I think you get better quality at a salon but It's down more to how porous your hair is. If you were to look at hair under a microscope, it has little scales on the surface of it called the cutical. They open to let the colour molecules through and as the hair dye develops, they swell, getting trapped inside. If you have damaged cutical then the colour molecules can get diluted as you hair absorbes other stuff or gets washed away. Red is the worse colour for fading like that. Make sure you use an conditioner that is slightly acidic, as that will help to close up your cutical, many of them state the P.H, it should be about 5.5 also go to somewhere busy to buy your hair colour, the peroxide which develops your hair colour oxidises with time and if it's been hanging about on the shelf for a while, it will be weaker.

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If you want any sort of quality color and don't want /can't afford to go have it done professionally in a salon, then definately DON'T buy anything from a grocery or drug store.. or other like store. Go to a Beauty Supply Store! They are not that much more expensive and are sometimes even less expensive than a drugstore, but the difference in quality is pretty noticeable. Also, the employees are (probably in varying degrees) knowledgable on the subject and so you can ask them whatever questions you have and they will help you get the right product for your hair. I don't think that in all states (if you're in the U.S), all beauty supply shops sell to the general public, but as far as I know... "Sally's" does and they seem to have shops all over the place... Good luck!<br />
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P.S. I just noticed that you mentioned you want dark brown or black. If it's black you're looking for, that would be the exception. Black hair dye from about anywhere is pretty much permanent until it grows out. Black hair dye is like a black permanent pen marker on anything it marks. Dark brown.... stick with the beauty supply store.....

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use splat in black and then however much you need to use manic panic in raven black, manic panic is basically colored conditioner, its semipermanent dye so if you want even leave it in for the night if the permanent dye starts to fade! i do this every time i dye my hair and it works for me just fine~!

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