Madison Reed Review – Can You Get Salon Quality Highlights at Home?
Madison Reed Review
Can You Get Salon Quality Highlights at Home?
Have you ever tried to dye your hair at home? As a teenager, I tried everything from Sun-In to grape Kool-Aid mix to try to liven up my brown hair, and eventually gave up. Nothing but expensive, time-consuming trips to the salon could give me the highlights I craved. But when commercials for Madison Reed started popping up in all my favorite podcasts, I became intrigued and a little hopeful. The company promised luxurious hair color made with quality, cruelty-free products you could use at home!
Part of me was still skeptical. In the past, I’d seen both my mom and my best friend accidentally turn their hair orange with at-home hair color kits from the drugstore. Were highlights something I could really pull off at home? I figured that with my current work-from-home lifestyle, it was worth the risk. If I had to turn the video off on my Zoom calls for a few weeks to hide a disastrous self-highlight job, so be it! I took the Madison Reed hair color quiz and began to dream of toffee-colored highlights as I awaited my box. Here’s my honest review of how it went.
About Madison Reed
- $36.00 for a subscription (delivery every 8 weeks)
- $45.00 for a one-time purchase
- Ships to the U.S. and some U.S. territories
- A 2-step process to highlight your hair at home
- Fool-proof application
- Free of ammonia, parabens, resorcinol, PPD, phthalates, gluten, SLS and titanium dioxide
- No harsh odor
- Free video consultation to help choose your shade
Pros & Cons
- Made with all-natural, cruelty-free ingredients
- Support for choosing your perfect shade
- Detailed instructions are provided
- Costs less than the salon
- Limited selection of colors
- Not intended to cover grey hair
- DIY hair color is always a risk
- Costs more than drugstore brands
“All Madison Reed are certified as cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny and free of ammonia, parabens, resorcinol, PPD, phthalates, gluten, SLS and titanium dioxide”
My Madison Reed Review
The Process 4/5 stars
The Promise: Easy, at-home balayage highlights.
The Reality: Fairly easy at-home balayage highlights
The Madison Reed highlighting kit takes about two hours to perform, including processing time. The box is divided into two sections so it’s clear which products are to be used in each step of the process. First, you’ll prep your hair and apply the hair color using their unique wishbone applicator. Then, after a good rinse, you’ll tone and finish the job with the Light Works Toning Glaze. There’s even a video tutorial on the Madison Reed website to make sure you follow the directions clearly.
The directions strongly encouraged customers to perform a sensitivity test 48 hours before highlighting, and then doing a strand test to make sure you’ll be happy with the results. Did I have the patience to take either of these precautionary steps? Absolutely not! Instead, I changed right into my zip-up hoodie (it’s recommended to wear a button-down or zip-up shirt or smock while highlighting your hair), snapped a “before” selfie and sectioned off my hair according to the directions. If you read my Crafter’s Box reviews, you know that one of my pet peeves is when a subscription box company doesn’t include an essential tool in your box because they assume you’ll already have one. Madison Reed failed me here by not including clips for sectioning off my hair. Luckily, I was able to make it work for my short hair with hair elastics and scrunchies.
This is where the magic happens. Wearing disposable gloves (3 pairs come in the box), you pour the Light Works Lightening Cream into the Lightening Activator bottle, shake for 60 seconds, and then squeeze some out onto the applicator. Since the Lightening Activator and Toning Glaze come in identical bottles, it’s very important to make sure you check the label before adding the lightening cream! Also, the directions mention that there will be a little cream caught in the cap that you’ll need to discard, but that felt like an understatement when it came gushing out the second I removed the cap. I was glad I had my gloves on for this part of the process.
To create highlights, you’ll grab a section of your hair, hold the applicator vertically starting 2 inches from your scalp and press down. Then turn the applicator horizontally and fill in the bottom. Repeat the process across your head until all your hair has been colored. I got a little nervous here that my hair was too dark to highlight since I needed to use a lot of color cream to see the white cream show up in my hair. I set a timer for 40 minutes to let the color process and hoped for the best.
Once the timer goes off, you’ll thoroughly rinse your hair and put your second pair of gloves on to apply the Bond Building Cleansing Treatment. This stays in for three minutes.
The toning glaze mixes easily. You’ll apply it to your entire hair, like shampoo, but this part gets a little messy. I ended up with a lot of toning glaze on my shirt. Comb it through your hair, and then hang tight in the provided shower cap for twenty minutes.
The final step is easy. Simply rinse the toning glaze out of your hair, and then wash it with the shampoo and conditioner. I enjoyed the light cedar-esque scent of these products. Overall, the directions were easy to follow and didn’t stress me out. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon.
The Results 5/5 stars
The Promise: Salon quality highlights
The Reality: A lot better than drugstore brands!
I love my highlights! The toffee shade is just light enough to brighten up my hair without my toddler freaking out because I looked too different. They just make me look like the sun is always hitting a part of my hair, which is exactly what good highlights should do. Once I’d blow-dried my hair and changed out of my hoodie, I felt like I’d come right out of the salon.
The Packaging 5/5 stars
The Promise: Everything you need to highlight your hair at home
The Reality: Everything you need to highlight your hair at home, in a nicely laid out package
The first thing you see when you open your Madison Reed hair color kit is a pep talk about how confident is the new beautiful. Seeing this quote and the stylish packaging helped give me confidence that Madison Reed would live up to the hype. I also liked that the box was divided into two sections so it’s clear which products are to be used in each step of the process.
Shipping, Returns, & Subscriptions
Placing Your Order
You can buy this kit from Madison Reed at anytime as a one-off experiment or a subscription service with new kits arriving every 8 weeks.
If you’re unsatisfied with your product, Madison Reed will put you in touch with a professional colorist to help you find a solution you love.
My first impression is that this kit did a better job highlighting my hair than the drug store brands. The application process was relatively easy to follow and can be done in under two hours in the comfort of home. But I will need to see how the color holds up over the next few weeks to truly assess how well it worked.
Try Madison Reed for Yourself
Have you tried Madison Reed? Let us know in the comments!
Want to get your own Madison Reed highlights and join the community? Subscribe: