Why Box Color Doesn't Always Turn Out Like In The Picture

why does box color never turn out

Why should I pay to get my hair colored when I can go to the drugstore, save myself some money and just color my own hair? That is exactly what people believe in the beginning but much sooner than later they change their mind. Let me explain to you why that is - just in case you were thinking the same thing.

Professionals mixing your hair color (using their better judgment)

When a hairdresser mixes a color for you we have to choose from permanent or demi-permanent color (there is a reason for that) permanent color is to cover grey hair and demi-permanent is for everyone else. No matter what anyone says they both fade at about the same time. Except that permanent color is infused deep within your hair shaft. So when you decide to go lighter the lightener or (bleach) as some of you are used to hearing it doesn't come out! Therefore causing the hair to not lighten as the goal or it just damages your hair and you can’t do much with it after that anyways.

But that’s not all

Then we have to choose what developer to use on your hair to get the desired look. And we have 7 or more to choose from. And not to mention that the color we are mixing for you can consist of many different colors and color enhancers mixed specifically for your hair. You can bring me a picture of a beautiful chocolate brown hair color and I will mix it for your hair one way and for someone else a completely different way to get close to the same results. It’s because we have to consider a list of factors before mixing color specifically for you. 

Premixed box color (with no one to help)

When you are using a box color from the drug store you are just looking at the picture on the box and thinking to yourself - that’s a hair color I want. And that’s understandable because I did that as well all through high school. I colored my natural dark brown hair color to a different tone than my natural color. And I thought it looked good except when one of my friends always told me my hair looks green. I guess that’s not a good sign. I went to cosmetology school for 13 months 30 hours a week and we had to learn chemistry, how to mix chemicals (hair color) and their reaction in your hair and on your scalp. We are licensed thru the state board just like nurses. And even then not everyone is good at doing hair.



How about the celebrities in the commercial who use the box color?

Well, that’s a great question, and I love Sarah Jessica Parker and maybe she does color her hair at home with store bought box color over the sink. Enough said? (Check out an article where I mention what celebrities really pay for their hair)

Trust me this is a very hard article to write! What if a company approached me and asked me to advertise something that I would never use and I knew wouldn't work as advertised. What if it was enough money for me to buy something big? Maybe I burned some bridges today but the truth is the truth and my goal is to tell you what works, what doesn't and why.

I’m not trying to say that no one should ever use a box color, but this article is more to help you understand why it doesn't turn out like the pretty picture on the box! And why it takes so long to change it if it turns out differently than you were made to believe.

Why box color usually doesn't turn out like in the picture

The box color comes with just the premixed color and the one developer to activate the color. As I mentioned above, much more has to be taken into consideration before applying a hair color onto your hair. That may or may not be the right mixture for your hair color to turn like the color in the picture. And most of the time it’s not. Below is a perfect example of that. The girl wanted to go lighter so she thought she could use a box color to do it but look at how her hair turned out in the first picture.

fixing hair after box color

It contains very strong dyes making it hard to remove

Most box color has henna in it so it will say something like this is a natural dye but henna is extremely strong and almost impossible to remove. It always requires a huge color correction service to remove it which will cost you big bucks. Henna also fades unevenly and can turn green when being lightened. I have personally seen it on a few occasions. The color correction service in the picture above is incredible...that's a rare case.

When fixing someone’s hair that contains henna dyes – I offer no guarantee on the results, not because I don’t want to deal with it but because I honestly have no control over box color and professional color reacting on the same hair. These days I don’t take color corrections because It takes too long, most people can’t afford it and they don’t believe how much work truly goes info fixing or removing box color. If it doesn't turn out people just think you don’t know how to color hair (in some cases). And color correction is my expertise. I have done some extreme changes and in lots of cases the client didn't even need a trim after the grueling service. That took lots of time and product and was usually not worth the time financially for me. Lots of stylists don't offer that service for those reasons. 

How did I get away without trimming the hair after a color correction?

