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Thank you for visiting The Organic Hair Color Review Website!

For those of you who are new, or have never visited before, I’m Melanie Nickels, the Editor-In-Chief of The Organic Hair Color Review website. I’m sure you would like to know who I am and why I’m qualified to write these reviews, so here is my quick (albeit incomplete) bio:

I have been a stylist for about 17 years. I am the founder of Raw Hair Organic Salon in Naples, Florida. It was the first organic/non toxic salon in all of South Florida at the time. I am the founder / creator of Raw Hair Organics and Rod’z Organic Grooming For Men, both natural & organic salon quality products that are non-toxic, yet work just like traditional chemical based product lines. For more info, visit the website at http://www.rawhairorganics.com .

I am not only a ranking member of The American Board of Certified master Haircolorists, I’m also an exam evaluator and educator for the organization as well, and have been for a number of years. I am one of only 19 examiners nation-wide for the ABCH organization, and the only educator that teaches about non-toxic and ammonia-free hair coloring.  In addition to graduating from cosmotology school, I also have college degrees in Business Management and Accounting. I am internationally trained, was part of Inter Coiffure, a Broadway stylist on the hit show “42nd Street”, and certified by many companies way too numerous to mention here, but the likes of Deva, Curlisto, and OCS. I teach nation-wide, including at shows like Premiere Orlando in 2013, and The ABCH Energizing Summit in 2011 & 2012. I’m also teaching several classes, including hands-on workshops, at the upcoming ISSE show in Long Beach, California, this coming January 2014.  In addition to all of that, I still spend about 50-60 hours a week, every week, behind-the-chair doing hair color in my salon in Naples, Florida. I have worked with many, many hair color lines on the market, both ammonia and non-ammonia based. That is my simplified, basic bio. I would highly encourage you to follow me on Twitter, as I post there quite frequently and post a lot of things that I don’t post here…things that happen in my normal day of hair coloring. My Twitter handle is @RawHairOrganics  (Melanie Nickels). I DO NOT SELL HAIR COLOR.

Today, my review is of Matrix Colorinsider by L’Oreal.  My reviews are very in-depth, so let’s start with some detailed background about the founders and their history (thanks in large part to Ed Dinger for his excellent research below):

As a subsidiary of cosmetics giant L’Oreal and part of that company’s L’Oreal USA group, Matrix Essentials Inc. is a leading professional hair care, hair color, and hair texturizing products company that sells its products only through salons. Top hair care and styling products include Biolage, a hair rejuvenator; Curl.life, which helps to control curly hair; the Trix styling line; Amplify, a volumizing system; Color.smart shampoos, conditioners, and other products that help maintain salon-applied color; Sleek.look products used to help control curls and “frizz”; and Vavoom, a line of shampoo and conditioners, styling sprays, foams, and gels.

Hair color and texture products include Colorgraphics, a highlighting system; Color Sync, a demi-permanent dye; Logics, a pure tone coloring system based on matching the DNA of a customer’s hair color; Opti.smooth, a product to facilitate hair straightening; Prizms.PLUS, a semipermanent coloring line; the SoColor line of hair dyes; and V-light, a hair lightener. Although Matrix maintains its headquarters in Solon, Ohio, near Cleveland, its sales, marketing, and education departments, as well as elements of finance and human resources, work out of L’Oreal’s New York headquarters. Also in New York, Matrix operates the Matrix Global Academy for training stylists in the use of the company’s products. EDIT: It is rumored that the Solon, Ohio headquarters / manufacturing facility will be closed sometime is 2013, eliminating several hundred jobs in the process. Depending on who you talk to (management or the city officials), the reasons for the plant closure vary. L’Oreal says the city would not work with them on variances needed to expand the plant significantly and add several hundred NEW jobs: The city officials claim that is false.

The Company Was Founded In 1980

Matrix was founded in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1980 by husband and wife Arnold M. and Sydell L. Miller. Born in Cleveland, Arnold Miller became involved in hairdressing only after considering different careers while attending both Western Reserve and Ohio Northern universities. Finally he took classes at the Cleveland Academy of Cosmetology, graduating in 1952, and found his calling. Three years later he opened his first salon in South Euclid, east of Cleveland, Ohio. Joined by his wife Sydell, he opened more shops in the city’s suburbs over the next 15 years. She had been attending Miami University in Ohio, studying to become a home economics teacher, when she met Arnold and dropped out of school to marry him and become a hairdresser as well. As owners, the couple knew firsthand the needs of salons, and by the 1970’s they began to pursue their vision of starting a company that could provide salons with the hair care and cosmetics products they needed as well as training them to use the products, along with marketing help to sell them to their customers. The Millers’ first venture, Aortal Inc., was launched in 1971 to manufacture and market artificial eyelashes to salons as well as retailers, primarily drugstores. Later the company developed and marketed a hair color product as well.

