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 a formula 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 ensure 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 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.


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.


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!


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.


I know what you’re 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.


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!


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

  1. […] 1. If your hair was darker than the color that you chose then it absolutely will not wash out. It’s just not chemically possible to go lighter without peroxide. The box is lying. […]

  2. Alma says:

    I am currently in cosmetology school and I have a client who has box color, she wants me to bleach it to do an ombré. But I’m scared that I am going to fry her hair. Would it be safer if I coat the hair with a professional hair color and then bleach it ?? Or what do you recommend.

    • Erika says:

      If you were to put professional hair color on her hair before bleaching it that would not be “safer”. It would only make it harder to achieve the ombré look. The more someone has colored their hair the harder it is to lighten.

      You need to ask her…..
      1)How many times she has box colored her hair.
      2)If she applies the color from roots to ends every time.

      You need to consider….
      1)How dark her hair is. If it is darker than a level 6 then you may have to use a stronger developer with the lightener to get to a desirable shade. In some cases you can use a level 10 or 20 developer to safely lighten the hair and reapply if it doesn’t get light enough. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be damage…it’s just better than using 30 or 40 volume.
      2)The color may be inconsistent after lightening. You don’t know if she evenly saturated her hair when she colored it. You don’t know if she used different colors or products. Her hair may be porous, which will also give you an inconsistent result. (In this case the client needs to know that you will have to tone it to achieve an even and beautiful color. This may be a shade or two darker than your client is expecting, so explain to her that it’s a process)
      3)Damage will happen.

      • Stephanie c says:

        Do you know any good Sally products good to use?, I had red hair before, then used color oops a color remover to remove my red hair which did. I got it left with an orange and dyed it with a box dye that I didn’t know box dyes had contained some red undertones, well after that I went to a hair salon on which the girl left me with 4 different colors when I had told her to simply remove the brown dye on top and cancel out the red, anyways I had contacted another salon and this girl worked magic! She canceled out the red and added cool undertones, making my hair look better than before. Right now I’m not financially ready to go to a salon and achieve a dark brown hair color, my roots are starting to peel in a lot, and I’ve heard there’s great Sally products to achieve a color you want you just need to know how much to use and which products and that’s the hard part for me because I don’t really know what to use or how much of what. Do you know any good brands in Sally’s ? That can help achieve a cool dark brown (:

        • Erika says:

          It’s great to hear from someone that had a successful color correction! The first stylist was probably afraid to use cool tones because they can be very dominant if they’re used on hair that does not need cool tones. Some hairstylists are not true colorists…they do not understand natural or artificial undertones and how those will “intermingle” with the formula they choose for a client.

          It is possible to get something at Sally’s that will work. A custom formula is better than a box in any case, but you must know what to buy and what to do with it.

          The downfalls are….

          1) At home application will not give you the most even look unless you know someone that can apply it and knows what to do. Your retouch should be applied ONLY from the scalp/root to the demarcation line(point where the previous color was applied. Then…it should be “feathered through” slightly…this is best done at home with a medium-toothed comb. The amount of color that’s feathered through the demarcation line depends on how much your previous color faded and the shade that you are using to color your regrowth(roots).

          2) The color product quality is much lower. I’ve used color from Sally’s for an experiment and it didn’t turn out as expected. Professional hair color is much easier to formulate for a correct/desired result. It might be 1/2 a shade to 1 full shade different than expected. The tones may also be stronger or not as strong compared to the consistent tones in professional hair color brands.

          3) Don’t ask the Sally’s Beauty associate any questions. They’re not haircolorists…if they were good then they wouldn’t be working at Sally’s(if you come across one that happens to be a licensed cosmetologist). They give bad advice and besides that…they aren’t really allowed to give advice!

          In order to give you a better idea of what you need I would have to see your hair. You cant contact me for more advice on what you can use until you are able to visit the salon again!

  3. […] never say this again, but you might be better off using box color….for real. At least that’s a no brainer when it comes to mixing. It might not be […]

  4. Bella says:

    I lost interest after reading your instead of you’re.

    • Erika says:

      I’m not sure where you read such a horrible grammatical error in my article. If you lose interest so easily then you probably miss out on a lot of great information on the internet.

      I catch errors in newspapers, national news websites, and plenty of other publications where a paid professional make mistakes. A few words of advice….there are already enough snobs in the world and if you don’t like something just look away. There is far too much negativity out there as it is.

