DIY Home Hair Color

Step 1. DON’T.

DIY Disaster

Just stop.  Stop perusing the aisle of Walgreens or Sally Beauty Supply looking for your next DIY project for your hair.  Don’t look at the model on the box and imagine that you’ll look great in that cherry red color they’ve photo-shopped onto her head.

I am a trained professional.  I went to school specifically to learn how to use chemicals on a human.  I learned about color theory, about hair structure, about what happens to hair when exposed to said chemicals.  With all of this knowledge floating around in my brain (not to mention my undergraduate work that went much deeper into anatomy, physiology, and body systems) I still sometimes have to really THINK about what I need to do to turn someone’s hair color to their desired shade.

Let’s consider this scenario…

Box Color CRAP

Let’s say Sandra with bleached blonde hair goes to the drug store and runs into her friend Cassie who’s a natural dark chocolate brown.  They chat about how they’re so bored with their color and head over to see what their options are.   They both set their eyes on a shade of red that is sure to be a show stopper.  The model on the box looks so good, and so happy.  Now this color they want is several shades darker than Sandra’s bleached blonde hair, and several shades lighter than Cassie’s dark chocolate brown.  They must have a different kit for Sandra and something else for Cassie, right? WRONG.  That same magical box is supposed to do two completely different processes on two different people with completely different hair situations.  What does that mean?  It means there’s very harsh chemicals in there to make that magic happen, and what that means for your hair is that it will be damaged and resemble your dog’s chew rope after he’s been particularly stressed out.

But Shreeda!  Eva Longoria, Heather Locklear, and Sarah Jessica Parker all endorse box color and look how fantastic they look!

Ok, seriously, you think these women shop at Walmart and do their own color at home over their $10,000 ivory encrusted tub molded with the tears of 1000 virgins?  NO.  Did you know that cosmetic advertising only requires ONE STRAND of hair to be colored with the product in order for it to be considered authentic advertisement?  That’s right.  So, lovely Eva Longoria, has a $500+ chemical job on her hair and that one piece on the side has the actual box color in it.  But are you focusing on that one strand or are you looking at her thinking “that is a beautiful, dimensional color, I want it.”?

But Shreeda, you use such harsh chemicals in your salon, I found this box that says No Ammonia.  It should be safe to use, right?

WRONG.  Just because it says “no ammonia” doesn’t mean they aren’t using a harsh ammonia derivative.  Don’t be fooled.  The only way you can be sure to protect your hair and make sure it isn’t damaged is to have a professional color your hair.  And let me be the first to tell you that professional color comes in no ammonia forms as well.  So just ask for that.

Here is what goes through my mind when I have a color client…

1. What is their natural color?

2. Do they have previously colored hair, what was used?

3. What other chemicals have they done to their hair, did they have any reactions?

4. Are there different shades in the hair or does it look like an even tone?  What is the undertone I see?

5. How damaged is the hair?

5. Do they have gray?

6. Is the desired color lighter or darker than what is happening right now?

7. Will I need to add back any pigment if they’re going darker?  Will their hair withstand going lighter?

8.  And then with those and a few lifestyle questions (not to mention a gut instinct) I come up with my formula.

Color is a process, and if you don’t know the first thing about the chemicals you’re putting in your hair, you should not be doing this at home.  I almost had a heart attack when I saw the ombre kits go on sale at the drug store.  Bleaching hair is a whole other animal.

DIY Disaster

I hope this clears up why it is worth every penny to get your hair colored professionally.  Because a color correction is far more expensive and a very tedious process.  A lot of times, it can’t be fixed in one visit and none of that is worth a $6 box of hair color.



179 thoughts on “DIY Home Hair Color

  1. James Jordan says:

    Yup sometimes people get bored and want a change. So hopefully as hairdressers we can anticipate that. But when they do something like this I just hope they don’t injure themselves or break their hair off. Then we have a nice sit down chat about what color correction is. How long it takes and how nothing can really be guaranteed. And we talk about the pricing up front. Not one of my favorite things to do but it does happen! I like your list of questions.

  2. I own a hair salon in Blaine WA….I was wondering if I could post this on our salon facebook page….You said perfectly what I have been trying to say for years!!!!

  3. Lydia says:

    I concur, 100%. I used home products for several months. I have greys and I got rather aggressive about dying my roots (every 3 weeks). I developed an allergic reaction; broke out in a rash ALL OVER my body, went to the Doctor (having not realized it was the hair dye causing the reaction), who diagnosed it as Scabies (Horrifying! And she refused to do a scrape test on it, citing that it was diagnosed ‘clinically’), was prescribed PERMITHRIN. (This is the same chemical used to kill lice, and bugs in the garden) and was told to coat my entire body with it. If you’re wincing right now, you have good cause – my rash turned into boils, my face turned into a rash and my entire scalp turned into one solid blister. Literally if I reached in and touched my roots with my fingertips, they came away with about a half teaspoon of puss on them. It was awful. The error of touching up my roots again (Yes, I am an idiot, I agree.) uncovered the true origin of my rash and a different (bless’d) Doctor listened to my whole story, and gave me a creme that cleared it up after a week. I am terrified of color now, and have only bleached it since. At a salon, I discovered I can’t even use toner anymore. That is my horror story, and I can only say DO NOT USE STORE BOUGHT DYES!!!! Do yourself a favor and find a professional, please.

    • I am so sorry you had to go through all that. It sounds painful and scary. Shame on that first doctor for not double checking and running tests. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

    • Michaela says:

      That is pretty much the worst thing I’ve ever heard concerning dyes. I cannot believe a doctor can be that irresponsible. You poor thing!

  4. desiree Wolfe says:

    Then maybe it should be cheaper to do professionally…most people can’t afford to go professionally even with cutting their hair!! We go what’s cheaper!

    • There’s always different levels of stylists, some more affordable than others. You get what you pay for. Higher quality work, experience, higher quality product, all of that contributes to the price you pay. You can always go to a cosmetology school and pay extremely low prices and still get professional product.

