Why Do Hairdressers Hate Box Dye? Here’s The Truth!

We all know the feeling. You’re in dire need of a hair color refresh but don’t have the time or money to make it to the salon.

So, you head to the drugstore, pick up a box of hair color, and do it yourself at home. Hey Presto! You’re ready for your close-up. Except…you’re not.

In fact, have you just made a huge mistake? Here’s why hairdressers hate box dye and what you can do to avoid making their (and our) list of hair color no-nos. 

“Boxed colors have come a long way, and you may have even used one or two with nice results. But, box colors usually contain a heavier dye content or types of pigment that can be more damaging to hair, or that can give you less than ideal results should you decide to change up your look.”

Grant Romundt, Founder of ScissorBoy.com

What is box dye?

Box dye is a type of hair color that you can purchase from a drugstore or beauty supply store.

It typically comes in a kit with everything you need to color your hair at home, including the colorant, developer, gloves, and instructions.

They’re less expensive than salon hair color, and can be a convenient way to color your hair at home.

However, box dyes can be tricky to use, and it is important to follow the instructions carefully. If you are not careful, you could end up with uneven color or damaged hair.

They’re cheap for a reason – they contain low-quality ingredients like ammonia, PPDs, metallic salts and unfiltered henna and other harsh chemicals. These stain your hair and can cause reactions to sensitive skin and allergies. 

But they can be a quick fix from time to time – if you know what you’re doing and aren’t after a color that’s too ambitious.

“The main answer is you don’t really know what’s in a box dye, it doesn’t tell you what level of developer it is. That coupled with people not always knowing what they’re doing makes for more work for a stylist if it has to be fixed.”

Aimee McGlathery, Studied Cosmetology at Gadsden State Community College

Why do hairdressers hate box dye?

Let’s start with the most obvious reason why hairdressers hate box dye: results are rarely what you expect (or hope) them to be.

Have you ever seen those pictures on the side of the hair color box and thought, “Hey, that could be me!” only to find out that it’s not even close?

That’s because those models usually have pro stylists doing their hair—not some random person in a factory churning out mass-produced hair color. 

But even if you can get over the fact that your at-home color won’t look exactly like the picture on the box, there’s another big problem: it can actually end up damaging your hair.

That’s because most DIY hair dyes contain harsh chemicals that strip your strands of their natural oils, leaving them dry and brittle.

And if you’ve ever had to deal with a bad dye job, you know that it can take weeks (if not longer) to repair the damage. 

“Non – licensed people coloring at home do not understand that you don’t not pull color through the ends on a root retouch. This leaves generations of color buildup on the hair and impossible to remove if you want to change, plus it will get darker with each application.”

Jo Welch, 40+ years in hair industry

Top 3 reasons hairdressers hate box dye

1.It’s Not One Size Fits All

The thing about hair color is that it’s not one size fits all. There are so many variables to consider, from your natural shade to the current state of your hair to your desired outcome.

A professional colorist takes all of these factors into account when creating a custom blend for their client. When you buy a box of dye, you’re getting a one-size-fits-all solution that may not be ideal for your specific needs.

2.It’s Damaging to Your Hair

Boxed dye is also much harsher on your hair than professional color. The chemicals are potent, and they can cause serious damage if used incorrectly.

Even if you follow the instructions to the letter, you’re still likely to end up with dry, brittle hair that’s difficult to style. If you want to avoid damaging your hair, it’s best to leave the dyeing to the professionals.

3.The Results Are Never as Good as You Hoped

Even if you avoid damaging your hair, chances are the results won’t be as good as you hoped. That’s because getting the perfect color is more complicated than just choosing a shade from a swatch book.

A professional colorist has years of experience and knows how to mix shades to create the perfect hue for each individual client. They also know how to apply the color so that it looks natural and flattering.

When you try to do it yourself, it’s easy to end up with an unnatural-looking shade that doesn’t suit you. 

“Usually, box dye is a TERRIBLE idea!! When I was working as a color correction specialist, I fixed many box dye disasters!!”

Heather Sung, Cosmetology license in Cosmetology, Paul Mitchell The School 

Watch and learn: Why do hairdressers hate box dye.

Here’s a great explanation from celebrity hair stylist and color expert Brad Mondo who shows you why box dye can be bad for your hair.

Why is box dye different from salon hair dye?

The main difference between box dye and salon color is the quality of the ingredients.

Salon color is made with higher-quality ingredients and doesn’t contain the same harsh chemicals that can damage your hair. It’s richer and more pigmented so the color lasts for longer.