  5. Lisa lukacsko says:

    I colored my long, beautiful, platinum blonde hair that I got from using a box for 6 years every six months. I had a family member color it for me. My hair was full thick and beautiful. I went to a highly reputable hair stylist in Vegas for the first time because I moved and didn’t have my family member to dye it for me. She told me the box wa sooo bad. She did my hair once and fried it. I ended up in wigs and devastated for a year. It still isn’t back to normal. I will take the box any day over any hair dresser. They do the most damage and all blame eachother

    • Erika says:

      Going to one bad hairstylist does not mean that using box color is better. I don’t know why you thought that stylist was “reputable”, but you obviously didn’t do your research. There are tons of board certified haircolorists in Las Vegas that would not have done that to your hair.

      Hairstylists may be considered “reputable” for many different skills, but that doesn’t mean they are masters of everything. If you hear that someone is a “great hairstylist”…that person might be known for doing amazing bobs. All hairstylists have strengths and weaknesses, but few have mastered all skills.

      What do you do for a living? What if someone in your industry made a mistake and the displeased customer bashed everyone in the field….saying that “they all do horrible work, or are untrustworthy, and “blame” each other”. How rude of you to speak poorly of an entire industry of talented people based on one bad experience!

  6. […] Styles for Curvy Women 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Box Color […]

  7. […] trip to the salon in your budget just like your electric bill. If not, you may end up resorting to box color or a chop […]

  8. […] originally wrote 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Box Color because my clients were always asking me questions about it. Some of them did not have time to come […]

  9. Lynn says:

    This is a VERY helpful article, I’m so happy to have found it. What if you have dark hair and want an outrageous color (purple, in my case)?

    ABOUT my hair: I’m fortunate, my hair is hard-to-damage. I am half Chinese and have long dark thick hair. Stylists usually thin it out in layers for me a bit when I cut it. It does not hold curl well but is shiny not coarse. It’s too dark to be called brown and isn’t blue black… so, it has to be VERY dark brown/natural black. My natural color is pretty close to this (Feria’s box natural black/black leather):
    I’ve had my hair colored professionally AND have used whole-head box color before as a color-corrector when I hated the way a professional dark reddish / auburn job was fading / changing) – it worked like a charm, perhaps because it was the same as my natural color, so the roots were undetectable from dyed parts.

    I had 2 areas with questions, on graying and on wild colors:

    I’m just starting to get some grays and have used this just to touch up a few that fan around my face (very few, 2-3 pea sized bits of color covers it all):

    It seems silly to go to a salon to cover that little bit… and since you’re not putting color on top of color…. is that really so awful?

    And second, I wanted to do a purple hombre (professionally, not myself) and have done purple highlights before (also professionally) – however, I didn’t care for the maintenance of the highlights, it faded quickly and digging them out to re-color them was time-consuming, seems hombre would be easier – also easier to just cut off any damaged or over-processed hair if needed.

    It faded so fast last time that I did I ended up using sally brands to just refresh the highlights – more so I didn’t have to have weird blond streaks in my hair as the purple faded.

    I want an intense purple, something like this:

    So, what did I or my stylist do wrong? She did have to bleach it 2x to get both the natural and box color off of it. With a wild color are you just resigned to getting it re-done every 4 weeks? Were my expectations just too high? Can I stretch it out a bit by doing the touch-ups with box color if it’s at the ends of the hair and I’m willing to cut it off when it’s damaged, or would you stay away from it even then? And so that you know, I only wash my hair every couple of days, never daily. I don’t ever blow dry it, curl it, flat iron it, or otherwise damage it. Pretty much a wash n’ wear kind of girl.

    I even explored getting extensions if the color would be more intense / stay longer (these were the ones recommended by the salon:, they said they’d dye blonde extensions) … but I’ve never had them before and I’m not sure about the extra expense and potential damage to the hair. Plus, frankly, I’ve got quite enough hair on my head as it is, more is really not necessary.

    I know this is a pretty specific question, but I was just so disappointed in how fast the color faded and the intensity died…so any guidance would be deeply appreciated!

    • Erika says:

      On covering grays:
      That’s not horrible, especially if it’s just a few. Just make sure that you don’t overlap the color….only put color on the new growth. Also, if you want to really change it up later it will be harder to do. It doesn’t sound like you want to, so you’re okay.

      On bright colors:
      That’s normal for very vivid colors because they are semi-permanent/temporary colors. The purple was probably “deposit only, and other types of color chemically alter the hair, while semi-permanents do not. So, the color is really just tinting/coloring the outside of the hair, where demi-permanents deposit color into the hair.