    • Beth Nuccio says:

      Desiree, cheaper does not always mean effective. Refer to above article referencing chemical reactions, and poor color choices due to factors that a person who is not is a trained professional has no idea about. Hairstylists do not make that much money after salon splits, products costs, and taxes are deducted. Most of us do this because we love it and we want to make people look and feel beautiful, so if a box of unknown hair color makes you beautiful then I say go for it!!! I guarantee over time you will pay the price.

    • Meelibee says:

      Reasons why the prices are what they are. 1. hair dressers don’t get sick days/ paid vacations 2. They don’t get health insurance or dental 3. The cost of the product is not cheap and goes up twice a year.(it’s not like we use Pantene ) 4. Cosmetology school is NOT cheap,( we have loans to pay. ) 5. Yearly State licensing fees. 6. Our tools are VERY expensive, 7. And most stylist are commissioned based.

      • Heather says:

        I can’t believe you are trying to say that the prices are high for hair coloring services because of no sick days, long hours and school loans to pay back. Drs don’t raise their prices because they are on call 24 hours and I’m pretty sure their school is way more expensive than that of a hair dresser. Do you really think drs machines and equipment are not VERY expensive as well?

      • I think a better way to say that is that hairdressers have a lot of demand put on them. We sacrifice family time and vacations to service our clients. We put a lot of money into continuing education and using great products. All of that plus experience and skill is what you end up paying for. Just like if you’ve ever paid for a doctor out of pocket, you’d see the prices are really high for the doctors who are well educated, skilled, and sacrificed a lot to be there for you.

      • Philly says:

        While I can appreciate that cosmetology school isn’t cheap, it really isn’t the clients job to pay back your loan or licensing fees. I am aware that a good set of shears will set you back a few hundred dollars, but that is a tool that will be paid back in full and making money in a weeks time. The same goes for bottles of shampoo and tubes of color. You may pay $10 for a tube of color and $20 for a bottle of developer or shampoo, but those products may be used on numerous clients before it runs out. At $50-$75 a client, sometimes more depending on the process being done and depending on the salons prices, you more than make your money back for the products you purchase. I understand we all need a way to support ourselves, but the mark-up on almost EVERY industry is getting ridiculous.

    • Stephanie says:

      As a professional I went to school for years and paid a ton of money and time to get my hair license, business license, weekly booth rent, enough supply on hand for demand, periodic classes to refresh my knowledge, Save up for my retirement, pay insurance, pay for a babysitter, lose every weekend and most holidays with my family, I work early morning (before your shift) and late nights (when your done working for the day), not including paying my own taxes, cleaning fees, and of course gas to drive to the 3 different beauty supplies that are across town. And if all of that plus my knowledge and therapy session is not worth more than that $6 box of color, I don’t know what is.

    • Dezirae Cove says:

      You get what you pay for. People also need to take into consideration that Professional Hair Stylist did pay A LOT of money to get the education they have. Not to mention all the supplies they buy and product and color and a station lease! Some are cheaper then others. Just like any other businesses in this world. Like I said before, you get what you pay for. 😉

    • Aha says:

      Then go to a cos school to get your hair done. It’s usually cheap and they are looked over by expierienced teachers. Or ruin your hair. Your choice.

    • miss dom says:

      hairdressing is one of the most over worked underpaid jobs, for the amount of schooling we have to do before we even get to have a pair of scissors in our hands, it’s definitely worth every cent to invest in someone who knows what they’re doing. if you don’t agree, you may be going to the wrong stylist- a good haircut/colour is worth every cent. and for some reason people think it’s their prerogative to tell hairdressers/ makeup artists and most other creative people that they’re over paid in their craft. i think if i came into your office and said you deserve a pay cut, your not worth what i’m paying you you’d be quite upset. hairdressers wear many hats, they work as a receptionist, very rarely get lunch breaks, are working with chemicals on a daily basis, are physiologists and a confidant to most clients, they work long hours, and are underpaid and over worked and do it only for passion. standing on your feet for most of the day, communicating with every client that walks in the door whether they are deaf, don’t speak your language, or have had a bad experience with a hairdresser etc, or have ruined their own hair, it’s our job to make them walk out the door with a smile on their face. i think if you paid your hairdresser 10 wages for all the different hats they must wear to cut/ colour someones hair, i think we’d be finally paid what we are worth, and agreed you get exactly what you pay for.

      • Melody says:

        Amen….I love my hairdresser and I tip her very well for doing what she does for me. I get my hair cut and colored every month and a half, and I don’t know what I’d do without her. She is amazing! I would trust her to do anything with my hair. I always ask how she’s been and genuinely care. I think if all clients that see a hair dresser regularly like I do, would treat their hairdresser the way I do mine, it would be much better on hairdressers. I have people ask what i pay, and they are shocked it’s expensive, but it’s one thing I won’t compromise on. I did the box color for a while, and realized that my hair was suffering so when I found my hair dresser and she colored my hair, I haven’t and won’t go back to box ever again. Thank you all you dedicated hairdressers out there! Keep up the good work!

    • Mignon says:


    • brandy says:

      Do you know what it costs for us to go to school to learn how to cut and color hair??? Its expensive, we charge for our time. Its valuable, considering the clients come in wanting a service done. We do the services to the best of our abilities. Sorry its so expensive, but I have bills to pay as well as you.

    • Have you ever went out with friends for the evening and spurred a little on dinner and drinks and had a GREAT time in the moment? Just to maybe get sick, throw-up everything you ate and drank, then felt horrible about spending all that money just to go down the drain and be left with absolutely nothing to show for it? At least if you had spent all that money that went down the drain, and used the money to enhance your looks and feel better about yourself in the first place. You would have at least been able to enjoy it a lot longer than a few hours and felt ALOT better about yourself and better about your decision. Spend money to make you look and feel better about yourself instead of pouring it down the drain to never \see it again. I BET ANTHING your wouldn’t regret it!! Just try it! At least it will last longer than the dinner and drinks!!!

