About Madison Reed

Are you torn between covering your gray hairs and avoiding chemical-based hair dyes? A new type of permanent at-home hair color by Madison Reed promises only to use ingredients that you feel good about—and leave out any that you don’t.

Called their Smart 6-Free formula, Madison Reed claims that their hair dyes, glosses, and supplemental products such as root touch up, shampoo, and conditioner are all free of ammonia, resorcinol, parabens, phthalates, gluten, and PPD (p-phenylenediamine).

According to Madison Reed, hair that’s colored with their Smart 6-Free formulas feels softer and doesn’t incur the damage associated with other at-home box dyes, but without sacrificing the glamorous and rich tones you’ve come to expect from your hair color.

Additionally, the brand claims that since their formula doesn’t include harsh chemicals, it actually smells pleasant. (At least, as opposed to the harsh, stinging smell of your average store-brand box dye.)

What their formula lacks in chemicals, they claim to make up in nutrients—Madison Reed hair color is blended with keratin, argan oil, and ginseng root to keep your strands healthy. The result, they claim, is long-lasting and luxurious color that offers 100% gray coverage.

Who’s Behind Madison Reed?

The brand was founded by Amy Errett. This seasoned 57-year-old entrepreneur has previously worn hats as CEO of investment advisory firm Spectrem Group and E-Trade’s chief asset gathering officer before spending time a several venture capital firms.

What turned Amy Errett’s attentions to hair dye were two questions: The curiosity of whether or not gentler hair coloring formulas were possible. Additionally, she wondered if the stagnant at-home box hair color industry couldn’t be shaken up with some added tech.

Amy Errett learned the answer to her first question when she discovered that European Union (EU) standards for safety meant that at-home hair dyes available over the pond were formulated without the harsh chemicals found in American versions. She then found a manufacturer in Italy, which is where Madison Reed dyes are made.

Madison Reed now offers a range of products centered around their permanent home hair color—all of which are advertised as formulated with integrity.

How to Select Your Perfect Shade of Madison Reed Permanent Hair Color

When switching brands of hair dye, selecting which shade of color to buy can be confusing. To simplify the process when shopping online, Madison Reed’s website asks a series of questions that are intended to help you find the right formula, including:

  1. Do you have any gray hair? Select between none, some, most, and all.
  2. Are your grays hard to cover? Select between yes, no, or not sure.
  3. Is your hair currently color treated? Select between yes and no.
  4. What is your current treated hair color? Select between black, brown, red, and blond.
  5. How light or dark is your current color treated hair? Select between five levels.
  6. How often do you color your hair? Select between week-long increments.
  7. What is your natural hair color including gray? Select between black, brown, red, and blond.
  8. How light or dark is your natural hair color? Select between five levels.
  9. Do you want to go lighter, darker, or stay the same as your current hair color? Select between lighter, darker, or stay the same.
  10. What tones would you like to see in your color? Select between hints of gold, mahogany, copper, red, or violet/ ash.

Once those questions are answered, Madison Reed’s website offers you a range of colors to choose from—with one particular shade highlighted as your perfect match.

If you’re still not confident and would like to confirm your pick with a professional colorist, Madison Reed also offers free consultations via call, email, or online chat to help you determine which color will help you achieve your desired shade.

In addition to creating Madison Reed’s friendly formula, Amy Errett took her hair dye brand to new high-tech heights with a mobile app, called the Color Advisor, that claims to make finding your perfect color even simpler. The app asks additional questions, such as your hair’s texture, to make an even more personalized recommendation. However, Android users don’t get your hopes up, Madison Reed’s Color Advisor app is only available for iPhones.

How to Use Madison Reed Hair Color?

Like the boxes of at-home hair dye you buy at the store, a box of Madison Reed hair color contains everything needed to color your hair. Along with the standard dye and color activator, each Color Kit includes:

  • Customized instructions: Depending on your answers to the previously listed questions, your hair color might need to stay on for less or more time. The Color Kit includes personalized instructions which promise to be 10-steps or less.
  • Barrier cream: Apply to the skin around your hairline to keep it free of dye.
  • Cleansing wipes: Can be used to touch up your forehead, neck, and ears to erase any accidentally transferred color.
  • Color enhancing shampoo and conditioner: Madison Reed’s shampoo and conditioner claims to in your color and creates long-lasting shine.

Each Color Kit also contains a cap and gloves to help reduce the risk of transferring color onto your clothing, skin, or surroundings.

To use Madison Reed permanent hair color, simply mix, apply, and rinse—just as you would with comparable box dyes found at your local store.

Madison Reed Permanent Hair Color Cost and Refund Policy

Madison Reed offers two ways to buy their hair color. Purchase a single box for $24.95. Standard shipping (3-10 business days) costs an additional $5.00, bringing your total to $29.95 for a single box of dye.

