The fight is on – box dye vs salon colour

In-salon colour treatments are more pricey than a box dye, yes. But if you want a fantastic, bespoke result, you need a professional. We hear your reasons for buying the box – so we asked the experts to explain why the salon should be your go-to for a knock-out colour

Not Another Salon

I can do it just as well on my own at home…

Tegan Robertson from Not Another Salon takes this on: “Colourists undergo education for years to achieve an expert level of knowledge and professionalism, only to have some retailers tell us we can achieve pastel pink, level 10 for only £8! Our knowledge is being completely undermined with these unrealistic expectations.

“We also need to talk about this ‘one size fits all’ idea. When I’m out shopping I know that there’s no way in hell the cute sequinned miniskirt in size 6 is going to fit over my ass… and the same applies to our hair. The beautiful honey blonde on the front of the box may look gorgeous on the model, but will probably look orange on YOU.

“When picking your colour, there’s a whole array of things we take into consideration when coming up with your customised formula, from skin tone to ratios and even the condition of your hair. We will always use the lowest percentage peroxide possible when colouring hair to keep the shine and condition. I may use a 3% on one person and then a 6% on the next. However, with most box dyes, they use 12%, just to ensure there’s some effect on all hair types. That means the same high per cent is used on a damaged, over-processed white blonde AND a healthy, warm dark brown.

“Finally, there’s no way you’ll be able to achieve an even application with a box dye. Professionals know all about virgin application, regrowth and grey coverage. So, without that, you’re left with dark spots, glowing roots and unwanted tones.” 

In-salon colour just isn’t worth the cost…

Kain Lawrence, from Q Hair & Beauty, believes the ‘true cost’ is far less than you think: “The costs of coming into the salon compared with doing it at home aren’t always as vast as you may think. The most cost-effective way to book a colour service at our salon would be £35 with our Future Professionals, who are in training for their NVQ. These appointments are exactly what would appeal to the type of guest worried about the cost. If you were to colour at home, you would be looking at around £15 for colour (you’ll probably need two boxes for full coverage) plus a towel that you’re willing to ruin and replace etc. We worked out the cost to be around £20. The true ‘cost’ of colouring your hair in the salon then becomes just £15 more. You then receive professional colour that has been chosen just for you, a relaxed experience, plus the benefit of having access to bonding additives, such as Olaplex, meaning much less damage. Finally, we clear up the mess!”

And Tracy Hayes, global head of technical training at Fudge Professional, claims that at-home hair dyes can actually cost you more in the long run: “Cutting corners and applying home colour can often result in more expensive colour re-dos in a salon, so in fact no money is saved.”

“Home colouring will always cost more in the long run.
£7.99 sounds dreamy until you have to cough up £300 on a colour correction
and a painful two years of constant treatments and haircuts”
– Tegan Robertson, Not Another Salon

But box dyes are so much more advanced nowadays…

Linton and Mac

Steve Robinson, art director at Electric Hairdressing, believes this gives mixed signals: “While the vast majority of box dyes come with an additive or colour shot, which does enhance hair tone, it is very difficult to remove from the hair if needed. Normal salon colour is made up of thousands of molecules that colour the hair, but are easy to remove. Box dyes with enhancing colour shots behave more like stain or direct dye and can’t be broken down as easily. It often means that more damage is done to the hair longer term.”

Sarah Black, colour specialist at Linton and Mac and winner of the 2017 L’Oréal Colour Trophy, says that while this might be true, it doesn’t mean they deliver better results: “With home dyes, you have to apply the dye and hope for the best, but in a salon, the colours are layered onto the hair. Also, the colour that you see on the box isn’t realistic, as the overall result will depend on your hair type, original hair colour and whether it has been coloured before.”

Not Another Salon’s Tegan weighs in again: “Box dyes use a bunch of cheap and harmful ingredients. Ever used a box dye and had it come out three shades darker than what it should? That’s probably metallic salts, which are still commonly used in box dyes. Metallic salts build up, so your hair will always darken past the desired tone.”

Box dyes can even offer all the latest techniques, such as balayage and ombre…

Clayde Baumann, national colour director at D&J Ambrose, sums this up: “Box dyes can’t do individuality. When you pick up a box of colour in the chemist, chances are there are many other women walking around with that same colour. When my clients come in, I make sure that the formula created for them is suited not only to their skin tone and eye colour, but also to their personality, career and lifestyle. There is a lot to be said for colour application – colourists have mastered various application techniques to ensure maximum colour saturation and absorption, which will lead to perfect grey coverage and more vibrant, longer-lasting colour.”

Both damage your hair so I might as well use a box dye…

D&J Ambrose

Gabi Libertini, advanced technician and stylist at Brooks & Brooks, believes that while this is true, professional colour is far gentler: “Professional colour is a lot more gentle, because not only will your colourist be able to determine the strength and tone of your colour, they will also take into account any damage or previous colour applied. The application is also really important. Having your colour applied professionally will ensure there is no overlapping from previous colours, preventing colour build up and uneven colour saturation.”

While Sean Nolan, head of technical at HOB Salons, argues that you can’t get the same professional quality bonding additives (like Olaplex ) with box dyes. “A colourist will always take steps to minimise damage to your hair while colouring as it’s in their interests to look after and respect your hair in order to build a relationship with you. Revolutionary treatments, such as Olaplex, can be applied with the colour, which means that healthy, coloured hair is now achievable and this is something you can only get in-salon.”

I just need to cover greys so a box dye suits me perfectly…

HOB Salons’ Sean disagrees: “If you happen to have grey or white hairs, these require a particular type of colour to ensure they get covered and STAY covered! A salon colourist will overcome both of these challenges with ease. For other certain colours, for example an icy clean blonde, a home attempt will undoubtedly result in patchy, off-colour or even ruined and broken hair.”

It might be messy and time-consuming, but I still prefer to colour my own hair to sitting in a salon for hours…

HOB Salons

How many other times in life are you able to relax on your own? asks HOB Salons’ Sean: “Salons are working really hard nowadays to make your visit as pleasurable and stimulating as possible. In everyone’s busy lives, where else would you have a good excuse to sit still for a few hours, being looked after, drinking good coffee, reading a good book or magazine, and having a good gossip? Some salons now even offer other add-on experiences, massage chairs, cocktails… It surely beats perching on the loo seat with colour running down your neck, or trying to clean the colour off the shower wall afterwards?”

Well said Sean, well said…