Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Review and tips: Ion Color Brilliance Liquid Hair Color

*BIG SCARY DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional. I have figured out how to dye my own hair, and I'm sharing that process with you. If you want to use ANY hair dye, even a relatively fool-proof drugstore at-home hair dye kit, please do some research. If you want to use the product I am reviewing, Ion Color Brilliance, or any other hair dye that requires you mix it yourself and is intended for professional use, do yourself a huge favor and make sure you do a ton of research. Don't JUST read this post; I fumbled my way through and got good results for myself, but I am in no way qualified to advise others on which products would work for their hair.*

This is a fairly long post; if you aren't new to coloring your hair, or just want to see the results, skip down to the photos and the summary for the "short version". 

I mentioned a couple of posts back that I (finally) dyed my hair again. I have been coloring my hair red since I was about 16, and I've wanted to be a redhead since I was about 12! In 8 years of dyeing my hair, I've used quite a few at-home brands with varying luck. I've gone burgundy-red and coppery-red and auburn brown. I've had my hair professionally dyed a few times as well, but decided it wasn't worth the money when I could do it myself at home and get a color that was as vibrant and just about as close to what I had in mind when I started.  Enter, Ion Color Brilliance. I'd grown discontented with drugstore offerings after they seemed to have eliminated the shade range between auburn brown and burgundy red; my go-to color is a bright coppery red, which is really difficult to find in a kit. I was also having to buy at least two kits to cover all of my thick, long hair, which wasn't cheap! The icing on the cake was when my favorite shade and formula combination was discontinued. I started reading about professional hair dyes and based on its reviews on the Sally Beauty website, settled on Ion Color Brilliance. People seemed really happy with the results.

Now, before you decide to run down to your local beauty supply store and buy hair dye, there are a few things you need to know. It's a big change in some ways from buying a box of hair dye from your drugstore; those are pretty fool-proof. There's a lot more that can go wrong when you are buying all the individual components on your own, and having to make more decisions without the proper training to do so. The hair dye you find at places like Sally Beauty, including Ion Color Brilliance, are meant for use by professionals. I knew that I was using these products at my own risk! That being said, I did a lot of research and read a lot about hair dye. First, you have to figure out the level of your original hair color, and the level of color you want to go to. Even though the red I was trying to go for looked to me like it was just as dark as my natural hair color, I realized after looking at swatches that I was really trying to lighten my hair quite a bit, and then add a red color on top of that in a single step. Based on your natural hair color (or your current dyed color) and the color you want, you decide what developer to use. In general, the lighter you want to go, the stronger solution you need to use. 

So, what did I use? I acquired: 

*a non-metallic mixing bowl. I needed to use a buttload of dye for all my hair, and the little mixing bowls they sell at Sally Beauty were not large enough. I bought a plastic bowl from Big Lots as my mixing bowl. 

*A Tint Brush: You can find these at beauty supply stores. They'll help you get the color from the bowl onto your hair. 

*Lotion. Any kind will do; you'll want to smear it around your hairline and on your ears, avoiding the hair itself, to help keep your skin from getting stained. 

*Gloves. I used regular latex gloves that we had laying around the house from painting. You can get a couple hundred to a box at Costco, or you can buy just one pair at beauty supply stores. 

*A wide toothed comb: to help pull the color through your hair. 

*a hair clip or two: to help keep your hair on top of your head while the color develops. 

*Hair color: I used Ion Color Brilliance Liquid hair color in 7IR (7 indicating the lightness/ darkness of the color, IR for Intense Red). It's described as a Medium Intense Red Blonde on the box. 

*30 Volume Creme Developer: This gets mixed in equal proportions to the dye. 

*Color Brilliance Pre-Color Treatment: Because my hair is long and has been dyed multiple times (and so it's more porous at the bottom than top), I decided to get this treatment to be on the safe side and aid in even color results. 

*Thick hair conditioner. It doesn't really matter which one you use, just make sure it's safe for color treated hair and very moisturizing. 

