangey reds and blue-tinted black that would result from my haphazard dye mixing. What I would've given to have eSalon by my side.
eSalon is an innovative beauty company that specializes in made-to-order hair color personalized to you. Imagine your best friend is a hair stylist and colorist that does your hair for you. They understand exactly what your hair needs are, the exact color dye you want, and what products you should use. That's pretty much what eSalon provides for its subscribers, except in the form of a no-fuss, gorgeous custom kit, delivered to your door whenever you need it.
A lot has changed since my college hair dying days, except for my interest in changing up my locks. While I do have more disposable income to spend at a professional salon, if I can get away with something more affordable, I'm all for it. Even so, I don't have the time to visit one every two weeks for a touch-up or gloss. eSalon totally gets it — the DIY millennial is savvy enough to dye her hair on her own, but she still expects professional salon quality. The only question is, do they get it right?
I had the chance to tour the Los Angeles-based startup, see the color factory in action, and chat with eSalon CEO Francisco Gimenez and color director Estelle Baumhauer. But before my visit, I logged onto the site to create my profile. I answered questions about things like my natural hair color, what chemical treatments I've had done in the past, and my ethnicity and eye color. I was then given a customized list of colors to choose from for my desired look.
While I'd ordinarily receive my kit at home after taking the online test, I had the chance to see mine being made first-hand. The color factory is sort of what you'd expect it to look like — little bottles with individual names and custom QR codes riding down a tiny conveyer belt which are then scanned by a computer and filled with a personalized blend of dye. It's the coolest (and cutest) machine I've ever seen, straight out of a Willy Wonka movie. Although small, this patent-pending contraption is responsible for pumping out over two million "Made For You Hair Color" kits, which ship all the way out to Europe.
I had the pleasure of having my custom color done by Baumhauer herself, the color genius behind eSalon. She suggested I go for a gloss rather than the dark dye I had originally chosen. This is a service that she and her eSalon staff provides their entire customer base online — personalized recommendations if needed. If they don't think a color will turn out the way that you think it will, they will be 100% transparent with you. No one wants to be unpleasantly surprised when they dye their hair at home — they should know exactly what they're getting, and they should feel confident that it's the perfect color for them. That's precisely why I think eSalon is the future of at-home hair dye. Unlike boxed dye, where it's truly a gamble what you're end product will look like, eSalon's custom kits are made especially for you, like it would be at a professional salon.
So, What Were My Results?
I was excited to find the gorgeous gloss brightened my brassy ombre and brought life back to my dehydrated strands. Not only did my color end up exactly how I wanted it to, but the products handpicked for me, like the Deeply Invested nourishing hair mask, were also exactly what my tired tresses needed.
The TL;DR Verdict
If you're not getting anything complicated done (i.e., highlights, bleaching, ombres) and are looking for a quality, but convenient way to get an awesome dye job at home, eSalon could be your new best friend. At $20, the "Made For You Hair Color" kit gets you personalized attention, specific step-by-step instructions, and products made from the best ingredients (think: Vitamin E, wheat protein, keratin, chamomile). If you're only interested in the hair care side of things, the company just launched a new offering — "The Match-Up" — which gets you a curated selection of styling and care products, like tinted shampoos and renewing treatment oil, chosen based on your hair survey ($30).
Baumhauer says she's confident that eSalon's at-home color kits are easier than boxed hair dye, but more precise than a professional hair salon. It's a pretty big statement, but one I think is worth exploring if you and your hair are game. I know that we —my hair and me — are!
Image: eSalon/Facebook; Sara Tan