The 10 Least-Damaging Box Hair Dyes

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by Andrea Hannah and BDG Commerce
Originally Published: 
least damaging box hair dyes

Salon visits can get undeniably pricey, but luckily, it’s never been easier to get great dye results at home — with minimal risk of brittleness, breakage, and dry strands. The least-damaging box hair dyes are low-ammonia or ammonia-free formulas, and some use conditioning ingredients to fortify and hydrate hair. Plus, you’ll have a range of options to choose from, so you can opt for permanent or semi-permanent dyes in a variety of colors and formulations.

When searching for the least damaging hair dye, keep in mind that both bleach and ammonia tend to be rough on strands. However, those ingredients are most effective at lightening and/or depositing color, so your results may be less dramatic with formulas that forego those them altogether. That being said, the tradeoff is likely worth it if you’re looking to preserve the condition of your hair. Speaking of ingredients, also be on the lookout for products that are infused with extras to help your locks recover, like keratin, natural oils, and silk extracts that add strength and moisture.

When it comes to hair dye that doesn’t damage hair, you won’t have to sacrifice choices, so consider what it is you’re after, whether that’s a permanent option that lasts indefinitely, or a semi-permanent dye that washes out in four to six weeks. You can also opt for natural-looking shades, vibrant colors that pop, dyes specifically formulated for grays, or even herbal formulas that capitalize on natural ingredients for ultimate peace of mind. And if you’re looking for the absolute least damaging hair dye, you may want to consider a color-depositing mask that performs as a deep conditioner as well as a coloring agent.

With all that in mind, here are the least-damaging box hair dyes you can buy.


The Overall Best Permanent Color: REVLON Colorsilk

REVLON’s Colorsilk permanent hair dye rings up at a budget-friendly price, yet it’s racked up an impressive 4.6-star overall rating after more than 45,000 reviews. This highly pigmented liquid gel formula is infused with both silk extracts and keratin to strengthen and soften hair. There's also no ammonia in this non-drip formula, so you can feel confident knowing you’re minimizing damage to your strands. The shades are multi-tonal for added dimension, so you get natural-looking results.

According to one reviewer: "I’ve used this product and color for years. My hair always looks silky. No harsh brittleness. The color I like is never available in stores. But Amazon has it! Thank goodness. Price is great too!”

  • Available shades: 44


The Runner-Up: Garnier Olia

Another highly rated pick, this silky hair dye uses the power of natural flower oils to nourish your locks during and after the dye process. There's no ammonia in this product, and the unique oil blends make up 60% of the total formula, making this permanent dye safe for all types of hair. The non-drip cream formula comes in more than two dozen shades, ranging from natural colors to more unique hues like rose quartz and fire ruby.

According to one reviewer: "I was afraid to dye my very damaged hair that I had accidentally over lightened. It wouldn't tone at all and I wanted to just go back to my natural color, I thought I'd give this a shot and lucky for me it worked like a charm and if anything my hair feels nicer than it did before. I'm so so glad I tried this, I got exactly the color I wanted. I'll never use another hair color brand again!"

  • Available shades: 27


The Best Demi-Permanent Color: Clairol Natural Instincts

Clairol’s most gentle formula, this demi-permanent dye is made with 80% naturally derived ingredients, including coconut oil and aloe vera to hydrate and condition strands. Note that the formula is ammonia-free, it does require use of the included developer, which may be have some minimally damaging effects. The no-drip formula lasts for up to 28 washes and comes in natural-looking colors in various color families, including blacks, dark browns, medium browns, light blondes, medium blondes, and reds.

According to a reviewer: “The color is subtle and beautiful. Always leaves my hair soft and healthy. My natural color is similar to this and I use it to give it a boost, but it also makes it look so much shinier and silkier. Cheaper than a salon visit!”

  • Available shades: 28


The Best For Natural-Looking Dimension: L'Oreal Paris Feria

Even though this permanent multi-tonal hair dye does have ammonia in its formula, a good number of Amazon reviewers have insisted that this is an excellent choice for creating subtle highlights, without having to resort to using more damaging bleach. The key is in the blend of a unique multidimensional dye and the "color shimmer" conditioner. This conditioner literally makes your hair sparkle and shine, and the kit comes with enough that you can use it even after dying to soothe damaged hair.

According to one reviewer: "This color is the only color I have been using for the past 7 years. I have dark brown hair and it makes my hair look golden brown in the sun, basically it looks like I have highlights that I paid a fortune for. Many people have asked me where I get my hair done and they are in shock when I tell them I do it myself with hair dye."