If you’re having a root emergency and require color sooner, you can expedite your shipping for an additional fee; two business days costs $14 and one business day is $18 extra.

If you have long hair and suspect that it might take more than a single tube to color from root to tip, Madison Reed gives you the option to add an extra tube of color to your order for only $10 more.

If you color your hair regularly, Madison Reed offers the chance to save if you select to sign up for automatic shipments. Because so many companies we review use automatic shipments in a shady attempt to weasel you into paying extra charges, it’s worth noting that Madison Reed’s recurring shipment program appears to be an earnest convenience—after all, hair color is something that’s applied with regularity.

Should you select recurring shipments, the cost of a single box of Madison Reed hair color is lowered to $19.95. You can customize the frequency by choosing for shipments between every two, three, four, five… all the way up to every eight weeks. However, shipping fees still apply.

Note that, if you’ve signed up to receive ongoing shipments, you can change the color, frequency, delivery date, address, and payment method for your auto-delivery at any time without incurring fees. You can also cancel at any time by managing your account online or calling the customer service number listed below.

If you’re not happy with your Madison Reed hair color, you can get a refund through the company’s 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. To do so, call their customer service at 1(855)742-5916.

Additional Madison Reed Hair Products

Madison Reed offers several other hair products in addition to their permanent hair color, including:

  • Color Reviving Gloss ($29.95): Adds shine and hints of color to already-treated hair.
  • Root Touch Up ($29.95): A compact including colored powder and a stiff brush to conceal root growth in between dye applications.
  • Shampoo and Conditioner Set ($39.95): Sulfate-free formulas that claim to help your color last longer.

These three Madison Reed products are also available with the purchase of a hair dye as add-ons, giving you a $5 discount at checkout.

Madison Reed Hair Color Smart 6-Free Formula: What Is (and Isn’t) Included

Ask yourself this: If hair color could be made to stick without using some of the harsher chemicals, why would other brands continue to make formulas that include them?

In this respect, if Madison Reed’s hair color is free of one chemical, what did they use in its place? And is it any better than the original?

Here’s a comparison between several ingredients Madison Reed left out, and what they put in instead:

1. Ammonia vs. Ethanolamine

Instead of ammonia, Madison Reed hair dye contains ethanolamine to help color molecules penetrate hair. But is it any better?

CosmeticsInfo.org tells us that ethanolamine is “produced by reacting 1 mole of ethylene oxide … with 1 mole of ammonia.” They indicate that ethylene oxide is a carcinogen—and since it’s created using ammonia, it might not be any less harsh.

In Why Our Fear of Chemicals In Cosmetics Is Unfounded, we share the idea that “the poison is in the dose.” This implies that consumer cosmetics may, indeed, use some harsh chemicals in small doses safely—and that even safe ingredients in large doses can be dangerous.

However, it might be a bit of disingenuous marketing for Madison Reed to say that their hair color is made without ammonia, only to substitute it with something of equal toxicity. Ethanolamine, at the very least, is said to smell much better.

2. PPD vs. PTDS

Instead of PPD (aka p-phenylenediamine), which the Skin Deep Database indicates is associated with allergic reactions, Madison Reed uses PTDS (toluene-2, 5-diamine sulfate).

However, the Database tells us that PTDS constitutes a slightly higher overall hazard, especially related to allergies and immunotoxicity.

3. Resorcinol vs. 2-Methylresorcinol

While the Mayo Clinic indicates that the most common side effect associated with resorcinol is skin irritation, such as redness and peeling, some animal studies have indicated that it may disrupt thyroid hormone production.

With this said, the Endocrine Disruption Exchange database also lists resorcinol as a possible hormone disrupting substance.

In this case, we’re unable to discern whether or not the swap creates that much safer of a formula.

What Are Customers Saying About Madison Reed?

Being a hip, tech-savvy company, Madison Reed has done a great job of creating hype around their products. Search for reviews online, and you’ll find dozens of beauty bloggers who’ve been sent complimentary boxes of hair color to try out.

Beauty bloggers who covered Madison Reed color were unanimously pleased with the product and their results. Frequent comments included positive reviews of easy-to-follow instructions, above-and-beyond customer service, and gray coverage.

These reviews are generally upfront and attempt to be objective. However, it’s nice to hear from paying customers. For that, we headed to the comments section of Madison Reed’s Facebook page.

After scrolling through six weeks of customer comments, we were unable to find a single negative review of Madison Reed hair color.

Two potential customers had posted with concerns regarding skin allergies, and their questions were promptly answered. One current customer had posted about a late shipment, and their concern was addressed immediately by Madison Reed’s social media team as well.