To realize their dream of being a full-service provider to salons, the Millers established Matrix. It quickly eclipsed the importance of Aortal, which began to have problems with retail sales that were adversely impacted by consolidation among drugstore chains in the United States. In 1984 they sold Aortal for $3 million and focused all of their energies on Matrix and the professional hair care market. Selling exclusively to salon customers was a relatively recent development on the market. In the early 1970s Redden Laboratories had exploited salon sales to quickly grow its business, taking advantage of a realization that salons were repackaging its products to sell to their customers. Rather than stop the practice, Redden encouraged it and helped stylists to do a better job at selling the products. Having a customer in a chair for an extended period was an ideal selling situation, and retailing products solely through salons lent an air of exclusivity that resulted in a higher price. It was this approach to marketing that Matrix would also pursue to good effect. Moreover, the Millers, as former salon owners, were comfortable in this channel, and continued it.

Early on, Matrix sold just one shampoo and a permanent wave product to a limited number of salons. Manufacturing was done by a private-label manufacturer. Because this supplier was unable to meet Matrix’s needs on a timely basis, the Millers began to develop their own manufacturing capabilities, eventually bringing as many functions as possible in-house, including laboratory testing, quality control, and research and development. The only major element outside the company’s control were the manufacturing of bottles & tubes, which was done by outside blow molding companies, and is a practice that is not usually cost-effective for a hair product manufacturing company to do on their own. Salon perms and hair coloring products were added, and in 1981 Matrix began making professional hair care products available to consumers, including shampoos, conditioners, and styling products.

The Millers also established their own roles in the business. Arnold was in charge of finance, sales, and research and development. By far the more flamboyant of the two, he was the face of the company, but he was also a little undisciplined and often hard to deal with. His wife, when she was not smoothing ruffled feathers, focused on manufacturing, marketing, and purchasing. “Running this company was something that I did,” she told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1994. “Arnie was on the outside, the personality that everybody knew. But I was the one who made sure we could ship everything he sold.” Both of them, however, became tireless promoters of Matrix products, traveling to meet with salon owners, distributors, and stylists at countless trade shows, sometimes together, often apart. Their persistence paid off. According to Crain’s Cleveland Business, Matrix enjoyed sales increases of at least 50 percent in five of its first eight years. Despite the Millers’ salesmanship, the key to the company’s success lay with the products themselves. In a 1997 profile DCI reported, “Matrix rapidly gained the trust of thousands of hairdressers who could count on the consistency of its perms, the performance of its cleaners and conditioners and the reliability of its styling aids.” Another element in the company’s success was a product development strategy that included what the company called its “hairdresser test.” According to DCI, “That means a product must enhance a hairdresser’s income; an educational program must improve his/her skills; an advertisement must drive clients into his/her salon.” A major part of the education effort and customer support was the Matrix Institute of Professional Development, established in 1985 to educate salon owners and stylists about the fundamentals of product usage as well as marketing, advertising, and sales.

By the late 1980s, Matrix products were sold to 35 distributors across the United States, as well as to distributors in Canada, the Netherlands, and Iceland. About 10,000 salons made Matrix their primary hair care products line, while another 20,000 carried some of the line. The Matrix name continued to increase in recognition in the 1990s, although early in the decade some of the notice was hardly desirable. A few weeks after the start of the Gulf War in 1990, following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, a nearby tool distributor with a similar name, Matrix Churchill Corporation, was raided by U.S. Customs Service officials because the company was accused of supplying weapons parts to Iraq. After CBS’s 60 Minutes program publicized the matter and simply referred to the company in question as Matrix, Matrix Essential employees wearing company T-shirts were insulted on the streets and in some cases they were harassed in their homes or reprimanded by their families. Although the company was concerned about having its well-earned reputation tarnished, it still tried to make light of the matter and at least benefit from the attention. “We are not sending guns to Iraq,” a company spokesperson told the press. “We’re not even sending shampoo.”

