Madison Reed vs eSalon: Which Hair Color is Better?

Madison Reed vs eSalon

This post was most recently updated on May 6th, 2023

​​If you want to change your style, one of the very first things you would consider is changing the way your hair looks and feels. Whether you want to try out highlights or go for an all-over color, today’s at-home hair color kits have stepped up their game in terms of their formula, color options, and ease of use. This Madison Reed vs eSalon article will show you how to choose between these two popular hair dyes in the market.

Changing your hair color may come with many refreshing and colorful perks. It could be the perfect glow up option before summer or something to give you a better aura at your new workplace. Read this comprehensive comparison of Madison Reed vs eSalon to know which brand would be ideal for you.

Madison Reed vs eSalon Logos

Let’s start with the short story. 

Madison ReedeSalon
Madison Reed Hair Color Kit for Madison Reed vs eSaloneSalon Hair Color Kit for Madison Reed vs eSalon
Current PriceCurrent Price
$30/ pack (on Amazon)$32.50/ pack (on Amazon)
Madison Reed is available in 17 colors on AmazonAvailable in 20 shades on Amazon and ships worldwide
Before and after using Madion Reed for Madison Reed vs eSalon ReviewBefore and after using eSalon for Madison Reed vs eSalon Review
Side EffectsSide Effects
Madison Reed may cause hair loss, breakage, shedding, or scalp irritation if you have extremely damaged hair.May cause skin color changes or other allergic reactions, such as pain or severe itching if you have sensitive skin.
Key IngredientsKey Ingredients
Keratin, argan oil, and ginseng root extract.Quinoa & jojoba esters, keratin, aloe vera, and silk amino acid.
Kit ContentKit Content
Radiant Hair Color
Conditioning Color Activator
Barrier Cream
Cleansing Wipe
Protective Cap
Color Protecting Shampoo and Conditioner
Customized Instructions
Hair Color
Classic Shampoo Packette
Classic Conditioner Packette
Stain Guard & Stain Remover
2 pairs of Non-Latex Gloves
Easy-to-follow Instructions

The Long Story

Hair color has become a rite of passage today. With environmental stressors causing early graying of hair, it’s quite natural to turn towards hair dyeing. Moreover, if you don’t like the way your blonde or black hair looks, you can go for a permanent brown shade for a change of pace. Getting the exact hair color you want can be a great mood booster.

Getting professional help by visiting a salon is a good idea for getting the exact hair color and hair style you want. But appointments can get pricey, and we all have busy schedules. Fortunately, there are at-home hair coloring products that can help you obtain the look you want.

With Madison Reed and eSalon, you can change your hair color with so much ease. Keep reading to learn more.

What is Madison Reed?

Madison Reed is one of the prestigious hair product brands from America with custom hair dye boxes. Not only that, Madison Reed provides a simple, 5-minutes quiz for you to help get color that suits your current hair condition. Apart from that, Madison Reed also offers Free Video Color Consultation with licensed colorists, which is great for you if you want to ask for advice on hair coloring.

Read our detailed review of Madison Reed here.

Their most well-known product is the Madison Reed Radiant Hair Color Kit with Smart 8-free. It’s also 100% free of ammonia, PPD, resorcinol, parabens, phthalates, gluten, SLS, and titanium dioxide. They also claim zero animal testing making them a cruelty-free brand.

Madison Reed Hair Color Kit

Key Ingredients

Not only free of harsh ingredients, but Madison Reed Hair Dyes is also enriched with natural ingredients, such as Keratin, Argan Oil, and Ginseng Root Extract. During the coloring process, these ingredients provide extra nutrition and moisture to reduce the risk of damage to hair dye due to their hydrating benefits.

  • Keratin is a naturally-occurring protein that is what hair is made up of. Keratin-infused hair has additional protein to restore elasticity and to help prevent breakage.
  • Argan oil contains vitamin E which can help repair damaged ends and protect hair from further breakage. It also add extra shine and natural smoothness to hair while hydrating it.
  • Ginseng root extract has the ability to penetrate the hair shaft so it can encourage hair strength from within. It is also beneficial for softening hair and reducing split ends, thus making your hair look healthy.

