Monday, July 15, 2024
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Box Hair Color Versus Salon

Hair color is a science, literally. There are chemicals and developers and test tubes and dyes and, well, you get the idea. If you’re a hair color enthusiast, you’ve likely ventured down the box road (hello Sun-In!) and if you’ve been fortunate enough to spoil yourself, you’ve likely spent a few hours in a salon chair. If the answers are yes – you can probably notice the difference in the outcome of your color.

Goals Are Different

The point is box colors and salon color treatments are vastly different for a variety of reasons. The elements range from the color choice, underlying pigment, porosity, density, elasticity, skin tone, medication, hair texture, previous artificial color, amount of gray, hormones, the list goes on. 

When you are perusing the drugstore aisles, these may not be things you take into consideration when you are selecting a box. You may be just looking at the pretty picture on the outside and think “hey, I like that!” And the reality is, box color rarely results in the exact same way it looks in the picture – especially if your hair has been pre-treated. You could end up with a green, gray, or orange color.

Box Color

And, when it comes to box color – one size does NOT fit all! Box color is formulated to color hair ranging from rich brown to ashy blonde (with all the colors in between) and coarse to fine hair, all with the same concoction. 

Box colors contain agents that activate the lifting and depositing and this percentage is often at the highest volume allowed in salons or higher! This often leads to over-processing and a tremendous amount of stress on the hair.

Salon Color

Salons charge a lot more, it’s true, but that’s because you are dealing with experts who are licensed and have gone to school and learned the chemistry behind hair color. They literally take into consideration all the aforementioned, along with eye color, lifestyle, upkeep, and more. 

A good hairstylist will sit you down for a consultation, take a look at the health of your hair, and ask you all the important questions needed for a pleasing result.

Hairstylists can see a 360-degree view of your hair. They know exactly where to apply which chemicals to new growth while balancing out the health of your current color and hair condition. This often means using multiple blends of colors to achieve a specific, desired look.


This leads us to the actual quality of the color being used. Many people associate color treatments with dry, damaged hair and this can be the case if you are using box color. Professional brands have conditioning agents that can improve the shine and texture of hair. And when color is applied in a strategic way, your hair ends up healthier, which will hold the color longer.


And if you are looking to bleach, it’s a whole other ballgame. When you are purchasing bleaching or highlighting kits from a drugstore, you are usually supplied with a cap with little dot cutouts that you pull the hair through. This leads to a polka dot effect and bleed marks – which is probably not what you are going for. Hairstylists use a very strategic approach with foils, which can accent your face shape, eye color, and more.

Celebrities Preference

If you’re looking at your favorite celebrities who are starring in the advertisements for box color and thinking “yes! That’s it!” think again. Gwen Stefani, Blake Lively, and Beyonce aren’t picking up a box of hair color at the local supermarket to achieve their results. 

They spend lots of money with expert stylists who make them look perfect, and then they are paid a high dollar to make mainstream believe it came from a box. Not only are they not purchasing box color for their own home treatments, but they also aren’t purchasing it and bringing it to a salon for someone to apply.

Chemical Expiration

Also, chemicals do expire. There is no way of knowing how long a box of hair color has spent on a shelf, when it was formulated and when it’s past due. This can mean major problems for your hair.

Which Is Better?

There is no doubt that salon color is better for your hair. Every product line contains various colors, shades, hues, additives, and developers. Professionals understand this and they can adjust a formula and prepare it specifically for your unique hair.


Most people think that box color is the more affordable route. But box color gone wrong can cost you (speaking from experience). What you thought was going to result in a honey blonde could turn into bright orange, or if you are light-haired and want to go darker, you could end up with vomit green hair. And the cost for corrective color? It’s out of this world. 

Salon color will actually save you money in the long run because the products are professional grade and can contribute to the health of your hair. Not to mention, there are fillers and extra pigment needed when you are drastically shifting your color. 

Most people don’t take this into account when they are about to swipe up an $8 box with Eva Longoria on the front.


In essence, if you are serious about changing your color it’s best to leave it to the professionals. They spend all day, every day perfecting locks with beautiful colors – and they’ve likely seen it all. Professionals have to take a state-mandated test to have the privilege of doing this to your hair.


This all being said, it’s okay to shop around for a professional to do your hair. Maybe you admire someone’s stunning shade, ask for a referral. Or if you have passed some salons in your neighborhood, pop in for a consultation and ask for some before and after photos (Instagram is great for this). 

It’s also good to prepare before you visit for a consultation. Peruse Pinterest, find some shades and styles you like. It’s often much easier to convey to a stylist through pictures, rather than trying to explain your vision.


Next time you are tempted to consider a box color, try to remember all this crucial information. Otherwise, you might be in for a very expensive disaster.

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