Arnold Miller Dies: 1992

In 1991 Matrix added salon facial and skin treatment products with the 21-item Matrix Sincere line, which included cleansers, toners, moisturizers, and exfoliate/masques, and special care products such as eye makeup remover. The following year Matrix added cosmetics–blushers, councillors, powders, and foundations–which, according to the company, was the first upscale salon cosmetics line. Although Matrix was generating annual sales of nearly $170 million and beginning a major growth spurt, the Millers had a new burden to bear. Arnold was diagnosed with cancer. He fought it for nearly a year, but in December 1992 he died at the age of 60 at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston where he was receiving chemotherapy treatments, ultimately succumbing to pneumonia and other complications. After all that hard work, dedication, and incredible vision, Arnold was dead.

Long relegated to the background where she played a key role in Matrix’s success, Sydell Miller took charge of the company, overcoming her fear of public speaking to fill the void left by her husband as she now conducted press interviews, made trade show appearances, and hosted countless meetings with suppliers, distributors, and salon owners. Under her leadership Matrix opened a new distribution center and continued to expand its product lines, and in 1993 sales hit the $200 million level and reached $250 million a year later. A major contributor to the company’s growth was its sponsorship of women’s tennis. In 1992 Matrix signed a five-year endorsement deal with former champion Chris Evert.

Arnold Miller had always assumed that at some point in its history Matrix would need to team up with a larger company, hopefully a pharmaceutical firm, in order to gain access to the kind of technology that would be needed to drive further product development. In the month before his death, in fact, he began talking to Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. about such a relationship. While there was some speculation in the press that his wife might turn over the reins to a second generation–two daughters and a son-in-law were executives in the company–it was not especially surprising that in August 1994 Sydell agreed to sell Matrix to Bristol-Myers, with a price of 7.4 million shares of stock worth about $400 million. Sydell Miller remained with the company she cofounded, serving as chairman until her retirement in 1996.

Bristol-Myers’ performance with Matrix was spotty at best. It hired some seasoned executives, but they knew the retail business, yet were not familiar with the peculiarities of the salon channel. Nevertheless, sales increased to more than $340 million by the end of the decade, making Matrix the largest professional hair care firm in total sales. As Arnold Miller anticipated, innovation was a key element in the company’s ongoing success, and Matrix was able to draw on Bristol-Myers’ research capabilities to develop the kind of products demanded by hairdressers and their clients. Bristol-Myers also invested in upgrading Matrix’s facilities, agreeing to a $53.8 million expansion in 1999, and helped to expand Matrix internationally, spreading the brand throughout Europe and Asia, albeit with limited success.

Popularity brought new challenges, however. Because a major part of the company’s success was limiting sales to just salons, it had to become increasingly diligent about combating “diverters,” people who purchased products from hairdressers and others and then distributed them to nonchain drugstores, grocery stores, beauty supply stores, swap meets, and the like. With Matrix products being shipped around the world, the opportunities for diverters significantly increased, prompting Matrix to take a more aggressive approach to protecting its position. A former Drug Enforcement Agency special agent was hired as the “shampoo cop” and the asset protection budget doubled, as Matrix kept closer tabs on salons to make sure hairdressers did not sell Matrix products to diverters. Not only could salons lose their right to sell Matrix products, but if a seller used the telephone or the U.S. mail to make or distribute illegal sales, the company would press federal wire fraud and mail fraud charges. It is unclear if these steps actually made a difference or not.

Because maintaining product exclusivity was a key component of the Matrix business model, it was understandable that the company also elected not to sell its products online when it launched its first web site in 1999, maintaining that interested buyers should go to their hairdressers, who could recommend the right products for their particular needs. Instead, the site was purely informational in nature, and it remains that way today.

Matrix Sold: 2000

Although Matrix enjoyed faster growth than its rivals, in early 2000 Bristol-Myers announced that it was putting Matrix up for sale to exit the salon business and focus on its global Chloral Professional retail and professional beauty care unit. A buyer was found in L’Oreal’s Cosmair Professional subsidiary four months later. Cosmair was already deeply entrenched in the salon market, owning Redken and L’Oreal Professional, which had both carved out their own niches. According to SalonNews, Redken had a reputation “as a fashion-forward haircolor and styling brand, while L’Oreal Professional is well known for its upscale haircolor and its salon technologies. Matrix, on the other hand, is often noted for its moderately priced wet-line products.” Moreover, Matrix was “known for its breadth of distribution; it is the most widely distributed salon line in the U.S.” I was not able to find out how much L’Oreal paid for Matrix, but that is hardly uncommon with L’Oreal business deals.

