Hair Color: Think Outside the Box!

If you are thinking inside the box, you are a square and no one wants to be a square! Everyone is different with different needs so embrace your individuality! This goes for your hair as well!

This is one main reason I do not suggest “box color.” It is made for the masses; the one size fits all of hair color. Everyone’s hair is different and should be assessed by a licensed cosmetologist to figure out if it needs permanent, semi, or demi permanent hair color and the correct strength of developer to mix with it.

A woman with medium-brown hair and another woman with slightly darker medium- brown hair are going to choose the same box, and neither woman will achieve the same results. What they will most likely achieve is a bill of $200 or more for corrective color, by a professional, in a salon. Here’s why…

When coloring hair, a “developer” is mixed in to the formulation to help push the color through.  These developers are rated on strength from 10 volume to 40 volume. These volumes should most definitely not be used on every hair type, and for every hair type there is a different result. When I say hair type you have to factor in thickness, porosity, natural or previously color treated, and percentage of grey. Every different combination of hair you can come up with needs a specific formulation. The stronger the developer, the harsher it is on your hair and can leave it dry and brittle.

Box color usually carries a 20 volume developer, which is strong enough to cover gray, but it is not strong enough to alter your color more than 1 shade. Another reason to consider not using box color is they contain ammonias, which are rough on the hair. Some professional developers do contain traces of ammonia, but in much smaller quantities.

Box color formulas can also result in “hot roots,” which is when the root is brighter than mid shaft. Pulling the box color through can result in darker, muddier ends from buildup. The root, mid shaft, and ends may all require different formulations to achieve your target shade.

This is true especially in places where color buildup has overlapped. This can also cause a spotty look because areas that overlap will become darker. This is why so many of my clients were under the misconception that color is bad for your hair. My answer: NOT when it is done right! 

To achieve your desired hair color, you will need a very carefully balanced selection of both developer and color. Generally speaking, there are 10 levels of natural hair color… Level 1 being black, level 10 being platinum, and a range of red-orange to pale yellow in between. So, for example, if you are a level 3 dark brown and you want to be a level 6 medium/light brown, you would need level 40 volume and a neutral or ash base medium-brown color in order to control the warmth of lifting the underlying levels of color.

To make matters more complicated, the above only applies if the hair has never previously been colored. Color can NOT lift color, so if your hair is previously colored brown, you cannot become blonde by throwing a box of color with Jennifer Anniston’s butterscotch locks on the cover of it over your head. What you will have is a mess on your hands!

Hair color is truly a science and like anything else in life, there are laws of color. It’s knowing how to break the rules as a certified colorist that makes a professional hair color a beautiful art.

I understand if you’re trying to save money, but if you consult the right stylist they can guide you in the right direction for your budget. Maybe you need a glaze (read about why they are amazing for your hair in my previous article, “Glaze into Fall” or just a few face framing highlights.

If you are trying to save money, visit a local beauty school. These men and women are being trained in the beginning of their careers so they offer discount services with professional products.

If you are trying to stretch the period of time in between getting touch ups at the salon, I suggest using a wash-out touch-up wand to blend the line of demarcation. You can find these at Target or Amazon ( Pick the shade that matches your color best!