      First of all, your hair needs to be light enough. Was your hair at least a golden blonde? The lighter the blonde, the brighter the purple will be.

      Secondly, you may notice the purple fading within 7-10 days from the day it was applied. It will last longer if the hair is blow dried before applying the purple color. Some stylists skip this step, and that’s one reason why it fades faster. You can also put a processing cap on and sit under a dryer for 10-15 minutes after applying the purple color. I can’t say how much longer this makes it last, but it does help.

      *The purple color at Sally Beauty won’t hurt you, it doesn’t contain ammonia and it doesn’t require developer. I discourage at-home use for people who don’t realize that their hair must be lifted first, or for those that want to try to lift their hair at home. It sounds like you’re already there, so you may want to keep some temporary color at home and apply it every 7-10 days in the shower. Let it sit for about 10-15 minutes, and rinse.

      • Lynn says:

        Wow, thanks so much for the speedy reply and the great suggestions.

        I read the reviews on all 3 and the Pravana purple you suggested seems pretty long-lasting (great reviews all around, and one reviewer said it lasted more like a demi), so I’m going to order some of that for touch-ups. The two brands at Sally I had tried in the past were ion & manic panic – and I just looked them up, you’re right, both were semi… THANK you, I’m hoping that maybe the Pravana will stay darker a bit longer!

        My colorist DID get my hair stripped to a very light blonde in 2 stages (very little color left at all) and she did blow dry before applying the color and she also did have me under the hair dryer helmet for quite a while before rinsing out the color. So, it sounds like she did do her best and that 7-10 day fade is just normal. I feel MUCH better that it won’t damage my hair to stretch the style with some box “deposit only” color (that made complete sense, when you say it like that).

        I can’t wait to try those suggestions and I already feel as though I’m better armed this time…! Also, I’m going to try the 10 minute miracle hair mask just for fun – thanks for answering all these questions!

  10. […] a 16(hoping to be a 12 again in the near future)….anyone that’s in my boat knows that “one size fits all” pants are not a good idea. The only thing I own that’s “one size fits all” is a […]

  11. […] if you want awesome color but don’t want to go to the salon…read 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Box Color before you hit the […]

  12. Jill says:

    Erika, in my case you are 100% correct about box colors. I do believe my hair is permanently ruined after using them for years. I used to have beautiful shiny, silky hair… Not anymore. I have forever dry, very porous hair that frizzes, kinks and poofs at the slightest amount of humidity. My hair never frizzed when it was in good condition. I’ve also lost my beautiful natural color.
    I started taking Biotin, I’m going to continue to have my hair salon colored and I’m going to get conditioning treatments professionally done to try and improve the condition of my hair. Any suggestions you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Erika says:


      Don’t worry! There’s always new hair growing, and it takes time but you can get your old hair back. Just make sure that your haircolorist knows what she is doing. Salon color can damage your hair as well if it’s not used properly.

      You may also want to use a good leave-in conditioner everyday or after you shampoo & condition. When my hair was very damaged in cosmetology school I used It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Conditioner and the It’s a 10 Miracle Hair Mask a few times per week(it just depends on how damaged your hair is…once per week might be enough for you).

      Getting deep conditioning treatments is a great service to add on when you get your color. Most salons have a package deal for a cut + color + deep condition that’s discounted. Some hairstylists won’t like this suggestion…..but I think that doing the deep conditioning treatments at home in-between color appointments is a great way to save money. For $25 you can buy the quality hair mask, and that’s about the same price as a single service deep conditioning treatment at the salon.

  13. […] you’re still unsure why box dye is really all that bad,  here’s an article written by another professional stylist I found to be very […]

  14. Carly says:

    Yes that would be awesome! Thank you so much for all of the information! And your assumption is pretty right. After I made the appointment I was already dreading having my hair be a solid blondish color for a month. Also, I’m from Texas, so summer starts to appear around March. I’m trying to get rid of the red before then because I hate how bright it looks in the sun haha.

    I couldn’t figure out how to post photos in the comments, but here is a link to a photo of the color I’m trying to achieve.
    With kind of a mix of these types of highlights
    I’m not quite sure if following the steps you’re saying would eventually get me to this color, but if not I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. I went 19 years without dying my hair, so I’m pretty uneducated when it come to it. Here I was thinking that a color corrector would be healthier for my hair rather than bleaching it. And the last think I want is severely brittle and unhealthy looking hair. My appointment isn’t until Feb 11th, so I have a couple of weeks to decide. Looking forward to see pictures of your sister’s hair!

