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Surprisingly, I get a lot of clients that look at me puzzled when I say that box color is bad for their hair!

I’ve always known this to be common knowledge and a few of those reasons you can guess without any background in haircolor.

I hear clients say things like- ”Doesn’t all color make your hair dry?” and, “The box doesn’t” say anything about that!”.

As a certified haircolorist it’s difficult when a client questions my suggestions or training, they are seeking me for haircolor help for a reason.  Perhaps it’s due to the fact that the client has failed at creating something to please themselves with products from the supermarket.

 ”I don’t know what happened, it’s the same box I always get.”

You probably don’t trust your friends with your color by now, and you know you’ve made one too many mistakes attempting to do it on your own. Now it’s time to trust a professional.

The reasons to trust a professional colorist are infinite! Becoming a certified haircolorist is no piece of cake! The pass rate is less than 20%, and some of the most seasoned stylists have attempted certification 4-5 times…and still don’t pass.

Remember, just because someone is a licensed stylist does not mean that they are good, well-trained, knowledgeable, experienced, etc.!

I tackled 7 grueling months of intense studying and practicing to further my understanding of color from chemistry to psychology, and more.  We are color perfectionists and consider box color to be the lowest of the low that you can go with coloring your hair.  So trust me or any other colorist that you admire, relax, and wait for the final result!

I have quite a few clients who come see me monthly and are willing to pay top dollar for a haircut but won’t pay for professional haircolor. You’re too scared to let an entry-level stylist give you a haircut, but you trust yourself (a non-professional) to make decisions on chemically altering your hair?  If you’re one of those people consider this….pay $40 for a great haircut then fry it off with an $8 box of color.

I’ll let you in on a little secret….it doesn’t matter how great your haircut is if your ends are over-processed. I know haircolor forwards and backwards so I’m going to tell you the reasons why you should get it done at the salon.

 

1. One size does not fit all.

Camel Toe : Box Color

I consider box color to be “one size fits all”. The idea of something like this is not perceivable in the world of professional haircolor and it cannot be relied upon.

In order to achieve the color you want a stylist considers several factors and customizes your developer with different hues to make the perfect shade.

Box color is made so that it can potentially alter a wide range of hair types & shades with no guarantee.

I may choose to use a 3% developer on one person and 9% on another with the same color but the outcome will be immensely different. Most box colors use 12% or higher to assure that it will at least do something to any hair type and that’s just getting dangerous!

As a woman, do you believe in one size fits all pants? I certainly don’t! They might fit the size 6 figure but they won’t fit the size 14(and if they do you’re going to have a camel toe and a muffin top coming hot!).

I know this… that’s why I don’t buy one size pants, and the same applies for box color. That beautiful buttery blonde shade might look great on your sister, but it’ll turn out orange on you. In this situation think of the camel toe you don’t want in the same sense as a bad color with fried ends.

Do you really want to walk around looking like that?


2. Haircolor must be customized for each person.

We are all unique in many ways and that applies to hair as well. I mentioned that professional stylists must consider several factors in order to give you a proper color service.

For those who don’t realize the thought process it takes to come up with your formula I’m going to give a brief overview.

Here are the main factors we consider when customizing your color service:

  • Natural level & underlying pigment
  • Skin Tone
  • Level of Porosity
  • Previous artificial pigments
  • Percentage of gray(if any)

 

Manic-Panic-Hair-Color-Dye

Manic Panic is not a “semi-permanent” haircolor!

3. Do you know what demi, semi, & permanent really means?

In the world of box color there isn’t a whole lot of difference between demi, semi, and permanent haircolor. Yes, the box may claim that it washes out in a month…. but will it?

In most cases it doesn’t. This goes back to customization again, even with colors that “wash out” there has to be a process to consider what level and shade will give you what you’re looking for.

It’s important to remember that no color really washes out completely. In the salon there is a huge difference between the three types and each option has its own factors for successful application. There is no way that a box can figure out all of those things for you.

There is ONE exception when it comes to finding a haircolor that washes out. That would be semi-permanent(temporary color), and it is in a completely different category whether you are talking about box or professional color.