Under L’Oreal’s ownership, Matrix continued to operate as a stand-alone business. The company was allowed to maintain its longtime home in Solon, Ohio, although about 70 of the company’s employees involved in sales, marketing, education, and human resources were transferred to L’Oreal’s New York headquarters. As a reflection of L’Oreal’s commitment to Solon, in 2001 the company launched a $60 million expansion program, updating the plan initiated by Bristol-Myers before the sale. The new parent also lost little time in installing a new management team which began to invigorate a brand that many in the industry regarded as a sleeping giant. The company’s education efforts and research and development programs were expanded, and a number of new products were introduced.

Matrix enjoyed strong growth in the early 2000s, fortifying its leadership position in the three key salon categories: color, hair care, and textures. To maintain that momentum, Matrix opened its first training academy, the Matrix Global Academy, which opened its doors in the fall of 2004 in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. Matrix also tweaked its advertising strategy, focusing on fewer magazines and turning more to entertainment magazines like Us Weekly. In the meantime, Matrix continued to unveil new products on a regular basis, including a new Vavoom volumizing collection in 2005, Matrix for Men shampoos and styling products in 2006, and Prizms.Plus in 2007.

(Hat Tip to Ed Dinger for the vast majority of the research above. Nice job!)

Ok, enough history, let’s get into the new ammonia-free hair color line by Matrix.  I’ll start with some basic technical information for the Matrix Colorinsider, and then get into more details of my findings during use at my Raw Hair Organic Salon in Naples, Florida.

Matrix Color Insider

2 oz tube cream color

Mixed equal parts 1:1  (all including 10 series).


Develop at room temp 35 min (all including 10 series).

Easy to mix  (1/2 oz measurements on tube).

Alpha-Numeric  system for colors (ex. 9 GC = level 9, primary tone=gold, secondary tone=copper.

The Matrix Colorinsider line has a large selection of colors….65 including the clear.  The line contains  a double copper series(CC+) which can be mixed with other colors, and a double red series (RR+) which can only be used alone or with clear.

It has a Great creamy consistency like that of mayonnaise.

Application is as with most all of the ammonia free hair colors recommended to used bowl and brush and very precise application with thin sections.

It has Good gray coverage

The Hair feels good, looks shiny after the color service.

The color line has No smell at all.

It Seems true to tone.

It Has a clear that can be used for several things because you can get lift with it, such as:

-base breaker

-slight color correction

-sheer tones

-natural highlights on natural hair

-add to formula to address porosity

-create a more translucent result/ dilute formula

The line utilizes 3 Developers:

10 vol= 1 level lift

20 vol = 2 levels lift

30 vol =  3 levels lift

Because of the efficiency of the oil softening the hair (and the oil delivery system), they only use 30 vol developer for high lift blonds instead of 40 vol.

The manufacturer says using 10.1 (Ash) with 30 vol on a natural level 6 you can achieve a double process blond result.  I am going to test this out and see what happens.

I was very leery of trying this on a paying client. With all of my experience working with ammonia-free hair color (close to 7,000 non-ammonia color applications personally myself, if I had to estimate, as of this writing), even using double 40 volume, it has been a bit challenging to achieve the same amount of lift as traditional color lines… and here Matrix Colorinsider only offers and says to use equal parts 30 volume.  So, I went and tested it on a mannequin first.  I followed the instructions using 10N in one section, 10V in another section, and 10A in a third section.  I decided to process at room temperature for 45 minutes because I could clearly see 35 minutes was not going to be enough time since it is mannequin hair (thus there is no heat radiating from the head). Well, that barely lifted 2 levels. So, I tried a different mannequin and decided to process for as long as it took.  After 1½ hours, it was hardly lifting at all, so I decided to put the mannequin under medium heat (which Matrix does not recommend), but again, it is a mannequin so things work a little differently. She was under heat for 1 hour and then continued to process at room temp again for another 2 hours for a total processing time of 4½ hours.  I still barely got 2 levels of lift.  The starting level of the hair was 6N and I would say we ended up somewhere around a 7.5 gold.  When I held up the level 8 gold swatches from 2 different color lines, my mannequins hair did not appear to be a close match to either one.  All of the roots looked the same, too-it didn’t make a difference between 10N, 10V, or 10A.  Just for fun, I thought I would call the Matrix Colorinsider “hotline” to see what they had to say. Since I’ve never called one before in my life, it was quite an interesting experience for me.  First of all, it took 20 minutes for someone to answer my call.  I know this because I had my timer going for the processing of the mannequin.  When someone did finally answer, I couldn’t help but comment to them that “Thank God I didn’t really have an emergency because it took so long”.  Anyway, I explained I was leery of being able to get enough lift with the 10 series colors and only 30 volume developer.  I understand that the oil delivery system softens the hair (since I have been working with one every day for 7 years as of this writing), however, the peroxide is what mostly determines the lift. Thus, not having the boost of ammonia in the color AND only using 30 volume does not seem to add up to getting enough lift.  The woman I spoke with assured me it is possible that I should not be trying to do this on a mannequin, but I should be trying it on an actual person.  I told her that I am not comfortable experimenting on a paying client, nor do I have the time to fix it if things don’t go well.  Besides, I work on mannequin hair a lot for testing and also for the educational classes I teach, and have not had a problem with any other color lines (other than I do usually leave it on a little bit longer or put it under the heat a little which I explained earlier).  She stood her ground and said it really works and that I just have to try it on a human head.  I said I would be willing to do one little slice in the back next time I have a high-lift blond coming in to the Raw Hair Organic Salon, but not a whole head.  As of the date of this writing, I have not had a chance to do this yet, but will post the update edit HERE once I do.