    • Erika says:

      Not only that, but it probably will not turn out to be a solid “blondish” color with a color remover. Even if it got that light(which is highly unlikely) it would be so uneven and probably orange, so it would have to be toned down to a brown color.

      That’s why a color remover in this case isn’t the best option…you wouldn’t be getting much of a change.

    • Erika says:

      The reason why lightening (bleaching) your hair with highlights is better….is because it’s not all of your hair and it’s a more controlled process. Lightening the hair can be done safely as long as your hair colorist knows what she/he is doing. It is more risky once you have applied box color, but the key is to use a safe volume of developer. Using something too strong(which is what most people do because they want to break through the red) will be more damaging.

    • Erika says:

      Also…yes, I do think you can get to those photos. I don’t think that should be your initial goal because the ends would be lightened a lot and it’s just not safe. Ombré is best on healthier hair or hair that has not been colored.

      I would go with the highlights now, and think about that hair color in the fall.

  15. Carly says:

    Hi, first off I wanted to say I just stumbled across this article and I found it really informative!
    I have naturally light blonde hair and about 6 months ago I got it professionally died red. At first I hated it because it turned out a lot brighter than I had explained to the stylist. Since then I have been box dying it with an auburn red color (about 5 different times). Honestly I really like the color it is now, but it’s just getting too much to keep up with because of my blonde roots. I’m wanting to go lighter for the spring/summer (medium brown with blonde and caramel highlights). After a consultation with another stylist (one that is reputable in my area), she explained to me that because I’ve been using box color, the best thing to do is to use a color corrector then wait 5-7 weeks to dye it brown. I’m okay with this because I want to “wipe the slate clean” I guess and I knew going into this that it would be kind of a commitment. My question is: If I ever decide to go back to red, will I have to go through this process again if I use strictly professional dye? Because I really like the Auburn look on me and want to maybe do it again next fall, but I don’t want to spend this kind of time/money again on it.


    • Erika says:

      First of all…
      I wouldn’t suggest the color corrector(it’s a very strong color remover that does a lot of damage in just a few minutes.

      It’s worse than bleaching your hair in my opinion. Some color remover products like Paul Mitchell’s —— are easier on the hair, but they are not as strong and sometimes need to be repeated two to three time in one sitting to get a similar result (not a bad thing, the Paul Mitchell kits are more expensive and take more time to process…stylists need something that works fast and is affordable).

      Effasol is very common in salons and it’s not often used, so most stylists are not familiar it. *Please don’t attempt at home! :)

      • Erika says:

        Your hair won’t be much lighter if you use a color remover then color your hair brown. You’ll also have no dimension, and it sounds like that’s what you want. That’s also what you probably miss about your hair as a lighter blonde- dimension. You like the auburn, but it’s lacking in variation.

        It may also seem drab, because neutral brown isn’t near as fun as auburn or blonde. For someone like you….brown hair will definitely make you feel like you need to “brighten up your look” elsewhere (like accessories, jewelry, makeup, etc.).

        That stylist will probably recommend that you wait another 5-7 weeks after coloring it brown before you get the highlights. Even then, because of using the color remover your hair will still be fragile, damaged, and probably break off easily.

        With that timeline you’re looking at mid-April before you can actually go lighter, or attempt at getting close to what you want.

        Here’s what I would do:

        If it has been at least 3-4 weeks since you last colored it…

        1) A day or so before you color appointment I would wash your hair with a good clarifying shampoo and do a deep condition. *Or, you could take some samples home if you would like to do it yourself (it’s cheaper that way :).

        2) Do a partial highlight, all over, but only a few highlights below the ears. There will still be some auburn hair, as this is a transition, so you’ll want the bottom to be darker until you get your next highlight. If not, the ends could look unhealthy or discolored because they are more porous/damaged.

        3) I would probably add some “low-lights” while doing the highlights. They would not be darker, probably a nice light gold brown (weaved lightly) to add that middle tone and bring it all together.

        *This option is less damaging and looks better considering what you want. That doesn’t mean that your stylist was wrong as there are many ways to get one result when it comes to hair color. I think it’s common for hairstylists to think that way…because they’re not thinking or being creative.

    • Erika says:


      Going from auburn/red to blonde is going to be a process if you use box color just as it will be if you go to a salon.

