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  • Writer's pictureAriel Garrison

5 Reasons You Should Stop Using Box Hair Dye

box hair dye, hair color, hairstyle

Let’s be honest. We’ve all done it at least once… We’ve had some hair growth, and we were short on money or couldn’t book an appointment fast enough with our colorist and had to resort to using box dye. My experience was slightly different, and I will never return to box dye again. For years, I used box color that kept my hair a shade of black. When one of my best girlfriends talked me into going a different shade before my wedding day, she connected me with her favorite master stylists. I was excited going in thinking, this will be a piece of cake! Boy, was I wrong.

After spending nearly 7 hours in the salon chair, $750 in color services, and stressing out my hairstylist, she told me, “Don’t ever use box dye again!” I promised her I wouldn’t. So here we are. That was over a year ago, and I’ve kept my promise, and here’s why.

Today, we will break down 5 reasons you should stop using box hair dye. Don’t get me wrong, it has its perks, but in the end, it’s not good for your hair or for your bank account long term.

1. Customization Matters

Hair color isn't a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Obtaining the desired outcome involves considering numerous factors, such as hair type, condition, color level, previous treatments, allergies, and underlying pigments. Simply grabbing a box labeled "medium brown" won't yield optimal results. Professional colorists customize formulas, often blending multiple tubes to achieve the perfect shade. Most salons now have access to digital color mixing programs that make the perfect concoction for your hair specifically, so there’s no room for color mistakes to happen.

2. Box Dye Can Be Harmful

It's no secret that box dye is pocket-friendly, but at what cost? Manufacturers cut corners using low-quality dyes, chemicals, and additives. These substances can cause damage to the hair, altering its texture and leaving it feeling straw-like. Reversing these effects often requires multiple conditioning treatments.

toxic, toxic ingredients, hair color, box hair dye

Here are 9 toxic ingredients you probably didn’t know are in that box hair color:


Ammonia, a well-known toxic ingredient in hair dye, is responsible for the strong and unpleasant odor often associated with these products. While it facilitates color penetration into the hair cuticle, prolonged exposure can lead to dry and damaged hair and irritation to the throat and respiratory system, warns Adina Mahalli, a hair and skincare expert with Maple Holistics.

Paraphenylenediamine (PPD):

PPD removes the existing pigment from the hair, allowing the new color to take its place. Mahalli cautions against overexposure to this toxic chemical, known for its carcinogenic properties, as it may result in complications such as rhabdomyolysis, respiratory failure, and cardiac health issues.

Para-toluenediamine (PTD):

Research indicates that a significant percentage of PTD can be absorbed through the skin during dyeing. This chemical poses risks to those getting their hair dyed and can also cause allergies in hairdressers.


Checking the label of your hair dye for quaternium-15 is crucial, as this preservative, commonly found in cosmetic and hair products, is a known allergen. It releases formaldehyde, potentially causing contact dermatitis reactions in sensitive individuals.


Resorcinol is a chemical with serious implications for the scalp and overall health. Classified as hazardous, it can cause abdominal pain when inhaled and redness upon skin contact. Additionally, resorcinol acts as a hormone disruptor, potentially leading to thyroid dysfunction and affecting the central nervous system.

Titanium Dioxide:

While generally considered safe and commonly used as a pigment in hair coloring products, titanium dioxide becomes a potential carcinogen when inhaled in large quantities during the hair dyeing process.


Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors found in various products, including hair dyes. As they can interfere with the body's hormone functioning, Mahalli advises avoiding these chemicals, especially considering that substances applied to the hair are eventually absorbed into the bloodstream.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS):

Sodium lauryl sulfate, present in hair dye for its cleaning properties, can strip hair of dirt and essential natural oils, leaving it weak and prone to breakage. Continuous exposure to SLS may even lead to skin irritations.

Alkylphenol Ethoxylates (APEs):

Like SLS, APEs are potent cleaners that can strip hair of protective oils. Mahalli highlights their role as hormone disruptors, suggesting a potential negative impact on optimal body functioning.

Pretty scary, huh? Many high-end hair salons now offer safer and healthier alternatives for those concerned about these harmful chemicals. It's advisable to consult with your color stylist to check the ingredients in hair color, especially if you have allergies to any harmful substances.

3. Progressive Hair Dyes: A Color Challenge

Box dyes are progressive, meaning the color darkens with each application. The presence of metallic salts and henna additives causes the ends to accumulate more pigment than the roots, resulting in an undesirable two-toned effect. This doesn't happen with salon hair color, which avoids using salts binding to the hair's keratin.

4. Coloring Your Hair at Home Is a Risky Venture

There's a reason hairstylists undergo extensive training. Coloring your hair at home can lead to disastrous outcomes, from bright orange hues to hair breakage. Professional-grade products with bond-mending technologies are not readily available to the public, making salon services essential for maintaining hair health.

5. Corrective Hair Color Comes at a Price

If your box hair dye experiment goes awry, be prepared for a hefty bill for corrective color services. These procedures demand more time, effort, knowledge, and products to restore your hair to a healthy and aesthetically pleasing state. Corrective color services can be expensive, ranging from $100 per hour and upwards.

What About Sally's Hair Dye?

Sally's hair dye sits between drugstore box dyes and salon-grade colors. While it may not be as progressive, it still poses risks. Though Sally's offers a level system for formulation, using it requires knowledge and guidance from a licensed professional. Trusting recommendations from retail workers may not yield the desired results.

hair color, hairstyle, coloring hair

The risks and potential long-term damage overshadow the allure of a quick and affordable hair color change with box hair dye. So as appealing as it may be to want to jump the gun and run to your local big chain store to swipe a few boxes of hair dye off the shelf for $6, don’t do it! Investing in professional salon services is a matter of aesthetics and a commitment to hair health and to help ensure you get the hair color you desire without any room for mistakes!

So, if you want to make a hair change, whether highlights, rainbow/unicorn hair, or to cover up those pesky grays, contact one of our Master Color Stylists today and stay AWAY from that box hair color!

.And, as always, have a good hair day. You deserve it!

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