Want to do something to your hair for the holidays? Put down that box color! Don’t be a DIY disaster.
Erg. The holidays are here and your hair is just an absolute mess. You want to do something with it, but you let the season sneak up on you. If you didn’t schedule an appointment with your stylist at least a month ago, you’re screwed on trying to get in to any reputable salon. So, for a lot of women, there’s this incredible temptation to just do something yourself. After all, you can get boxed hair color cheaply enough at your local store. Sounds like a reasonable work-around, doesn’t it?
I get it. When I first met Kat, one of the things I liked was that she was very adventurous with her hair color. The problem was that in doing her hair herself she was routinely frying her hair, having to chop it all off and then growing it out again. That routine, along with a few other details, is what encouraged her to go to beauty school. Want to guess what she learned there? You shouldn’t be using box color on your hair! Mind you, she’s still every bit as adventurous with her hair color, but she’s learned her lesson and no longer has to cut off all her hair every few months.
Still, there are sources out there who are trying to sell product and go to some lengths to do so. Clairol paid for an article on Popsugar touting the ease of using their box color to liven up one’s hair. They did their best to make it look like something objective, though the editors at Popsugar were very clear in making sure readers understood it was a sponsored article. What they apparently weren’t expecting was the fact that a number of actual licensed, professional stylists would not only read the article, but share the article as an example of what not to do. Kat showed me some of the comments. They’re rather brutal and for good reason:
NEVER USE BOX COLOR ON YOUR HAIR!
A Thousand Different Shades Of Wrong
Part of the appeal for using box color is that it is, allegedly, easy to find a color that you’ll like, maybe even one that matches your natural color. If only that were true. While boxed products do offer a wide variety of colors that look on the outside of the box as though they might be what you want, the reality is much, much different. First of all, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all hair color, and that’s exactly what boxed color is trying to pull off. Trying a hair color isn’t like trying on a rain poncho. Hair color has to be individually formulated to your hair for it to work correctly. Boxed color can’t do that.
Do you have any idea everything your colorist considers before putting something on your hair? You know they ask a lot of questions and they keep meticulous records of what they’ve done previously for good reason. Anything that touches your hair has the potential to change the way it takes color. Your colorist considers things such as your hair’s porosity, your skin tone, the natural level of pigment, previous chemicals used on your hair, the kind of shampoo you use, and whether you have any grey. Even then, colorists know that the ash blonde that looks wonderful on one person is likely to look like a fruit basket gone wrong on someone else.
Boxed colors also use a 12% or higher developer, significantly higher than what your colorist is likely to use. The reason boxes use such a high level is to make sure that the product does something to your hair. Unfortunately, that something is more likely to be in the neighborhood of frying it rather than helping to any degree. There’s just no way that a boxed hair color product can give you the same level of individualized attention that your hair needs.
Not as affordable as you think
Another reason many women choose boxed color is because it appears to be more affordable. $8 for a boxed color versus $60 or more for just a single color at a salon? Sure, sounds like a wonderful bargain—until it all goes wrong. Anyone who has used box color likely knows the pain of looking in the mirror and seeing something they did not expect. What do you do? Try another color? Attempt to wash it out as quickly as possible? Put another color over the top of it? All of those options are horrible for your hair and end up leaving it looking worse than when you started.
One of the things we need to understand when talking about box color and that their formulas change all the time and companies are under no obligation to tell the consumer what changes were made and how they might potentially affect your hair. So even if you managed to find a boxed product that wasn’t too horrible one time, chances are extremely high that when you go back six months later and try the same color again it doesn’t work because the formula changed! Oh, and if you tried doing highlights with one of those silly cap things you almost certainly know what it’s like to have polka-dot hair. They don’t work.
There’s no substitute for a professional application and customized color. So, when you do it yourself and it fails, horribly, you end up having to go to the salon to get it fixed. At the very least, you’re now going to pay over $100 for a colorist to repair your self-induced disaster. If you have managed to fry your hair in the process then you’re going to get an unwanted hair cut removing the damage. One can easily come out of the salon a couple hundred dollars poorer and looking like a Marine Corp recruit who just entered basic training. Repairing the damage one inevitably does to their hair with a box color always costs several times more than what the salon color would have been. Doesn’t it just make more sense to have it done right in the first place?
Your options are limited
Let’s get real here: if you don’t already have an appointment with your stylist by now, your options are tremendously limited. You do not want to attempt a home box color. Neither do you want to risk a bad home perm job for many of the same reasons. While the number of options at this juncture are limited, there are a couple of things we can safely recommend.
First, consider having your hair done at a beauty school. The students need the practice and are supervised by instructors who are there to help prevent a disaster like the one you would get at home. Understand, this time of year even they may not have time to give you a complicated color process. Anything that takes multiple hours of work is probably best saved for after the holidays. However, they can do haircuts and color re-touches with little problem. Of course, we strongly recommend using an Aveda school salon if you have one in your area. Yes, we are more than a little biased. In addition to getting a great cut and style, you also get their wonderful massage service and it’s still only $17 for a haircut. Color services start somewhere around $30.
Second, if you’re really desperate and have some sense of what you’re doing, a wash and set can be done at home without necessarily ending in disaster. Understand, though, this takes some knowledge of what you want, what size curler to use, and the dexterity to actually fasten the curlers in the back of your head. Doing anything to your hair on your own is challenging, but at least if you botch this one you just wash it out and try again. I remember my mother frequently doing her own hair on a Saturday night so that it would look good for church the next day. Of course, my mother went to beauty school, too. She had an advantage. Still, if your back’s against a wall, this might be worth a shot.
I know everyone wants to look good for the holidays and with busy schedules it’s easy to forget to set appointments with your hair stylists. Still, there is no good reason for jumping off the deep end and trying to color your hair yourself with some box you picked up at CVS. Wash your hair, use a good conditioner, and chances are no one will give you any grief. After all, everyone’s more interested in the food. You’ll be fine.
Enjoy the holidays!