Let’s Talk About Box Dye…

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Ladies, let’s take a moment to have a discussion. Most of us have been there: the tight budget, the frustration with the current state of the hairunion, the urge to just change it right now. So we run out to the store, pick the box with the most promises and the happiest looking hair model, and take it home, and take a deep breath.

But it never turns out quite like we planned, does it? At least for me, it never has. Most of the time my hair ends up looking brassy and two-toned (my roots always appear to be a different color than the ends of my hair) and slightly, well, flat looking. Not quite what we had in mind for our pick-me-up hair color.

I want to have a discussion with you in the comments. I’ll be doing my sister’s hair here at my home pretty soon, and I’m definitely no professional. I get my hair colored at the salon, but my challenge is to give my sis the same great salon multi-dimensional look, from a box. Can it be done?

What are your experiences with at-home hair dyes?

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  • Hellokittee

    I cannot wait to hear the responses! I have natural blonde hair that has darkened with age. I get highlights and lowlights every 2 months or so at a salon. My stylist says I have to let the highlights grow out before I can use a box dye-that is not going to happen! Lol! I guess I am doomed to pay $150-$200 every couple of months to stay a blonde!

  • Can’t wait to see how it goes! Best of luck! I have never box dyed my hair, but I have friends who have! While they all have brown hair and use it to go even darker, we never really notice any terrible mistakes!
    Life With Kendal

  • Lisa Brooks

    What a great topic for discussion! When I first started coloring my hair – it was out of necessity. I had long, curly hair and was beginning to go prematurely gray (it runs in my family). Additionally, my hair started to grow in much darker than it used to be – almost a dark brown which is not at all what I was used to seeing in the mirror. My hair has always been a red/auburn/strawberry blonde color, so the gray sometimes did look like a highlight. Anyway, when money got tight, I began to color my own hair with the boxes found in the store. I’ve been doing this for over ten years now and the formulas of hair color have improved greatly! After a while of using a single color, I wanted to add more dimension to my hair with highlights. My favorite is now L’Oreal Color Experte (found here http://www.drugstore.com/products/prod.asp?pid=178692&catid=183441&cmbProdBrandFilter=120010&aid=338666&aparam=178692&kpid=178692&CAWELAID=120142990000043447&CAGPSPN=pla&kpid=178692). It takes a lot longer to do – first I color and allow my hair to dry, then I highlight, but I can do it on my time – which is usually late at night after the kiddo has gone to bed. My hair is naturally dry anyway, so I do take extra care to keep it hydrated. I wash it every two-three days, I deep condition with coconut oil once every week or two and I have tried the new Pantene night repair serum that you posted a pic of recently. I am to a point now where I can afford to get my hair colored in a salon, however, I don’t see a reason to for the price! I think it’s $13.99 at Ulta, and I use the $3.50 off coupon so it ends up being a really inexpensive alternative to salon color. I know a lot of stylist and colorist will cringe that I do my own hair, but since I have to color and I like the look of highlights, that would cost me a fortune in a salon! Then I’d have less to spend on make up, shoes and purses!

  • I’ve colored my hair darker with box dyes before. I use the Revlon Colorsilk and I’ve had good experiences the 2-3 times I’ve used it. I would love to go lighter, but I’m terrified of putting bleach on my hair myself.

  • Teresa P.

    Go to Sally Beauty and as a sales assistant for a recommendation. They are great at helping you choose the products and colors you need. This will greatly reduce the risk of unwanted results.

    • I would suggest the same thing. I have never dyed my own hair, but I did my friend’s. Also, I was given products that were not your typical “box dye” items. These were more of a professional-grade dye that came in tubes. I spent a little more purchasing it, to include a mixing bowl, brush and gloves. The ladies at Sally’s will also assist in picking out the best shampoo to reduce fading.
      Connie | Sponsored by Coffee

  • Jen Z.

    I have no advice, but I’m so happy you posted this discussion! I’ve been thinking about doing my own hair dye at home for awhile, but I’m scared. The thing is I can afford the salon, but I’m never 100% happy with what I get there, so why not do it at home. I’ve been searching online for tips, but haven’t found enough info yet for me to feel comfortable doing it myself.

    • Lisa Brooks

      I remember being afraid – that’s totally normal! I’ve been doing my own for years. As long as you aren’t doing anything too drastic, it should be just fine. If you are doing all over color, the best advise I can give is make sure you are careful with the back and top of your head! That’s where some of the most noticeable mistakes can happen. Make sure you have plenty of light and a mirror to look at the back to ensure all over coverage. You’ll do great!

  • Stillblondeafteralltheseyears

    Honestly, I would never ever dye my own hair or anyone else’s unless I as flat broke. #JustNotWorthItToMe #RatherNotEat

  • Tracy

    I got tired of boxes and started mixing my own colors at home using Wella Color Charm semi-permanent colors that I would pick up at Sally or another beauty supply. Being able to add multiple pigments if my own choosing was great as I could get the really warm briwn with red mixed in that I love. Plus, using semi-permanent color at home means it wishes out nicer. Hope this helps!

