Battle of the blonde

Regular trips to the salon cost a fortune, so can a seven euro home kit do the job just as well? Georgina Heffernan put one to the test.

It seems that the credit crunch has gone straight to our heads. Analysts and retailers say sales of home hair dye kits have shot up since the beginning of the recession, as many women choose to shun the salon to save money. As a woman who regularly forks out over €150 euro to have my blonde locks maintained, I’ve often been tempted to try a home dye but I always end up putting it off.

You see, I'm a little scared of DIY hair colour. I have too many painful memories of turning my hair unsightly shades of yellow and orange in an effort to jazz up my mousy brown locks. On one occasion, the subtle, semi-permanent colour left a glowing aura of tangerine around my head and on another, my over-bleached hair fell out in frazzled, candy floss clumps.

But I’m not alone; most women have had a home hair colour session which went horribly wrong, leaving them feeling embarrassed by the mess left by choosing the wrong dye - or not reading the instructions properly. Indeed, the brassy blonde or the tortoise effect has sent many a hat-wearing girl rushing to the nearest salon for some professional help.

But, if the beauty experts are to believed, dodgy highlights and garish streaks are a thing of the past because home hair dyes have entered the 21st century. So if you decide to do it yourself, now you can get salon-perfect results - at a fraction of the price. But is that true?

In the spirit of thriftiness, and journalistic research, I nervously decided to road test one of L’Oreal’s home dye kits. Heaven help me...

Choosing the Shade:
There are three main shades of blonde - honey, caramel and platinum - and each suits different skin tones. Many blondes lighten and darken their shade depending on the time of year. But, in general, if you are more fair skinned, you can go much more blonde, while olive or darker complexions shouldn't go too light (or too mad with the peroxide). I went for 9.13 Bergen Light Beige Blonde by L’Oreal, as it looked closest to the colour I’d usually choose at the salon.

Price: €7 at Tesco and pharmacies nationwide.

Before: I had my hair coloured a month ago but the shade had turned quite yellowish and my roots were beginning to show.

The Application: The instructions were clear and applying the colour was quite easy - although I could have done with an applicator brush – and someone to help me apply the colour at the back of my head. I liked the fact that the gel was easy to apply but there was a very strong ammonia odour that was off-putting. The colour took, after 30 minutes, and the only brown left was due to my lack of expertise rather than the product. The shade was attractive when completed.

The Result: My only complaint is my hair felt dry after the colour treatment - instead of the promised "better condition". I’m happy with the shade, my roots have vanished and all the brassy tones have been removed. A good product to use in between trips to the salon.