best-box-colorI know…you’re thinking that this is contradictory to my other articles about box color. I’m writing about what kind of box color you should use because so many people e-mail me or leave comments about it.

I understand that everyone cannot go to a salon to get their hair colored. If you want anything other than a basic single color application or glaze, then your bill will go up at least $30-$45. More time-consuming color techniques will run you about $50-$100 more than a basic color application.

So, here’s some information to help those of you that can’t or don’t want to go to the salon for hair color. My goal with this blog is to help people make better decisions about their hair.

I can’t give you specific instructions on what to use, or what to do because it’s different for everyone. Yes, it is possible to use box color without destroying your hair. The problem is that so many people don’t know what to do, so they ruin their hair in the blink of an eye.

That doesn’t mean that I condone box color use. It’s still the most unreliable, and most damaging method of hair color there is. I can’t deny that people are still going to use box color…no matter what I say…so the least I can do is help prevent those big disasters from happening.

What Kind Of Box Color

Should I Use?

Here’s a great Q&A from a reader about using box color at home:


Thank you for having written a nice article about hair color pitfalls.

Right now, I am coloring my hair at home because it is financially more feasible, but I would like to sporadically return to Aveda here in Portland, Oregon, to get my hair color done.

During the last few years, I have used both methods. Until I return to the salon, could you help me determine which color and brand is better for my hair?

1. I always use a permanent color.

2. I have gray hair, especially on top of my head and on the side. Some grays are hidden in the back. I don’t currently know the percentage of gray hair.

3. Ideally, I like to color my hair every 2 months.

4. I am only interested in covering the gray by keeping the color close to the original color.

My hair is thick and wavy, black or very very dark brown (my eyebrows are black), my skin is white with pink undertones and freckles, and my eyes are blue-green due to my Celtic heritage.

When not going to Aveda, I used L’Oreal neutral black 2N or 3N. About 6 weeks ago, I called L’Oreal who suggested Dark Brown 4N if I wanted to lighten the color a little bit.

What would be your suggestions for my next box color?

Today, I may have my color done at Aveda and will try to find out what is my percentage of grays. Thank you for your help.



-Age 48

Dear Anne,

Did you end up getting your color done at the salon or are you still waiting? I recommend going to an ABCH stylist to get the results you’re looking for! The stylist you choose should consider all factors when formulating your haircolor…

As for your gray percentage…is your gray evenly dispersed or patchy?

This can mean that you’ll need a darker formula for the much lighter spots. The most important thing to find is whether you are more or less than 50% gray. I consider 50% gray to be an even dispersion of gray and natural strands, but when you start to see more of the gray and less natural pigment, you know it’s more than 50%.

I feel that the advice you got from L’Oreal customer service was not correct. If you have been coloring your hair with a 2N…you cannot lighten your hair by applying 4N. The only part that will be lighter is the regrowth…not the rest of the hair that has been previously colored. The only way to lighten your hair is with a double process or getting some highlights(depends on your situation).

It’s nearly impossible for me to suggest a specific brand or shade of box color for you(or anyone). There are a lot of reasons for this, one being that professionals don’t use box color. So, we may be able to provide an educated guess…but it will not be guaranteed like custom formulations are.

For more information about box color click here!


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

2 Responses to What Kind of Box Color Should I Use?

  1. maddi says:

    I appreciate you being so nice and courteous and genuinely offering to help people and offer advice. I’ve met so many stylists be so incredibly rude about people not going to the salon for hair changes.
    Is applying box color over non-bleached hair as bad as bleaching ones hair or lightening hair with box color? For example, I have recently-cut shoulder length hair. My hair growth has never been bleached but has been box dyed with black hair dye. Is this super harmful? Will going to a salon and still asking for a black coloring be bad for my hair or cause issues? Again, I appreciate your niceness and concern for others 🙂

    • Erika says:

      Box color is generally better than box highlighting kits, but they both cause more damage than using a custom hair color formula that is meant for your hair that is formulated for a specific result. Box color kits are made with higher volumes of developer to ensure that they will work on the majority of consumers hair(so you could be using something that is way too strong, where in a salon a more safe and mild formula can also get you the results you want).

      Lightening hair with box color is more risky than it is “unsafe” when compared to using box color to achieve the same level or darker. That’s because you need to use just the right box for your hair color to get the desired results. Most people don’t understand that they aren’t going to get the color on the box if their hair is too dark, for example.

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