      Here are the pros to salon color in your situation:
      1) You won’t have to color your hair as often.- A good hair colorist will “fill” your blonde hair with a copper/orange hue(varies depending on your hair) when going from blonde to red. This gives the color something to “grab” onto as blonde hair is lacking pigment or “empty”. It also makes the color last longer. That’s why box color fades, because unless it is a more ginger red, then it will fade faster.
      *Filling can also be done in one step by adding pure copper/orange to the color formula, so it doesn’t add any additional time to your color appointment. Only a very good hair colorist will get this right and have the confidence to do it.

      2)Salon color is safer. The developer levers are not as high, so you don’t get as much damage.

      3)Your hair will be healthier overall, and you won’t have to worry about box color accidents. When you start adding and removing pigments without knowing what you’re doing, you could end up with green or purple hair….or worse. I had a friend do and after 3 boxes she called me…green hair and another brown box wouldn’t cover it. SO…there’s something to worry about :) .

      • Erika says:

        By the way….

        My sister is going through the exact same thing! She called me yesterday asking if I can get her back to blonde next weekend. She’s a few hours away at college, and even though I have preached to her about box color….she did it. Covering the beautiful highlights I did :(.

        She’s box colored her hair a dark auburn a few times…probably about the same as you have and you have the same natural hair color as she does! If you want to wait and see the outcome of her hair next weekend I will be posting pics! I’m doing to hers what I suggested that you should do. I’ll post before photos as well!

  16. ems says:

    I don’t really like this article because box colour may be awful, but this article really slates home applications, and home applications aren’t always awful, can be done with professional hair colour products, and can be a genuine way to save money.

    If someone is comfortable with experimenting on their own hair and learning whats best for them, don’t knock it. – the professional colour products can be as cheap / cheaper online, than the box colour at the shop for any non-professional individual.

    I know people that order professional hair colour products online and have amazing looking hair with out being overcharged an absolute fortune to have it applied.

    I personally don’t trust “professionals” with my hair because in my experience (which is with hair cuts too be honest), I always leave the salon feeling sad, and having to pay through the nose for that feeling too. If it was hair colour as well, that’s even more expensive. You could argue that it’s about finding the right hairdresser, but seeing as that takes time (and having bad hair days in the process), you might as well do it yourself and learn from those mistakes.

    All for DIY!

    • Erika says:

      That’s your opinion. This is a great article, and over 14,000 other people agree.

      Finding the right hair colorist is not hard. It just takes a little bit of research….just like anything else. People just don’t have patience, so they settle. Smart people schedule consultations and ask the stylist questions just as much as the stylists asks them questions. I’ve had new clients do this to me, and at the end of the consultation they would say….”Let’s schedule the appointment! You definitely know what you’re talking about!”.

      About the at home application…you’re not a licensed cosmetologist, hairstylist, hair color expert, etc. You have no idea about color application and what’s right from wrong when it comes to hair color. When you pay for quality services at a hair salon you are not just paying for them to “put it on”. I could go into detail about this, but people either appreciate it or they don’t. It’s not up to me to convince you if you already think that “DIY” hair color is better than going to a salon.

  17. […] thing is, even when box dyes of your shade of choice do work for you, users are left at the mercy of cosmetics companies that are free to tweak their non-professional for…. (How many of us have loved and cherished a product for years, only to find out that its newest […]

  18. Beth says:

    This is retroactive, unfortunately, but I’m wondering how box dyes interact with existing salon dyes. Recently I had my hair colored in a salon to a dark red. After a few washes, it lightened to more of a purple/fuschia, which was more intense than what I was going for. I tried washing thoroughly to fade it, but not much of the color was disappearing. Since it was making me self-conscious, I was impatient to tone it down and 5 days after the first dye, I just dyed over it with a dark cool brown from a box rather than wait for another appointment at the salon. It actually achieved closer to what I was going for — it’s now a dark brown with more subtle red/purple undertones. But now I’m wondering if the two dyes could interact harmfully (i.e. from a health perspective) and whether I should return to my salon for a pro color correction, even though my hair has already been through a lot of stress. I appreciate your thoughts!

    • Erika says:

      If you’re okay with the color, then you don’t need to go to the salon for another color. Box color is more harsh on the hair than salon color(mostly because it is not a custom formula and box color uses very high strength developers). People ruin their hair when they use box color repeatedly(it’s more damaging when applied from roots to ends every time), don’t use styling products, use a lot of heated tools, etc. Also, it’s worse when going lighter.

      What color was your hair before you got it colored in the salon? It sounds like your stylist didn’t know what she was doing, or you weren’t using color care shampoo/products(those are the main reasons why color can fade faster, but there are several others).

