To Color, Or To Hire A Professional To Color: That Is The Question

To Color, or To Hire a Professional?

Are you a DIY kind of gal? Do you like to save money? I know you’ve been thinking about coloring your hair, and you don’t know whether to color, or to hire a professional to color, right?

Let me begin with a little disclaimer, of sorts. I think we’ve all asked ourselves at some point, “should I color my own hair?” I have several clients who color their own hair, and I want to state up-front: no, I am not talking directly to anyone. This post is about my overall opinion on boxed color, paired with evidence, and a little bit of industry-secret-type-stuff, which should in no way embarrass any of my clients or call anyone on the carpet. If you comment with the question, “do you mean me?” then you have answered your own question, I guess!  You know I love each and every one of you, whether you come see me for the full menu once a month or for a simple eyebrow shaping once every six-weeks….but I must spill my guts on this subject and tellyawhatIreallythink.

The problem is, I can only give you an answer to my title question from a professional standpoint. I have used a store-bought color only one time in my entire life, and it turned my hair an icky shade of purple. It also turned the shower an icky shade of purple, and my hands, and a few spots on my mother’s bathroom rug. I don’t know enough about the stuff to give an educated opinion on the product as a whole.

I can tell you what I see in the salon, and I hope that will be enough to make you choose professional, every. single. time.

Anti-Box Color Club

One of the biggest problems I see with boxed color is that most (not all, but most) people apply the color all over the hair every single time they color. Over time, the ends become darker and darker as that color deposits and deposits over and over again. The hair also becomes dull, because there is more old, residual hair color in the ends of the hair than actual hair fibers. The cuticle of that hair never closes completely, which makes the ends feel dry, brittle, or squishy. The same thing happens when you don’t rinse your hair thoroughly after shampooing and conditioning; the hair soaks up the product and it becomes trapped in the dry, porous ends. All of a sudden, one day, for no reason, you apply the same color you have for months but it doesn’t come out the same. Why is it so light at the root and so dark on the ends? Because you have been coloring hair that was already colored…numerous times. The new growth looks lighter because the ends are way too dark. Your trusty color didn’t fail you; your application did.

Allowing the color to process on the new growth only.

Allowing the color to process on the new growth only.

I have seen plenty of people decide that the solution to this problem is to color the hair a shade or two darker. This may succeed in evening out the color of your hair, but I can assure you that the ends are even worse now, even though it all looks the same color. The dullness will return much more quickly, and the new-growth will be twice as obvious, sending you into a vicious cycle of over-coloring.

nothing is permanent with hair

I think a common misconception is that after you color your hair, and some time passes, that hair color is gone. Just because it’s been a month, two months, or even six months – unless your hair is super short or you just donated 12 inches to Locks of Love – that color is still on your hair. Hair only grows around a half an inch per month, so if your hair is down to your shoulders, and you stop coloring today and get regular trims, that color should be gone in..oh.. about two years. It does not just magically disappear off of your hair; it actually has to grow off. Even if the box you bought says “semi-permanent” or “washes out in 12 shampoos”, it’s lying. It may fade really quickly, but it is not gone.  I have seen lots of folks who insist they used “semi-permanent” hair color, but the hair is actually lighter. Professional semi-permanent color does not lift (lighten) your natural hair color at all, so why does the drug-store stuff? Good question, and I don’t have an answer.

The best advice I can give you is to be honest, especially with your hairstylist, about what you are using. If you have old color on your hair, whether it was done at home or in the salon, your hairstylist needs to know before using any other chemicals on your hair.  Once when I was in cosmetology school, a client came in with brassy-blonde hair and asked for a perm. The student-stylist asked her if she had any color, bleach or Sun-In on her hair, and the client said no. The student-stylist asked again, just to be sure, because the hair looked as if it had been chemically lifted. The client insisted that she had not used any chemical products on her hair. The student-stylist then asked the client to sign a release form stating that she was aware of the risk of perming chemically treated hair, and that she had not used any chemical products on her own hair, which the client did willingly. The student-stylist did the perm. As she began to rinse the solution off of the perm rods, the rods began dropping into the sink with the hair still attached! Thank God, I was not the student-stylist, but it certainly scared the bejeezus out of me! The client then admitted that she had used Sun-In on her hair. The problem could have been avoided altogether had the client been honest from the beginning, because she either would have been turned away for the perm, or a milder solution could have been used.

Using boxed color is, of course, a choice that many people make because of the low cost of the product. Trust me, your hairstylist probably understands all too well that times are hard, and we all have to make sacrifices to get by these days. If you have great ideas for ways to save money, I would love to hear about them. Personally, I would not attempt to fill cavities in my own teeth, re-wire my house, or change the transmission in the MiniVanWithAPlan, because I don’t know where to begin to do any of these things. My opinion is this: If you are not educated on how to apply color, how to choose the right shade of color, or how hair color works in general, you should not be coloring your own hair.  You may have success 9 out of 10 times, but the one time something goes wrong, you are likely to spend twice to three times as much getting the damage repaired than you did for that box of color. Not only that, but sometimes the process of repairing a bad color gone wrong can take multiple sessions with your stylist and weeks of waiting to get exactly what you want, because there is no easy fix for some color disasters.

You Still Get to decide whether to color, or hire a professional…

Of course, the moral of this story is, it’s still your choice, but my advice is to hire a professional! In the long run, you will save time, save money, and you will LOVE your hair. Why not treat yourself, and give yourself more than just “covering your grays”? Why do that tedious, messy job yourself, when there is someone out there who trained, practiced, and continues to learn so that YOU can have awesome hair? Having your hair colored professionally is a win-win, for you and for your hairstylist! Your hair will thank you, your hairstylist will thank you, and your bathroom rug, counter and floor will thank you!

And if it’s the box you love, then never fear.  Our color actually comes in a box, too!

photo 1 (81)Thank you for reading my windy opinions and, hopefully, loving me anyway. I truly love my job, and I want everyone to have fantastic hair…so if loving your hair is wrong, I don’t want to be right!