While this is more expensive the first time you do it than running to CVS and buying a box of dye, I got much better results with these products, and all but the dye itself will last you more than one use, so after your first application, you'll probably end up spending less using this system than a drugstore kit. And I can guarantee you'll end up spending WAY less than going to the salon! 

I mixed 2 bottles of color (for a total of 4 ounces) with 4 ounces of developer, stirred well, and applied it to my hair. I massaged it through, let it sit for 40 minutes, and then rinsed it out, following up by conditioning twice. My hair felt dryer than usual as I rinsed the color out, but after conditioning twice it is fine. 

Here are some pictures of my hair. My coppery auburn color had faded and I had a toooon of root showing. After coloring my hair, you cannot see a differentiation between hair that had been colored in the past and my virgin root color. This is impressive to me; lots of hair color kits in the past left a bit of a line. Also, this color is REALLY vibrant. It was hard for me to capture it on my camera. My skin looks a bit washed out in a few of these photos where the color my hair color is accurate. 

Before dyeing my hair:

After Ion Color Brilliance: 

And here are some of the products I used: 

The box of color and the Pre-Color Treatment 

On the side of the hair dye box; I don't know what any of this means! 

The bottle of dye itself

Scary warnings! 

The chart to help you figure out which developer to use
There are crazy warnings all over this thing telling you this is ONLY to be used by professionals. Therefore, if you (like me) are not a professional... Do this at your own risk! 

Summary: I've been really pleased with my results using this brand! This is actually the second time I have used Ion Color Brilliance; the first time I mixed this color with a less-vibrant copper red, and my results were great that time as well. I tend to start off brighter than I really want, knowing it will fade a ton after the first couple of washings. If you are dyeing your hair at home, you cannot be too picky about your results, but that being said, my results with this line have been pretty spot-on to the hair swatches they have in the store. However, I want to emphasize that these were just my experiences; hair dye can be really tricky. I also think that from years of using various dyes, I've learned how different shades tend to turn out on my hair. I know that I need to go lighter than I think I do; I know that I need to go more vibrant than I think I do. I cannot say if this would be the case for anyone else. But, if you've been thinking about making the switch from drugstore brands to professional hair color from a beauty supply store, I would recommend checking Ion Color Brilliance out! My results were consistent from root to tip, even on my long hair with damaged split ends. I haven't used this without the Pre-Color Treatment, so I can't say if that's why I got such even results, but I'd highly recommend using that product as well. It's certainly worth the few extra bucks, and one spray bottle will last you through a few applications at least. Also, the Ion brand developer is supposed to be gentle; I think this is probably the case, since when I've had my hair colored at salons, it's stung like crazy, but this wasn't painful at all. All in all, I've had a better-than-average experience with this line, and will continue to be loyal to it. 


  1. i use this brand of color from time to time, i love it

    1. I've been really happy with it, glad to hear someone else likes it, too!

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you! It is a brighter red than I was going for, but I like it!

  3. the reason it may have come out lighter than you wanted to is because you used 30 volume developer the volume developers are based on their numbers 10 volume is meant only for depositing the color which means it will not get any lighter the color will just sit on your hair and look like a rich red, that's what I'm using this time since I've never tried this brand. I'm used to Joico color from professional-only stores like CosmoProf. The higher level of developer that you use the more the developer will cause the color to look lighter on your hair because it's removing more pigment. The things to always remember are:

    Color cannot lift color! Meaning, using a higher developer in order to get a brighter color even though you already have permanent color on your hair will only cause the color to come out blotchy and uneven.

    Any developer over 20 is not recommended if you have damaged hair or if you color it a lot. *The higher the volume, the more damage, (ESPECIALLY WITH BLEACH!)

    Unless you have healthy healthy HEALTHY hair, don't even consider 40 volume.

