Ahhhh, you see a women in a store, better yet, the parking lot of the grocery store. A gentle wind blows her hair and her shimmering locks are aglow with shine, health, and beautiful highlights. You get home, unload your groceries, and on the counter sits a $7.00 box of home color with the big words on the front of the box: shimmer... shine, luster and ammonia free. After all, you stood in the color isle at the store for almost 15 minutes looking at hundreds of boxes trying to match your color.
But before we talk about anything else, let's talk about the “monster in the room”. Cost/budget/money. Stating the obvious, there are a lot of people who cannot afford to go to the salon and pay $50-$100.00 for a cut and color. Now, the real monster is that the average family goes out to dinner at least once or twice a week. They save money for vacation and college tuition's, and even go out to night clubs, buys new shoes, new shirts and pants, and on and on. Yet very few women have beauty budgets for themselves. But there sits the $7.00-$12.00 box of home color guaranteeing professional results.
Over my career as a color specialist and stylist, I have spent thousands and thousands of dollars learning to give each and every client the results each box guarantee's, and yet still, I'm not always perfect all of the time. As a colorist, I also have to know each and every ingredient that is listed on that box, almost having to be a chemist. So when I'm at a market or drug store, I have to laugh or chuckle because when I'm exiting the store, the same men and women are still in the color isle looking totally confused. Sometimes, i'll go down the isle and grab a box for someone who is about to make a huge mistake. Of course, its also a great chance for me to give them a business card as well.
But, I do understand why people color at home. I do understand that there is a huge call for it and yes, if done right and you know a bit about color, one can get away with it for a while before I will see you come into my door for a $200.00 color correction. If you don't have gray hair and just want to make your brown more rich or darken your hair, sure! Absolutely use the box color! After all, once or twice, what could go wrong?
Now that we have talked about the “monster”, let's talk about the front of the box and what it promises. AMMONIA FREE: The problem here is that there is no such thing. You see? Ammonia is the key ingredient that opens the cuticle so that the color gets into the cortex (the inner most layer of the hair.) The cortex, as we have already said, is the main part of the hair that is placed under the cuticle. The cortex is comprised of fibers or strands that are toughly braided like a rope. They are rather flexible and can be significantly stretched and return to the original length with no adverse consequences. The color of hair is defined by melanin (mel-uh-nin) and phenomelanin (fee-no-mel-uh-nin), the main color pigments that are placed in the cortex.
To get hair color to not just coat your hair, there has to be ammonia. If there is no ammonia, the shine and luster that is promised on the box will last, at most, 6-7 washings. Now, a little test for you....
1)If you have DARK BROWN hair and want LIGHT BROWN HAIR, and you use box color, can you get light brown hair?
2)What is 10 volume? What is 20 volume? What is 30 volume? And what is 40 volume?
3)What are “hot roots”?
4)When I home color, why are the ends of my hair darker then my roots?
I'm not going to give you the answers, but if you can answer these four basic questions then this blog is not meant for you. Let's say, that the front of the box color is being 100 % honest and there is indeed no ammonia. If they are being honest, then let's switch this conversation to what are called synthetics. After all, one or a combination of ingredients is blowing open the cuticle so that color gets into the layers of hair. The synthetic substitute for ammonia is (MEA)....monoethyinolamine (mono-ehth-eye-nol-uh-mean). In order to use these synthetics, they have to be in higher doses, which is just as damaging, if not more damaging, than the real ingredient ammonia.
Now, keep on reading the box. Do you see metallic salts listed? Yes! Processed salt! These salts leave a coating on the hair and gradually darken with the environment (sun, showering, swimming etc). Synthetic salts can also cause breakage and after a few weeks, turn browns into dark browns, dark browns turn into blacks, blonds into yellow or orange blonds.The other problem with synthetics is most people are not honest when they decide to go to a salon and get a color correction and because of all these synthetics. Even a color specialist can run into problems, such as causing your hair to turn into many different colors. If the stylist uses even a low-lift bleach, this can cause further damage as, it is almost impossible to get synthetics out of your hair!
Gray coverage is almost impossible to get with home color. Mostly due to operator error, as for most people it is virtually impossible to reach the back of your head. Box color is box color. Yes, there is a market for it, but remember, you get what you pay for.
Now, let's clear the “monster” in this room first. After all, fair is fair. Ahhhhhhhhhh, the professional. The individual with years of experience. The chemist. The one with your personal image in their capable hands. But as a color specialist, I'm here to say that not all salons and stylists are color specialists. Some are great at cutting, others are great at color but not cutting, and yet other salons don't even have a color specialist on staff. No matter what, most professionals use the real thing. The pure product with the most natural ingredients.
In cosmetology school, all stylists are taught the basics of color and when they get out of school, that's all they know: the basics. Many decide to just do basic coloring, but some go onto being a “Color Specialist”. A hair color specialist has many duties, including customer consulting, mixing hair color chemicals, and learning to know how to correct color through years and years of what I call “playing with color”. Mixing is an art: a natural color...with a red brown...and a touch of violet to create shine and real luster. Someone who is not afraid of color (I find that a lot of people who do or know hair color are afraid of color. This fear prevents them from being a true color specialist). Someone who advances their education beyond cosmetology school. Someone who never stops learning. Even if they have been doing hair for 10 years, they must continually go to classes and never allow themselves to get too cocky.
So, the “monster” is finding someone who has the experience who also won't require you to take a second mortgage on your home for their services. One of the most important roles of the color specialist is the customer consultation. Some clients might want a hair color that does not complement their skin tone or facial features. It is the professional color specialist's job to communicate the advantages and disadvantages of a potential hair color. For example, a fair-skinned woman with pinkish or bluish skin tones will not look good with golden blond hair. Shades of ash blond, however, will complement her skin. Another part of the consultation is letting the customer know how much maintenance is required - and how many times a month it must be done - if he or she chooses a hair color that is drastically different from the natural color.
A color specialist will know how to create color dimension,which is creating a base color and then doing low lights and highlights to create movement , texture and dimension. This is the kind of technique that makes women jealous. Depending on the size and type of the salon, the hair color specialist might play many roles. For example, in expensive, upscale salons, the color specialist has only coloring responsibilities, and other staff members style, cut and even wash the client's hair. So by the time you have received your cut/color/treatment/wash and style, you have seen 3 or 4 people and are paying top dollar for your service.
In smaller salons, the hair stylists might perform all of these duties as well as other jobs, such as waxing for hair removal or treating nails. The price is less, but the problem is that sometimes these stylists or specialists are over-booked. We at AJ's Wigs pride ourselves in everything we do. Even though our actual hair salon is smaller, we believe in keeping prices down and quality skyrocketing. Being the 4th most sought after business in the Southern New Hampshire area, our record speaks for itself.
My advice to those of you who are going back and forth between the
box and the professional is educate yourself. Call your local salons
and see if they have a color specialist (not just a stylist who does
color). Go into the salon for a consult, ask them about the price,
and if it's a bit above your budget, ask them if they will work with
you or at least make a plan for color services 6-7 weeks apart
instead of 4-5 weeks apart. Another piece of great advice is when
shopping, and you see someone with “dreamy hair” don't be afraid
to ask them where they get their color done. After all, that's how
I've gotten a lot of my clients.
Box? Professional? That's up to you. But ladies and gentlemen, create a beauty budget. After all, you're important and deserve the best.