  • Gabriela Keeton

    Honestly, I use boxed dye from the store all the time. But that’s because I dye it black, so there isn’t much to it. However, if I were to seek to color it any other color or highlights or something else, I would take it to the professionals. There are times, though, that that isn’t possible, so I’d want advice from the professionals and go to a beauty supply store and get all the necessary items required.

  • Chris

    Well alllllrighty then!

    My thoughts: Definitely get better gloves than come in the box (maybe from Lowes/Home Depot paint department?) because I always managed to rip the friggin things and end up with hair color on my hands. Give your/her forehead, ears, and neck a thin coating of lotion or conditioner before starting, helps avoid staining from those “oops” moments out of the bottle or a stray hair.

    I agree completely with Lisa below. If you are trying to do a multi-color/dimensional look, better figure on it being an all day/evening kind of thing. Take your time between colors.

  • Nicole McIntyre

    My hair is naturally a darker shade of brown, call it 6N. When I dye it myself I, too, go brassy after a few washes. I then went three years without doing anything and grew utterly bored late last year. Since then I’ve had highlights, then I went dark brown and now I have scary roots because it’s so darn expensive to get my hair coloured in Melbourne. Thinking of doing it myself again, but I feel a little rusty.

  • Glam By Farah

    I have never colored my hair at home but my mom does. She mixes the solution and gets down to it. What I notice is that in the end she combs through her hair (with the dye still on). She then brushes the dye once again on roots and hairline, where she gets her greys. A little massage also works to get the dye to the roots. Cover with shower cap.Hope this helps, do let us know how your sister’s hair turn out. All the best xoxo.

  • Lyndsee

    I color my own all the time. any more, colorist boxes will have on the box whether the color is for cool toned or warmed toned. if she has a lot of her own highlights in her hair it can be tough. make sure you leave it on for the recommended length of time. definitely do it on dirty hair, and also don’t wash it out with shampoo, only conditioner! it’s the little things that make a difference. only put a little on per section at a time, and also I find that l’oreal is great but even the cheapest is really great as long as you follow directions.

  • I never dyed my hair at home until I started using natural henna, so I can’t offer any advice on using boxes, but one of the tips I’ve heard that really stuck with me is that you can coat the hair with coconut oil a few hours before coloring (the person I heard it from dyes blonde). It’ll condition the hair, but it will also help the dye to penetrate. It’s the same principle behind why you aren’t supposed to dye freshly cleaned hair, something about the oil is conducive to the process.

  • Rachel

    I’ve been dying my hair from boxes since I was a teen (I’m 28 now), and have had a mixed experience, but learning more about how to treat my own hair has helped. Going to the salon wasn’t feasible when I was younger since I never had the cash, and then it just became habit. The few times I got my hair professionally dyed, I honestly didn’t notice a dramatic enough difference to keep paying the steeper costs. I have curly hair, and I try to steer clear of sulfates and silicones in products I use on a daily basis. I’ve also discovered that regardless of the dye (box or salon), my hair isn’t very porous, so it always seems to fade out a bit within several weeks. I also always dye my hair a deeper shade of neutral brown or auburn (I have light ashy brown hair naturally).

    I would suggest that you never try to dye your hair a dramatically different color out of a box. I tried once to dye a friend’s hair who is a natural blond in college to a brunette color and she came out looking like carrot top. I usually apply the color to dirty hair, and then sometime cut the dye mix with my own conditioner from the shower (makes my hair softer). I also apply from the bottom up, since I find that my fresh roots need less time then the rest of my color treated hair. Lastly, I’m patient, I usually keep it on for at least 20 or 30 mins. Really cheap box dyes make my head itch, I’ve had the best lucky with the John Frieda foam dye or other slightly pricier drugstore brands. And worst case scenario, it’s just hair! Hope this helps, good luck!

  • Melissa in the Desert

    I never get my hair done professionally anymore, for two reasons. #1. Expense and #2. No salon can give my hair the same color I get from my FAVORITE hair dye color.
    I’ll say this for tips: home dying is messy. Spread out with newspapers. Be ready with some paper towels and cleaning products in case dye squirts onto things that it shouldn’t. If it does, act fast. Buy one more bottle than you think you will need–you don’t want to run out midway through. Get a jar of Vaseline and put it around your sister’s ears and face near her hairline. Dye can stain and this is a good way to counteract that.

