Don’t Trust Your Natural Instincts: Clairol Hair Color Gone Wrong

A month or so ago, I got really antsy with my blonde hair and decided I had to dye it back to medium/dark brown, and fast.*  Forget the fact that I spent six months in the salon getting it to the perfect light shade to complement my skin tone — I was over it, and once I get an idea in my head, there’s no turning back.

This look lasted a hot second before I got sick of it.

Within 10 minutes, I had transformed my hair back to beautiful brunette using a box of Clairol Natural Instincts in Light Cool Brown. I’ve used Natural Instincts for years (I honestly seem to remember snatching up a box the moment I heard about this “new” semi-permanent dye back when I was in high school), so I felt uber-confident that it would come out looking exactly how I was hoping, and I wasn’t disappointed.

My hair after using Natural Instincts in Cool Light Brown (and my grandma’s hand on my shoulder).

I was thrilled. But what made me even more ecstatic was the fact that this box of 28-shampoo hair color contained a special 2 week color refresh.

A 2-Week Color Refresh promises to extend the life of your hair color.

Sweet! I always wished Clairol would provide some sort of color refresher, because usually by shampoo #15, I had to restrain myself from running out and buying a new box, lest I be left with dry, brittle, over-dyed hair (been there, done that). So a couple of weeks later, I pulled out my packet of Week 2 Color Fresh, donned my plastic gloves, and lathered up.

When I got out of the shower, I noticed an unmistakable auburn hue atop the face staring back at me in the mirror.

WHAT???? How could that have happened? After all, I bought a COOL brown shade. How could I have gotten a more-than-WARM color for the refresh? It absolutely had to be a mistake, right? Maybe there was a slip up in the manufacturing line and the colors got mixed up.  Maybe some malevolent teenager decided to switch the shades between boxes when they were bored. Maybe my eyes were just playing tricks on me!

Nope. The look on my husband’s face when I emerged erased any chance of that.

Okay, so I had auburn hair. I could deal temporarily. I decided to give Natural Instincts the benefit of the doubt before completely freaking out. Instead, I used a curl-enhancing shampoo (read: color-stripping) for the next 10 days, until I decided I couldn’t stand it any more, and bought a box of Medium Cool Brown. I knew that a darker, cool shade would help cover any remaining red hues, and fortunately, it did just that.

Natural Instincts Medium Cool Brown

So now was the true test. If I opened up the Week 2 Color Fresh, and it contained auburn-colored product, I’d know it wasn’t a fluke the first time. After ripping it open, squirting out just a little, and letting it dry on the edge, this is what I saw:

See the reddish color? Yeah. Not a fluke the first time.


So, while I absolutely love Clairol Natural Instincts, and I always will, I’m sorely disappointed that it appears they’ve decided their new Color Fresh should be a “one-size-fits-all” product. I don’t know for certain, but I’d guess that all of the brown shades contain the same Color Fresh shade (and it’s probably the same with all the blonde shade and red shades).

Update: Anne has had another blonde bonanza recently. Check out  how her blonde ambition went horribly wrong.

Photos: Natural Instincts; Anne Houseman/BeautyXpose

*I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t take results of the reader poll into consideration when making my decision to go back to brunette.