Madison Reed permanent hair color lasts for about 6-8 weeks. If your hair’s in the best condition with regular maintenance, Madison Reed hair color will stay vibrant until the roots start to grow.

Let’s take a quick look at these before and after pictures to see for yourself how Madison Reed works.

As the pictures above showcase, Madison Reed is a great option to retain color until you are ready to recolor it.

Please do note that if you have extremely damaged hair to use this product with caution as it might cause hair breakage or hair loss. Products like Nixon for thin and damaged hair is to be considered if you want to recover your hair health.

What is eSalon?

eSalon is an award-winning company that specialize in custom color and hair care kits for customers to use at home. The idea is that you can get salon-quality hair color and results at home with the eSalon Personal Colorist Kit.

eSalon Personal Colorist Kit

eSalon creates custom hair colors for clients based on an online questionnaire about their hair type, color history, desired color, and color details. The corresponding formula is mixed on an individual basis for at-home application and is available as a one-time purchase or as a subscription.

eSalon Personal Colorist Kit is 0% ammonia and free from PPD, phthalates, parabens, SLS, and titanium dioxide. The key ingredients include,

  • Keratin: Fortifies to help increase the strength of your hair.
  • Quinoa & Jojoba oil: Helps to lock in the color.
  • Silk Amino Acid: Helps prevent moisture loss and boosts softness.
  • Aloe Vera: Leaves hair supple with a natural shine.

The manufacturer claims that the demi-permanent hair color will fade naturally, lasting up to 24 washes, and the permanent hair color will begin to fade after about 4-6 weeks.

Check the before and after pictures below to see how the eSalon Personal Kit works.

The customized eSalon kit takes the at-home hair dyeing experience to the next level but please be aware that you might need more than one bottle to completely dye your hair if you have thick and long hair as real-life users have pointed out.

Click here to read our review on eSalon.

In the next section, we will take a closer look at the side effects to expect with Madison Reed and eSalon.

Madison Reed vs eSalon Side Effects

Dyeing your hair can be one of the most enjoyable activities to do at home. But hair coloring has to be done cautiously as over-processing can be harmful to your hair and also harm your body.

  • eSalon Personal Colorist Kit can cause an allergic reaction which in rare cases, can be severe. The other side effects are itchy, irritated, and/ or damaged scalp. Checking the complete ingredient list if you are prone to allergies will ensure you are not at risk. But please do consult a doctor if you face any adverse effects.
  • Madison Reed hair color products have been known to cause hair loss, breakage, shedding, scalp irritation, and other damage to some users’ hair.

The company came under fire recently for the use of ethanolamine which may cause more damage to hair than ammonia. However, unlike ammonia which has been extensively studied and tested for its effects on hair, ethanolamine has not been studied as much. More in-depth clinical trials on ethanolamine are needed, to see its benefits and disadvantages on human hair.

But please do stay away from ethanolamine if you are family planning, pregnant, and/or breastfeeding. Read our detailed guide in the next section on how permanent hair color works and how ethanolamine and ammonia affect your hair.

How Does Permanent Hair Color Work?

To understand the science behind permanent hair dye, you need to understand how color affects the hair shaft. The hair shaft is made up of three major components. From the outer to inner layer, they are as below.

Hair Shaft Structure: Color Penetrates the Cuticle
Permanent Hair Color Penetrates the Cuticle
  • The Cuticle is a protective coating for the underlying cortex that is made of thin nucleated keratinocytes. Cuticle health can affect the texture, hydration, and shine of your hair.
  • The Cortex contains a collection of keratin fibers that give hair strength and is a source of melanin/pigment for your hair color. It also gives shape and texture to your hair, such as curly, straight, or wavy.
  • The Medulla is the central to many hair shafts, usually in thicker, coarser hair. The medulla has a large cavity filled with air or possibly water and oil. Until now, the function of the medulla is not clear.

