August 24, 2013

eSalon.com Hair Color Review


It's now May 2014 and since my original review, I've had a chance to fly out to eSalon and see how orders are processed, learn the right way to apply color, and find out the differences between box color and eSalon color. I learned a lot and have a totally different perspective now and would definitely recommend giving eSalon a try.

When you order from eSalon, be sure to upload a current, well-lit photo of your hair and don't hesitate to ask their color experts for advice. The eSalon team are experts. Let them help you find the right shade and apply color correctly. It's a learning process if you're used to box color products.

Last August, I tried eSalon. At the time, I found the color was fine in that it was even and matched what I had seen online for that shade, but it wasn't really what I was going for. eSalon's customer service was helpful, with a colorist calling to explain how their product differs from what I buy in-store and the risks of going darker or lighter with a highly pigmented  product. At the time, I decided not to try eSalon again, though I definitely thought about it every time someone commented on my review post.

In April, Courtney from eSalon called with a once-in-a-lifetime proposition. eSalon would fly me to Los Angeles to tour their facility, meet with the CEO, and have my hair colored by their color director.

I was floored.

I'm not one to say no to a chance to see the inner workings of a start-up company, so I agreed and plans were set for me to visit in early May. In the meantime, I used a clarifying shampoo once a week to try and clear out lingering color from the last time I dyed my hair, which meant when I flew out, my hair looked like it would usually look when it's time to color. I grabbed a picture from my Photostream that is close to what my hair color looked like when I left for my visit.

I straightened my hair before I left so I wouldn't look too frizzy, but I left it unwashed for about two days with no product, like I used to before a salon color appointment.


Courtney sent me a few product samples before the trip, so I could see what eSalon has been working on since my coloring experience last summer. They continue to develop new products, from color-safe shampoo and conditioner to leave-in treatments and a temporary root touch-up called Color Kiss.

Last Monday was a whirlwind. I left for the airport early in the morning. Living in a rural area, that means I was at the gate munching on breakfast a little more than 30 minutes after leaving the house. I hopped a small plane to Chicago, grabbed a snack and a magazine, and boarded a long flight to LAX. American's wifi service is convenient, so I was able to Skype with the guys at work and chat with my husband to pass the time. I even churned out a project proposal while watching (aka listening to) a movie.

From LAX, I hopped a cab to eSalon's office in Culver City. Courtney greeted me at the door, made a few introductions, and led me on a behind-the-scenes tour. Imagine a super hip brewery, but instead of beer, it's hair color. I had no idea how color is made or the range of tones that go into making the right, customized shade for each customer. It's awe inspiring.

I don't want to get into too much detail to protect their proprietary processes, but I will say they have built and evolved a process to ensure each customer gets the product that is right for their hair and that the product ordered is the product delivered. While behind the scenes, I had a chance to meet their R&D guy, a super talented Michigan grad who helps make sure products arrive as they should, without leaks or damage. Back in August, I experienced a really rare product leak. This is actually quite unusual and eSalon continues to experiment with their product packaging to make leaks even more rare than they are now. I'm very confident I won't experience another product leak.

Francisco Gimenez, the CEO of eSalon, along with Courtney, took me to lunch in a cute, trendy part of Culver City. I'm impressed with the revitalization going on there. My last trip to Culver City was about two years ago and I could see a major difference since then.

Chatting with Francisco and Courtney allowed me to share in more detail what my past experience had been with eSalon and what I have found with box color. They took the time to explain how eSalon is different, a salon-quality formula, and the benefits of using eSalon vs what I've been using. This part of my trip was incredibly educational. I'm fairly knowledgable about home color, but a lot less experienced with salon formulated products. I'm now feeling confident that not only can I have amazing color at home, but I want all my friends and family to try it, actually follow the directions (yep, I'm guilty), and enjoy a quality product that comes with outstanding service.

After lunch, Estelle, eSalon's superstar color director, talked to me about my color and custom formulated a beautiful shade of brown that is somewhere between light and medium. It's warm without the brassiness and matches my skin tone better than I've ever achieved with box color. Rather than my usual problem of darker ends and lighter roots, the color is even with a touch of lightness at the ends, how it should be.