Temporary colors only stain the outside of the hair strand and should last 1 to 2 weeks at most.  There can still be a hinkering of tint left depending on how light your hair is.

 

4. There is nothing like professional application.

When i hear the word “bottle” in reference to haircolor it makes me cringe.

Foil-Hair

Bottles are only good for one thing- toners, which is also something that should not be attempted at home. There is no such thing as a good bottle application of color.

In order to keep your hair healthy and avoid banding of color it must be applied precisely from the regrowth to the demarcation line.

Do you think you can do this in a poorly lit bathroom leaning over your…sink using a bottle?

Even if you’re using a brush (or trying)… you can’t see what we can see. If the color overlaps you will create banding(darker spots) and that’s not pretty.

You’re also getting into damaging your hair on a whole new level.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a haircut on a box blonde,and it’s white-ish…yellowy…orange…burnt orange…basically splotchy all over. Just because you got your blonde hair doesn’t mean you’re looking good!

Here comes Ms. Cheap-and-Unattractive!

 

5. Your hair WILL feel like straw.

Damaged-Hair

Dry, damaged hair…and it’s only the beginning.

I’m convinced that the reason why some of my clients and other box color users out there accept the straw-like hair texture is because they just think that’s what’s supposed to happen.

This is a huge misconception resulting from an uneducated public when it comes to haircolor.

Companies that put box color on the market are clever advertisers and they’re doing a great job brainwashing everyone.

When you come to the other side and experience professional color your hair will  feel better than it ever has. It is possible to be a platinum blonde with shiny, healthy hair, but probably not with a box.

The reason why your hair feels like straw is because it is traveling further and further down the porosity scale. This means that the damage level is rising and you’re getting close to losing some hair.

Most people get a box and put it on all over the entire strand. I’m not sure, but I don’t think box colors include directions on applying to the demarcation line and refreshing ends only when needed. This is why that beautiful rich chocolate brown that you once achieved is looking black on the ends…also resulting in more and more straw-like texture, difficulty styling, and frizzing out of control.

I can’t even begin to tell you the difference between doing a blow out on hair that I colored versus box colored hair.  It’s excruciating, difficult, and hair is breaking off every 2 seconds!


6. The outcome of box color is usually an unwanted new haircut.

Do you like your hairstyle?

Whether it’s long or short… it doesn’t really matter because I’ve seen these disasters with all lengths. Damage is almost certain with repetitive use of box color. Generally…the ends to the mid-shaft are affected, and in some extreme cases it can be worse.

We’ve all seen those dry, frizzy ends on someones hair… and there isn’t much a flat iron can do for that. There comes a point where if you want your hair to look good again-cutting a few inches off is the only option.

If you’re not ready to do a total 180 with your hair you may want to think before you pick up the box!

I have a wonderful client that I’ve been working with almost 2 years now. She would like to get professional color but she either doesn’t have time or can’t readily afford it considering the rapid growth and gray that shows. I understand that so I feel for her and we’re working to get her hair healthier. We initially had to cut a lot off, and we do regular deep conditioning treatments. With my instruction she is doing much better, but she went through a year of suffering with hair hassles.

She didn’t understand why this happened, she followed the directions, but boxes do not explain the danger of porosity. Porosity has a different meaning when it comes to haircolor so I’ll give you a short explanation and you’ll soon understand why it matters.

Which one do you have?

If you’re not sure if you’re hair is damaged beyond repair take my quiz- How Damaged Is My Hair?, to find out more about your hair’s porosity!

 

7. Cap highlights are an accident waiting to happen!

Cap-Highlights

Not all things from the 80′s are great!

Most of you have probably heard of “polka dots” or “bleed lines”,  and you may have experienced them yourself.

This is not a pretty picture, and also not easily reversible at home. I don’t believe in cap highlighting at home or in the salon.

Sorry if I’m offending any “professional” haircolorists out there, but there is simply nothing professional about pulling hair through holes with what looks like a latch hook and slapping bleach on it.

The 80′s were great, but it’s time to move on and leave the cap behind.

 

Here’s an interesting tidbit about cosmetology education in the 2000′s:

Cap highlights are not even spoken of to students in most cosmetology schools. Some schools may be a little outdated and still carry and teach the cap method, but the more elite institutions don’t even consider it.

