this thing's incredible

These Magic Drops Keep My Hair Fire-Engine Red for Weeks

Photo: Rachael Griffiths

Last year, after a decade of mistreatment, my hair (literally) snapped. It had braved its way through Kylie Jenner dip dyes and pink e-girl bangs, but a DIY Future Nostalgia bleach job had proven a step too far. As there wasn’t enough Olaplex on God’s green Earth to resurrect its luster, I decided to bring in a professional. My stylist and I decided that sticking to one cut and color would give my hair some much-needed time to recuperate. As I’m a natural brunette — and bleach was firmly off the table — we decided it should be a simple rich red. I love it; it’s the best my hair’s looked in years.

But here’s the rub: Color-treated hair fades fast — even when it’s done professionally. At the end of the ten-week period between treatments, my hair would start to look quite washed out. I knew I needed something to make my color last between treatments, but a box dye simply wasn’t an option. Not only do they reek and manage to stain everything, but the chemicals in them, like ammonia and peroxide, can really damage your hair — the precise opposite of what I was trying to do.

I was sharing this woeful tale with a friend at dinner when she asked me if I’d tried Shrine Drops: these little vials of semi-permanent hair toner that you mix in with your conditioner. I hadn’t, and I was skeptical. I knew from years of experience that semipermanent products don’t really work on darker, unbleached hair. But then she pulled up TikTok and showed me dozens of girls, each with hair similar in color to mine, achieving a ruby-red glow with just these little drops. I was intrigued, but before I invested, I looked up the ingredients to make sure Shrine hadn’t snuck in anything harmful. Satisfied that the drops were ammonia- and peroxide-free — and vegan, which is always nice — I ordered a starter kit.

The kit arrived with a bottle of drops, a silicone bowl, and a small mixing tool. (Because Shrine doesn’t use single-use plastics, I had to nip out and buy a pair of gloves for application before getting started.) First I looked at Shrine’s guide to determine how many drops I’d need for my desired color. Then, I filled up the bowl with a lot of conditioner, and stirred away until all the drops were mixed in. All that was left to do was apply the mix to my hair after shampooing, and allow it to marinate for ten minutes.

Although I’d read comments claiming that the mixture doesn’t stain, I’ve been burned one too many times by hair products, so I took my time to apply it carefully without any spillages. After rinsing and then patting dry with a dark towel — again, for safety — I noticed a very promising cherry-hued glaze enveloping my hair. Giddily, I ran to my room to start blow-drying, and I was in utter awe at the results. My formerly dull hair was a glowing, vibrant, salon-fresh-looking red — after only ten minutes. And because I’d left the conditioner on for that long, my hair also felt hydrated and soft and had a really dazzling shine. For the first time ever, my BeReal notification pinged at just the right time. Beaming, I took a picture of my freshly blow-dried hair; it was met with plenty of heart-eyed reactions and comments asking if I’d been to the salon. So far, so good.

But before I was fully sold, I reminded myself of the real test of these semipermanent products: how long they last. Sure, my hair looked great now, but would it all be washed away the next time I had a shower? I decided to utilize my BeReal selfies to keep track of how long it took for my color to fade, and was pleasantly surprised when it held its vibrancy for four washes, only requiring a top-up on wash five.

I now apply the drops to my conditioner every two weeks, and they’ve become just as much of a staple in my routine as a layer of fake tan or a fresh coat of nail polish. I do run out after around three applications, but if you don’t want a color as rich as mine, or are starting with lighter hair, a bottle will last you much longer. Both the silicone bowl and mixer are reusable, and Shrine sells top-up bottles of the drops individually, so you can save a couple of dollars and a lot of clutter and waste each time you rebuy.

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These Magic Drops Keep My Hair Fire-Engine Red for Weeks