The Want Not Review: Frederic Fekkai hair color

By Mir
August 4, 2010
Category Product Talk

My pretties, I have a not-so-frugal confession to make. It’s true. Gather ’round.

Here it is: I spend a lot of money on my hair. I mean a lot. I have an incredible stylist and I love her, and she’s worth every penny. But oh how it wrenches my heart to fork over those pennies! The problem, for me, is twofold: First, that I have very curly hair (and experience has taught me that not everyone knows how to cut curly hair), and second, that I am both going gray at an alarming rate and my hair grows really fast. Someday I shall embrace the gray, but today is not that day, thankyouverymuch.

So what do I do? I wear my hair long and get away with 2-3 salon visits per year. And I spend a lot of time with ugly roots because I simply cannot afford to go drop $150+ every 6-8 weeks, as I probably should. My adventures with home haircoloring mishaps would fill a novel… until now.

[In case you care, the Cliff Notes version of my attempts to color at home before this week:
1) Color that doesn’t cover the gray. At all.
2) Color that covers the gray and washes out a week later.
3) Color that claims to be dark brown—my natural hair color—that turns out inky black. (You wouldn’t think there’d be a noticeable difference between dark brown and black… until you accidentally turn your dark brown hair black, that is.)
4) Color that covers the gray and is a reasonable shade, but that turns my hair to straw.]

I had read several raves about the Frederic Fekkai line of home hair dyes before I decided to take the plunge, myself. It’s been a long time since I dyed my own hair, and at $30/box, this was going to be a pricier experiment than my usual $8 drugstore-aisle foray.

Let me pause right here and say that if you’re currently happy with $8/box hair dye, I am genuinely happy for you. If you have something that works and is cheap, yay! But if home hair dye has never really worked for you, it’s not a comparison between an $8 box and a $30 box—it’s a comparison between a $30 box and visiting your stylist. And I’m making that distinction because that still makes this a frugal choice, in my mind.

Anyway. Money, schmoney. How does it work?

I purchased shade “4N Dark Brown Jennifer,” because that seemed like the closest match to my natural hair color. I am trying not to make any snarky comments about how all the shades also have girl names. (Do I look like a Jennifer…?)

The first thing I noticed about the Fekkai kit is that it comes with a bowl and a brush, unlike drugstore brands that just have you mix and apply with a squirt bottle. Using a bowl and a brush is far superior in terms of control and coverage, and I was amazed at how much I preferred it. (You can, of course, just buy bowls and brushes for your drugstore dye, by the way.) I also think the Fekkai dye mixture was thicker than anything I’d tried before, which also made it easier to apply and less messy.

The second thing I noticed was that it stained my skin in a similar way to what my stylist uses. That is to say that if I didn’t wipe off stray bits as I went along, it really did stain my skin. Now, I don’t want brown smudges all over my face, but dye that stains the skin generally gives good coverage when it comes to coloring gray, so I took this as a good sign. (I’ve used drugstore brands that wipe off easily, and then—surprise—it washes right out of your hair, too.)

I had about two inches of gray to touch up, and followed the directions for root touch-up, which is to cover the roots and let sit for 30 minutes, then comb through the rest of the hair for an additional 5 minutes.

So, how about some results?

Pros: Really love the application with a bowl/brush rather than a squirt bottle. Easy to use and doesn’t need to be left on for an hour. Superior gray coverage. Is actually the color it claims to be. My hair looks as good as if I’d had my stylist do my color, honestly. Not quite as smelly afterward, either (one shampoo took care of any lingering scent).

Cons: More expensive than drugstore color. I was not as impressed with the included post-coloring conditioner as I expected to be; it was just so-so. [But if you got this year’s Allure Box, the included Biolage Organic Oil is a great post-color treatment option, and added that last little bit of shine/softness I was looking for.] Putting color on the back of your own head is tricky and your children will laugh at you.

Bottom line: I will buy this again. And again. I’ll probably still fork over the cash to my stylist once or twice a year, but $30 is (to me) a small price to pay to not have ugly gray roots for months on end. This dye is a great option for anyone who believes they can’t achieve good gray coverage along with color control at home.

I would include a picture, but, um, it pretty much just looks like hair. (“Look, Ma, no gray!”) Just imagine me running through a field of daisies, shaking my lustrous mahogany curls in a carefree manner. Thanks.


  1. I’ve been using a brush for a while. Before that, I just applied the stuff with my glove-coated fingertips. I’ve always hated those squirt bottles.