After we were taught how to foil and finished our basic color knowledge course I asked about the cap out of curiosity. My learning leader just looked at me and said, “No honey….no…we don’t do that anymore.”

There are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t use cap highlights at home or in the salon. I hope this technique slowly slips out of all stylists and clients vocabulary!

 

8. You’re not going to look like the celebrities in the commercials.

Eva-Longoria-Loreal-Hair-Color

I know what your thinking, her hair looks great!

Do you think that Eva Longoria really uses box color? NO WAY!

She pays ungodly amounts of money to a top stylist for her haircolor. Same with Gwen Stefani and Beyoncé…two other huge box color endorsers. They are getting paid thousands to endorse at home haircolor for big companies.

Sure, you want to have hair like hers, but she is paying well over the hundreds for her haircolor and you are paying $8. Yea, not going to happen.

If you want great haircolor mimicking celebrity hair icons then find a certified colorist and make an appointment!

If you’re interested in learning about why certified colorists have more satisfied clients, or would like to get certified- read my article on Becoming an Expert in Cosmetology & Beauty. Even if you’re not in the beauty industry you will love the idea behind why I am so motivated when I do what I love!

 

9. It may be affordable now…but not for long.

Piggy-Bank-with-Money

Fixing Box color can cost a pretty penny!

So, you say that you cannot afford professional color.

Well, if you can’t pay the $50 for a professional then should you really be spending $10 on a box? Probably not if your situation is that tight.

Just because you can’t afford the more expensive option doesn’t mean you can afford the lesser.

 

Let’s say you get a box color and the outcome is not what you expected, which is usually the case…
In fact, it’s even worse than you expected and you have a big interview or social event coming up. You may decide to grab another box and fix the problem yourself…piece-of-cake…

It’s not that easy. Now, you’re over-processed and your only option is to crawl in a salon begging for a miracle. This would be true even if you didn’t attempt at fixing it yourself.

Most salons charge $100 per hour for corrective color services, and only a few stylists generally offer  that service. Now you’re hoping to get someone that knows what they are doing and probably paying $200-$300 for the fix.

That $8 box ended up costing a lot more than you expected!

You don’t have to go to a top salon, but find a credible stylist and explain your concerns. Your stylist will work with you to come up with something affordable. I have a client with gray that only comes in every 3 months for color.

I came up with a solution that doesn’t show a huge demarcation line when it grows in, and it averages out to about $16 per month. Doesn’t sound so bad does it? It gets better… if you have solid gray hair there are products out there like colored mousses, dry shampoos, and hair markers that can stretch you to your next color service!

 

10. If you decide to switch it’s not going to be easy.

If you’ve ever gone to a salon for professional color after coloring your own hair for any amount of time…you know what I’m talking about!

You probably get a look that says- “Do you think I have a magic wand?”. Box color is so different from professional color, so we cannot accurately predict what may happen when we apply our color on top of box color.  It’s going to be a process and you have to be patient.

The most common result is an odd shade of green shining through, or even purple. I’ve had clients come in with similar situations a few times and it’s not an easy fix. Applying color on top of color DOES NOT wipe the slate clean. You may have months or years of various pigments hiding in there and who knows which ones will pop out!

You will end up spending more money to get your hair back to normal than you would have if you had it done professionally in the first place.

 

I know I said ten reasons but there is one more…….

 

11. Box “formulas” may change, but professional formulas don’t.

Box Color on Sale ClearanceHave you ever been to a Big Lots or Ollie’s…and there it is…on the top shelf- discounted box color! You get excited!
You’re already “taking a leap and going cheap”…now you’re getting it for less than you thought!

This is not a good thing.

Just like everything else at discount stores, it’s there because it is OLD or EXPIRED. (That doesn’t mean that some products in grocery or superstores  aren’t expired…and still on the shelves for sale.)

If you buy an old box of color there’s a good chance that it will not turn out anything like you think it will. The same goes with a “new” box color, of course :).

Don’t let them fool you… companies can change their formulas but, it still looks like the same box.  It may say- ”New Formula!”, and the consumer just assumes it’s going to be an improvement in their favor.