***NEW NOTE 9/15/13****  I got to go ahead and try the level 10 blond on an actual client yesterday.  I applied 1/2 10N, 1/2 10V with an equal amount of 30 volume developer to about a 2 inch section beneath the crown area on my clients head while using her normal formulation for a high lift blond on the rest of the head.  I did actually process for 45 minutes because that is how long she normally takes with her usual formulation.  To my suprise, the Matrix Color Insider section did indeed come up light enough!  It was just as light blond as the rest of the color and looked great!!  So, I stand corrected on that one and am excited to let you know that I was in fact able to lift my clients hair from about a level 6 to about a 10 with the level 10 color and 30 volume developer.

Next, as I usually do, I did my own hair coloring with the Matrix Colorinsider ammonia-free haircolor to test it out.  I decided to give myself a bit of a change now that we are going into the fall season.  I used ½ 6NW, ¼ 7WM, ¼ 6GV with equal parts 20 volume developer.  This formula was applied to my re-growth and then balayaged through some of my hair from the re-growth to the ends.  I processed at room temperature for 35 minutes, and then wet it with some water and washed through the entire head for a couple minutes.

I did not have any irritation from the Matrix Colorinsider hair color line.  Many times, I will get a headache after coloring my hair. I did not experience that this time using Matrix Colorinsider.  It was nice to not have to process under heat.  The color came out beautiful and shiny, and my gray covered well.  I was very happy with the process and the results.

The Ingredients used in Matrix Colorinsider are actually really good: (NO AMMONIA) ethanolamine as a ph adjuster, (NO PPD’S) toluene2,5 diamine for pigment,  it does have resorcinol (which does have possible irritation and possibly significant health concerns), & m-aminophenol as oxidative dye intermediates to achieve certain colors.  Another plus is that there is no wheat!  So those of you who are gluten/wheat sensitive need not to worry.

A client of mine that is very sensitive to other color lines (even ammonia-free) did not experience itching as she normally does, and her color did not fade in the 6 weeks between color appointments when I used Matrix Colorinsider. See attached video testimony.













Well, it seems like L’oreal is getting better and better with each ammonia-free color line that it brings to the market.  I am liking this one by Matrix, and give it a very high rating of 4.45 stars out of a possible 5 stars.

For more information, feel free to check out my Youtube channel by entering rawhairorganics in the search bar.  You can also visit my website http://www.rawhairorganics.com as there is great information there, too. There are many videos posted as reviews of many different organic and non-ammonia lines on the Youtube channel.

Thank you for taking the time to read my review of Matrix Colorinsider hair color. I am always open to questions and comments, and I encourage your feedback in the comments section. I am here to help, so don’t be shy! If you have an idea for a color line that you would like me to review, or a comment about something that I can do better, you are more than welcome to submit that as well.

Right now, I have about 4 NEW reviews in the works of NEW non-ammonia hair color lines that could be promising! Each review can take me and my team a couple months to test and  produce, so we should be good until Christmas. I’ll do my best to get them done in a timely fashion, but if I run behind please know it’s only because I strive to be as thorough and forthright as possible in an effort to bring you reviews that are unmatched anywhere else on the internet or in print form.

Until next time, here’s to great hair and great hair colorists!