Before leaving, I observed how customer service works and the attention to detail that eSalon's customer service team lives by. This is a team that consists of real colorists, so if you have a question about your order, or you aren't sure what color is right, you are calling or emailing experts who can look at your photos and help you find the right shade. 

Truly impressive is that customer satisfaction is a priority. If eSalon isn't right for you, someone will let you know and explain why. Maybe your hair is too damaged or you need color correction, or your goal is something that is outside the realm of traditional (bright blue, for example). It's okay to talk to eSalon about this because they'll let you know if you can't achieve a great result at home. They'd rather have you happy than sell you something that won't work for your situation.

A few days later, I was back home and eager to try my new products. Before I even had a chance to use the shampoo and conditioner on myself, my daughter needed a good washing after a trip to the kids' salon for some "rainbow hair."


We tried the shampoo and conditioner first. A little shampoo went a long way and left Miss P's hair gently cleansed and easy to comb. I added a bit of leave-in conditioner and let it air dry. The leave-in conditioner smells amazing!

Now that I've got a color I love, I have a formula in the eSalon system I can reorder whenever needed. I have a better understanding of how to apply the color and can't wait to try it at home in about two months. In the meantime, my sister is going to try eSalon so she can have a fresh look for college graduation and both my parents are willing to be my guinea pigs.

If you read my previous review, or you are on the fence, I'd now say give eSalon a shot. If you have any questions, just call them or leave a comment in your order asking for help selecting the right shade. But most of all, please, please, please read the directions. eSalon isn't like box color and the directions may be slightly different for each customer. Pay attention to where you want to apply color first (roots), the length of time to process, doing a color rinse, and shampoo when you rinse out the color.

Curious to try eSalon?
Let me refer you and get $10 off your first order! If you subscribe to their recurring order process, that would make your first order just $9.95 plus shipping, not much more than buying box color. So definitely consider trying eSalon!

Here is a link to the original review post from August 2013.


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45 comments:

  1. Sorry you didn't have a better result. The kit I tried was actually customized for a friend of mine who got scared with dying her own hair, but we have very similar tastes and so I figured it would work for me. esalon did comment that it's not meant to be used that way when customized for someone else (obviously), but I'm fairly familiar with diy hair dye and wasn't too worried with a dark brown. I have gotten comments from others that they didn't like it and had issues. I did like my result but found it to be the messiest dye job I've ever ever done. Thanks for the shout-out!

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  2. Have never had a problem with L'Oreal Preference. They're the best over the counter product and there are always sales and coupons, too! Many colors to pick to get close to your own. I use it only to cover gray and it always blends into the last root application. Once you find a color match just stick with it.

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  3. I have been using esalon for about 6 months and absolutely LOVE their product AND the color I ended up with.

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  4. I have been using eSalon for over a year now and have loved using it. However, my extremely curly hair now has no curl at all. I know there could be a few factors of why, but I think using eSalon is one of them.

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    1. When you color your hair, do you comb it through straight before leaving it to sit for a while? Since you still use eSalon, I'd be curious to know what would happen if you scrunch your hair with your fingers while the color is in your hair and let it sit like that until you rinse, would the curl hold?

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  5. I have been using eSalon for over a year now and I love their products. I really like the auto shipping I can adjust the amount of weeks in between deliveries and they always email me when it's time to make my product and when they are going to ship it. It's pricey but still way less than a salon with much better results. If your a box DIY hair coloring person it takes time to get use to the cost but your hair smells great and feels fantastic immediately after coloring.

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  6. I got my first eSalon treatment and followed the directions to a "T". I am NOT impressed! It didn't cover my grey well, and what did cover, turned that red color you see when your hair dye is fading. It made my hair EXTREMELY dry! I had to use a leave in conditioner after the towel came off to get my hair to relax. The color itself is what I expected, but nothing more than what I can get using my usual brand for far less money. I will NOT be using eSalon again.