It could be “improved” by changing hues or levels of developer, which means your hair isn’t going to turn out the same as it did last time. I’ve often heard, “I don’t know what happened, it’s the same box I always get.”.  You might think that you’re buying the same box of haircolor, but you’re not.

 


Aside from all of the obvious…I think it’s clear that the main problem with botched haircolor is the word “box”.

Hopefully many of you will be wiping that word from your vocabulary and switching over to the wonderful world of professional color! If you can’t or you’re simply happy with your box color…go over this checklist for before you color at home :).

 

 Still not sure?  Here are 5 More Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Box Color!


 

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*This content is copyrighted by Erika E. Brown and Confessions of a Cosmetologist. Please contact me if you would like information on how to properly link to this article. I DO NOT, under ANY circumstances authorize the copying of this content for any purpose.

Sources: The ABCH Study Portfolio

 

You probably need to read…..

“I went to an expensive and reputable hairstylist, but I didn’t get the results I was looking for!”

…before you leave the comment that’s on your mind!

 

217 Responses to 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Box Color

  1. […] 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Use Box Color […]

    • connie says:

      Hi Erika,
      I just found your website and would love to see if you could give me some guidance! I am not sure what has happened to my hair but it is dry. split and straw-like. My salon stylist who I have been going to forever and love her would not highlight my hair last month because of this but she did put on a mild color “my natural color” which is a reddish brown …with gray. I have been trying not to use any heating products and was told that I may have been putting on too much protein. I have read that co-wash might help?? My hair is thick and curly/wavy. My underneath hair is in good shape…just the sides, tops and bangs are fried. Leaving on beach vacation in a week and really need to do something before I go. I truly don’t know what to do! I have talked to someone about doing a split end brazilian or a full blown brazilian. My stylist does not do them. I also wonder if a clear or color glaze would at least help it de-frizz a little. I would really appreciate any information and guidance you could give me. Thank you very much. I have found your site to be very informative.
      Connie

      • Erika Brown says:

        Connie,

        Were you getting highlights regularly before your last appointment? Extreme damage like that can be caused by a combination of things, but using too much protein is not the likely cause. Straw-like and splitting hair strands is more of a chemical/heat damage issue. Too much protein can make it worse, but without the other factors protein will just make your hair feel more dry, brittle, and possibly cause breakage.

        Do you regularly use a strengthening or repair shampoo? If you do, that’s where the protein comes from and you would need to balance it out with a moisturizing shampoo….or just use the restorative shampoo 1-2 times per week.

        If you were getting highlights…then it’s possible that your stylist was overlapping the lightener onto previously lightened hair, which is a major cause of damage in most cases. Some stylists just don’t know any better until your hair starts breaking. It sounds simple, but I’ve seen it plenty of times. Lightener should only be applied on the regrowth to avoid damage. Some stylists overlap it because it’s faster than being careful with where you apply the product. You’d know if this was the case if your ends were noticeably lighter than the hair at the root. The use of heat stylers can make it worse if you’re someone who irons around the face a lot.

        The best product for you right now is It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Conditioner. If you really want to boost up the recovery then I would also use the shampoo and conditioner. I used it when someone fried off my ends and the first time you use it you can feel the difference. It’s not an instant fix, but it does make you feel better about your hair! Here’s a link if you want to check out the product:

        • Jessica says:

          I can attest that “It’s A 10″ products are AMAZING. Truly. There’s not a day that I shampoo and condition my hair that I don’t use the leave in conditioner as well.

  2. Tiffany says:

    You are making several blanket generalized statements and making up percentage statistics. Nothing here is fact, just opinion. The opinion of a hairstylist, making this very slanted, and in no way balanced. Terrible article. And criticizing women for having a separate opinion makes you a part of a greater problem.

    • Erika Brown says:

      That’s what a blog is for…expressing opinions. So far 13,262+ people disagree with you, so thank you for your opinion and please think about what you say before you say it in the future.

      I chose cosmetology because I like helping people feel better than they did before they walked in the door, and criticizing women isn’t something I do.