      When coloring someone’s hair red it’s important to consider the undertones before applying the desired color. Sometimes the hair needs to be “filled” with copper/orange tones(depending on underlying and desired pigments) in order to ensure that the color will be rich and last. It’s hard to say what it will look like in a month or so.

      I’m a little concerned about what color it may fade to, but you can always get in touch with me when the time comes if you need more advice! The reason is because a cool brown won’t fix the first problem…it just covers it up for the time being. The tones on your hair may fade to an odd neutral shade, but I cannot say for sure because I don’t know anything about your natural hair or what it looked like before the first color. Good luck!

      • Erika says:

        p.s.- Color corrections are very expensive, so make sure you schedule a consultation first if you decide that you need it(the stylist should suggest a thorough consultation anyways, if they don’t…run!). My salon charges $200/hour and some charge more. Be careful because all stylists are not knowledgeable enough for color corrections! You may want to find an ABCH stylist in your area because they are very well trained to fix any haircolor issue!

        Color corrections are needed when your hair as been boxed dyed to the state of no return…it’s so messed up that you literally cannot fix it with anything.

  19. Deanna says:

    Hi Erika!

    I box dyed my natural medium brown hair at home last March, wanting something different and hoping that I would get the golden blonde results that the woman on the box portrayed. Boy was I shocked when it turned out to be a bright strawberry blonde! Since it wasn’t the color i wanted, I was going to geab another box and try again but got so many compliments about my hair color that I ended up leaving it. But now after redying from roots to ends once a month to keep yp the color, I have taken more notice of how dry it looks. And I don’t like it. :/ Now that the my roots are starting to show, I’ve decided I want to return to my natural color, to dye it nearest that color and let the roots grow out. After reading your enlightening article about box dyes, though, I am thinking that I should go get it done professionally. Will the salon fix it even thiugh my roots are showing??

    • Erika says:

      Yes, can fix it and it won’t be as harmful as doing it at home. Once your hair has been processed multiple times….any chemical process will affect it in some way. A good hair colorist can get you back to normal and use a product that will put some life back into your hair as well as nourish it.

      With any color process…it’s best to only color the regrowth and feather through. If you put it on all of your hair every time it will get very dry and damaged….especially when going lighter.

      Your stylist will probably apply color to your hair from the demarcation line to the ends…avoiding your regrowth/natural hair(demi-permanent is best for this step…this is called filling the hair and it is meant to even out tones while giving back the pigment your hair needs to hold on to a darker color). This will create a more even canvas for the next/final step of coloring all-over to your natural. Your stylist may choose permanent or demi-permanent hair color. It depends on the condition of your hair and what your desired results are.

  20. mstfd says:

    Hmm. I do use a box for a few greys and have for years. I mix the colors myself and have never had a problem. No damage, shiny hair and the color I want. After reading this, I’m confused since this article hasn’t been my experience at all.

    • Erika says:

      As I state in the article…..everyone’s experience is different. There are SOME people that can get away with using box color.

      Does that mean that it looks professional? No…it just means that it doesn’t look bad.

      Does that mean that their hair isn’t damaged? No…they either don’t know that their hair is damaged or they don’t care. For some people…damaged hair is all they have ever known. They’ve been coloring their hair at home so long that they don’t remember how healthy hair feels.

      I find it odd that you say you mix two box colors yourself. Box colors are not meant to be mixed. Are you using Sally’s Beauty Supply Color?

      Also, hair with grays is more forgiving with box color results than hair without grays. Gray hair is far more resistant to color than hair that is not gray. So….imperfections are not as noticeable.

    • Jessica says:

      Shiny hair doesn’t equal healthy.

  21. Bee Gee says:

    I found this really helpful. I just spent $200 on a hair coloring job. I always get my hair professionally done and I’ve never spent that much before. But my regular stylist has had something come up and will be out for months and I needed my hair done. I wanted dark brown with a tint of auburn (my hair is naturally brown with auburn). I even had plenty of pictures to explain what I wanted. The results were nothing like what I asked for. Nothing like the pictures. It was not even brown. It was blonder than how it started, and then there was the red I asked for. The dark brown did not happen at all. I did not wash my hair for 72 hours to allow the color to set and when I wash my hair I used cold water so the red is not stripped away as quickly. I’ve never had a problem before and I’ve had my hair dyed a lot. Even before I washed my hair 24 hours later, all the color was gone from my hair. It is nothing like what I wanted. Nothing like the pictures or how I explained it. And supposedly the guy that did my hair was supposed to be really good. My hair is blonder than it was prior to paying $200 (and blonder than my natural hair). Usually I spend no more than $80 so now I don’t want to get my hair professionally done because I wasted $200 for results that were gone within 24 hours. I expected to have to get my hair redone a month to six weeks later with the red but there was never even dark brown!

