top of page

 Why It' 's Important to Stay Away From Box Color 

 Written By: Hannah Sensius 
 April 13th 2020 

box color.jpg
box color 3.jpg

Being in quarantine has taken a toll on all of us. We are unable to see our friends and family, many people are working from home, or they may not even be able to work at all. Since the salons fall under the category of unessential employees, hairstylists are unable to perform services on anyone either in the salon or at home visits. With that being said, its very easy to be tempted with box coloring and at home bang trims and haircuts. Its "something to do" when you get bored, and also may be because you cant go more than three to four weeks without getting your hair done. As a licensed professional, I understand and also agree that hair and it's upkeep is important, but above all else, the integrity of your hair should be your top priority rather then doing it yourself. I often have my clients ask me, "is box coloring really that bad?" and my reply is always yes, and here's why:

What is in box color?

Box color is formulated for everyone to use it, however not everyone's hair type, color, and condition is the same. Since box color is formulated for "everyone to use" most box dyes are maxed out with large amounts of pigments and ammonia. These unnecessary overloads of ingredients can take a toll on the health of your hair and also increase your chances of an allergic reaction. Some direct depositing box dyes also contain metallics in them which are not only difficult to remove when trying to lift them out, they can also cause chemical reactions with lightener. The first kind of reaction can physically change the color of your hair. Most of the time when removing metallics your hair will turn a murky green color. The other kind of reaction can actually heat up and get so hot that your hair can start smoking and potentially burn off.


Ammonia is what helps open the cuticle to be able to deposit long lasting color, but applying a box color that has high amounts of ammonia can damage the cuticle permanently. Since there are also high amounts of pigment, it does not allow for the color molecules to pick up on the highs and lows of the hair. What does this mean? It means you will have no dimension. Not only will you have flat and dull looking color, it is also very difficult to remove these concentrated pigments after they have been deposited into the hair cuticle.

"But Hannah, I will just get an ammonia free box color to prevent my cuticle from being blown out." Incorrect. Just because a box color may say "ammonia free" doesn’t mean its any healthier or better for your hair. This includes semi and demi permanent hair colors. These dyes still contain high amounts of chemicals and pigments that are still hard to remove. Not to mention using these dyes and their "conditioning" shampoos and conditioners cause the hair to have build up over time. They are loaded with waxes to make your hair feel soft. Even though your hair may feel silky smooth, it is because it has been coated in a layer (or layers) of wax that can do a numerous amount of things to your hair: weight it down, cause damage, and not be able to accept color properly since there is a coating around the cuticle.

Reversing box color will cost you

It may seem temping and fun to be able to spend ten dollars on a box of color at Walmart, your local drug store, or  Sally's, but before you do, think about the possible consequences you may have to face. Color corrections require the most amount of work, product, time, and money. Reversing box color can take multiple salons visits to lift out, and will cost you much more than the ten dollars you spent initially. If you are someone who doesn’t care about seeing dimension, and you will always have the same color hair and never ever change it, then box coloring may not be a problem for you. But if you are someone who likes to change it up every once in a while, then I recommend staying away from box color. It will take much longer to get the dye molecules out, and it will cost you way more money in the long run.

Box color doesn't just fade over time

"But Hannah, its been a long time since I've box colored my hair so the color has faded and its gone." This is not how color works. When you put a dye molecule on your hair, the color may visually fade, but the color molecules in the cuticle do not just disappear. If you have not physically cut off your hair that has previously been colored, then there are still color molecules living in your hair. This is true for professional hair color as well, but box color chemicals are even harder to lift because of the high amounts of pigment they contain, and they have unpredictable results when being lifted out. Your hair is likely to lift unevenly because of the chemicals it contains, and you may have virgin hair where you regrowth is which will lift much faster since there are no pre-existing color molecules.

Box Lightening

"Well Hannah, I'm not going to box color my hair, I will just lighten it instead." This could be even worse. Lightening hair is a whole different can or worms. There countless things to take into consideration when lightening hair. What kind of hair type do I have? What kind of color has been on my hair? When was the last time color or lightener was applied? What kind of developer do I use? The list of questions goes on and on. Luckily you don’t have to know the answers to any of those questions because there are professionals that are trained and licensed to know them. We are educated on how different hair types and colors lift and how to use the correct developers. Using high developers at home like 30 and 40 volume is breakage just waiting to happen. I HIGHLY suggest staying away from at home lightener to prevent uneven applications that result in orange/yellow toned hair, or even worse; breakage and fried hair. There is nothing we can do for you if your hair is on the floor.

I'm not naive and I know there are going to be a lot of people who will go ahead and box color or box lighten their hair, but just make sure you ask yourself these questions before you put the bottle to your head: is it worth it to be patient in the future if I decide to change up my color, and will I be okay with how much money I'll need to spend? As a professional, my goal is to spread awareness on how box color really works and I want you to maintain the health of your hair through quarantine. I know your roots are getting long and your ready for a refresh, but trust me when I say we will get you into our chairs as fast as possible once salons are allowed to operate.

If you have any questions please feel free to shoot me a message, and if you’ve never been in my chair feel free to click here to receive 10% Off your first visit.

If you enjoyed this post you may be interested in:

say no to drugstore.jpg
bottom of page