A Customer Review! Special Effects Vs. Manic Panic!

Guys, as you know, Special Effects is, during certain times of the year, IMPOSSIBLE to keep in stock. Why is this? It’s because it has a shorter shelf life than Manic Panic and because they do not produce dye year round. They only do it in batches, which leads to big chunks of time when their products become MEGA scarce. We just spoke to them on Monday, and as of right now, we’re still looking at Mid October for a possible ship date from them. I KNOW! Don’t get me started.

Seriously. Don’t.

Annnyyyway, in the meantime, we have options. Namely, Manic Panic! Manic panic is the original. It’s vegan, and cruelty free, and all of that other great tree hugging wonderfulness, but most importantly, it comes in a million colors, two formulations (original and Amp’d, a longer lasting formula) AND it’s available ALL THE DAMNED TIME! That’s right! That means when you order Manic Panic, you won’t be on a backorder list for MONTHS. Imagine that? I know! Now, some of you, particularly youngins, are afraid of the Manic Panic. “Why, that’s what my grandma used to color HER chelsea green!” the children cry. You know what though, children? Your grandma knew her stuff. Yes, we’re not going to lie, Manic Panic, overall, does NOT last quite as long as Special Effects. Why is this? Dead animals. Pure and simple. You can’t get color to last like Special Effects without crushing up a few insects and maybe some other as yet-to-be-named creatures. (And a note to the scandalized, if your product can’t be specifically labeled as “Vegan” then SOMETHING  someone considers cute died to make it. Such is life.) But you know what else? We sell both products, so taking our word for it isn’t really doing due diligence. So what we’ve done is asked a customer to do an HONEST review, comparing both products, and Awesome Attic Customer and Supermom Sol has stepped up to the task!* Yay, Sol! So, without further delay, here’s Sol’s review, complete with photos! Take it away, Sol!

*Full disclosure, Sol had placed an order of Special Effects Atomic Pink through our website, and was sent an additional order of Manic Panic Hot Hot Pink, free of charge, in exchange for her lovely write up!


Hi All! Sol here, fan of Amalthea’s Attic and all things unique and fun. I’ve been dyeing my hair varying shades now for about 20 years, but 9 times out of 10 I go with Manic Panic. Yes, I know there are many more products out there so I was happy to give Special Effects a go for my favorite online store.

After bleaching the top half of my hair (bottom half is dyed with Manic Panic Purple Haze) I dyed one side with Manic Panic Amplified Hot Hot Pink and the other with Special Effects Atomic Pink.

I noticed a few things right away when I opened up the Special Effects bottle and squirted it into my bowl. The consistency of the dye is thicker than Manic Panic’s. One problem I’ve always had with Manic Panic is that I wish it was thicker to make application easier, as well to make sure I get enough on my hair to make the color stick. It went on nicely and was easy to spread with my dye brush and fingers as needed. Compared to Manic Panic I felt it was easier to apply in terms of the messy factor. I did use a bit more of the Special Effects but I felt the coverage of the product rivaled Manic Panic’s.

I let them both sit for a few hours, applied some heat from a blow dryer and then rinsed. The colors are different in appearance—the Special Effects Atomic Pink was a bit redder in appearance but after it was all rinsed? To the eye I couldn’t tell a huge difference between it and the Manic Panic Cotton Candy. Both sides were evenly dyed and I didn’t feel either was lacking in its ability to saturate and change my hair color.

 Of course the true test would be the performance factor. How long would it last, hold up to sun exposure, swimming, washings and the test of time.

I swim in a chlorinated pool nearly every day during the summer and after a month my hair color was starting to fade a bit but still looking nice and bright.

I found the staying power of Special Effects to be better than Manic Panic’s. I admit I was surprised as I’ve always been a Manic Panic fan. I still am but I’m definitely going to look for some more Special Effects colors, as soon as they are more widely available. The latter is the only downside I can find to Special Effects, availability. I’ve fallen in love with the way the Atomic Pink faded and impressed with the performance but now it is hard to find! I hope as Special Effects moves their production factory and gets back into the grove I can find more of their products here at Amalthea’s Attic.

Sol's lovely dye job

Comparing dyes when wet.

Back to the Attic

6 thoughts on “A Customer Review! Special Effects Vs. Manic Panic!

  1. Dani

    Whoa — I didn’t know that was why Special Effects was always out of stock! Thanks for posting, this was very informative.

    Also just wanted to let you know about an additional alternative — Pravana Chromasilk Vivids. I discovered this a while ago — it’s SUPPOSED to be available only to licensed cosmetologists, but it’s gotten so popular with the general public that you can find it on Ebay consistently. It’s a direct-deposit dye (semi-permanent), but with much higher-quality ingredients than MP and Special Effects and the like. In my experience, it lasts even longer than Special Effects, but it’s more sensitive to heat — meaning, if you process SFX with a couple blasts from a hairdryer, it’ll make the color take a little bit better, but if you process Pravana with a couple blasts from a hairdryer, it’ll make the color take A LOT better. I suspect this is because Pravana was made for use by professionals in a salon, where they have the option of processing hair dye under those big hooded dryers (instead of just telling the client to sleep in the hair dye with a shower cap over it). Anyway, Pravana is the brand I always use when SFX is out of stock.

  2. April Southerland

    Me personally, I prefer Punky Color. Its cheaper by leaps and bounds than SFX and Manic Panic. I love SFX colors, but since they have decided to lose more business than gain it I stick with Punky Color. I can get their Flamingo Pink and it looks just exactly like Atomic Pink and it lasts about three months and almost four months the last time that I used it. Manic Panic, for me has never lasted more than 2 weeks and it is faded to a yucky peachy orange color. I have tried doing other things to make it work but it just doesn’t work. I think it is my hair, it might be just a bad jar here and there. Who knows but for me, I prefer Punky Color.

  3. Amalthea Post author

    SFX has undergone several formulation changes. When this post was originally submitted, they were not vegan! Thanks for the update though!

  4. girlwithknife

    Wow, shorter shelf life also explains why when once I bought 2 bottles of the same color, months later the whole bottle turned a sick color and was rendered useless.
    Good to know.

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