Box Color or Salon Color

Block Color by Erika Brown

If you have experienced a brittle or “straw-like” feeling to your hair, lost a larger amount than usual in the shower or when you brush, and/or you’re experiencing excessive breakage….this information is definitely for you!

You may pass it off as stress or hormone related….”maybe it’s my diet”.

No, it’s that crappy box color you get at Wal-Mart and it’s time to face the facts!


The following checklist is based off of my thoughts during a color consultation. I hope that students, stylists, and clients can use this to learn and make better judgement. This list can help those attempting color at home (to change their minds) or with a stylist at a salon.

In my opinion the only two reasons that a colorist can go wrong should be: Not listening to the clients desires/needs well enough,  and not enough knowledge or training in coloring.

Coloring your hair on your own is not something I include because it shouldn’t happen in the first place. Unfortunately, the media takes advantage of women and their strong desire to look better or younger. They don’t care if your hair color looks fabulous…their only concern is that people who can’t afford a salon job believe in box color. In addition to this checklist make sure you read the 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Box Color before you make a decision. The choice is yours, but remember that lacking education and not seeking a professional will be the reason your hair doesn’t turn out.


Before You Decide to Color At Home:


1. When did I last color my hair or have it colored?

If it’s been within the last 30 days….please give it a rest!  The only reasons it’s okay are if you need corrective color(not in all cases and should not be attempted at home), if you are only retouching the regrowth each time and refreshing ends, you’re not using permanent color, etc.


2. Is it corrective coloring?

Corrective coloring is needed when accidents happen or you’re trying to make a very drastic change. And yes, by accidents, I’m referring to at home coloring gone bad! The same goes for when you get those unexpected colors…like green when you’re going from bleached, porous blonde to browns.

If you fall in this category the least you can do is get a complimentary color consultation at a your local reputable salon. If you don’t know of one you can search for an American Board Certified Hair Colorist in your area. After the consultation you will at least know the severity of the situation, how much it would cost to get your hair looking gorgeous again, and whether or not you feel that doing it yourself is a good idea. What do you have to lose?  🙂


3. Is My Hair Very Damaged?

If your hair is moderately to severely damaged it’s definitely best if you lay off the color experimentation and get a deep conditioning treatment like it’s a 10 Miracle Hair Mask.  You can also go to the salon for the best deep conditioning out there….but I know you box users are probably doing anything you can at home.

If you need help assessing the damage level of your hair take this quizlet : How Damaged Is My Hair? As always, if you’re still not sure and would like a professional opinion you can contact me for advice.


4. How different is the color I’m choosing from my current shade?

This one is pretty important because it can drastically change the results. Your current hair color vs. desired hair color can be an issue when considering levels of difference or tonality. If you’re very dark and want to be blonde….don’t even think about it without a pro….especially if your level of darkness was created with a box color.


5. Are previous chemical treatments lingering on my hair?

Most of the time I ask this question and clients say, “No, there’s nothing on it.”. Often, I can tell if that’s the case but there are times when we can’t see it. You may even think there isn’t, but that hair is so long it’s been through more than you think. Previous chemical services at any time can drastically change the outcome of your box or salon color. Banding isn’t pretty and neither are green ends or orange roots!


6. Am I being impulsive? 

Box Color on Sale Clearance

Box Color on Clearance! No…please don’t, it’s not that Nice n’ Easy!

Have you been considering changing your hair color for longer than a day, or did you just decide on a whim to run to Wal-Mart and grab a box?

If you find yourself staring aimlessly at a wall of box color in the beauty isle….it’s definitely impulsive.

Do you go to a cocktail party without PLANNING your attire for the evening? Do you go on vacation without PLANNING where you will go or what activities you want to do?

My point is that we plan everything else in our lives….hair color should not be left to chance!


7. Is the change I want too drastic and will I want to change it in less than a year?

Are you going from blonde to black or black to blonde(wishfully)? Forget about levels and tones…if you’re doing a total 180 without professional advice it’s probably not going to look great or will be wrong for your skin tone, style, etc. Also, if you’re making big changes and going back and forth… need a year to recover. Done properly it should take almost a year to make a complete opposite change the healthy way. Doing it the damaging way will require time for treatments and restrengthening/conditioning.

Either way, it’s almost the same time frame! Do you want your hair to look good or fried to heck and back during the process? I’ve seen so many cases where someone tried to go too far at home and ended up having hair that’s left lifeless and unattractive. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have healthy hair with body than limp and straw-like strands that can’t be styled!


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If all else fails….find an American Board Certified Haircolorist and get it done the right way :). You will be more than pleased and you will feel confident about the outcome of your hair!

Don’t forget to read my list of 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Box Color!