  3. Alberta says:

    All of this sounds great BUT….. I used to use box color. Then a few years ago started going to salons for color. Now, I am retired, a female disabled vet, and the cost has now become prohibative. A color a cut cost $86 plus a $20 tip. Oh yes I have tried other salons over the last few years, some good, some not so good, but the cost is always similar unless you go to some of the salons in the shopping malls and such. Then, the cost might be slightly lower, but the stylist usually don’t stay long and you have to keep going through finding a new person who can do your cut and hopefully figure out what the color the other person was putting on. Consider going back to box color or maybe esalon but I just can’t keep this up money wise. I understand a stylist is worth their money, but …. many people can’t afford the big prices now. We’re stuck.

  4. Tori says:

    Hi! I have super curly hair, and I have been using box dye, but the last time I used box dye I noticed after that I lost some of my curl. I’m now thinking about going to a salon and getting my hair dyed and was wondering if that would actually help bring my natural curl back? And if not, is there anything you can suggest to get my curl back?

    • Erika Brown says:

      The curl was probably softened from the strong chemicals that are in box dye formulas. They are much stronger than what salons use, so they cause more damage to your hair. Your curl will probably come back in time, but getting it colored again won’t bring it back.

      You need to nourish your hair, try not to use too much heat when styling, and protect it from UV rays this summer (also if you go the the pool or beach put some conditioner on your hair…leave-in is great…or regular conditioner if you don’t have a leave-in spray) that will prevent your hair from soaking up too much chlorine and salt water. When you do color your hair, let your stylist know what you’ve experienced so she can use a color line that will promote healthy hair. There are several great lines that are ammonia-free, for example!

  5. […] Those are just a few of the negative reactions that I get from my popular post: 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Box Color. […]

  6. Erin says:

    I really think articles like this are misguiding. I think the answer is highly dependent on the person and what they want their hair to look like. I had my hair professionally dyed for years. I feared the results of box color. I decided to try it once a few years ago because my budget was tight. I would easily drop $300 at the salon, so I decided to spend closer to $20 at CVS. The results were perfect and have been ever since. I haven’t been back to a salon and actually regret spending the thousands of dollars I did over the years at various salons. I’m platinum blonde, and trying to get it as light as I like to at a salon is like pulling teeth. I won’t move away from box color. Salons are really a waste of money unless you’re looking to get extravagant with your style.

    • Erika Brown says:

      Just as you think this article is misleading (and it isn’t because I mention that everyone has different results, expectations, needs, etc.), your opinion is just the same.

      Everyone is different. How can you say that salons are a waste of money when hundreds of thousands of other women disagree with you?

      In a comparison, a box blonde at-home job right next to a professional color will definitely be noticeably different! How do you perfectly apply color to only the regrowth and feather it where needed in places where you can’t see on your own head? If a friend does it….does she care if it’s perfect or know how to apply the color? Most likely not.

      My point is that what is satisfactory to you may not be to all women. This article is for women that seek the best and want flawless color. That in itself can be different depending on who you talk to.

  7. frances says:

    Hi Erika Brown,
    I would love to go get my hair professionally done. But I am too embarrassed and to scared of pick the wrong one . and the big one is don’t have the funds. So I guess my question is , if you had to pick which box hair dye to use which one do you recommended. I am sorry I know you hate them. Thank You Erika Brown for your knowledge and experience . and for your time to write this blog. I appreciate it.

    • Erika Brown says:

      Hi Frances!

      I understand your struggle, as I have that when I’m looking for someone to do my hair to my expectations! If you’re going to do it yourself just don’t get anything that says “permanent”. Choose a product that is a semi-permanent color and choose a shade that is not drastically different from your own for the best outcome.

      I can’t personally recommend a brand or type of box color because I haven’t used them in over 15 years (high school…before my cosmetology education). Even if I knew which brands were better, it’s impossible to recommend something because there is no formula to base it on. It’s really just luck and an educated guess if you use my advice to pick one out…which makes it a better chance of getting what you want.

      Here are a few examples to help you figure it out, and if you still have questions please e-mail me from the contact page.