    I literally hate my hair now. Its starting to get this brassy look from the blonde (I did not want blonde! I wanted DARK DARK brown). I want my hair dark like I asked for because the holidays are here and family photos. I do not have the money to spend another $100+ within a month of the last $200 I shelled out so I want to try to get a box with dark brown to do my hair a solid color. Would you recommend against this? I always go darker and I never go lighter.

    • Erika says:

      I think you should call the salon and express your concerns. Try not to sound like you are complaining….just ask to speak to the manager and let him/her know that you felt like you expressed your desires thoroughly and that the outcome was not reflective of what you talked about during the consultation.

      Some people feel uncomfortable doing this, but don’t! I have had clients of 5+ years call me and ask for a “re-do” in the past and it’s usually a result of miscommunication between the client and the stylist. A really great salon (especially one charging those high prices) will want to make sure that you are happy with your hair and do their best to accommodate you ASAP.

      How blonde was your hair prior to the appointment? Going darker from blonde requires an additional step (or a very advanced stylist can do it in one step). Your stylist needs to “fill” your hair with the proper underlying pigment in order to make the darker/desired color “stick”. That means that your stylist would apply two different colors to your hair (shampooing and drying in-between applications)….the filler color would be of an orange/copper/orange-red/red-orange/red base depending on the desired shade and your current shade. After the blonde hair is filled with pigment it is ready for application of the desired color.

      Blonde hair is translucent(depending on the shade)….so the pigment doesn’t hold because the hair is somewhat “empty” or lacking of a base pigment. Even darker blonde hair would need to be filled depending on the desired result. I hope I explained that okay!

      The other option your stylist could have chosen would be to add the “filler” into the color formula that was applied to the blonde. Not many stylists know how to do this properly, and if they know of this method they are probably scared to try it. American Board Certified Haircolorists like myself, and other VERY advanced haircolorists can do this with ease. It’s tricky because the filler has to be just enough of the formula ratio to fill the hair, but not too much because that can affect the outcome of the desired hair color.

      Great color is all about confidence in skills…..if you know that your stylist is confident then you will have great hair color!

      • Erika says:

        Oh yea…if they are like my salon…you will get your hair re-done free of charge. A great salon will want to build relationships and keep you as a client!

        Even though I don’t know all of the details of the consultation, or what your hair looked like….or what your example photos were….this is the color that came to my mind when I read your comment:

        Brown/Copper Hair Color

  22. Erika says:

    This was very helpful, I have been coloring my own hair from a box but I know want to go from black to red but wanted to go to a professional but I don’t know if they will be able to help me since I’ve been using color from a box

    • Erika says:

      Going from black to red isn’t as difficult because red is one of the first tones to show up when you lighten from black. It’s also one of the hardest to break through when you want to go lighter, so going for red is a great option.

      Be very specific with your stylist about what type of red you want. Definitely bring photos! Red is one of the most misunderstood colors when it comes to hair consultations.

      You should tell your stylist how long you have been using box color and whether you applied it from scalp to ends every time, or if you just applied it to the regrowth. That will make a difference in how easily you can switch hair colors with the least amount of damage.

  23. Isabelle says:

    Thanks for the advice Erika – what are your thoughts on purchasing professional dye to use at home? I was thinking of using the Schwarzkoph Igora range (available from an online salon supplier).

    I usually get my hair professionally coloured and every time I’ve been disappointed. My natural hair is the darkest brown and I’ve always wanted a cool ash brown but the salons have never been able to achieve this – probably because of the orange/red undertones that come with Indian hair. I’ve noticed the salons never seem to lighten my hair enough in order to get that cool ash to take. I’m hoping to give my hair a bleach shampoo and dye it with the Igora range (Cobalt Brown colour + oil developer 30 vol).
    Many thanks

    • Erika says:

      Schwarzkoph is only available through a distributor. I can’t say whether or not the online supplier is credible, but chances are that it’s not. Distributors go straight to salons to assist in ordering product, keeping it stocked, etc. As a licensed cosmetologist I can’t even go to a beauty supply store to buy Schwarzkoph color. I would have to contact a distributor…it’s very well regulated.

      The only places you should purchase professional color are at a beauty supply store (need a cosmetology license to purchase), or through a distributor (also has requirements). Schwarzkoph would never agree to sell their product openly online.