    • brunettewithsuperdarkredundertones says:

      I agree. Although I would LOVE to have my hair coloured professionally I can’t afford it never mind the maintenance! So, I don’t colour my hair

  5. Becky Kendrick says:

    I get my hair colored every three weeks because of gray – the story above horrified me, but then I remembered that I go to a highly trained, experienced (and yes, a bit expensive) experienced stylist. I have never had a problem with the chemicals, my hair is soft and manageable, and everyone thinks I’m a good 10 years younger than I am. I think if you’re young with lots of healthy, fast-growing hair, you can play roulette with your hair products, but for me? Well worth the money.

  6. Kristen says:

    Hi Shreeda — What is your opinion on non-permanent “lasts through 28 shampoos” box color? Is it still just as bad for your hair?

    • It’s basically a rinse, and easy enough to use. It still has damaging chemicals. Consider this analogy…when you buy hot dogs, there’s the ones with parts you don’t want to think about that could eventually make you sick, and then there’s the really nice nitrite free made from the best parts hot dogs that will not make you sick. It’s kind of like that. The cheaper the product the more likely there’s fillers and cheaper versions of ingredients in it. It is not that it only lasts 28 shampoos. Perhaps the visible color does, but the chemical reaction has still happened to your hair and that is in there until you cut the hair off. Redken makes similar types of color that are actually conditioning for the hair, and there’s also color lines that fortify the hair making it stronger and shinier than virgin hair.

      • Lindsey G says:

        I had a client come in who was 100% grey, she box colored her hair with a “wash out in 28 days’ blonde color. YEP I said BLONDE. You can’t temporarily change grey to blonde. I told her that I was sorry but the box lied to her and she will have to wait for her color to be cut off. Gotta love false advertising!

    • Kerrie says:

      telling a stylist that their prices are too high is an insult.. I went to school and have loans to pay.. I understand money is tough for people.. But the average hair stylist doesn’t make a lot of money.. So when a guest gets upset in my chair over the cost and try’s to bargain with me (which just happened!) it just insults me and makes me feel as though my work is not worth it. Most of us don’t have any benefits, and have to work holidays.. We do hair because it’s what we love, but that still doesn’t mean we should be made to feel like our professional expertise isn’t worth the extra money.

      • MelissaZ says:

        I apologize for my ignorance, but do a lot of people get haircuts on holidays? It just seems like an odd thing to get a haircut/color/service on a holiday, yet I’ve seen several posts that reference working on holidays.

      • You’d be surprised. I’m booked all through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years!

  7. Karen says:

    You know I never thought there was a difference in box and professional color until I really listened to what my stylist and friend was saying. Explainations of why certain colors just don’t last, why using the super hot showers I do don’t help keep my color, information about how color molecules work in different types of hair. And then I realized… I wouldn’t let my best friend set a broken bone, or my teenage daughter go to a scratcher with no training for a tattoo, so why would a trust my hair (btw I am seriously vain about my hair) to a $6 box and untrained hands to potentially make it break off and be frizzier than the natural curl already causes?

    See Jinxie.. I have been listening.

    Oh an BTW to the chick who says pro’s should be cheaper, you really do get what you pay for. I may not be able to afford to color mine as often as I’d like (twice a year usually) but I have honest discussions with my stylist and she does what she can to keep it looking as good as possible.

    • Exactly!! I always tell my clients. If you went to the doctor and he said you have cancer. Would you take his advice, prescriptions, tests, and whatever else he has to do to get you feeling better or would you go get some Advil from CVS?

  8. just curious says:

    What is the difference between the chemicals in salon products to the chemicals in store bought? And why is it that the product available to salons isn’t available to the public?

    • The quality of the chemicals varies greatly. Also much more research goes into salon products to make sure the integrity of the hair is kept intact. The salon industry works hard to keep these products in the salon and distributed and used by professionals so that they’re used properly. It can be a liability issue if a lay person uses the products and burns all their hair off because they didn’t know the first thing about how the chemicals interact.

  9. Laura says:

    I have colored my hair myself over 10 years. Early on, Sometimes the results are not what i expected with the box color, than i discovered Sally’s about 7 years ago. I love the products and that you can buy in bulk (saving me money). Many of my hairdresser friends say that salons use a lot of the same products sold there. I have figured out exactly how to do what i want with my hair, and have had no issues doing it myself now. I DO have an issue with paying someone $40-150 to do to my hair what i do myself. When i get my hair cut (which i can’t do myself), the stylist always asks who does my hair, because it’s so healthy and nicely colored. She is shocked i do it myself… I understand why hairdressers charge so much, and I feel they deserve it for what they do. I simply can’t afford to pay those prices every time i need my roots done, or highlights put in… just another opinion on DIY.

  10. Ann says:

    As someone else stated above, I have colored my hair at home and have had awesome results. I actually just colored it about 3 weeks ago, the color took well, looks awesome and my hair is very healthy. I colored my own hair in the end of May and had the same great results. Maybe it’s because I typically chose a shade not to far off from my current shade. I will also say that I love the salon I go to and trust my hairdresser and her knowledge. However I paid the money about a year ago to have my hair professionally colored. Sure it looked great and I loved the color, but it did not last as long as I felt it should have. I feel my at home color lasted just as long or even longer. If I had the money I would probably continue to go to a salon just so I wouldn’t have to do it myself. However I can’t afford it and I’m in my mid 30’s and not ready to show my gray hair.