It’s also mixed fresh for each client, so you know that you’re getting a custom blend that’s tailored to your specific needs.

Hair colorists have access to a much wider range of colors than you’ll find in drugstores. They’re experts at mixing colors and adding multidimensional effects like highlights and lowlights that will personally suit your skin tone and style.

When you buy a box of dye, you’re getting a one-size-fits-all solution that may not be ideal for your hair. It’s also more likely to cause damage, and the results are rarely as good as you hoped.

On the other hand, box dye is often more convenient and easier to use at home. Plus, it’s a great option if you’re on a budget.

So, which is right for you? It really depends on your needs and preferences. Whichever route you choose, just be sure to do your research so you can get the best possible results.

“The big difference between box and salon hair color?

How it’s formulated, applied, monitored and fine-tuned.

Since box dye is most likely applied by hair consumers to their own hair, there is a much higher risk of user error.”

Karen Marie Shelton, Founder of HairBoutique.com

Box dye vs salon color before and after.

Can hairdressers dye box dyed hair?

The short answer is yes! All hair salons should be experienced in color correction.

Box dyes are known for their bold and vibrant shades. So although it may require a bit more effort to achieve the desired results, hairdressers are fully capable of transforms these colors into something truly special.

If you want to go lighter than your current color, you should definitely leave it to the professionals. Color cannot lighten color so if you want to lift your hair from dark brown or black to blonde, step away from the box dye my friend!

With the help of a professional, you can take your box dyed hair from drab to fab in no time!

Does salon color last longer than box dye?

When it comes to long-lasting color, there’s no doubt that salon dye jobs outperform box dyes.

This is because professional colorists are able to mix custom colors that are specifically tailored to your hair, which means they’re less likely to fade quickly.

Box dye color lasts on average 4-6 weeks, whereas salon color can last up to 8 weeks or even longer.

Furthermore, salons use higher-quality dyes and processing treatments that lock in color and help prevent damage.

So if you’re looking for color that will last, it’s definitely worth shelling out for a professional dye job.

How much does salon hair color cost?

Prices for salon hair color vary depending on the length and thickness of your hair, as well as the type of color you’re looking for.

Generally speaking, expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $200+ for a single session.

However, keep in mind that you get what you pay for. The more expensive the salon, the better the quality of the color will be.

So if you’re looking for a long-lasting, high-quality color job, it’s worth splurging on a professional rather than trying to save a few bucks with a box dye.

Should I use box dye?

The answer to this question depends on your individual needs and preferences.

If you’re looking for convenience and easy-to-use dye, then box color is a great option. Just be sure to do your research so you can find a quality product that won’t damage your hair. For adding a little bit of color or making a small change, then box dye is probably fine.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for long-lasting, high-quality color, then salon color is the way to go. Yes, it’s more expensive than box dye. But you’ll definitely get what you pay for in terms of results.

If you’re hoping to make a major change like balayage or blonde highlights, it’s best to visit a professional. 

Parting words

So that’s why hairdressers hate box dye. Can you blame them?!

These days, there are so many amazing hair color products and techniques available in salons. So why settle for a subpar box dye job when you can get gorgeous, long-lasting color that’s custom-tailored to your hair?

If you’re looking for the best possible results, it’s definitely worth splurging on a professional salon colorist.

But if you’re on a budget or just looking for a quick and easy solution, then box dye may be the way to go. Just be sure to do your research so you can find a quality product that won’t damage your hair.


  • Nicola Freeman, Creative Director & Content Lead
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    With over two decades of passionate hair dyeing experience, I've experimented with nearly every shade imaginable. My journey began long before blogging; as an award-winning copywriter in London and New York, I shaped narratives for iconic brands. However, when friends sought advice during lockdown for at-home hair dyeing, I realized my true calling. Beyond being your hair color expert, I'm a mom of two girls, wife to artist Tony, and an avid soccer player!

  • Enza Piazza, Hair Stylist & Color Consultant
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    I’m Enza Piazza, your go-to hair stylist and color consultant with over 23 years of professional salon experience bringing vibrancy and life to hair of all hues. My Italian roots from sunny Sicily infuse passion into every snip and color, a passion that’s been recognized with top honor awards including bridal and party hair at the National Hairdressers Federation’s Championships. After training in Surrey, UK’s most prestigious salons including Head Master Academy, I embraced the entrepreneurial spirit and set up Enza Hair Styling, offering tailored hair care for 13 years, and treating each client like family. Away from the salon, I cherish moments as a proud Nonna to grandson Joseph and as a playful companion to my Jack Russell, Bo.