      Also, the Igora series is great….but it is a more advanced color system. Doing it on your own is not fool-proof…even some hairstylists are not advanced enough to properly use that color line.

      The reason why you may feel that they don’t lift your hair enough is because it only needs to be lifted to the level of the color you desire. Then a special formula would need to be mixed to achieve the cool brown you want. Applying a cool brown color itself probably wouldn’t do it (depending on how warm the undertones are). The formula would need to include the proper hues to cancel out the red/orange undertones. Your stylist would need to determine whether your undertones are red, red-orange, orange, orange-red, etc. Each one is very different even though they seem similar. The colors you would need to add to your formula in order to eliminate those warm tones would be different for each of the examples I just gave.

      So, I think your stylist just didn’t know how to properly cancel out the warmth in your hair. It’s very specific and a lot of stylists don’t take care in formulating like they should. An ABCH stylist would be your best bet!

  24. Jenn says:

    What are your thoughts on getting hair colored at a beauty school?

    • Erika says:

      That’s a tough one because it really depends on the school. If you decide to get a color service at a school I suggest finding a well-known/highly rated institution. For example, in my area there are 3-4 beauty schools within a 50 mile radius and neither of them are alike. One is exceptional (Paul Mitchell), and another is known for it’s poor reputation. There was a girl at my school who spent a few months at the low-end institution and switched to Paul Mitchell despite the fact that she would lose a lot of money and have to start over completely. That says a lot!

      Our school taught forward thinking and was always introducing us to new trends while making sure that our techniques stayed solid and consistent. For example, foiling was to be done that way it was taught and we could not change it. This assured that everyone was doing quality work all the time.

      Another thing to consider is that instructors may want students to learn from their mistakes. Every color service (at a good school) is consulted with an instructor and overseen during the process. Instructors usually have to approve the service before the student can proceed.

      Lastly, if you’re unsure about it you can ask if there are advanced students available. At my school they were called “Phase 2” and had to audition as well as pass several tests (hands-on and written) in order to qualify for the Phase 2 program. There was also an hour requirement, so you know that the advanced students are close to graduating and are the best of their class!

      Like any salon experience….use your judgement and if you don’t feel comfortable just wait. You can also schedule a consultation and come back for your color. I’ve had clients do that from time to time and they come prepared with questions for me. It’s my job to prove to them that I am qualified to do their hair to their liking. Again, if a stylist doesn’t have the skills then you’ll know and you can try someone else!

    • Erika says:

      I don’t know if my reply posted, but if you didn’t get it then check out this post:

      Should I Get My Hair Colored At A School?

  25. Hi! So I’ve always had fairly porous hair – the first time I dyed my hair (at a salon), it washed out pretty quickly (it was gone within 1-2 months). Not sure if it’s important to note, but I only dye my hair dark-brown and black – my natural color is brown with red highlights. I got it done at a salon a few times, but got tired of paying so much to see my color washing out quickly. I box-dyed my hair for the first time last year, and it was the first time that the color stayed and I was super happy with the result (although after about 8 months that had faded as well). Obviously, if a $8 box is lasting me longer than a $50+ dye, it’s very tempting to go with the box, even though I know the salon would be better for my hair. Do you know any reason why the box stayed better than the salon did, or if there’s anything I should tell my stylist when she’s doing my hair? Thanks so much! :)

    • Erika says:

      It could be the type of color that was used and/or developer. If you’re someone that goes to the salon once every 2-4 months, then your stylist may use a semi-permanent color rather than permanent.

      Semi-permanent color is better for people who won’t get their hair colored every month because you won’t see as much of a demarcation line as your hair grows out.

      Box color is VERY strong, but in a good way. The levels of chemicals in it are much higher than what is used in the salon, so it damages your cuticle more while packing in more pigment. Yes, it may seem to fade slower(depending on what you use and what you compare it to) but your hair will not look natural and it will be damaged more and more with use.

      It all depends on what your preference is and what’s most important to you. Some people prefer the natural colored look and like to maintain the integrity of their hair, some don’t. Some people have never had their hair consistently colored in a salon enough to know the difference in really great hair, and not so great hair.

      The #1 problem with salons is that the consultation is not thorough enough or the client does not give the stylist enough information. All of the concerns you told me about should also be expressed to your stylist. I know that some stylists rush through the consultation because they’re ready to get started, but your stylist owes it to you to spend that time talking about your hair. If your stylist doesn’t do a thorough consultation, chances are that you will not be happy with the results!

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