Since hair salons have shut their doors due to the coronavirus crisis, we played at-home stylist with L'Oréal's personalized Color&Co. system

By Lindsay KimbleAndrea Wurzburger and Lauren Lieberman
April 16, 2020 04:42 PM
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While social distancing and stay at home mandates remain the new norm across America during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, people are taking beauty treatments they’d normally get done by a pro at the salon into their own hands. After seeing more than a dozen stars like Teri Hatcher, Kyle Richards and Elle Fanning dye their own hair, three PEOPLE editors decided to give at-home color a shot themselves, using L’Oréal’s personalized hair color system Color&Co. Read on for their experiences.

Who Tried It: Lindsay Kimble, Senior News Editor

How It Worked: The Color&Co. experience kicks off with a video consultation with a hairstylist — which, while always convenient, was especially appropriate to the time we’re in. Paul, my lovely consultant, listened to what I was hoping for — an overall brown shade similar to my own, but a shade darker in hopes of covering up my increasing amount of gray hairs.

On the screen, he walked me through different shades and tones, and we ultimately decided on a cool-toned dark brown that is semi-permanent, which means my color will begin to naturally fade out in six to eight weeks.

I put in my order with the color Paul ultimately custom created for me (you have the option to get a subscription and have the color regularly mailed to you, but I opted for a one-time situation). A few days later, the box arrived with a special card detailing how the color was crafted just for me.

Credit: Lindsay Kimble
Credit: Lindsay Kimble

I’m not unfamiliar with at-home dyeing — I’ve done it many times, to varying results. So I knew what those box-dye kits usually come with, and this was no different, though the colorblocked packaging definitely lent a more sophisticated vibe than those from the drug store. In addition to the color, you receive a dye brush, gel to put on your face and ears to help prevent the color from staining your skin, two pairs of rubber gloves, stain eraser and a packet of conditioner.

The application process is clearly spelled out in step-by-step instructions, which also have cute and informative illustrations. I donned my gloves and a sweatshirt I didn’t mind staining, and began to paint the mixed dye onto my dry, unwashed hair using the included brush. All-in-all, the application took about 15 minutes.

Then, as instructed, I waited 20 minutes before hopping into the shower and rinsing out the dye, finishing with the conditioner after the water ran clear.

The Verdict: My hair color came out great! It’s a subtle change — maybe a little more subtle than I would have liked. Still, the color looks rich, uniform and professional, and effectively hid those little grays.

In general, I felt like the process was very simple, and though I am familiar with at-home coloring, I think it would be pretty easy for first-timers to follow the directions.

My hair color before dyeing
| Credit: Lindsay Kimble
My hair color after dyeing
| Credit: Lindsay Kimble

While the personalized consultation elevated the process, I’m not sure the actual product quality was that much different than other box dyes to warrant the more expensive $20 price tag. And in general, at-home dyeing doesn’t always lead to the high quality results you can expect from the pros at a salon.

Still, I’m overall really happy with the results and would give Color & Co. two thumbs up.

Who Tried It: Rachel Wurzburger, sister of Andrea Wurzburger, Features Writer

How It Worked: I’ve wanted to color my hair for a few weeks now, probably because I’m going stir-crazy, so when my sister suggested we try it for an article, I was like, “Why not?!”

The initial consultation process is really simple and quick. I was sent a link to click at the time of my appointment and spent maybe 15 minutes (maybe less, what is time anymore anyway?) talking with Paul, who listened as I explained what I kind-of, sort-of wanted and then magically knew what would look good. (I know it’s extensive training and not magic, but I was seriously impressed.)

We Tried It At-Home Hair Color

I mentioned I was looking to go brunette for the first time, and he advised that we should probably consider going dark blonde (he refused to call it brown) to ease myself into it. Automatically, I appreciated having a professional sounding board to tell me, in a kind and compassionate way, that it was probably the isolation talking and that I should exercise some restraint.