Overall, Madison Reed appears to stop at nothing to provide impeccable customer service, and, in so far as we can tell from customer reviews, that dedication is reflected in their responses and the quality of the product, itself.

Bottom Line: Could Madison Reed Be Right for You?

What to take away from the above information? After researching the ingredients Madison Reed swapped out for those removed from the Smart 6-Free formula, it’s my opinion that their formula is less likely to irritate sensitive skin or emit harsh odors when compared with your standard box dyes that are available at the store.

If you’re pregnant or nursing, I’d still recommend speaking with your doctor about the ingredients in Madison Reed’s formula, instead of simply taking the company at their word.

What if you haven’t shown a previous sensitivity to at-home dyes, but just don’t want to risk touching supposedly toxic chemicals?

According to The National Cancer Institute, the jury is still out on whether or not each of the 5000 chemicals included in both US and EU hair dyes might cause an increase in your risk for cancer, but that risk is incredibly minute.

It’s important for prospective consumers to have realistic expectations: Madison Reed is still providing a permanent hair color product, which requires a volume 20 developer and 6% peroxide to be defined as such.

Given all of the above, whether or not Madison Reed is worth trying depends greatly on your reason for switching hair color brands.

If you’re dead-set against avoiding formulas with potentially damaging ingredients, you might want to consider sticking with glosses alone. These can be purchased at any beauty supply store and are temporary, but don’t open up the hair cuticle.

If you want a gentle formula that offers gray coverage, Madison Reed appears to provide just that. Additionally, ongoing reports of their excellent customer service are so complimentary that there seems to be little to lose by giving this brand a shot.

Read Next: How to Pick the Best Flat Iron for Your Hair Type & Budget

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16 Consumer Reviews for Madison Reed

Average Consumer Rating: 2.4
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 5 4 star: 0 3 star: 0 2 star: 2 1 star:  9
Bottom Line: 31% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 16
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  • 0 out 1 people found this review helpful

    Side effects

    • Delaware,
    • Dec 8, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I used this product on a Sunday evening and it did not cover up any of my grays. Five hours later I had extreme dizziness and nausea. This dizziness has lasted four days and counting. I will never use the product again.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 0 out 1 people found this review helpful

    Terrible hair color for natural black hair (great customer service though)

    • Texas,
    • Dec 3, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I wish I could give this company a better review. They are so kind and professional. However, this product did a HORRIBLE job covering (not covering) my very gray hair. Secondly, it severely damaged my hair. I used the color primer and the 3.5N. The box was beautiful and the pre-measured product was so easy to use. I was so hopeful about having a good experience and they promised complete coverage, moisture, and shine. My hair was dull and dry and brittle afterward, on top of horribly matched color.

    When I called to share my experience the rep was extremely nice. She suggested a darker color and offered to send a free kit to re-do my hair. She stated it would be safe to recolor the roots immediately upon arrival. Well, I accepted the replacement but never used it. Something in my gut said it was not safe to re-color with permanent color so quickly. I am so glad I listened because my hair has not stopped shedding to this day (it has been a month now). It is very slowly recovering back its normal moisture level but seems like I have many months to go. I know I am going to have to eventually cut this damaged hair away.

    I usually use a 3N Demi by Argan One-n-Only. It is inexpensive and does a FABULOUS job and gives me 110% gray coverage with shine and minimal temporary loss of moisture. I regret experimenting with this permanent color. It is NOT good for natural Black Hair (I am 4b/c type). They will tell you it is but don't believe the hype. For natural hair that you want to grow out, always use a demi and always go the same color or slightly darker. For me, this hard lesson will cost me 18 months of hair growth. Sigh...

    Nice try Madison Reed, but please do not advertise your product to Black Naturals - this is not for us!

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 2 out 3 people found this review helpful

    No different from a drugstore

    • Durham, NC,
    • Nov 27, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I've been dying my hair since high school (20+ years) and was hoping for a real solution to my uneven color and gray roots but instead ended up with results exactly like the brands sold at drugstores and low-end beauty supply stores. I have medium dark brown hair with a moderate amount of gray and even after leaving on roots the extra ten minutes, the gray hair is still noticeable and now has a reddish hue. My scalp also has never burned so much compared to other products I've used. Definitely not worth the extra money and it turns out it really IS too good to be true.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 2 out 3 people found this review helpful

    Not worth the trouble

    • Rock Springs, Wyoming ,
    • Nov 24, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I have been dying my hair for about 20 years and have very stubborn grays. After hearing about Madison Reed I decided to give it a try. I’m sadly disappointed! I have naturally black hair and my gray hairs ended up red at my roots, my husband literally laughed at me when we went out into the sun.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 2 out 2 people found this review helpful

    Awesome

    • Syracuse, IN,
    • Oct 20, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I simply do not have the money to get my hair done at a salon. I have been using store bought hair dyes for the last few years with ok results. My grays are very stubborn and wouldn’t color so I’d end up plucking. I just did my second hair kit and love it! Complete gray coverage. My hair is soft. I can justify the extra expense when my hair looks like this.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 2 out 2 people found this review helpful

    Happy customer

    • Florida,
    • Oct 17, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I have very thick hair so a color and highlight job at the salon would cost nearly $200. Ouch! My hair takes color well, so I went with L’Oreal. I used it for years, but after hearing about Madison Reed over and over again on Sirius, I decided to try it because I am pretty much dedicated to home hair color.

