This is one of the most frequent topics among women who color their hair.

I get questions about box color every day, and that’s because there’s so much to know about coloring hair.

Some of you color your hair yourself, while others don’t feel comfortable doing that and prefer to go to a salon. Everyone is different, and so is their hair. Whether or not you should or shouldn’t use box color is up to you.

Of course, I suggest against it because most people don’t know enough about the chemistry of haircolor, the risk of damaging your hair, how to properly apply it for best results, etc. Some people have had luck with box color, while others have not. That’s one reason why this topic is so controversial, and it all boils down to skills, knowledge, and opinions.

I 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 to the salon, some wanted to save money, and some were ruining their hair without realizing it.

“I don’t know why I have so many split ends. Is there anything I can do to help it so I don’t have to get my hair cut as often?”

I hear that all the time, and I always tell my clients…

“Yes, there is something you can do! You can stop using box color, and that’s a great place to start.”

How Damaged Is My Hair?

I know, some of you are already thinking that I’m wrong. I’ve received several comments from readers stating that they use box color and their hair is not damaged. They say that their hair looks better than it did when they were getting their hair colored at the salon, and that they would never go back.

Do those people know if their hair is damaged, or not? Some of them do, but some just think they have frizzy hair…or that it’s just difficult to style.If you’re not sure about your own hair then take my quiz…How Damaged Is My Hair?

Here are some reasons why some people think that box color is okay:

  • Their stylist was giving them great color, but it wasn’t exactly what they were expecting.
  • They don’t know what truly amazing color looks like, or how great their hair could look.
  • They’re in denial because a stylist did a bad job on their hair one time.
  • Their hair is damaged from box color, but they believe it’s for other reasons.

Before I get into whether or not box color is “bad” for your hair I’d like to remind everyone that each situation is different. I’ve received several comments from readers that think I’m being insensitive towards people that can’t afford color at the salon. That’s not the case at all…hair color appointments are not a necessity if you can’t afford it. This information is for people that are ruining their hair and don’t know why, or for those that teeter between salon and box color because they haven’t found the perfect stylist yet. It’s all relative, so please remember that.

Here are some reasons why box color is bad for your hair:

  • It’s a lot stronger than professional hair color, which causes more damage. That does not mean that it will last longer.
  • Box color “formulas” can change at anytime…and you won’t know it.
  • Most people don’t know how to properly apply it, so they over-process their hair(causing more damage every time).
  • There’s no way to tell what color you’ll get, because a box cannot tell you that…it’s literally a surprise.
  • Your hair can turn out green, purple, etc. Yes, I’ve seen this several times when someone needed a fix!

Those are just a few reasons why box color is bad for your hair. If you’ve made a mistake with box color, then you know what I’m talking about!

I used box color in high school, and looking back…I can’t believe how horrible it looked at times! I would highlight it too much, or go too dark. What a disaster, but at least I was in my teens…I can’t imagine doing that to myself as an adult!

Like most things…when a woman wants something…she goes for it and no one can tell her not to. That’s how it is with box color…until you make the mistake yourself and have to go to work looking like a hot mess…no one will be able to convince you otherwise. You can learn from your own mistakes, or you can learn from others!

About The Author


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

10 Responses to Is Box Color Bad For My Hair?

  1. […] you were looking for. I’ve often found it interesting that people comment on my posts about box color and have no background in cosmetology, yet they are angry about what I’ve written and they […]

  2. […] you were looking for. I’ve often found it interesting that people comment on my posts about box color and have no background in cosmetology, yet they are angry about what I’ve written and they […]

  3. Cheryl says:

    Yes formaldehyde is a nasty chemical. It causes cancer and sadly women are lied to through false labeling.
    I can imagine if the formaldehyde is heated in the process, the people who work in the salons are getting extremely high dosages in the air where they work without realizing how dangerous it is.
    I understand your position, you sell hair services, the woman who complimented my hair said she was thankful that more women don’t have their husband do their hair, it would hurt her business. She did ask if he had a license as she would hire him if he did. He has a very good paying job, so it would be a drastic pay cut for him. We have an organic garden and we read the labels in products, so we do try to avoid exposing our family to them. It seems there is constant ads on the television by law firms soliciting people who were exposed to asbestos that developed mesothelioma. Billions in court settlements as people were exposed, we’re not told the dangers or provided the proper protective equipment to handle it.
    As for having my husband trim my hair, I enjoy the personal bonding time, he always pours me a glass of wine, he massages my scalp, and neck, and always does exactly what I tell him to do with my hair, he doesn’t get scissor happy and hack off six inches when I ask for a half inch trim, like they did in the salon. I actually enjoy having him do my hair, it is a pleasurable experience. I have bad memories of horrible haircuts I got growing up when my mother took me to the salon, stinky perms, mullets, and the ugly bowl cuts with too short bangs. And unfortunately I only found one stylist who really did a great job with my hair, but when I moved away, it was too far to keep seeing her.