  8. […] The inspiration for this post came from the many reader comments on 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Box Color. […]

  9. kitty says:

    I was colouring my hair at home with stunning results, and when i decided to treat myself with a visit to a professional (which turned out to be over-charging guy who is nothing but big mouth), paid in total £600 and wanted to just shave my head bold after all of that! Worst mistake ever! Never going to hairdressers again (been to quite a few, well known, expensive), they caused nothing but damage (both to hair and wallet)- cutting with blunt scissors, damaging with lighting (wanted to go blond, after all bleaching hairdressers results were darker than i originally had before!).
    As well as all of this, been using really expensive products, with no results (apart of they smelled good and lathered well), went back to my cheap Garnier Fructis and seeing great results… I so wish it was all different, loved the idea of pampering myself with a good hair style…

    • Erika Brown says:

      It all depends on where you go, and unfortunately there are more of the bad than good out there. That’s true for anything in life….

      1.There are more “bad” people on Earth than there are good.

      2.For every 5-star hotel there are probably thirty 1-stars….or more!

      3.Some women try on 20 or 30 pairs of jeans or dresses before finally finding the right one.

      4.MEN, lol! How many perfect gentleman do you come across? Not many if you’re considering how many more are jerks or just not worth wasting your time on.

      5.Doctors or other service career professionals…are just the same as hairdressers. There are plenty of them out there, you’re not going to like every doctor you have an appointment with, and you may have to try a few out before you find the one you want to stick with.

      Skills aside, our professions are the same. We must complete schooling, acquire and maintain state licensure, attract and retain clients, consult (to identify the problem, asses the needs or wants, and provide a complimentary solution that is in the clients best interest.

      Read This For Reasons Why You Should Be More Open-Minded

  10. Jessica says:

    I mean…

    Come on miss Amanda – people don’t just “glue” in extensions because they have some extra free time on their hands and they don’t know what else to do with it. There was absolutely some communication at some point about said extensions so don’t leave out vital information just to give us all a bad rap.

    Your “whole head of highlights” either means you have a head the size of a 4 year old OR you decided to go with just a partial to save money OR you told the stylist to “do whatever you think looks good!”.

    If you’re not going to tell the whole story – tell no story at all.

  11. Amanda says:

    Every stylist/colorist I have ever went to (from 15 to 23 years old) has messed my hair up horribly. Wanted whole head of highlights, I got 4, and two glued in extensions I didn’t ask for. And a dye job that didn’t change my hair one bit. Oh there’s more…….but I’ve went every color myself, no damage. Probably wasted $500 in salons.

    • Erika Brown says:

      Where did you go? How much did you pay? It sounds like you weren’t very particular with who you made an appointment with, and there was a bit of a lack of communication.

      No one “glues” in extensions unless you ask for them. They are expensive, but not only that….we certainly don’t “glue” them in!

      Either you are exaggerating, or you didn’t portray what you wanted to those stylists. NO STYLIST is going to try to get away with giving you “four” highlights instead of a full highlight. There is one place that tries to give the illusion that you got more than you did, it’s a cheap chain and I won’t mention the name…..

  12. […] are just a few things that you will lose when your hair is damaged from box color, mistreatment, and other harmful elements that we just can’t always […]

  13. Melissa says:

    I have been coloring my hair at home since I was 15 and I am 39 now. I have long, soft, shiny, HEALTHY hair! I have been every possible shade of color too! And btw, my hair stylist that cuts my hair told me my hair is really healthy!

    • Erika Brown says:

      That’s great, and I do mention that for some people it will work without worries. Most people will not have the same experience as you did.

      It all depends on your hair type, color, environment, care, etc. and the results you are trying to achieve. If you did what some women do and try to switch back-and-forth from light to dark or vice-versa with a box….your hair woul not be healthy.

  14. Melissa says:

    I have some gray hairs. More concentrated in the back with a few in the front. I just want to cover my gray. Would you recommend highlights to cover it (that’s what my stylist suggested) or all over color? Also, how often should I expect to go in for touch ups? thanks!

    • Erika Brown says:

      I think that highlights are a great idea…and you will probably want a low light as well for the best gray blending. Low light doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be darker than your hair, just an appropriate color that is darker than the highlight.

      If you do all over color you will have to keep up with it more often, whereas with the highlights you can stretch it a few extra months!

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