About The Author


Professional Hairstylist | American Board Certified Haircolorist | Makeup Artist | Beauty Blogger

15 Responses to Should I Box Color My Hair At Home?

  1. […] If you have a similar question about hair color or products from Sally’s Beauty Supply please contact me for more information! You may also be interested in reading 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Box Color and Should I Box Color My Hair At Home. […]

  2. […] Be sure to keep these points in mind if coloring your hair at home or for the first time: […]

  3. […] Be sure to keep these points in mind if coloring your hair at home or for the first time: […]

  4. Jessenia says:

    I really want to go back to my natural hair color and ombre it but I have boxes of hair dye on my hair in different burgundy variations. I went red after getting my hair lightened a year ago. I am just tires of keeping up with the fade and miss my natural hair color. How can I dye it back with all this box color in my hair. I didn’t think it would be a big deal until now if I were to dye it back on my own but I don’t want to further damage it. Please help.

    • Erika Brown says:


      Getting back to your natural color can be a tricky and lengthy process when your hair has been colored for a long period of time. What is your natural color and when was the last time you colored your hair?

      Was your hair completely blonde, or was it just highlighted? After you tell me what your natural is, I can give you more detailed advice!

      As for the basics, you will probably have to color your hair as close to your natural as possible and let it grow out. I wouldn’t suggest going back to your natural color and lightening the ends because your hair has already been processed several times.

      • Jessenia says:

        I didn’t have it bleached but it was lightened as much as it could to a Carmel color since I have natural brown almost black hair. I actually colored my hair about a month ago and am really thinking of going to a professional in the next month to return it to natural color. Any advice would do me good though since I don’t have any idea how it will react to a professional dying it.

        • Erika Brown says:

          If I were going to color your hair…I would use a conditioning semi-permanent color. Permanent color will leave a more noticeable demarcation line when it grows out, and that will make it harder to truly achieve your natural color. Semi-permanent is great for transitioning because it will fade more over time than permanent and it will not damage your hair as much as permanent color will. Semi-permanent is easier on hair that has been chemically processed several times.

  5. Natalie says:

    Hi, I was surprised to learn this about box color. I have an ombré so all I need to do is touch up my roots since I have grey hair. I use Satine from the beauty supply store to darken my roots up every 2 months or so. Can you elaborate what this is doing to my hair? I’m going to stop doing it but it does save me time and $$ as going to the salon every couple months is hard with 2 young children!

    • Erika Brown says:

      It really depends on your hair, how you care for it, and the type of “box”(or Sally’s color). The problem with Sally color is that the general public doesn’t know what they need to get the right results without causing damage.

      In your case (assuming you get your ombré done at the salon), the big drawback is that your stylist has to deal with the box color when she freshens up your hair. It’s hard to apply color evenly without overlapping on yourself, that creates banding of color (darker lines in some places). It takes more work and skill for your stylist to get an even result after box color has been applied. It can also damage your hair more.

      What you’re doing isn’t horrible as long as it isn’t too dark and you don’t overlap the color when you apply it. I suggest using a semi-permanent instead of a permanent color if you need to re-touch the grays on your own. It’s easier on the hair and shows less mistakes! Thanks for reading and good luck!

  6. […] still considering it after reading both posts, do yourself a favor and check this out- Should I Box Color My Hair At Home?.  You won’t regret it, but you will definitely regret choosing the […]

  7. Tyler says:

    I stumbled onto this website after searching to find out if box colour is making my hair fall out. I am SO glad I did! Your information was so thorough and helpful. I am so mad at myself for using box colour several times – I used to have thick, healthy hair down to my waist, now it feels like straw, is so much thinner and after my recent colour (ebony), I only have to run my hand gently through my hair and every time more is coming away in my hand. Washing it freaks me out now too, as so much falls out in the shower 🙁 I am so upset and only have myself to blame. I even thought, stupidly, it might be due to stress, as work has been very busy lately. I am going to book a haircut and deep treatment first thing Monday and will DEFINITELY get my next colour done at a salon. Shame I can’t see you! You obviously know your stuff, but after reading this, i know exactly what to look for in a hair colourist. Thank you so, so much for putting this information up. No more box colour for me ever, ever again!!!

    • Erika Brown says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your hair situation! It will get better…you’re not the only one that’s had to go through the recovery process. Stress can make your hair change, but it won’t feel straw-like unless there are other health issues present (the straw feeling is almost always from chemical damage). Your hair could also have gotten worse from too much heat (blow-drying, ironing, etc.) without protection like styling lotions/balms.

      Getting a cut and conditioning treatment is a great start! You may also want to make sure your scalp is healthy and balanced. I use Paul Mitchel Tea Tree Thickening Shampoo & Conditioner to keep my scalp & hair healthy after having issues like thinning. Best of luck to you and thanks for reading/commenting!

      • Tyler says:

        Hi Erika, thanks so much for your in depth and extremely helpful reply! I didn’t expect a personal response so I was very pleasantly surprised. I have taken all your helpful information on board 🙂 Thank you so much for opening my eyes to these big cosmetic companies that are really only interested in your money, not the health of your hair or your happiness and can (legally!!) peddle whatever lies that like on their packaging in order to make a buck (or several million or billion). Thank you for rescuing me and my hair before I damaged it further. You are truly a Hair Angel 🙂 I can’t thank you enough. Best Wishes, Tyler

  8. […]  If you can’t or you’re simply happy with your box color…go over this checklist for before you color at home […]

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