Is Box Dye Bad For Your Hair?

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

Disclaimer: I am NOT a professional colorist nor do I claim to be. I am an expert in extensions and decided to write a blog about this topic because I am asked a lot by my clients this question. With that, I decided to reach out to the expert colorists to find the answer.

As you may know, I am a hair extension expert and only install, remove, wash and cut extensions. I do not color hair but am often asked about it from clients who are wanting a change. Dying hair is familiar to me considering I am in the hair industry and dye my own hair. Please read this post fully before making a decision to dye your own hair.

Many people believe that box dye is bad for your hair. But is this just a myth? Well, it depends. Coloring your hair at home is not always dangerous, you just have to educate yourself a little bit before hand. Whether you are covering up your roots or changing the color two shades, you probably can do this at home and save some cash.

Box dyes can be found at any local beauty supply or drug store. It’s pretty inexpensive – ranging from $9 to $30 and always come with instructions on how to apply the dye at home. The color is usually pre-measured and in containers so you cannot really alter the dye. This means the formula is the same for every hair type – it doesn’t matter if you have thick, thin, coarse, dark, light, or colored hair. The dye itself is typically more concentrated than salon color because it has to be strong enough to work on anyone’s hair. This is where potential risks can arise.

At the salon, the color can be tailored to your hair type. Colorists are able to determine which product should deliver the results you want, exactly how much dye to use and how long to let it process. Because the average person doesn’t know these things, they may find a blotchy, uneven look from not fully saturating their hair, applying too much or even letting it sit for too long. This can result in dry and damaged hair as well, not just a bad coloring job.

But wait there’s more… The biggest risk factor of all: bleach. Trying to go lighter or even just giving yourself highlights can turn into your hair literally being chemically fried off. There is a science to bleaching hair for sure. The hair mid-shafts and ends process much slower than the root, so if it’s applies all at once the ends could come out darker, leaving an unnatural finish. That’s why even colorist specialize in doing only blonde.

After reading all that you may never want to dye your own hair. But there is a time and place for box dye. According to Mahshid Baghaei, a hair colorist in NYC, covering grey hair or the roots is doable. Additionally matching your hair color or going a little darker than your current color is just as safe. Just remember that the color of hair on the box is not the exact color that your hair will turn out. It’s approximate. Coloring hair is chemistryliterally. Your hair is unique and will most likely respond differently to the same dye your BFF uses.

If you do decide to use box dye and it is your first time, try using temporary or semi/demi-permanent color because it fades away more softly and does not alter the natural hair shaft. Not to mention, if you don’t end up loving it, it’s easier to remove than regular dye.

Additionally, Mahshid Baghaei says you need to know the color and tone you want. Colors described as “warm, “honey”, or “gold” are warm colors. Colors described as “ash” or “beige” are cool colors. “Natural” or “neutral” are in the middle. Always remember to pick one color lighter than you think you should have because most colors are darker than they seem on the package.

When using box dye make sure you get an old shirt and towels that you don’t care about because it can get messy. I personally use the plastic grocery bags and cut them open to lay down on the counter top and even to place around my neck and shoulders which makes for an easy clean up. Hair color will stain basically anything it touches, so be prepared.

If your hair is really long or super thick purchase two boxes to get all the coverage you need. Read all the instructions before you even touch the rest of the contents inside. It’s also a good idea to use two mirrors when doing it by yourself to see all angles of your head. Lastly, work in small sections, from the front moving to the back of the head and make sure to saturate, saturate, saturate!

Whenever you want to make big changes to your hair, or you wish to go lighter, use a professional instead of doing it on your own. “A skilled colorist will take into consideration aspects such as skin tone, eye color, hair texture, hair density, and hair porosity and can predict which color would best suit their client’s needs,” Baghaei says.

In the end, take caution when dying your hair. An $9 box of hair color can easily turn into a $200 (or more) fix. It is always important to keep the integrity of your hair the number one priority!

Note: If you are trying to save money but need professional help to achieve your desired hair color, look into a salon’s junior colorist or be a model in a program. That way you can get your hair done professionally for a fraction of the price (or even free).

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