  11. Megan says:

    I understand that the chemicals in store bought hair dye are terrible for my hair but I recently went to salon and paid $80 to put pink in my hair. I have dyed my hair many times but when I went my hair was all natural. I told her I wanted a vibrant pink under my hair with peekaboos in the front. The first color she put in my hair was too light and the second (she put on different pieces) was a lot better but still not what I wanted. I got the first color for free basically. Two days later I washed my hair with cold water and it faded. I have dyed my hair numerous of times myself and since I had virgin hair I wanted to go to a professional. I will NOT be doing that again since my $12 pink stays longer and looks better than this $80 job.

    • What you’re using is a direct dye. It has metals in it for sure. If you ever decide to go get anything done professionally just keep in mind that it will take a lot to get that stuff out of your hair, even if you can’t see it. It all depends on what you do. It may not even be a problem for you if you go darker. Honestly when it comes to the vibrant color panels, it doesn’t really matter if your hair is virgin or not. She would have needed to bleach until there was no color and then put that color on. THEN there should have been some kind of conditioning treatment to seal the color in by bringing it back to an acidic pH. If that doesn’t happen, then the color will leak right out after a few washes.

    • Elsa Santiago says:

      Crazy colors take a real pro to tackle. Chances are you weren’t dealing with one that was experienced. I am glad you got the color you were looking for eventually, though, and for much less.

    • Michaela says:

      I totally agree, Megan.

  12. English hairdresser says:

    As a hairdresser and colour specialist in England I thought I might have a few point some of you may find interesting…

    L’oreal basically own every cosmetic product around, even things that don’t have L’oreal written on them. The bottom line is that they are multi million pound company: they want to make large profits. They do this by offering choice and variety to spread their nets as wide as possible. Someone who buys a box colour is not likely to pay to have their hair coloured in a salon so they provide different products to suit.

    As it has been said, the ingredients in these products will be different, but what really affects the outcome is the different technologies they contain. L’oreal employ thousands of scientist to research and develop their products to improve performance and the condition of your hair. I.e the latest professional product range contains an oil delivery system rather than ammonia, this is a completely different method of transferring the colour molecules into the hair structure in comparison to previous technologies. The colours that you can buy in a box from the superstore may have similar ingredients to the professional but they will have very dated technology, thus not being as good for your hair.

    Secondly, there is no replacement for having a professional analyse your natural hair and work out a strategy for how to achieve your target shade. Those who colour their hair at home, do you feel confident that you can analyse your distribution of pigment, identify whether your hair is primarily blue, yellow or red based and in which distribution and then use that knowledge to decide whether you will use, neutralise or subdue that natural colour to achieve the target? I don’t think so!

    Sorry to rant but after training for such a long time to achieve the level of knowledge that I have, ( I have done a degree in hair colour with loreal, I don’t know if this is available in the US?) it pains me to see someone say that colour is the easiest service to be done in the salon!

  13. Bluehairedgirl says:

    There you go, Connie.The website that posted that is an answers website, it’s not a beauty website, they answer questions of all sorts and happen to have a beauty section. That means the article is in no way, shape, or form biased.

    It’s really quite messed up on the drugstores behalf, they have the same exact bottles/companies except that it’s not the same formula they use for what they sell at actual salons. What’s REALLY messed up is that there’s only a few dollars price difference between the good stuff at Walmart and the GREAT legitimate stuff that salons sell.

    I am super frugal, I’ve also been doing my own hair for years and it does look great (I have had teal hair for the last 2 years, It’s never super faded and I get compliments on it daily) BUT when my favorite hairdresser did my hair HER way with her product…it kicked my usual hairs butt. I should mention that she’s the reason I’m currently enrolled in cosmetology school. I want to be a color expert, so your comments really kicked me in the heart. Do a little research (I literally just googled “chemical difference in salon and drugstore hair products” and found the website above) for yourself before bashing how someone makes a living helping women (and men!) feel beautiful.

    • Billy B says:

      when a product has the same bottle as a professional product and it is not in a professional location… beware
      this is a tactic called “diversion”
      a lot of times these products are expired or watered down… sometimes it’s not even the same product. i was recently in a Walmart and decided to open a puck of American Crew pomade. the results were slightly disturbing, inside was a green creamy substance which in no way resembled pomade. the only way to truly guarantee that you’re buying professional product is to buy it from a professional. why spend the money on a professional hair color if you’re just going to strip it out with suave? the technology in color safe shampoo is ridiculously complicated and i wouldn’t trust someone passing off dish soap as shampoo to figure it out… just sayin’

      i also wanted to respond to someone who was talking about pink color earler. the reason your 12 dollar pink color is staying in is because it’s probably staining your hair. yes staining… like wine on a carpet. good luck when you decide pink is out and want to be blonde ❤ i truly mean that… good luck

      • Marie090 says:

        I feel like I should comment on this.
        I’ve been dying my hair with box dyes AND professional products for many years now and I haven’t had any issues at all. I have friends who work in salons that basically told me what to buy at Sally’s in order to get the look I want (a toner, what volume developer goes with what, what kind of color, etc) and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was to be honest. Yes coloring is a complex job and I understand why it’s expensive to goto a salon but the 3 times I’ve been they screwed my hair up. Once it came out ORANGE and I had to have my stylist friend fix it for me after I bought the products at Sally’s for her to do so($20). So in my opinion I would rather spend $15 or so and get the stuff at Sally’s and do it myself than goto a salon where they might or might not know what they are doing, spend $90 to have them mess it up, and then have to spend another $20 to get it fixed. No thank you. But since that chick fried my hair turning it orange I had to go to a dark color and get half my hair cut off to get some of the ends healthy again… So yea I don’t necessarily agree with the whole DIY is horrible thing. I’ve had better results doin it myself than going to a “highly recommended place” to get it done.

      • tameka white says:

        Go to a highly recommended stylist not salon. All stylist are not created equal no matter how good the salons reputation there are stylist everywhere. Every salon I’ve worked we had that one stylist that you almost want to warn the client to leave because you just know it will be a disaster

      • David says:

        But you didn’t do it yourself. Your friend who is a professional did it for you. Its not hard to apply color to your head but without your friend you would have NO idea what product to get. That’s not DIY at all. If you didn’t have those friends your hair would not have come out how you wanted. There’s a reason why there are professionals and without them you wouldnt have the hair color you have.

