Is box dye bad?

Is box dye bad?

We’ve all been that girl. The girl that has a sudden need for a change. NOW! She can’t wait another moment, she’s called every salon and no one can get her in today. It’s time to take matters into her own hands. Confidently she makes her way to the closest grocery store or Sally’s. She paces the box color aisle scanning for which woman on the box defines her next identity. She takes it home and follow the instructions perfectly. What could possibly go wrong???!

Perhaps this has been you. And you got lucky. Your color came out exactly like you wanted it. A miracle, I tell you. The odds are against the girl who grabs that box and let me explain why.

The Structure of Hair

The hair follicle is made up of 3 main parts: The cuticle, the cortex and the medulla. The cuticle is the outer layer and surrounds the hair similarly to shingles on a roof. The cortex makes up most of the hair and is where the melanin (color of the hair) is found. The medulla is the innermost part of the hair and is the thinnest and most fragile section. Once these parts have been damaged, it is difficult to repair without intensive time, cost and treatment. Sometimes, damage can be irreparable and the hair needs to be cut off.

Virgin hair (hair that has never been chemically altered) is shiny, supple and has a different chemical makeup than chemically processed hair. Once hair has been processed or dyed, it must be treated differently. The color formula will need to be adjusted.

The way color works

There are 2 components to all permanent hair dye:

Ammonia – which the color itself       +           Peroxide – the developer

Peroxide comes in a variety of strengths: 3%, 6%, 9% and 12% – similar to Alcohol or Hydrogen Peroxide potency. Each strength will swell the cortex to a different size allowing the original color molecules to be diffused (disintegrated) and the new color molecules in the ammonia will be bonded.

Different types of hair need different strengths of peroxide. Some hair types and colors do not need any peroxide. This is usually determined by hair thickness and desired color. For example: if going darker, no peroxide is needed. Using peroxide when going darker will only damage the hair unnecessarily and cause the color to fade quickly since the cortex has been swelled.

Why Box Dye is a NO NO!

I’m sure you’ve heard any hairdresser in your life say that box dye is a terrible idea. They are not just complaining about an industry that hurts their business but also can damage your hair! WHY?

  1. Unpredictable results Oftentimes box color is old, as it can sit on the shelf of your local grocery store for months before you get to it. Because this is a chemical, aged product can oxidize before you ever get it on your head. This could cause color to go much darker, red, green or not do much at all. In addition to that, think about how difficult it is to thoroughly dry your hair with a blow drier. Now consider applying color yourself. You are bound to miss parts and overlap. Over lapping old color can cause that section of the hair to be double processed resulting in breakage and undesirable color. Should you ever decide to have your hair highlighted, the over lapped stops will process a differently color causing a dark spot.
  2. One size does not fit all Box color has one formula inside, however it takes a lot of consideration to get the right color. The box doesn’t know what color your hair is now. All box color has 6% peroxide. This means you’ll only be able to get your hair 1-2 shades lighter than it is today, ONLY if it’s virgin! If your hair has ever been dyed, box color will not lighten your colored hair. It will only swell the cortex, causing damage, and deposit whatever color is in the box: resulting in a muddy mess.
    As you try to lighten your hair, ALL hair pulls warm tones. This is how hair works. So if you do not have a balancing color your hair is likely to be very brassy or warm.
    If you are looking to go darker, you need to add in a minimum of 10% warm tones so that your hair does not turn green or ashy. That warm tone could be yellow, gold, orange, copper, or red – depending on what color your hair is now and what color you are trying to achieve. This is a complicated process that even the highest trained hairdresser seeks second opinions about. It is not to be tried at home.
  3. Flat, muddy color Because box color is one size fits all, your color cannot be personalized to your Pinterest inspiration. Because the peroxide is stronger, it is likely to over process your hair leaving it dull.
  4. Fixing or highlighting after Box Color is EXPENSIVE! Because box color is one size fits all, it tends to have additional pigment. This can cause lightening it to be a huge problem. One time, I was lighting red box dye out of my client’s hair and it turned green – the opposite color of red. There is no reason that it should’ve done that. It can be fixed, with additional cost, time, processing and risk to the hair.
    If you don’t cover your hair consistently, fixing spots can be tedious. Because the box color has such a high amount of peroxide, it can fade quickly and compromise your hair. Remember that healthy hair is beautiful hair!

If you find yourself getting anxious about a big change, I recommend blow drying and curling your hair to tie you over until a stylist you trust has availability. While box dying is risky, so is going to just any stylist just because they have a last minute opening. Untrained stylists can cause just as much damage, if not more, than you can at home. Once you find someone who listens and you trust, it’s worth the time and sometimes higher price to stay loyal.


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