    The only way to make a color come out bright is to bleach it first, the color will only look bright if it's being put on light colored hair. Now that doesn't mean you hsve to go blonde, just a few shades lighter so that the color can look more intense. don't be afraid of bleach and also don't follow the rules of developers for Bleach as closely as you should. 10 volume developer + bleach = 1 level if lift. 20 volume developer + bleach = 2 levels of lift. And so on. Depending on your hairs porosity, texture, coloring history, and many other factors something as low as 10 volume could easily get you up to a big bright blonde, so be careful!!

    there's a lot more that you should know but I'm not going to go on anymore because I'm not going to act like a beauty school teacher lol!

    Good luck to you all with coloring your hair. if you don't learn from a beauty school then make sure that you do lots of research on the internet so that you don't mess this up! Hope I've helped! (:

    1. Thanks for the tips, Jackie! Like I said, I've done some research but definitely haven't gone to beauty school! I have had good luck with my 30 volume developer and this color, but then again I don't color my hair that often, I only use heat on it a couple of times a month, etc...

  4. really want to go red red ! I have been checking out the Ion dark red blonde and the Ion intense red blonde / I have light red brown right now. I am still unsure what color to go with. I do not want any burgundy or purple cast I like the rusty copper red tones - In your pics it looked perfect for me - did it fade more orange or pink ?

    1. There was no pink, it faded to a dull orangey light brown on me!

  5. I have short, color processed hair and can't go a day without washing it because it is sticking up all over the place when I get up in the morning. For you, I would recommend the Shielo Volume Shampoo. Its EXCELLENT at protecting the colored hair, and it has worked great to keep the volume in my hair without adding any build up.

    1. Thanks for the tip! My hair is super fluffy and BIG as-is, so I'm usually not trying to add volume with product, but I'll keep that brand in mind!

  6. Hi, nice post. Well what can I say is that these is an interesting and very informative topic. Thanks for sharing your ideas, its not just entertaining but also gives your reader knowledge. Good blogs style too, Cheers!
    Professional Coloring Wading River, NY

  7. My hair color now is med-dark aburni use clairol on it normally! Well im wanting something DIFFERANT ! Ive got ion color brilliance Aqua turquoise, blue flash powder lightning,and both loreal oreor creme voilme 30 and 40 ! PLEASE WORK UR MAGIC AND WALK ME THROUGH THIS! !!!!

  8. Ok now is med- aburn color its from clariol but im bored with it plus been married 17 yrs and onlygotten to go out 4 times well this friday will make r # 5!!!! Were going to c a heavy metal band and i wanna.go.ALL OUT! Dont have alota money so im hopekn to usewhat me and a friend already have : ion Aqua yurquiose, Blue flash powder lightner,and loreal oreor creme 30 and 40 volume! Ok do ir magic and help me make one hell of a statement PRETTY PLEASE ps i have loong hair

    1. Hey Christina, sorry I didn't see this before now! If it's any consolation I don't think I could have helped you much anyway; I am by no means a professional and have only figured out what works for me and my hair. I've never worked with colors other than red, so blue is really outside of my comfort zone; I have no idea how to predict how that would work with someone's hair color! I hope that you figured it out and that your hair turned out alright, that sounds like it will look awesome!

  9. I appreciate all of the information that you have shared. Thank you for the hard work!

    - professional coloring wading river, ny

  10. I'm interested in redying my hair a different color (it's currently a burgundy/dark red) because my roots are starting to grow out. Did it seem like the ion color brilliance lightened your hair without using bleach? How do you think it would work with currently dyed hair (permanent)?

    1. I think it did lighten my hair without bleach, however I was using a relatively strong developer (30 as opposed to 10 or 20). It will react with other permanent dye; you'll have to take into account how the existing color will look with the new color on top of it. I recommend doing a strand test at the very least, or letting a professional handle the job if you are unsure.

  11. I'm going to use ion pre color treatment before using professional color on my hair my question is do I wait until the treatment is dried on my hair before applying color or do I apply color while the treatment is wet?

    1. Sorry this is late, but hopefully the answer is helpful to somebody else; there is no need to wait for the treatment to dry. At least, I didn't! But I did make sure my hair was pretty evenly saturated (i.e. you don't want half of your hair damp, the other half dry).


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