How are they related to hair dye?

Permanent dye penetrates deep into the hair shaft i.e. the hair cuticle, and fully deposits inside the cortex. Semi-permanent dyes coat the hair shaft cuticle, while only partially infiltrating the cortex.

Here’s the difference between permanent dyes and temporary/ semi-permanent dyes:

  • As its name implies, permanent dye is permanent and not removable by shampooing. While temporary dye is easily removed with one shampoo, and semi-permanent in 4-12 shampooing.
  • Temporary and semi-permanent hair dyes are direct colors that may not require chemical reactions to deposit color in your hair. However, permanent dyes are colorless precursors that require a developer to impart color.

Thus, this means for permanency, chemicals need to react with the melanin in your hair. These chemicals include everything from ammonia, hydrogen peroxide and/or ethanolamine to some that are considered carcinogenics, and others that are hormonally active.

Ammonia vs Ethanolamine

Unlike Madison Reed, eSalon has a detailed warning page on its website for the disclosure of the ingredients. Click here for further check.


The function of ammonia in hair dye is to increase the pH in order to open your hair cuticles. Our hair basically has a pH of 3.5-5.5, while ammonia is 11-13. It is why with a high pH, ammonia is able to open the cuticles and deposit the color molecules deep into the cortex and stay there permanently.

Similar to ammonia, ethanolamine swells and opens the cuticle so that the color molecules can settle there. Ethanolamine is often found in demi-permanent hair dyes which usually fade after 24-30 washes. Ammonia and ethanolamine have the ability to remove natural cuticle lipids and 18-methyl eicosanoic acid. This is what leads to cuticle damage when used for a long time.

See the comparison data for ammonia and ethanolamine released by EWG.

Ammonia Ethanolamine
Score2-6 (depends on usage)5-6 (depends on usage)
Allergies & ImmunotoxicityModerateModerate
Developmental and Reproductive ToxicityLowLow
Use RestrictionsModerateHigh

The above data shows that ethanolamine has a higher score than ammonia, so the use of products containing ethanolamine may have detrimental effects for some people. However, extensive studies suggest the adverse effects of ethanolamine are still very limited compared to ammonia. You may need to lower the frequency of using ethanolamine-containing dyes as a measure to prevent the drawbacks that could happen to you. Pregnant women should avoid using hair dyes that contain ethanolamine and may need to consult a doctor before taking any hair dye.

Madison Reed vs eSalon: Final Words

After digging into everything about the Madison vs eSalon review, you must have one big question: Which is better Madison Reed or eSalon? Well, to answer this question, let’s take a look at certain features:

  • Price: Madison Reed currently costs $30 per pack of 1, while eSalon currently costs $32.50 per pack.
  • Ingredients: Madison Reed is contains ingredients like keratin, argan oil, and ginseng root extract. eSalon hair color includes keratin, quinoa & jojoba oil, silk amino acid, and aloe vera.
  • Operation: eSalon encourages you to choose your own goals, whereas Madison Reed gives you the color chart guiding that guiding you to the best option for your hair type and tone.

Overall, both of them come with the same concept but the major difference is in the formulation. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly hair dye, Madison Reed has a lower price. It also has so much content in a kit. Madison Reed is always reassuring to have the confirmation of cruelty-free ingredients or testing, containing none of the parabens or ammonia. But there are major questions about some of the questions about the ingredients used to replace these and other common ingredients.

The price for eSalon kit is also not that high from Madison Reed, which consider to be a budget-friendly product. eSalon colors are made with much more conventional ingredients. One thing that makes it unique and exclusive is the individual formula tailored to each customer. eSalon fills the gap that Madison Reed doesn’t. The brand offers many type of hair dyes: permanent, demi-permanent, advanced permanent color, and more. They also provides 0% ammonia permanent color with no ethanolamine too.

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