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    1. I didn't find the eSalon shade to last very long and I didn't get many compliments on the color. It was pretty lifeless and mousey. Maybe if I went darker it would have worked better but eSalon was insistent their pigments are very strong so going darker could be risky.

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    2. I have had the exact opposite experience.

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    3. Nancy, do you still use eSalon? If so, what color family (red, brown, etc)? I'm curious to hear the good experiences since I so often hear the not-so-good. :)

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  7. Have been using for a few months now. Started a lighter colour and then went darker. Each colour ends up with a brassy red tone - and this after i have emailed them and asked them to tone it down.

    The process for washing it out is as others have said so messy and the texture of the actual hair dye is like glue and takes ages to wash out properly! You gotta wonder what is in this thing? Won't use again!

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  8. I did my first application of esalon last night. I love it. It's prob the most natural looking color I've used. I have a lot of hair, a lot of gray. The steps were time consuming, but I really liked the outcome AND the price. :)

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  9. Hi Samantha
    I tried eSalon's demi-permanent hair colour for the first - and last - time 3weeks ago
    Agree with comments about messiness and overpackaging, as well, since I live in the UK and had to pay import tax / shipping, it was not actually good value, also took a long time to arrive.
    But the real problem is that it appears to have wrecked the condition of my hair. It's now dry, dull, lifeless and impossible to style.
    I followed the difficult instructions to the letter and read them through a couple of times beforehand, to make sure I had got it right.
    Been colouring my hair for years with 'Nice and Easy' semi-permanent colour, with great results.
    Sadly, just fell for the ad campaign, which has been allover the web for the past couple of months
    Have since tried 4 different deep conditioning treatments, to no avail.
    It's almost like it burned my hair.
    I think the only solution will be to grow it out, no joke because my hair is in layers, between 10 and 18 inches long.
    Absolutely gutted

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  10. I've been using eSalon's product for a couple of years, beginning with their original offer to try it out the first time by just paying postage. HOWEVER, I NEVER color my own hair -- I hate the mess, I can't see what I'm doing, and I've been having my hair cut (and then colored as I aged) by the same stylist since 1972. My hair is short and nearly always has been; my natural color is a dark brown with rich, auburn highlights. My stylist's Salon-division product is made by L'Oreal, covered the gray, looked great for a couple of weeks, and ALWAYS faded to a washed-out sort of Strawberry Blonde by the end of the 6 weeks when I am always scheduled for a cut & color -- decidedly NOT flattering with my olive skin! Now, I receive my eSalon order in the color they originally formulated for me, it covers my gray, doesn't change the texture of my hair, and I receive compliments all the time. It is only slightly darker than my natural color and the auburn highlights are there as well. While the darkness does mellow out a bit, it does NOT fade into brassiness or into any kind of dull Strawberry Blonde shade. The big drawback? I costs me $130 every 6 weeks for my color, in addition to my usual $85 haircut. It's mighty steep, but I save up and give up other things in order to do it. The eSalon product seems to work great on my slightly curly, thick hair, and I have referred a number of other women to them who have complimented me on my color. I do give them the caveat that their satisfaction will probably dependent on how eSalon's product works on THEIR hair. Luckily, if they don't like it, it will almost assuredly grow back!

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  11. So grateful for the internet! Thank you, ladies...I was going to try this, in an effort to save money. I have a colorist who is usually very good, and I am a natural redhead (red blonde copper mixture) who is now naturally grey w/o coloring my hair (and I don't look good in any grey clothing, except maybe charcoal). I am needing to save money, and I pay my colorist $120 every 8-12 weeks, depending on several factors. That includes a cut when I need one. It doesn't sound like eSalon is the way for me to go at all. Appreciate all of the comments!!!

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  12. Am I the ONLY one who HATES this product? I have used it 3 times now, and every time it is time to rinse, I cannot get this glue-like stuff out of my hair!!! And I have suds for like 45 minutes! I am sooooo over it! The coverage is okay, darker than I wanted, but I do NOT have an hour to rinse this goo out of my hair!!!