My little secret is the Loma Pearatin Repairative Serum. I put that in my color and I put it in my clients hair after every service. You can put it in your washed damp hair before styling it. Even though, the hair will still be damaged after big color correction services but this stuff makes the hair feel and look better instantly! That works on any hair type, even if your hair is a very fine texture. I think almost all my clients use this. By the way when hair is healthy it can handle more in the long run. (Read more on Healthy Shiny Hair)

Coloring hair is not that simple

When you put a lighter shade of hair color on your already darker colored hair, it will not color the colored hair. It will only color your new growth where your hair is natural. So you will have lighter or brighter roots and the ends will stay dark like in the picture below.  (Light hair color cannot lighten dark colored (dyed) hair.

box color hair gone bad

If a hairdresser were coloring your hair, they wouldn't just apply a lighter color like you might assume or like the box color “shows” it will turn out. They would remove all your dark color first. That’s called a color correction. They might do a color extractor or bleach wash to remove the box color. That’s a big service usually taking quite a few hours and then they’ll color your hair to the desired shade….and that’s if the color remover extracted enough color and if all went according to plan. That doesn't always happen on the first service, but it will within time.

What if I’m just coloring in my grey hair?

For those of you who are trying to cover some grey, it might seem like a simple process but grey hair is one of the hardest hair types to color beautifully. I understand most people are on a budget and going to the salon every month might not even be an option. I’m assuming lots of times your roots turned out bright or too light with your box color? I don’t’ want to educate people how to use the box color because I don’t’ use it myself and wouldn't. But to start with if you do have grey hair and you will be using box color because that’s your only option, just make sure that your color name has the word Natural in it. Even if you are using like a burgundy color, for you it should be the one that’s natural burgundy or Natural brown, that helps cover the grey hair more evenly. That still doesn't always help. I just feel bad for you and am so sad when I see this happens.

Should I toss coloring my hair altogether?

Never! Beautifully colored hair looks and feels amazing. I would rather have you go to Sallys Beauty Supply and have someone help you there. The price will be about the same, but that’s also no guarantee that the color will work. If we stylists have to do crazy things to the hair to get it looking good (in some cases) what’s to say regarding someone giving you color advice who isn't a licensed cosmetologist. But that being said you would still be using professional hair color and you might get lucky with someone who knows color at the store.

I have a few aunts who color their own hair at home and I helped them transition from box color to the color I chose for them at Sallys. And even that took quite a few tries. If someone is sitting in my chair, I might color their new growth (roots) one color and their ends a different color formulation. Like for my twin aunts I would mix a permanent color for the new growth and then in the end refresh their ends with a demi-permanent color. That way their hair would stay healthier, their color would last longer, and if they ever wanted to go lighter it would be possible.

Like I said earlier, I'm not here to bash on the box color industry or anyone else for that matter. I want you to have pretty hair so I'm passing along all my tips and tricks and helping you understand that if box color were as easy then hairdressers would be using it in the first place. Sometimes All-In-One-Step products just are a bad quick sell idea.

So who than can use box color?

If you already use it, you like it and don’t plan to go lighter.  But read the directions and only color your new growth. Refresh your ends only when needed if they faded and for less time than your new growth. The box should specify.

If you have natural hair and you want a shade or two darker and you never plan to go lighter. (And that doesn't mean the color you choose will turn out.) So I guess I’ll cut my list short. I can’t give you an OK if I don’t think your hair will turn out great.

I say this with all honesty because even I have colored someone’s natural hair before and it didn't turn out like in the picture they brought. I’m not saying they were mad and it was ugly, but it’s not always exactly like you want it. We use pictures as a reference and to get something close to perfect sometimes requires more than one try.

Don't be the victim of a quick sale

I hope this gave you some insight on why box color doesn't always turn out like in the picture and why it may take so long to transition from it. Having amazing hair is something we all desire and the big guys out there know it too well if you know what I mean?! Hopefully, this helps you out a little.

If you have some bad box color stories or pictures, please post below, hopefully it will help someone one make a wiser choice. If you love your box color let me now as well. All comments are welcome.

Image credits: Victor BezrukovE'lan Hair Studio, Hailee Janroy

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