About Madison Reed

By Autumn Yates
HighYa Staff
Published on: Dec 9, 2016

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.

» See Also: How to Go Gray Naturally or with Dyes: Comprehensive Expert Guide to Silver Hair

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Read 24 Madison Reed Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Consumer Rating: 2.1
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 5 4 star: 0 3 star: 0 2 star: 6 1 star:  13
Bottom Line: 21% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 24
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  • I also lost some hair

    • Bensalem, PA,
    • Aug 23, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    Garnier discontinued the hair color I have been using for over a decade and I have been on the hunt for a replacement. I thought I'd try Madison Reed because they said they were healthier for hair. I will say, that I enjoyed the packaging and the fact that my hair didn't smell too chemically the next day. But I found the color to be much farther from the example on the website. And afterward, I noticed an increase in how much hair was on my hands in the shower and my sink after styling. About a week later I noticed I could see much more of my scalp than I used to and started investigated what could have caused it. It seems, instead of ammonia, Madison Reed uses ethanolamine to help the dye attach to the hair. One of the side effects from this chemical is hair loss! I'm hoping it'll grow back, but I just used Madison Reed last month, so it'll be a few months before I know for sure.

    It looks like I will continue to search for a replacement color elsewhere.

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

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  • Modena brown

    • Florida,
    • Aug 16, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I've been dying my hair for years and this is the worst box dye ever. I did the color consult and sent a photo. I discussed with them that I was worried this wouldn't be dark enough to cover my roots to match my already dark hair. I left it on 55 minutes to be safe. Well, not only was I right but it mostly never covered any grey. Total waste of money. When I contacted them neither phone or chat was available but they did respond by email asking for a photo and a few questions which I responded but they have done nothing since. So I'm stuck with light reddish mixed with my grey roots and my normal dark brown hair. Much worse than pre dye. Don't waste your money.

    I bought at Ulta but still have my receipt to prove purchase.

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

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  • Great color, bad packaging

    I had used Madison Reed color for many years and really loved it. I ordered 2 applications for each shipment. Recently, however, instead of sending 2 separate applications, they began sending 2 tubes of color and only one of the developer, which I was supposed to split for each application. One of the reasons I loved their color was the ease of preparing and applying with consistent color every time. I could never get the measurement of developer correct and my color with either be too dark or too light. After trying to use the new kits several times, I called and asked for the two bottles again and was told that they no longer did that. So I have unsubscribed and will go to a competitor. Too bad.

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

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  • 2 out 2 people found this review helpful

    Madison Reed ruined my hair

    • Florida,
    • Aug 13, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    My hair fell out in clumps after using their Sardinia red hair color. My thick beautiful hair is now thin and brittle. I lost about 30% of my hair. I can't believe they tout their products as all-natural and this happens. Not only did my hair fall out in spots but my scalp is still tingling and sore. I'm going to have to see a dermatologist about it. I pray it's nothing more serious. Please be warned about this company. They know this is happening and aren't doing anything about it.

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

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  • 3 out 3 people found this review helpful

    Don't believe their promises

    • Louisiana,
    • Jun 12, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I've been dying my hair for about five years and only have a few grays. Drugstore dye works well for me but leaves my hair pretty dry so I got suckered by all the ads online.

    I never imagined it could go so horribly wrong. My hair is light brown and I dye it a dark golden/strawberry blonde. I took their quiz and based in the picture thought it would be a tad darker than usual but worth it if it was kinder to my hair.

    Well, I ended up looking like a teenage goth with a bad dye job. It turned out burgundy. It was MUCH darker than advertised and not a shade found in nature. I was so upset I contacted the company, which is unusual for me.

    I will say the customer service is amazing. They sent me a primer and new color within days. I gave it a try and it's now one shade lighter but still an odd color and nowhere on the blonde spectrum. I'd say my hair is two shades darker than my natural light brown with an extremely strange henna-like hue.

    They refunded my payment, which was good of them, but I'm still left with ridiculous hair. I'm going to wait a month and go to a salon to have it fixed.

    Basically, though they repaid my money, I'll still be out a salon visit.

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

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  • 4 out 4 people found this review helpful


    • Irvine, CA,
    • Jun 4, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I use Madison Reed in between my colorings at the salon to cover grey roots. What I love about Madison Reed is that it is ammonia-free and comes with everything you need. You can buy the shampoo and conditioner separately which are sulfate-free and good products. The packaging is awesome. I have been using ammonia-free color for at least ten years and although the price point is good, I have to go back to using drugstore ammonia-free color. I have left the Madison Reed color on for as long and longer than the instructions say and at first, the color is great. A week later, the color has faded from the root grow-out area. Ten days later, it is fully showing. The color just doesn't stick. I contacted their customer support about this and they said I wasn't leaving it on long enough. But no matter how much longer I leave it on (an hour and 15 minutes!), it doesn't cover grey. I am super disappointed because I love everything else about it. But I am canceling my subscription.

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

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  • 18 out 18 people found this review helpful

    Better products available for less money

    • Denver, CO,
    • Mar 14, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    Madison Reed is too weak to effectively cover grays and way overpriced. Sally has Color Brilliance by Ion for $5.99 per application. It's PPD free and just like this product for a fraction of the price. You simply mix a tube of the color Brilliance it 1:1 with a 20-volume developer and apply for 30-45 minutes. Beautiful and inexpensive!

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

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  • 20 out 20 people found this review helpful

    Disappointed, and no different than store-bought

    • New York,
    • Jan 6, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    The hair color arrives in fancy packaging with two pairs of gloves, barrier cream, shampoo, and conditioner. I have medium golden brown hair and lots of grey roots. The grey coverage was not better than store-bought brands. I developed a scalp rash and around my face. My scalp is red and itchy all the time. I tried canceling my subscription, but the buttons are greyed out (disabled) on the website. The company marketing is very clever.

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

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  • 16 out 17 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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  • 14 out 15 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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  • 15 out 17 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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