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Box Color vs. Salon Color

March 30, 2020

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Box Color vs. Salon Color

March 30, 2020


In this uncertain time of staying at home to "flatten the curve," salons across the country have closed to protect their staff and their clients. This begs the question - how do we get through 4-6 weeks+ of root management until salons re-open?


The first thought process may be to stop by your local salon and buy a box of "closest match" color. However, this short term solution could cost hundreds in color correction down the road. In this post, we look at the pros of salon color vs. box color and some important things to consider before an off-the-shelf product.


How Box Dyes Work
Home hair color (also known as hair dye or box color) can be purchased at your local drug store, beauty supply, or discount store. It's typically fairly inexpensive ($8 to $20) and it almost always comes with instructions on how to apply the color at home. The color is usually easy to mix with little to no measuring, though, it comes with no options to alter the pigmentation. The dye itself is typically a more concentrated formulation than salon hair color because the color has to be strong enough to work on anyone's hair. This means the formula is the same, no matter how thin, thick, coarse, dark, light, highlighted, color-treated, or chemically processed your hair is at the time of application. In other words, box color doesn't discriminate. However, by not being tailored to hair type, that’s where potential risks come into play.

Risks Associated With Using Box Dyes
Coloring your hair at home may seem like a good idea due to its potential cost-effectiveness, as well as not having to take a trip to the salon, but keep in mind that this process requires taking fine-grained details into consideration that may not always be recognized by a client's eye. This includes determining which product you should choose to deliver your expected results, as well as how much dye to put on and how long to let it process.

Since non-hair professionals aren’t trained to know these things off the top of their head, generally, people don’t apply enough box dye to fully saturate their hair. The finished result is splotchy and uneven, resulting in a cheaper, very DIY look. On the opposite end of not applying enough dye, there’s the risk of applying too much and letting it process for too long, which can end up looking way too dark, inky, and even dull, not to mention dry and damaged. As such, you have to be super mindful of how long you leave it on your hair so as to not end up with a beauty catastrophe.

And then there’s the biggest risk factor of all: Trying to go lighter or fully bleach your hair at home. Going blonde usually stains hair in a totally unexpected way and often turns out dark and brassy. This happens because the hair's mid-shafts and ends process much slower than the roots. When going lighter, what ends up happening is, if it’s applied all at once, the ends come out significantly darker than the roots, creating a very odd and unnatural finish.


When to Opt for a Pro
Professional stylists have a vast knowledge of hair color tones, levels, and how to achieve them. They learn every possible scenario that can make a great hair color, and they learn how to fix hair color that doesn't go right. A skilled colorist will take into consideration aspects such as skin tone, eye color, hair texture, hair density, and hair porosity and can predict which color would best suit their client's needs.

While hair coloring is a science, it's not exact and even the safest hair coloring can go wrong with no rhyme or reason to it. When you have 50 percent or more gray hair, get a professional color service to be sure you get equal gray coverage and that your hair doesn't take on any unwanted tones that commonly occur with gray hair. Similarly, any time you want to make big changes to your hair color (like balayage, highlights, or bleaching), seek professional help instead of doing it on your own.

Lastly, never dye over already-dyed hair if you don't know what dye was used. It's not always clear how your new color will react with the old, and your hairstylist will know. 


The Final Take Away
Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, after the color is rinsed your hair just might not turn out the way you envisioned. As a result, an $8 box of hair color can easily turn into a $300 (or more) fix in the blink of an eye. Whatever you do, do not try to fix it yourself. Call your hairstylist. Explain what happened (be brutally honest), and then let them do their job.

Colorists spend years training in application, color theory, and overall technique,” Arndt reminds. Trying to color your hair yourself isn’t as easy as imagined and you may end up spending hundreds of dollars in correcting the color, not to mention compromising the integrity of your hair in the process, when it could have been a simple process in the first place.