My longtime blog readers know that I have used Clairol Natural Instincts haircolor for decades. There aren’t a lot of semi-permanent haircolors out there that work well, and I’ve been a Natural Instincts bottle-brunette since 1996! I’ve been pretty loyal to this product too. It took me 15 years to try any other brand of haircolor.
Back in 2011, Natural Instincts changed to a “new and improved” formula that simply wasn’t either one of those things — it was awful, and the color didn’t last nearly as long as it used to. Clairol’s website erupted with negative reviews as these “improved” formulas hit the shelves. I ran around buying up all of the old-formula Natural Instincts I could find, and when I finally ran out of those boxes, I switched to the now-defunct Garnier Herbashine for a while.
By 2014, Natural Instincts had gone back to their previous haircolor formula, aside from some changes to the moisturizing ingredients (adding coconut and safflower oil, among others.) I resumed using Natural Instincts when they brought the former formula back, and I have continued to use it ever since — even when that one rogue box turned my hair orange in 2015…
Suffice it to say that I’m quite loyal to Natural Instincts. So, when a reader sent me the following email, I sighed and thought, “Not again…”
“They’re at it again. There’s a small sticker on current boxes of Natural Instincts that reads: ‘Coming soon! New look & formula.’ There’s [also] a new suggested color scheme to replace the current numbering system.”
My reader also sent a link to a review from someone who’s used the new version of Natural Instincts. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a positive one:
“New improved formula is AWFUL! Did NOT cover my gray, made the gray hair an awful reddish color! Never did either of these things before! I will not use this again. I need to go and find as many boxes of the original formula as I can or I don’t know what I will use! It’s a chore to color my hair and takes 2 boxes of color and for it to end up looking awful is just frustrating and disappointing! It smells better and it is easier to use, but it DIDN’T WORK!”
Oh, Natural Instincts. WHY did you have to go do something like this again? I should have noticed that this week’s new coupons show a completely different box design than last month’s — compare them in the image above.
Clairol’s Facebook page is already receiving negative reviews of this new Natural Instincts formula too.
For those that don’t know, Procter & Gamble sold the Clairol brand, along with other formerly-P&G beauty brands, to Coty back in 2016. At the time, I was fearful that Coty would change the Natural Instincts formula that I’d come to rely on for decades, but aside from a manufacturer change on the packaging, nothing else was different.
After the beauty brands acquisition, Coty noted that the Clairol brand wasn’t performing as well as they’d like. Their previous quarterly earnings report notes that while other brands enjoyed “solid revenue growth,” Clairol “remained under pressure.”
So, what’s a been-around-forever brand to do: Market itself as the reliable, consistent product it’s been for years, or radically overhaul itself into something new and hope to gain more market share?
Unfortunately, Coty has gone with option #2. The “new” Natural Instincts is no longer a liquid haircolor — it’s a creme. It’s a completely different formulation featuring a different kind of dye molecule that takes 20 minutes to develop instead of 10. It’s a dry-hair application instead of a damp-hair application. They’ve also discontinued some of the previous Natural Instincts colors. You can browse a full list of the changes to the product on Clairol’s Natural Instincts website. (UPDATE: Readers have noted in the comments that Clairol has also changed the formula of Nice & Easy haircolor as well.)
As much as I like picking up my Clairol Natural Instincts during great sales, today I was in “at any price” mode, and I went out armed with multiple $5-off-2 and $2 coupons from this week’s 1/27/19 SS newspaper insert. My goal? Stock up on as many boxes of old, good Natural Instincts as I could.
First stop: Meijer. Natural Instincts is currently on sale 2-for-$13.99. Mperks has a $5-off-2 ecoupon for Clairol haircolor too. I found six boxes of what I consider to be “my browns” here and grabbed them for $4.50 each after coupons. (I buy multiple shades of brown, as I like to go a little darker in fall and winter and a little lighter in spring and summer.)
As you can see above, the Algonquin Meijer’s shelves are a mix of old and new Natural Instincts boxes at the moment. The browns are also slightly less stocked now, thanks to me…
Next stop: CVS/pharmacy. Natural Instincts was on sale 2-for-$14.. My Algonquin CVS was a treasure trove of old Natural Instincts — not a new green box in sight! They even had some of the now-discontinued shades of Brass Free Brunette, which I always like to have on hand in case things start to go a little too red or golden. I used my remaining $5-off-2 coupons, as well as all of my $2 coupons, grabbing these for $4.50 and $5 per box.
Plus, CVS has the added bonus of their ongoing “Buy 7 boxes of haircolor, get the 8th free” sale, so I’ll get a coupon on my next visit for another free box. (Which of course I’ll pick up sooner than later!)
I now have 14 boxes of good-old Natural Instincts, which will last me at least a year. If you’re a loyal Natural Instincts user, consider this your heads-up to go and shop before your shades are off the shelves too! (And Coty… if you see a Natural Instincts sales boom this quarter, how will you know if it’s due to the new formula… or due to highly-change-resistant people like me who are stocking up on the old stuff?)
A big thank-you to reader “T” for bringing the Natural Instincts changes to my attention.
If you’re a Natural Instincts fan hunting for the old formula, Amazon also currently has old-style Natural Instincts in stock.