  • Even more than the color being flat/brassy/not what was promised(!) box dye is the worst at drying out my hair! I can see a huge difference when I have it done – I go to an Aveda salon and they are careful to create dyes that don’t morph your hair into straw. I have had some luck with box die – but I think it takes an extra level of navigation figuring out how your hair will react to the color. I have slight red undertones (very slight) but when I color it blonde or lighten it in anyway it tends to go WAY red with box color. Truly is an art to coloring hair – that’s why they charge the BIG bucks! 🙂

  • I have been “box dyeing” my hair for almost a decade now. Have tried dozens of brands and colors, and have finally whittled down my options to Loreal Excellence Creme (for longer staying color) and Loreal Excellence Creme Gloss range (if I want want a more lustrous finish). Saves me the hassle of salon appointments, disasters and price tags! And works just as well…

  • As a licensed Cosmetologist, I have been trained to avoid home hair color like the plague… but I do know they have come a long way since I was in school. A few things to keep in mind… 1. Heat will accelerate the color process, and your body heat makes the color at your roots work much faster than your ends. 2. Damaged hair will absorb color quicker than healthy hair. 3. Home hair colors will work to lighten or darken virgin hair 1-2 shaded either way…. if she wants more of a color change (especially lighter) then go to a professional. 4. If your sister has already chemically treated her hair with another color or especially a chemical straightener, then you should definitely go to a professional (I’ve seen a lot of bad stuff with mixing different chemical processes). This is especially true if she wants to go lighter. A hair color product alone can lighten virgin hair slightly, but it cannot lighten color treated hair… only bleach can do that… and I can’t stress enough: never bleach hair yourself, always go to a professional! Hope this helps!Kisses,
    Sarah
    http://everydaystarlet.com/

  • BeckyF

    I’m a natural blonde, and decided last November I wanted to make a radical change. I dyed my hair black. The first two times I went to Toni & Guy, and paid $90+ for a professional to do it. Monthly maintenance after the first two trips has been out of a box. I love Garnier Fructis. My biggest tip is to have someone help you. I often miss spots, especially in the back and I end up with random blonde roots. I can’t wait to hear how it goes with your sister.

  • Kayleigh Pietraszak

    As a hairstylist, my biggest issue with box color lies in the developer. Sure, you can choose a warm or cool shade depending on the desired end results, but that developer in the box is a “one size fits all” kind of situation, and let me tell ya, hair color is never “one size fits all” because everyone’s hair is different. In the professional line I use, I have 3 different developers I can choose from for demi-permanent color and 3 separate other developers for permanent color (depending on my client’s current canvas, desired results, texture, porosity, etc.). Box color usually contains a really high developer, which blows the cuticle (outside layer) of the hair wide open (usually very unnecessary) and that’s why so many chronic box dyers have dry or damaged hair. As other people have mentioned, Sally’s is a much better option! I know I’m late to the game, but good luck! 🙂

  • Jez Alves

    I went back and forth with box color for like 10 years. It just never worked out. My hair is really difficult. The color either washed out terribly or didn’t turn out how I hoped it would or it’d fry my hair. I’ve had SO MANY hair disasters that I had to pay good money to fix (one time, nearly 600 dollars worth of damage). Had I just gone to my stylist to begin with, I could have avoided all that drama. Now I religiously get my hair done by a professional i LOVE. The color and condition of my hair is amazing. Plus, if something were to actually go wrong, I’d have someone else to blame instead of me 😀

  • Love this discussion! Yes, You can never 100% trust the color on the box. You have to try a patch test and be patient it pays off!

  • Candace Ginestar

    As a cosmetologist, I am supposed to hate at home coloring experiences. However…no judgment from me. Everyone has different financial goals and abilities and I don’t blame people who can’t/won’t spend X amount to go to a salon. I don’t work in a salon, so I understand! I am a freelance type, would much rather come over to your house and do it for cheaper.What I will say is, I would avoid drugstore boxes and would at least go to Sally’s and get the Wella colors that you mix with developer. It’s inexpensive once you get set up with the developer, mixing bowl (NEVER use metal!!!) and brush, gloves, foil, cape, etc. That part can add up fast, but it’s all reusable. It’s easy to learn (most are a 1:1 ratio) and it’s fun to mix like a chemist 🙂
    Key fact: color doesn’t lift color (you can use a 20, 30 or 40 volume with a lighter color to lift your roots if your hair is virgin – no color on it whatsoever). Otherwise…you need to use bleach, and then color over it. this is why people end up with 2 tone hair, the developer is one size fits all (which is a fail) in the boxes, and people have color mixed in with virgin roots….results can be disastrous. If you’re really blonde like you are, and want to go darker, you will probably need to use a red-based filler before coloring over it. it’s gross looking, but helps put underlying pigment back in your hair before going even darker. otherwise, you will end up with some not-so-hot results.
    There are so many ways you can win at life and do your own hair. A lot of people go to the salon for the social aspect, and maybe they have challenging colors they want (or highlights, etc), so it’s easier to have a trained professional do all the guesswork for you. However, if you are just doing an all over color, it can be so easy to do it yourself. I have the utmost respect for this profession, but you can do it yourself and no harm no foul! 🙂

  • Karito

    Hi Kristina! Beautiful picture. I’d like to know, how do you achieve the blurred background? Any recommended app to do this? Thanks