      • Hope says:

        Couldn’t have said this better myself!

  14. Becky Kendrick says:

    Ken (my stylist) vs me … is like paying $75 to go to a concert by my city’s professional orchestra than going to the local elementary school orchestra for free (once my son left it, lol).

  15. iworden says:

    Question: how do you feel about coloring with 100% natural products like henna, cassia, or indigo? I’m not talking the fake, terrible for hair henna knockoffs, but pure, all natural henna. I have been using henna for a few months now and I absolutely love it. My hair is softer, shinier, easier to manage, and the mix I make myself does great things for my curl pattern. As far as I know with the pretty extensive research I’ve done, henna doesn’t damage your hair at all and acts as a deep conditioning treatment. I know red isn’t for everyone and natural dyes are hard to predict, but what would you say to someone considering henna/cassia/indigo hair dyes?

    • I’d say make sure you do a patch test to ensure you don’t have a skin reaction. Natural dyes can be extremely drying to the hair and skin, so make sure you deep condition frequently.

  16. iworden says:

    How do you feel about 100% natural hair treatments using henna, cassia, or indigo? I’m not talking about the cheap, box “natural” dyes, but pure henna, cassia, and indigo.

  17. Lisa says:

    I simply want to cover a few grey strands. Colorsilk works great once a month. And for what it’s worth, I’m a professional as well and how many of you hairdressers call a decorator to help you choose colors for your homes or shops………………….

  18. Michaela says:

    Although I am sure there might be some good colorist and stylists out there, I have had almost nothing but disappointment and sometimes horror.
    The problem when a pro messes my hair up is, I get 100 times more angry than when I mess it up (which has honestly happened about 20% of the time). I went to a few salons and the BEST that they could do was leave me feeling unsatisfied. The worst example was: One “professional colorist” aka “The best colorist Floyds Barbershop had to offer” in Encino had no idea what to do half the time. I came in wanting to see if I could go blonde.(I’m a natural brunette) I’m aware it is difficult with red dye in the hair. So, she threw the bleach on and it burned too much after 30 minutes so I asked her to wash it out. The hair was straw yellow. “OK” I said. “Let’s do plan B which we discussed already: Dye it lavender. She goes to mix it up and I see the bowl. It’s undeniably INDIGO. Nothing close to any kind of purple.So I ask. She says “Oh it just looks dark” like I’m an idiot. After washing my hair from bleach, she doesn’t dry it all the way. I bring it up, she says it doesn’t matter. When she rinses the BLUE out, my hair looks worse than some grade school experiment. It’s splotches of blue, silver/white, green and blonde. She did some worse crap to me the next day when she asked me to come in so she could fix her mistake. Basically, the color I ended up with still wasn’t the one I asked for and she and her manager said “It’ll fade out into what you want”…which is the biggest bullshit ever. Btw it faded to green and purple.
    I will NEVER walk into a salon again. Period. I’ve since done a great job dying my hair lavender using the Pravana line. 😉

  19. deirdremarieosullivan says:

    I used Colour B4 (one box) to strip my hair and then a box of permanent colour after wards, both from the chemist.
    I’m not a hairdresser but they worked really well and seemed to be less damaged than if a hairdresser salon used bleaches to strip my hair.
    Better products are coming out all the time in the non-salon range.

  20. deirdremarieosullivan says:

    I should also mention, I HAD to do this because the first time I went to a salon in my area in Dublin to get it done copper and I came home with pretty dark brown hair, maybe with a bit of gold in it! So rather than pay 99 euro again, I did it myself at home. #just saying!

  21. Bonnie says:

    Well lets be honest all hair color is damaging whether it be salon or drug store, that being said I have long hair I don’t cut frequently so I do not color it, but when it does start greying and I am forced into color, I would never do that myself, of course the salon product is better, trusting those boxes is like trusting your bodies health to mcdonalds everyday, its a gamble! I did go to cosmetoglogy school 11 years ago, didn’t turn out to be my thing, but I’m very happy to be able to still shop the salon proffesional stores for product, and I believe products have come along way in the past 11 years, my hair did get very damaged with color in school, but it would have been worse from a drug store.

  22. kelsey says:

    I love this. I just wish more clients would believe it and listen. a box of hair dye from the drug store is the equivalent of 7 bottles of windex!! now of thats not harsh idk what is….I have had clienta go bald, get scabies, and rashes that take months to clear from box color. and thats the medical side….as far as appearance its like a box of chocolate….you never know what your gonna get. it will not look the same on persin A as it does on person B. there is A LOT tbag goes into hair coloring and the process your own personal hair needs. there is A LOT even us as stykists have to stop and cinsider before we even think about opening a tube…chemical reactions, what color the virgin hair is, ehat color the processed hair is. if u need ash tones tk cancel any reds. if u nedd a filler or a toner. A LOT. and not all hair salons r expensive….u ppl need to look around and broaden your horizons. however the price u do pay is cor very good reason! we do have the knowledge it takes to achieve the color u desire, we take time to do it. you pay for service as well as product. we have to xharfe u what the color costs us plus more b.c otherwise what r we gaining? we would all lose money and that would be poiness…its called profit. the sane.thing they do at a store with the products u buy. not to mention our PROFESSIONAL product costs us a lot more than your drug store brand…so of course we charge more than a walmart box dye. and like I said before LABOR is part of the price… love to c u none hairdressers spend lots and lots of your own money to buy something to go.on someone elses head…and then spend hours and hours and sometimes days and days working on it, and u want us to charge $6…ummmm….no sorry. thats not how it works in life….