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    1. You've tried it three times!? Did you have any changes to the formula each time, or have you received the same version? I empathize with the thickness of the formula when rinsing and wonder if there are ways to make it rinse easier. Sometimes when I have a color product that just won't rinse well, I add a small amount of shampoo, knowing the risk is less color coverage. A bit of shampoo while rinsing seems to help break up the thickness of the color product in the shower.

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    2. I have tried the product three times. The first time was good, a bit dark but I felt it covered my gray well. The next two times were a bit different. Both times I had issues washing the color out of my hair just like the person a few posts above me. I literally had to wash my hair 3 times and my hair still felt gummy. Obviously washing 3 times right after coloring drastically affects how long the color stays on too. My hair felt really coarse and dry both times. The very last time I had them lighten the color but I still had issues washing the color out of my hair. Canceling my monthly subscription.

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  13. I actually think you look gorgeous in the last photo you post... the warm color looks lively and your hair very full :-)

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    1. Thank you! My hair is super thick and course and if not brushed, has a Janis Joplin look to it. I don't particularly like the brassy brown colors too much, but it's always nice to get positive feedback!

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    2. I have to say that I'm perfectly happy doing my own colour. For me, eSalon wasn't worth the hassle. I've been colouring for 27 years and have better success doing my own blending. I just go to Sally's, get a few shades and have fun!! WAY better than the eSalon-puffed-up-box mix.

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  14. I used to have very thick full hair...my only problem was my grey. I decided to give e-salon a try. I used it two times...I hated the feel of my hair when I was rinsing it out. It felt so dry and sticky. It felt like glue and my fingers couldn't even go through my hair!! Well...since I used this haircolor my hair has been falling out and it is very thin. I know that it was that hair color from e-salon. I had never had a problem with any hair dye. And then to boot...it wasn't even the color that I chose..it was much darker. I gave my sister my box that came after....she said (no thanks)...she can see that my hair is ruined. I would like to know if anyone else noticed their hair thinner and falling out.

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    1. Have you done anything different aside from coloring your hair? Maybe change in medicines or supplements, time of year, hair washing frequency?

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    2. Same problem here. Two months later and I'm still shedding like crazy. Horrifying!

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  15. I tried E-Salon a couple of weeks ago and while I love the color, I hate the texture it left my hair. It is way too soft and totally unmanageable! I will not use it again!

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    1. When you say your hair is too soft do you mean it's feeling like it's coated or just soft and smooth to the touch?

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  16. I have used eSalon twice now and I am really happy with the product! I have brown, curly hair and was tired of always having to go to the salon to cover my gray (which would come back in about 3 weeks after I got my hair colored)! So I was willing to give up the highlights to have the convenience of being able to color my own hair any time I need it. And it's great!!

    This is the first time that I have colored my hair myself and I was nervous, but felt I was in good hands with eSalon and their colorists and products. The packaging, attention to detail and customer service are amazing.

    The first time I colored my hair, it was a complete mess! Looked like an episode of I Love Lucy, but I quickly learned what I could do differently the second time around! The color the first time turned out great, just a bit dark. I e-mailed my colorist and asked her to adjust the color so it was lighter and I could get better gray coverage and she did exactly that! My 2nd custom kit showed up with the revised instructions, specifically for me, and I followed them exactly and was very happy with the results.

    The second application was less messy - I wore a long sleeved shirt that I could get dirty, that way the color didn't end up on my forearms like it did the first time. I also used a shower nozzle that is removable and I could rinse my hair over the bathtub very easily.

    I would highly recommend eSalon even for people that are new to coloring their hair at home - eSalon makes it easy to get good results!!

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  17. I have been using esalon for a few months. I am dark red. It leaves my hair thicker, more, conditioned and more natural than the $160. dye jobs I would get at the saloon. My hair is to my waist and they send double product for no extra cost. I am quite baffled by those who find that it hurt their hair. I will never use anything else.

