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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5 Consumer Reviews for Madison Reed

Average Consumer Rating: 1.8
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 1 4 star: 0 3 star: 0 2 star: 0 1 star:  4
Bottom Line: 20% would recommend it to a friend
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  • 9 out 9 people found this review helpful

    Not worth it.

    It was hard to ignore Madison Reed because of their excessive promotion, and I was game. I color my hair at the salon and wanted to see if I could get "salon results" at home. I was VERY DISAPPOINTED.

    The color that they selected for me, based on a very simple online survey, was a complete mismatch. Beware of the company's boasts that the color is multi-tonal; that is just not true. What I was left with resembled a miscolored, dead-looking animal on the top of my head. My husband, who is very allowing at these sorts of things, finally admitted I looked like I had a cheap hair dye.

    Ultimately, I would have just chalked this up to a bad decision and moved on, but Madison Reed's INCESSANT emails reminded me daily that I had a bad experience. I finally sent an email to the company asking them to remove me from their email list. I got an email back saying they were sorry I had a bad experience and they would refund me. It's been a month, and that hasn't happened yet. Oh, and by the way, just a couple of days ago, I received a direct mail card in my mailbox.

    Madison Reed, stop focusing on how great you are and deliver on what you say you're going to do.

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

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  • 21 out 22 people found this review helpful

    Not worth it

    • Chicago, IL,
    • Mar 14, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    Madison Reed hair color is not worth the price. Either purchase L'Oréal over the counter or pay the price at a professional salon. Madison Reed does not have strong coverage. In other words, it does not lift your hair color to the color promised.

    But more importantly, it leaves your hair dull and lifeless. No shine or depth at all. This is the second time I've tried Madison Reed, in hopes the second time I'd get their promised results, and I was terribly disappointed both times.

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

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  • 14 out 14 people found this review helpful

    Never again

    • San Jacinto, CA,
    • Feb 5, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I have natural medium blond hair with some greying. The color chosen for me was dark, so I opted for the next color up, which was lighter. Thank goodness I did a test strip. I did a pretty good size test strip, and to my horror, it turned dark brown. Thank goodness I can cover it over. "9ngv" was the blond color I selected.

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

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  • 12 out 13 people found this review helpful

    Dangerous product, stay away!

    Their hair consultant was very sweet and helpful in recommending products. Within hours of applying it, the swelling, burning, and itching began. Then my eyes began to swell shut. I was in severe pain and could not sleep. I had to constantly apply ice. The doctor gave me prescriptions that did little to help. The product is loaded with known toxins. Their "all natural" marketing scam is a lie.

    By the way, my hair consultant never called back after hearing of my reaction. Some customer service.

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

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  • 4 out 7 people found this review helpful

    Great customer service and product

    • Ohio,
    • Mar 22, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    Not only is the customer service outstanding but the product is amazing! I am very happy with my result.

    The color is natural and matches perfectly with what I had before. It is always worth talking to the experts; they helped me find the correct shade. No itching and burning scalp, and I really appreciate that!

    Long story short, my 6-month old puppy destroyed the box it came in and punctured the tubes. When I called to ask if I can still use them, I got this as an answer: "We want to make sure that your color turns out the way you want it. This is our main goal. To be sure, we will send you a new tube." I was amazed about this service. I sent pictures of my 90-pound puppy and even got an e-mail back!

    I will be a future customer.

    Thank you so much!

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

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