  23. Cory says:

    Is it different for men? A colorist I know once told me on men they use “Just For Men” color even in some fancy salons. I’ve used it many times with great results. Mostly to his the gray. Granted it’s a bit one dimensional. But I’ve had many colorists turn my brown hair brassy red for $50 when I warned them in advance that’s what happens and not to do that. Gotten better results doing it myself 80% of the time.

  24. Dede Smith says:

    I totally agree that you pay for what you get. I have very hard hair to color and some professionals have had a hard time getting my color to look natural. I finally found someone who does a great job and even though it does cost me some money it is worth EVERY cent. I also always leave a big tip. The time and effort she spends on my hair is worth it. It looks the best it ever has and I know she goes to a lot of trouble to make sure I always look my best. I haven’t always been able to afford this and when I couldn’t I just had no color and a hairstyle that could just grow out and be fine. I am sure most hair stylists are not charging enough. You have to find the one who understands what you want and the best way to achieve it. Sorry just had to throw in my two cents.

  25. Charis says:

    Brilliant post! Exactly what I tell my clients- how can one box treat everyone’s hair the same without being crazily strong chemicals?!

    Have you seen L’Oreal Professionnels INOA colouring system. It is in fact ammonia free and works on an oil delivery system that pushes colour into the hair without the ammonia to open the cuticle, thus being less damaging to the hair. It has fantastic results. Obviously only a salon colour though- not a box dye!
    Thanks for your post

  26. Mary says:

    Yes!! This is a true warning ladies!! I learned that same wisdom when I went to beauty school back in the seventies!! Nothing has changed. These rules and warnings still apply. Please be careful…there really is no substitute for professional hair coloring!! You won’t save yourself any money going the drug store route and you will most definitely be disappointed!! Thanks for the share Heather!!

    PS…I love my color you gave me yesterday!! I have already received a lot of compliments! Most importantly, I LOVE IT!!! 🙂

  27. Lisa says:

    Products bought from Sally Beauty Supply are professional products!!!! Salon owners go into Sallys all the time to buy their products to use on clients. So really you compair them to Walmart???? I am a professional and their products are great. They have licensed professionals who work there also who help the DIY’ers. If a person decides to do their own hair and not take the advice the professional at Sallys gives them then they are at fault not Sallys.

    • ellie says:

      THANK YOU! Sally Beauty does not, never has, and NEVER WILL sell BOX DYES.

    • Stephanie says:

      They are not professional products at Sallys! And they are not always professionals that work there. Ask any stylist that works….Sallys are for girls who couldn’t make it in the industry. Stop spreading lies. I will say you can get some supplies like brushes but any GOOD stylist does not buy any chemicals from Sallys.

      • tameka white says:

        Huh. Couldn’t make it in the industry? Not true at all and yes plenty of very good stylist but products at Sally due to the fact that clients don’t really see the value in salon exclusive products. They aren’t willing to starve to death waiting for clients to believe them. We sell wella and Clairol professional color lines. Some of our products are sold only to pros.

    • tameka white says:

      You’re right some of the products are professional and some of the employees are licensed but we are not allowed to pick the color for them. I work at sallys and I just want to let everyone know we are not supposed to do consultations as a licensed stylist I paid for my education and I only sell products at sallys. Some of the girls I work with give bad color advice all the time to customers. So beware

  28. Edward says:

    Just call the number on the back of the Box Color sold in Retail Stores. Ask them a list of questions such as what volume is the developer, what is the chemical make up, etc. Or call them ask them what should you do since your hair did not turn out the way you wanted it to: 1, They will tell you to go darker or 2. Go to a Salon to have it fixed.

  29. chri says:

    Jesus people quit being cheap and get it doneright the first time and u wwon’t have these problems!?!? #getwiththeprogram

  30. Keri says:

    I help my brother color his hair with Ms Clairol blue black about more than 25 years ago. I got a tiny bit of the dye on my wrist and had hives all the way up my arms. I can’t tell you how happy I am I discovered I was allergic to it that way. I have never colored my hair. I know formulas have changed since then, but I am paranoid now. I am also too lazy to have it redone every month. I used Sun In when I was a teen and that has been the extent of adventures into color. I have seen what store bought color can do to hair. I perm my hair maybe once every 3 or 4 years. My friend who was a stylist gets me the product as we do it at home. Having totally untreated/damaged hair it works out fine.

  31. Donna Owens says:

    My hair is super healthy & shiny & Ive been using box color every 6-8wks for nearly 20yrs.

    The only times I have EVER had my hair lose its shine & look unhealthy is when ive been lulled into letting a hairdresser color it.

    So not only did i shell out over 100.00, but Ive also had to nurse my hair back to heath afterwards.

    • ruth dunham says:


  32. Kate says:

    About a year and a half ago, I was bored with my hair as i get so often, and found the coolest thing – a Spray-In Lightener. I thought “OMG! How simple is that?! I spray it in, blow dry and my hair is lighter! Amazing!”
    In hindsight, i see this just plain stupid, and how could i have not known at the time! I still don’t know how.
    The spray resulted in me going to my stylist, with straw like hair that i couldn’t get a brush through for the life of me, in tears, saying i f****ed up!
    She basically said yea, yea you did. Now are you willing to stick with me to fix it? I decided then and there i would do anything, it was time to be nice to my hair after year of abuse.
    Then, to my horror, she chopped all my sad, dead hair off. Inches and inches of it till i was left with a short bob of caramel colored damaged, hay like hair. Then began the long and pricey procces of getting a micro trim every 4 weeks on the dot, and when it finally started to grow and there was less damaged hair I went dark using demi permanent dye. Slowly, the micro trims bumped up to every 5 weeks, then 6, 7, and currently still going at 8. My hair is now mid length again, soft, healthy and fanastic! Thickest and nicest it’s ever been in my life. I cannot stress how much of a change it has made to have a professional nurse my hair back to health. I even have a few dark purple chunks in it now! (Also demipermanent.)
    NEVER AGAIN will i ever touch a box (or spray) dye again!