  • Available shades: 36


The Best For Touch-Ups: L'Oreal Paris Magic Root Rescue

If you just need to cover your roots, this touch-up kit is the perfect solution. The dye itself is a low-ammonia gel formula that clings to your roots without dripping. This kit also comes with a soft-bristled brush that you can use to pull through your hair without getting any dye on your fingertips. And even though the dye is already gentle to begin with, this kit makes it possible to only color grown-out hair, saving the rest of your tresses from more damage.

According to one reviewer: “Solid product that allows you to match up your roots to the rest of your hair WITHOUT the damage coloring can cause. This product works so well! It matched up to my hair color perfectly, allowing the remaining hair to stay healthy. I will definitely be purchasing Root Rescue again."

  • Available shades: 17


The Best Semi-Permanent Dye For Bright Colors: Arctic Fox

If you’re in the market for a semi-permanent dye that comes in vibrant colors like aquamarine, violet, and sunset orange, Arctic Fox will be your best bet. Boasting a 4.5-star overall rating after 62,000 reviews, the ammonia-free formula is gentle and conditioning, and according to reviewers, lasts approximately four to six weeks before fading — but some shades may last a bit longer. Plus, buyers have reported that application is relatively mess- and drip-free. Keep in mind, though, that without bleaching, lighter colors may look a little less intense on darker hair.

According to one reviewer: "I could NOT be happier! Dye was easy to use, effective in getting that deep purple I wanted, and is washing out (as expected) nicely! [...] ALSO... my hair is soft, has the same waves as before, and does not seem damaged at all."

  • Available shades: 22


The Best Herbal Formula: Herbatint

Herbatint’s permanent hair color gel is a fantastic natural option that’s packed with herbal ingredients that nourish hair, like meadowfoam to hydrate strands, walnut husk to deposit and intensify color, rhubarb to enhance vibrancy, and witch hazel to protect the scalp. Available in natural-looking shades like dark chestnut, honey blonde, and copper, the dye is ammonia-free and gentle. Keep in mind, however, that an herbal formula may fade a bit faster than other picks, and according to reviewers, you may need to reapply about every five weeks.

According to a reviewer: “I am committed to using all natural products on my body and I really love this hair color. I purchased a bowl and hair color applicator for a few dollars which I reuse and I portion this hair color to suit my needs (whole head application or touch up). The color is rich and natural and it leaves my hair feeling soft and silky. I am a brunette with lots of gray and it covers well.”

  • Available shades: 21


The Best For Grays: Clairol Beautiful Collection

The best hair color to cover gray roots, Clairol’s Beautiful Collection dyes are conditioning and ammonia-free, so they’re gentle on hair. The semi-permanent formula provides coverage for hair that’s up to 50% gray and can also be used to refresh permanent color between dye sessions. The developer-free dye uses oxygen in the air to develop the color instead of heat or hydrogen, which helps minimize any potential damage. According to reviewers, it lasts an average of four to six weeks before you need to reapply.

According to a reviewer: “This truly is a great product. It's inexpensive, easy to use, and it covers the gray effectively without damaging my hair. The color is great too. Love!”

  • Available shades: 8


The Best Color-Depositing Conditioner: Moroccanoil

For no damage whatsoever, it’s worth considering this color-depositing mask by Moroccanoil that does double duty as a semi-permanent hair color and deep-conditioning treatment. The brand is a cult-favorite for their hair-nourishing products, and this mask is formulated with amino acids and apricot kernel seed oil to strengthen and hydrate, which just might make this pick the best hair dye for damaged hair. The color only lasts one to three weeks, but reapplying is as easy as performing any standard deep-conditioning treatment and only takes five to seven minutes, so time investment is minimal. Available in natural shades as well as hues like hibiscus pink, lilac, and aquamarine, reviewers have reported the results are surprisingly vibrant, but that this option isn’t ideal if you’re looking to cover grays.

According to a reviewer: “This stuff is freaking amazing. The more you use it the more pigmented the result is; 10/10 recommend. It’s so conditioning and absolutely no damage at all. Lasts for weeks too.”

  • Available shades: 9


The Best For Highlights: REVLON Frost & Glow

Whether you’re looking for subtle highlights or balayage streaks, this highlighting kit makes achieving salon-grade results relatively easy, and the formula’s Bond Restore Complex technology helps prevent breakage and damage in the process. Keep in mind, though, that while the formula is ammonia-free, bleach is a main ingredient, so you won’t be able to avoid damage altogether. For precise highlights, use the cap and hook to thread hair through, or — to create balayage — skip those tools and simply paint streaks on the areas you want to lighten. Available in three blonde shades, the kit comes with a violet conditioner to hydrate hair and prevent brassy tones.

According to a reviewer: “My fave at home kit. My hair was previously dyed with a light brown color and before that blue black box dye but the high lights turned out okay! Not perfect but definitely helps lighten the hair with super minimal damage.”

  • Available shades: 3

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