    • Erika says:

      It’s nice that he makes it a relaxing experience for you, it sounds like he’s a keeper!

      Formaldehyde is the reason why the original Brazilian Blowout(sometimes referred to as a keratin treatment) was “banned”. The original formula, and other brands like it contained enough formaldehyde to push it over the allowable limit.

      The new products are good, but some feel that they don’t work as well. It’s hard to find a substitute for such a strong ingredient. I guess that’s why it’s so widely used. Well….let me add to that…it’s hard to find a substitute that is cost-effective.

      The salon I worked in at the time was somewhat small and didn’t have much ventilation. We had an air purifier, but I don’t feel that was enough….not like commercial ventilation systems can do. There were a few times when my manager had to open the front door because we noticed a somewhat dense cloud of “smoke”(it wasn’t thick) that was accumulating at the ceiling. Part of the service included flat-ironing one of the solutions into the hair, which creates a lot of steam. It made some people feel light-headed or nauseous.

  4. Cheryl says:

    You are correct the box color (and salon color) is full of harsh chemicals that not only destroy your hair but are carcinogens that also cause other health problems. That is why I made the smart choice and went with henna, it makes my hair stronger, I get great color and shine, leaving my hair soft and silky. I get people complimenting my hair and asking where I had it done. Very reasonable priced and I get fantastic results having my husband apply it for me. He trims my hair for me and he has noticed I have fewer split ends since I have been using henna.

    • Erika says:

      Carcinogens are everywhere. They’re in our carpet, furniture, the air, our cars, etc. It’s literally impossible to avoid carcinogens, and that’s not really my point in this article.

      Both salon color and box color contain chemicals….that’s how they work (just like everything else). My point is that box color contains stronger levels of developer, which is much more harsh on the hair. Salon hair color is simply the better choice if you want healthier hair.

      This article is not about chemicals affecting the body. As a cosmetologist who spends hours being exposed to different chemicals(as do other professions), you won’t hear be talking about the chemicals in hair color.

      • Erika says:

        On henna color….

        Few people use it because it’s just not that great. It’s your choice, and that’s fine….but if you use any beauty products you are being exposed to something.

        I don’t want to offend you, but unless your husband is a licensed cosmetologist with hair cutting experience….I doubt your hair looks amazing. Everyone has different expectations, and some people are more low-maintenance but your husband cannot give you a haircut and color like you will get in a salon.

        • Cheryl says:

          Actually I had one woman who runs a salon stop me in the grocery store to compliment my hair and ask where I had it done, she said my guy did a fantastic job. I had another friend, a lady who used to do my hair before I moved, comment on Facebook that my color looked great and ask if my guy was licensed. So I know the color looks great, as for the cut, he follows the instructions from the Morocco method to do the proper blunt snip to have healthy hair. The reason I had him start trimming my hair was that I received too many bad haircuts, rude treatment and didn’t get value for my money.
          The toxic chemicals in the hair dye do cause cancer. More so in people who work in salons who are exposed to it as well as those who put it on their skin where it enters the body.
          Have you read the MSDS on the hair dye you use? They don’t include one with box dyes, but they should.

          • Erika says:

            “Everything” causes cancer. That’s what I was saying in my previous comment. You can replace one product with a better one, but it’s impossible to do that with everything in life. Sugar causes cancer, but Americans still eat 25 times(or more)than the amount that they should consume.

            Right now there’s a company that’s being investigated because their hardwood flooring contains ridiculously high levels of formaldehyde. This flooring is in thousands of homes(probably more than they know). There are hundreds more stories like that…but people are more worried about coloring their hair every 1-3 months.

          • Erika says:

            I’m not saying that your hair does or doesn’t look good. I’ve never seen it. I base my opinions on what people tell me, and I don’t know anyone that would rather let their husband cut their hair than try another hairstylist.

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