  33. Linda Clause says:

    I always pay a professional to do my hair because I seem to love my highlights and you need to know what to do with bleach and it you over the counter box cover it, plan on orange or green hair!!!! Also be careful of using dry shampoo for days and days, otherwise you will get a birds nest in there and you wonder why you broke the bank at the salon! Pick a good stylist and keep with them, after a while your hair will be amazing and trust their color judgment and amount of time in between roots and full color …..

    Signed Anonymus

  34. ellie says:

    Except Sally Beauty sells professional color NOT box color, and all the employees are not only trained on how to use it and when to suggest a stylist, but they are stylists. Don’t be so quick to judge Sally Beauty, most of our stores supply color to local beauty shops, and don’t forget, Sally Beauty Company, owns CosmoProf.

  35. Ashley Davis says:

    I Do Not understand why everyone is saying you get what you pay for? I have been to many Upscale, Most professional stylist and came out with the same results as the women who does my hair for $50 vs. $130. More than likely if your not traveling to get your hair done, they all attended the same school with the same techniques! Shop around Ladies. Do your research there are some very good hair stylist out there for a very low price! I don’t suggest Box dye by no means! But no need to pay the high prices when someone down the road may have you looking Great for a low price!

  36. Catherine says:

    Sally Beauty does carry a lot of professional products, I shop there all the time. I have used their color lines for over 16 years and have never hand any issues.

  37. Evergreen says:

    Unfortunately I can’t afford to pay what it costs to get my hair professionally dyed. Do hairdressers deserve their pay? Of course, they work hard. But that doesn’t mean I can magically afford it. It’s DIY or not have it done. Personally I’ve had no trouble with DIY hair dyes. I know what brands and shades work for me.

    • whitney says:

      agreed! no one is insulting the work or training of hair stylists, but simply stating that for a lot of people it’s very expensive!!

      • tameka white says:

        It depends on where you go, the experience level of the stylist, whether they have al la carte prices and honestly what the client is wanting in my experiences I’ve seen plenty of clients want to pay 20 and look like they just walked out of a Beverly hills salon. Me personally you can tell me your budget and I’ll tell you what I can do for that price. we all are affected by the economy hairdressers aren’t exempt when we go to the gas pump the attendant doesn’t say you’re a hairdresser oh I’ll give you 50% off. I appreciate the client that says I can’t afford it way more than the ones that want to play lets make a deal.

  38. Where is your shop located??

  39. Rhianna says:

    As I was reading this I was thinking to myself.. WOW! This sounds just like me when im telling my clients just why they should avoid the Cheap box color. And one thing ive always said but never have heard anyone elze say or recognize is two ppl with completely different hair. Different texture color and grey% will use the same box of color. Somone going darker will use the same box as the one going lighter?!?! So much more then people know goes into formulation and ir requires training first of all. And understanding how it works and how hair grows and the way your hair breaks down in order to change the color. And another thing that bothers me so much.. is when a client says.. “well the lady at sally’s helped me pick out my color”. They do not have a cosmetology license. Do not take the advice from a sallys employee on what to do on your hair. If you need advice speak with a professional LICENSED cosmetologist.

  40. I use Revlon hair dye from Walmart that is $2.97 a box, and I have been using it for 6-7 years now. My hair is silky-soft and perfectly manageable and I recently went to a hair salon to get it cut (my mom usually trims my hair for me but I was wanting a drastic change and she wasn’t brave enough to do it) and the stylist commented on how healthy my hair was and she along with a couple of her coworkers complimented the color as well. Granted I am a natural brunette and I only dye it varying shades of auburn, and I learned my lesson long ago with bleach (all the damage from that has been long gone for a while now), so maybe I am not an extreme case, but I don’t believe that box dye entirely deserves the bad rep it gets. Not trying to knock professionals, because if I wanted multi-dimensional highlights and longer lasting color I would go to a professional. But honestly I can’t afford it and even if I could, I couldn’t justify spending that much money on something that will eventually fade and grow out and have to be redone. I am perfectly happy with the inexpensive DIY alternative once a month and my hair seems to be also 🙂

  41. Kate says:

    First off, let me just say, I am blessed. I didn’t always realize it, but I am.

    1) I have good hair. It’s shiny, super thick. with a nice blend of fine and slightly coarser textures, and I have a natural spiral curl. It also grows fast. I can bob it in the spring, and it’ll be to/or just past my shoulders by fall.

    2) My (10 years older) sister is a fantastic, professionally trained cosmetologist. I’m 33 this year. She has instilled in me good hair care techniques….In return for my being her guinea pig during her schooling, and later on, when she wanted to try a new technique. I had a perm when I was 10, the Jennifer Aniston haircut when I was 14, various colorings, and other cuts…and even sacrificed my waist long hair to a pixie cut when I was 17. (Her salon was sponsoring a Locks for Love thing, and I was going into the Army, anyway.)
    I thoroughly understand the trials and tribulations of her career. When she moved to a neighboring state, she had to go through almost a complete re-schooling, as there are no reciprocity agreements between our home state and her new one. (Which is ridiculous!!!)

    That being said….I am the 5th of 6 children. The oldest has beautiful dark brown hair, the sister-cosmetologist has almost black hair, the oldest brother has black hair, the next brother has a walnut brown, and my younger sister has a deep reddish-brown. And then there’s me, the dirty blonde, which bleaches out to almost white in the summer. I always got teased that I was the milkman’s daughter. (Which I can assure you, I’m not.)
    Once I was a dumb college student, and forgot the things my sister taught me. The girls on my dorm floor were having a “coloring party,” and teased that we should make me look like my siblings. We went with Feria Soft Black. (It was just out on the shelves then!) Needless to say: One box of hair color+super thick shoulder length hair+DISASTER. It didn’t cover…I had freakish “gray” streaks and it did NOT go with my Caucasian-olive complexion. I drove 2 hours to see my sister that weekend, and she saved me. I wasn’t blonde, but she fixed it so I didn’t look freakish, which took 4 hours!!!
    I haven’t done anything like that since. 15 years later, I would rather shell out the money to do something to my hair, or wait for the holidays when she comes home. (And I pay her WELL, just as I would my stylist!!) I’m a painter/carpenter. There is a difference between professional & DIY. I can tell the difference between the two in my line of work almost instantly, as can most cosmetologists. If not, then that DIYer missed their calling. 🙂

  42. Hazel says:

    I’ve been using box dyes on my hair for 12 years now and my hair is still as shiny and strong as it’s always been…also I can’t afford to pay the £40-£60 to have it professionally done….