I am currently social distancing with my sister, Andrea, and we made a night out of dyeing my hair. The packaging was super cute and I’m a sucker for anything personalized. It was also very easy to mix and the instructions were straightforward. Like Lindsay, I’d say it is pretty much the same as a boxed dye I’d get from the drugstore, but felt more high-end by nature of having my named printed on it.

We Tried It At-Home Hair Color

It was easy to apply, though I did get help from my sister, because I was worried about making sure I got all of my hair covered. Having the applicator brush was helpful in ensuring my roots were saturated as well.

Paul had instructed me to test out a strand of hair beforehand to see if I liked the color after 20 minutes, and told me that if it was too light, I could leave it on for 30. I opted to sit with it on for 30 minutes, then rinsed it out until the water ran clear and following up with conditioner.

The Verdict: Success!

We Tried It At-Home Hair Color
My hair color before dyeing.
We Tried It At-Home Hair Color

Considering one of my only other salon coloring experiences happened when I was 16 and got a not-so-great set of highlights, I’d say that any time you’re coloring your hair is a risk, but this felt very safe. Was this boxed dye necessarily different from others I’ve used? No. But being able to talk through the color with a professional was a huge plus. Because I had Paul, I ended up with a color that was more subtly dark, and didn’t scream “I DID THIS WHILE SOCIAL DISTANCING BECAUSE I’M GOING NUTS,” ya know? Instead, I got a pretty, all-over color that felt easy to achieve. I’d definitely recommend this to others.

Who Tried It: Lauren Lieberman, Senior Photo Editor

How It Worked: My hair is tricky when it comes to coloring, it never comes out how I want it to. My beloved colorist, who I’ve seen every four to five weeks for the last 10 years to cover my pesky grays, likes to say we are on a “color journey” together. Even she is puzzled at how we constantly have to tweak my formula and it is always a surprise how it will come out.

I have coarse hair but not that much of it, so it tends to pull very dark especially around my hairline, but my grays are super-resistant. So I have been struggling a bit with the decision to dye my own grays for the last few weeks, because back in the day I used to do it myself and it was always a disaster. I never knew what color/tone to get, and like I said it never came out as expected. I liked the idea of Color&Co. having a consultation about what color would be good for me, instead of just guessing from whatever is on a box. So after four weeks of avoiding a mirror, I finally bit the bullet and went online to order some hair color.

The packaging was super cute, which including my name inside the box. And I loved how it came with all the tools I needed — TWO sets of gloves, stain blocker to put on first and stain remover to touch up after (I was especially pleased with these since I ALWAYS have color deposit on my forehead after getting color done!). It also came with a deep conditioner and a little brush used to paint the color on my roots, plus the hair color dye and developer bottles.

The instructions were very easy to follow, I mixed the color with no problem and shook up the bottle to make sure it was all mixed. Putting the formula on my hair was a bit challenging since it was a bit thinner and more watery than any other at-home color I have used (I may have splashed a bit on my bathmat but it actually came out easily since I got to the stain right away). I left on the color for 10 minutes longer than it indicated, just because I know my grays are super resistant and I didn’t want to have to do this again. Then I pulled it through to my ends for only five minutes instead of the 10 minutes instructed because my ends tend to pick up color faster (especially now since I am in dire need of a trim as well!).

After my timer went off I hopped in the shower, rinsed it all out and used the deep conditioner. It had a creamy and thick consistency that made my hair feel super silky, which I loved!

The Verdict: The results? Definitely not the same as my colorist’s work, but it could have been worse. Not my worse at-home dye job by far (once in college I wound up with a black/purplish hue to my brothers delight!). Most of my grays were thankfully covered, but I did end up with a slight reddish tint, which I am not crazy about. Like I said, that tends to happen sometimes with my hair being so frustratingly uncooperative. All-in-all, I am happy with it. Beats having those grays for sure!