    The color they chose for me was perfect, and yes, it’s multi-dimensional. My hair was soft and shiny, and although it didn’t cover my gray as well, it made a nice highlight because I’m blonde. During winter I like to go a shade or two darker, so I am going to try their new highlighting kit too.

    It was easy to order and change color. I love the convenience of the auto shipments.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 3 out 12 people found this review helpful

    Disappointing, overpriced product

    • Texas,
    • Oct 12, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I was looking for a Paraben-free dye and found Madison Reed. While the color is ok (a bit reddish compared to others in the dark brown), the pricing and packaging were not.

    I'm not excited about companies that ship you extra unnecessary items that end up in a landfill - especially when they contain chemicals. I tried 3 times to get someone there to help me (after all they HAVE the color and developer without the other components) - but they will only sell it as an "add-on" to a "kit."

    Customer service had the audacity to tell me that the extra materials were "recyclable" and when I pressed for information about what recycling location would accept them - then they backed up.

    Shame on Madison Reed for not selling the more environmentally packaged product they already have.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 3 out 4 people found this review helpful

    Something finally worked

    • Adena, OH,
    • Sep 6, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I don’t know why, but suddenly I am allergic to all hair ties. My hairdresser bought one without PPD and used it on me and still, it’s just like I had fleas on my whole head, it was red and irritated. I tried to Madison Read, and I had very minimal itching and no redness. The color is beautiful, and my hair is shiny. I did leave it on for an extended period of time for poor gray coverage my head was red and irritated. On a small part of my hair, the coverage wasn’t great on the grays, but I think that was my fault. I would try to do it again myself. I will just buy it but my hairdresser will do it. All in all, it was well worth it.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 12 out 15 people found this review helpful

    Hair loss by the handfuls!

    • California,
    • Aug 14, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I am experiencing hair loss by the handfuls every day, after using Madison Reed a half dozen times. I have NEVER experienced losing hair like this! At all.

    I stopped using it over a month ago and am trying to baby my hair now back to its pre-Madison Reed health.

    I DO NOT recommend!

    You live and learn.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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    Comments (2)
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    • Aug 26, 2018

      Nancy C.

      Hi Shirlee, I experienced exactly the same thing! Before Madison Reed, I had an amazing, thick head hair, and now I have bald spots and can’t leave the house without a hat. Please share your story on our Facebook page to help warn other women, the page is Madison Reed damage.

    • Nov 10, 2018

      Bernice Y.

      I liked the product, but then my hair fell out in bunches. I hope my hair recovers.

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  • 3 out 3 people found this review helpful

    So far so good!

    • Raleigh, NC,
    • Jul 29, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I purchased Madison Reed due to the claim of "less bad stuff." I am a natural hair African American, and I enjoy my curls, so I figured this would be worth a try. Like my title states, "so far so good," my gray is covered, it was easy with no bad smell, oh and the color matched very well. I plan to re-review once a week or two has passed.

    FYI: I did sign up for the every-8-weeks with hopes that this will be a long relationship, as for the other reviews, not everything works for everyone, so the bad reviews are pretty sad. Just say it didn't work for you and move on. Thanks.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 14 out 16 people found this review helpful

    Don't do it

    • Columbia, SC,
    • Jul 26, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I have very stubborn greys and bought into the claims the Madison Reed would cover my greys while leaving me with healthy looking hair. The greys are covered, but I am left with dry, dull, "crispy" hair that feels like straw.

    I've never had a problem with hair loss. Until I used colored it with Madison Reed's product. When I wash it clumps of hair end up in my hands because it breaks so easily. I have resorted to only using a wide tooth comb when combing out my hair to try and prevent further breakage and hair loss, but it just keeps falling out.

    I lack words to say just how much I regret this decision to use their product.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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    Comments (1)
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    • Aug 26, 2018

      Nancy C.

      Hi Maria, I had the same thing happen to me! My thick healthy head of hair just fell out, and now I can't leave the house without a hat. Please share your story on our facebook page “Madison Reed Damage” and share your story to help me warn other women!

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