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  18. I have only used E-salon once, which was 2 weeks ago. I have colored at home for many years. Lately I have had to put a cap on and leave the color in for the full time to get most of the grey covered. I recently went to the salon to have it colored, hoping for better results. I told the stylist that my hair is difficult to color. Unfortunately, the color did not take and I had to come back 4 days later to have it recolored. The coverage was still only fair. I was not sure what to expect from E-salon. I was shocked at the way it covered my grey! I could see it within minutes that it was covering the grey. Every grey was covered when I was done! The color was just what I expected. I have curly hair, and I did not notice a difference in the curl, but I will try scrunching while I color next time. So far I am very pleased!

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  19. I just want to caution all those ordering to beware of the auto-reorder function. I still have not tried my first order so I was shocked to learn a second was on its way. I never selected this option, but it must have been a default as they shipped a second order out to me and billed me $24.99. They will accept it back but I must pay all shipping costs. Really not nice as I never wanted the second shipment. Be careful!!!!

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    1. The subscription service is linked to a discounted price. Customers who choose to pay $19.95, plus shipping, will be set up on the auto-reorder service. The one-time order rate is higher but is an option you get when you place the order. It's important for everyone to know that going in, if you want to do this once, don't sign up for the subscription service, instead choose the one-time order option. Either way, after the order has shipped, you can go in and change it at any time.

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  20. Help!!! How do I 'turn off ' auto order? I cannot afford this price every few weeks!!! Didn't realise I was signing up for repeat orders!!!! Only placed first order today.

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    1. Don't panic, it's okay! Wait until the order has shipped, then sign in to eSalon and look at your account information. You'll see an option to turn off the automatic shipment. If you can't find it, just give them a call and one of their stylist reps can turn it off for you. You'll be fine, but you have to wait until the order ships. It's just how the system works.

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  21. LOL I seriously have to laugh here... All this product is, is a GLORIFIED box color!!! You are NOT saving that much! If you only got a retouch (which is what you get with this product) at a salon you would pay (roughly $35-40) instead your getting a retouch, highlight, haircut, style, lip and eyebrow wax (roughly $100-$125) and claiming its just WAY to expensive. Now if you are one of the very MANY ladies coloring your hair at home from store bought box color then this would be a way to go, but for this company to say that they are better then hair stylists because they can save you a little money well that's crazy. lol

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    1. I couldn't get my roots done for $40 at my salon. Even at the big chain salon, it would be $50 plus tip, but I have a lot of hair (not talking length, but volume). It takes a long time to cover my roots. The salon where I have my hair cut might come close to a year of eSalon for one or two visits. I'm just talking color, not cut and style. A lot depends on where you like to have your hair done, but you are right in that most people will benefit compared to store-bought color. I wouldn't go to the salon to maintain my brown hair, I'd do it at home. Some people choose to go to a salon for that. It's a personal choice.

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  22. So glad that I read these posts. I have been using Revlon for years and was going to give this a shot, but the explanation of the gluey texture and trouble with washing it out, and the dryness has changed my mind. Plus I get deals, two boxes for 7 dollars. I will stay with what works.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  23. I'm also glad I got a chance to read the reviews before ordering. I too don't want to chance the thickness, gluey texture, dryness results since I already have some challenges with my hair already.

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  24. I tried esalon 5 times last year - with a number of email and even phone consultations. My only desire was to cover my grays and since I also have curly hair, I wanted demi-permanent color. (Ladies with curls esalons demi did not hurt my curls and a number of other products have just wrecked them,including organic salon color) My consultations with esalon were two-fold 1) the color was far darker than my natural brown and 2) I had the beautiful orange halo layer (you know, the one that looks just fantastic in the sun?) and I really wanted home color to work for me. After a number of tweaks to the product (at least, I think it was tweaked), the color NEVER changed, not one … single time. I ended up with dark brown to black hair with an orange tone. The good things were - the demi permanent color did a better job at actually covering grays than store bought color does, it didn't dry out my hair and make it frizzier than usual and I didn't notice the "shoe polish" affect ever. For me, esalon just wasn't a fit.

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    1. I'm actually glad to hear you were able to cover gray with a demo-permanent color. You mentioned your hair is a natural brown color. Does it naturally have a gold or red undertone (if you lighten it, does it turn orangish or yellow)? I wish you could post pictures in comments. I'd love to see the before and after to see what happened.

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  25. I happened upon your blog after researching reviews on eSalon. Thanks so much for writing it! I'm still a little on the fence about it since I don't normally color my own, but the price is so good!

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  26. I would absolutely recommend eSalon. I used it for the first time this weekend. I have VERY fine/thin hair with about 25% of it naturally white. I'm not sure why people are saying it was gluey. When I rinsed it out and used the color safe shampoo that was sent in the kit it felt a bit dry but as soon as I applied the Color Safe Conditioner they sent I could immediately run my fingers through my hair. This morning, washing my hair was just as normal. Not dry and looks fabulous. My co-worker hoped online today and ordered some. If your not comfortable coloring your hair at home then stick to a salon. I personally have paid $200+ to get my hair colored as well as used "box color:" This is 10xs better than any boxed color. Since I just do all over color and nothing crazy, this is perfect for me and completely recommend it!

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  27. I've bin dyeing my hair just with help of professionals and was very happy to try esalon, not because I would like to do that, but just to save loads of money. And...I didn't liked it , after week...First- my grey's start showing, second- color faded after few washes, third - dryness. My natural color was blonde, now more different shades of grey, permanent color is reddish, red, mahogany ( depends on my mood), past 5 years used Redken products. Would I recommend esalon? Maybe. Will I use it again? Not sure.

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  28. I was going to try this. I actually saw the advertisment right after I had just colored my hair. I been coloring my hair for several years myself. And, frankly, I wouldn't pay anyone, what I can do just as well. I have asked and found the best way to color roots is to put the color on the grown out roots and gray first, leaving the length of the hair without color for the majority of the time required by your hair color. Then, pull the color from the roots threw your hair for the last 5 minutes. My color is a dark blond with some red. Or a golden blond. It always looks great even when its in need of color. I only color every 8 to 10 weeks; giving my hair a break in between colorings. I have curly mid shoulder length hair in layers. Its thick but each individual hair strand is fine. I use Nice "N Easy and will continue to do so. If its not broke don't fix it. My hair always feels great and smells great after coloring. They give you a tube of conditioner with each box of color that lasts a while. So I guess I won't be trying ESalon, especially after what I read. thanks to everyone!

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  29. The product worked for me.

    What sucks is their recurring shipping! I received an email stating I could make a color change. There was no line stating they would automatically send product on a specific date and charge my card $xx.xx unless I respond by a specific date. I got charged a recurring 90 day fee and received an email stating product would ship shortly. I emailed Esalon, and the company stated they sent me an email which I had seven days to respond. If I would have seen a specific due date and dollar amount then I think I would have responded. Instead, their email doesn't tell you to login and adjust from recurring payments if you do not want additional product. It asks if you would like to login and change your color. There is no reminder that the consumer is on recurring payments every 90 days and no reminder that they will charge your card. It seems to me that they advertised low prices to get consumers to purchase their product and know that most people will not notice $26.xx. I only noticed because I get bank alerts for internet purchases. Once most people receive product by mail, they are less likely to return it, and Esalon knows it. My gripe is that they don't send reminders. I do EFT with numerous accounts, but every one of them will send me a bill in advance of debiting my account That way the consumer is given advance notice to make changes, inquire about the amount due, or cancel. Esalon doesn't do this.

    I'm not gripping because I'm cheap. I honestly didn't need another color treatment. After 90 days, my color still looks like it was recently colored. At this time, it like my hair can go longer than three months.

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    1. I'm signed up for subscription service and have been for a long time. The emails I get have a link that says my next order is about to take place with a link to view my upcoming order, so I can just sign in and make a change or cancel subscription whenever I want. It's pretty easy if you sign in. They don't make you call or email to change a subscription or order date like other subscription-based online retail services.

      There is an email reminder you have an upcoming order before each one is processed. The best thing to do if you don't want to receive hair color every few months (everyone has different frequency, with the default being 8 weeks, I believe), is to sign in when you get that email and unsubscribe in your settings. That will stop you from having to worry about being charged for hair color.

      You can always re-subscribe later if you want more color, but just sign in and cancel your subscription and problem solved! :)

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