  43. elana says:

    I have colored my own hair for years because I can’t afford the prices that most beauticians charge. I’m not saying they don’t deserve that much but all I’m saying is I can’t afford it. So far I haven’t had blisters, boils or any of those other problems listed in previous messages.

  44. Genavieve says:

    As much as I agree that salon professionals should get paid quite a bit more than $6 for dying one’s hair – I also believe that if you charge $100 it should look ATLEAST 10 TIMES BETTER than doing it yourself. Which, btw, has NEVER happened. At best, it looks perhaps only slightly better than when I’ve done it myself (and that’s usually only related to the fact that they spend longer blow drying my hair and then styling it). I understand having to pay school bills and such, but you shouldn’t be the same price per hour as having to go see a doctor. YOU don’t have 300k worth of student loans to pay off. And for the writer… I think you’re the only salon professional I’ve heard of that has even mentioned continuing education! Good for you, I only wish that was a common thing (I asked around to salons in 3 different states and actually got laughed at).

    • I agree it should look much better if you’re spending that much. I certainly don’t think all hairstylists are cut out for their line of work. You either have it or you don’t in this industry. It’s like taking a painting class, if you don’t naturally have that talent, you’re probably not going to walk out of that class a Monet. Doing hair is really an art, of course there’s the technical aspect and the science behind it, but it’s also vision and god-given talent. I have gone to college and and graduate school before I decided to be a stylist. I love what I do, I love my clients, and I genuinely care about the well being of them. My point is, I’m here because I want to be. I chose to take a giant pay cut to be happy with my career. I often discount on products just to make sure that they are doing what’s good for their hair. I always feel terrible when people have such tragic stories about what a stylist has done to them. Continuing education is the only way to continue to do stellar work. I can gladly say I’ve never messed up anyone’s hair so far and that includes beauty school! There are stylists out there who are money hungry and want to make 6 figures doing this work. Then there are stylists who just love creating art everyday, enjoy interacting with their clients, and feel like their clients are their family. They sacrifice time with their families to be with their clients. It’s a choice. Not an excuse. I charge what I think I’m worth at the moment. That’s mostly what it boils down to. Once my overhead is covered, how much am I worth? Some stylists might have a skewed vision of what their work is worth. To everyone saying they went to a salon and had their hair botched. I’m sorry that happened to you. Truly. But don’t judge every stylist based on that, we’re not all terrible! Those of you choosing to do things at home and getting good results, good for you! I’m happy you found an affordable way to feel wonderful about yourself. For those of you who can afford it, I hope you find a stylist that can translate your desires into reality. From my perspective, I only see people come in with severely damaged and botched DIY jobs, so I have to say something because I CARE. I say it because I have full confidence that I won’t damage your hair, because I would never recommend something that would, in the first place.

    • tameka white says:

      The Dr looks you over sees what’s wrong writes a go pay whatever that prescription cost at the pharmacy.the other thing with Dr is the need 99,% of the time I know exactly what’s wrong with me and what medicines I need to take if only I had a prescription pad and knew how to scribble lol. Hairdressers give free consultations and advice all day every day. A mechanic will diagnose your car, sometimes it cost $100 just to find our what’s wrong then$40 or more per hr to actually do the work.

  45. MB says:

    I find it rather humorous that all these people complain about cost of product without thinking this through. The same folks make that $6 box in WalMart that makes that $40 box a professional has shipped to her. Why would any company put the same grade of product in a box selling for $6 that they put into a box selling for $40? The answer is they don’t. The product is cheaper and there is little to no money spent on R&D. The $6 box is the same $2 box you got at TG&Y back in 1970. This means more and harsher chemicals which means more potential for skin and hair reaction. Do what you want but don’t foolishly try to convince yourself that it is the same product.

  46. Mistress Elvira says:

    Thank you for posting this this is So So very true!!!! Love my Hair Artist Brothers and Sisters !!!

  47. Stevie says:

    I think the most important thing here is that most box colors have a 20 volume developer in them, which makes them incredibly inappropriate for going darker. I think one of the most important things about seeing a stylist for color is knowing you are getting an appropriate formulation with the correct pigments and developer strength to match what you actually want. I specialize in corrective color, and it always hurts when someone has used Feria or Garnier and the best I can do for them is darken it with demi permanent color, send them home with good product, and let them know they’ve got at least a year until it can be bleached (depending on how much needs to be cut off).

  48. tameka white says:

    I work at sallys and am also a professional hairstylist. I had a customer in the store buying bleach and color. She was telling me she’s going too color her mother’s hair. Do I need to bleach it she asks? What color is her hair now? I ask. I tell her no she doesn’t need bleach. I instruct her to do a test strand. At that point she told me I was scaring her! I said well you have bleach, color, developer….you should be scared!! I then told her that utube vids make it look easy but it’s very expensive to fix a $26.00 color mistake

  49. Nikki says:

    I have boxed dyed with great results. And professional dyed with mixed results. I do feel salon are expensive especially when they keep rasing the price on me and I haven’t done anything different for there updated skills. My price should stay the same not go up by 20 – 40 dollars. Also I would feel better about going if when I don’t get what I want that it hurts you as much as it hurt me. I feel you should pay me triple what I paid you and then I would have no worries that anyone with professional creds wound ever give me anything less then fantastic.

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