    A tip I picked up on a website for black women — and if anyone knows about dry, super-curly hair, they’d be it! — is that, because dye is drying, and curly hair doesn’t need any hep being dry, thanks, touch up JUST the roots. Don’t do the pull-through the rest of the hair part.

    Doesn’t that leave you with a noticeable line on your head, you ask? Nope. Don’t know why, but nope. Perhaps it helps that I have highlights? (I go with a shade that most closely matches the base colour.)

    The benefit to the “just the roots” technique is that you only need to mix up 2 tablespoons of goop, which means your box can last four or more applications! (Note: Mix one tablespoon of each part, and leave the rest in the bottles.DON’T mix the whole bottle and just use a tablespoon. It doesn’t keep, and could, so I’ve been told, even explode. (That may be an urban myth, but I’m not chancing it.) ) When the dye is finally gone, I go to my stylist for the full $$$ cut-and-dye-and-highlights.

    If you could do that with your expensive dye, well… it’s not expensive any more!

    Oh, and the dying the skin? You can avoid that by putting a thin layer of Vaseline around your hairline.

  2. I, too have been using FF, even the same color as you!, to color the gray on my naturally curly hair. I LOVE it! It’s been well over a year since I started using it (about 3-4x a year) and I recommend it to anyone who asks about home color. I was spending $200+ at the salon on cut, color, product and tip. Had the draw the line. Now, I use FF color, Aveeno shampoo and conditioner (excellent on not stripping or fading the color) and now just spend my bucks on a really good cut for my curly hair. I’ve embraced the curl; cannot embrace the gray. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. I am way too cheap for professional color. I’ve been using FF for about a year now. I don’t have too many grays, but I wanted to hide the few I have and get a little boost. Done! I recommend it to everyone. I would go so far as a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Pretty hair peoples unite!

  4. I am a home box user, never go to the salon…. WAY too much. Can’t believe people spend THAT much on hair color…but that’s another issue!

    Thanks for the tip on the coverage of this. ON my way to Amazon to buy now!! 🙂

    My question is how many washes does it last through until the gray shows through?


  5. Jen: This is a permanent hair color that (theoretically) lasts indefinitely. While I haven’t had it in long enough to swear it won’t fade out, everything I’ve read indicates that it won’t. I full expect I’m good until I have roots again. 😉

  6. OK, but — how do you find a stylist that can cut curly hair??? I’ve been searching for years. Mostly I wear my hair up in that darned clip everyday. What questions should you ask the stylist? I’ve tried word of mouth recommendations from fellow curlies, and it never works out. Meh. At least I won’t have roots AND a hair clip, now.

  7. Amy, I find the key is to have no shame whatsoever. See a woman with a curl like yours and a good cut? Accost her (politely!) and ask who does her hair. I’ve done that in the past, though my current stylist came to me courtesy of my husband asking his students for recommendations, then comparing their salon suggestions with some Internet research, and then he bought me a gift certificate one year for “the” stylist all signs pointed to. I have been seeing her ever since.

  8. So, the first time you use a new dye (different brand) do you do an all over dye or just the roots with a pull through at the end? I have SO much hair I have to use two kits to dye all of my hair and that is a real money drag. But, I too am not ready to embrace the gray!

    And how does one go about picking a color online?

  9. Tiffany, my understanding is that you do roots with a pull-through if you’ve dyed previously, regardless of the brand. That worked fine for me (then again, I was matching the color).

    I picked the color by crossing my fingers. 😉 Worked out okay.

  10. Oh how I love fellow curly hair girls! I have yet to find a stylist who can give me a good cut so I can actually wear my hair down and curly. I always wear a head band and almost always have to straighten sections to they don’t stick out all crazy.
    I also started getting grays very early so I’ve been coloring for ages. A trip to the salon is about $200 and that just kills me! So I will definitely be keeping this home color in mind. I’ve always had horrible results with home color – kills my hair AND leaves me looking like a dork because the color never comes out like it looks on the box.
    Thank you fellow curlys!

  11. Oh, and I have a TON of hair too, always needing two boxes, so the roots only tip would be great for me once I’ve used the color once.

  12. If they have purple, orange or blue, I’m down with it. My hair hasn’t been a “normal” color in a long time. And it changes frequently. I’d love to be able to do it myself instead of paying a lot every six weeks.

  13. I’ve been coloring my own hair for years, but only with professional products. I got my Redken color formula from my stylist and have found a few places on the Internet that don’t require proof that you are licensed to purchase. I’m 80% grey and this works great, also only $16 for two tubes of color that I mix together (4 applications) and $20 for the developer
    (year supply)! I use As a fellow curly I never pull the color through.

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