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things I’ve learned running a hair salon: beware of the box

As the manager of a professional hair salon, I hear all the time about the horrors of people using box color on their hair.  I hear it when a designer is consulting their client, and I hear it in our break room when the designers are discussing the latest color miracles they have performed on clients. I hear phrases like “damaged cuticle” and “not enough lift”, and wonder what the hell are they talking about?  C’mon, J-Lo, Gwen Stefani and dozens other hotties have endorsed box color and their hair looks amazing. No really, I’ve seen it on TV, its gotta be true!  A celebrity would not lie…right? Well, I think we all know the answer to that. All you have to do is try and picture one of these celebrity divas in their bathroom attempting to apply hair color on their pretty, little, multi-million dollar heads to know there’s better odds of them voting for a Republican than dying their own hair.

So what is the problem with box color? Why is it so bad? Why does it send chills up the spines of hair designers? And why do people still use it when your professionally trained hair designer has told you over and over again that it is “no bueno”. Hmmm…well, maybe you need to hear it from a regular person like yourself, a former marketing and advertising honcho turned salon manager, with absolutely no cosmetology training whatsoever. I will uncover the truth…for all of us!

My investigation led me to Kristy Slawski. My fellow One Salon manager, color educator and all around cool cat. Surely, she could tell me why box color is so bad for your hair. When I broached the subject with her, she smiled and in her best color educator voice told me, “Ammonia for one. There’s higher levels of ammonia in box color” Aha! Wait, what does that have to do with anything?  Kristy explains, “Ammonia is the alkalizing agent in hair color that opens the hair cuticle and allows the color molecule to enter.  There are very high levels of ammonia in box color which causes dry, damaged hair.” But J-Lo’s hair looks good. “J-Lo lies”. No say it isn’t true!

What about the hair color and developers we use at One Salon? Are they bad? Cuz they have ammonia in them…right? “All formulas have ammonia or some sort of alkalizing agent in it, it has to,” Kristy points out. “One Salon uses two of the leading professional hair color lines and developers; Goldwell and Schwarzkopf. Professional hair color formulas are far more advanced than box color”. Oh, so it’s kinda like how Kentucky Fried Chicken’s secret recipe makes their chicken so much better than everyone else’s? “No, not really” Kristy sighs, “Professional hair color companies utilize nanotechnology which helps to reduce the amount of ammonia in their formula.” Neat. Are you a Chemist? “No, I went to beauty school and I’m color specialist. It’s my job to know this stuff.” Like it’s the Colonel’s job to know the secret recipe? “Sure, whatever”.

So why else is box color bad? “Well, there are also some box colors that use metallic dye that actually melts on to your hair”. Yikes! That doesn’t sound good. “It’s not.” What else, my followers need to know, they need to be properly informed. “You have followers?” Not really. “Well, one of the biggest problems for box color users is the application process. They are not trained at how to properly put color on their hair.  Color is not meant to overlap. Repeated applications of box color that overlap will definitely destroy and damage the integrity of your hair.”

“Also, box color purchased at say a Walmart or CVS only contains 20 volume developer, and as a result, may not give them the color they are trying to achieve.  Everyone’s hair is different and you need to customize and formulate based on the integrity of the hair and the amount of lift you are trying to achieve.” Whoa, whoa, whoa!  Slow down kimasabe! Formulate, lift, develop what? “Developer!  Developer opens up the hair cuticle so the color can sink in.  Remember…ammonia, alkalizing agent?” Oh yeah, got it.  “However many shades of color you are trying to ‘lift’ or change your hair to is directly related to the volume of developer you use.  Box color only contains 20 volume which only lifts two shades”. Aaaah…I get it! So when my sister tried to dye her hair from brown to blonde and turned it orange it was because the box color only had 20 volume developer in it.  “Bingo!  Your sister probably needed to lift 4 shades and needed a 4o volume developer.” Which you can’t get in box color. “Yep”. And it’s why people turned their hair goofy colors and freak out. “I think you’ve got it”.

Okay, okay, let me recap for the folks at home. “What folks?” My followers. “I thought you didn’t have any?” Shut up and let me dream. “Oh, sorry.”

So…”do it at home” box color is not recommended by professional salons because:

1. There are higher levels of ammonia in the formulation that cause hair to dry and become damaged and some actually use metallic dye that melts on to your hair. “Correct!”

2. People apply the color wrong, repeatedly overlapping it every time they dye it, which also leads to dried out damaged hair and color that is dull instead of shiny. “Yep, and it also makes it next to impossible to remove from their hair when they come to the salon to have it fixed.” Hey, this is my recap! “Sorry…please continue.”

3. Box color only contains 20 volume developer which does not allow for customized formulation to your specific hair type which can cause your color to come out all jacked up!  “That’s one way to put it.”

Contributor:  H.B. Suede