How this Salon-Lifer Became a Box-Color Convert
COVID-19 social distancing means that salons are off-limits. Here’s the answer.
Last night I was video chatting with a girlfriend and she told me that her main complaint with the Coronavirus social-distancing situation was that she is being forced to do video conferencing for work, but –gasp!– her roots are showing! If we could all be this lucky. Anyhow, it reminded me of this article that I wrote when I first stopped going to the hair salon. Right now seems like the perfect time to share it with you all again, with an update…
Here’s how I finally gave in, after 18 years of salon coloring, and tried box hair color for the first time:
While I’ve colored my hair since I was 16, it took me until my early 30’s to try boxed hair color. Wondering why I didn’t try it sooner? Well, it all started in Africa. No, wait. It all started as a teen model.
You see, models usually get their hair colored for free. I know, it’s not fair. Like, at all. I’m not even sure why models get it for free, but I assume it’s because they can then say “I colored her hair before this shoot” and point to a photo in a magazine (although I’ve never actually witnessed such an exchange). But I digress.
So there I am, a newly-scouted 16-year-old model, and my agent at Ford tells me (surprise, surprise) that I need to lighten my hair, like, pronto. As a full-fledged hippie country girl in Canada, I really didn’t know much about makeup or hair coloring, and I basically believed anything that anyone told me. So when my new colorist – Fritz – at Vidal Sassoon told me that I should never use at-home color, and that I could never grow my baby-fine sparse hair long because it would just look oh-so flat, I took him at his word.
So therein began my love-hate relationship with hair salons, and the time-consuming and expensive ritual that I endured every two or three months. The thing is, they never seemed to get it right. Even at the most posh salons, the color always seemed to fade or go brassy, and the highlights they gave me always seemed to look artificial; a dead-giveaway that my hair color wasn’t my own. And as a girl who’s always coveted the natural look above all others, I found this to be far from ideal.
Fast-forward about 20 different salons in two countries, and fourteen years later, and I’m in Africa for my 30th birthday. I had just colored my hair a week or so prior, with the same highlights and low-lights that probably 90% of NYC-salon-blondes sport. Basically, the only blonde that the salons I’d been going to thought I’d look good in.
Then something hairmazing (yeah, I just made that word up) happened. The red dirt in Africa actually dyed my hair red. I mean, the perfect golden strawberry blonde shade. And I really (I mean really) loved it. It was me! This was how I was supposed to look! I’m not exactly sure how it happened; my best guess is from the dirt in the air on dusty roads clinging to my porous hair. The color lasted a solid month, during which I took lots of photos to make sure my salon colorist knew what I wanted.
Back in NYC, my colorist couldn’t seem to match the color. It somehow always seemed to come out looking, well, too blonde and too streaky. It just didn’t look natural.
Eventually, I moved uptown, but I was loyal to my downtown colorist. Each visit took about four hours door-to-door; and though I’d work during the visit, taking that much time became harder and harder, and visits became more and more seldom. Finally, I decided to try at-home coloring instead of finding a new uptown colorist (plus, I called around and for full-head highlights, lowlights, cut and blow-dry, salons up here charge between $400 and $600!)
By this point, my roots were about four inches long, and very dark blonde, so I swallowed my fear and went to a drugstore. I picked out a box of at-home hair color and brought it home. I resisted gagging (it smelled awful!) as I tested it on a small section of my hair (to see how the color would turn out), and on my arm (to test for bad reactions). I left it on my roots for about 30 minutes, then put it on the whole length of that section of hair for 10 more minutes.
My eyes stung from the chemicals — without even getting any in them! When I washed it off and blow-dried it, I showed my husband. “Where?” he kept asking. He couldn’t tell which was the section I’d tested the color on. When I looked very carefully, I could see a very slight red tinge, but my roots definitely weren’t lightened. #ug
Not one to give up, and not one to want to use any more harsh chemicals on my body, I did a bunch of research (#ThankYouGoogle!) and found a natural hair dye brand with good reviews called Naturigin (which is made in Denmark). Here are a few more compelling reasons why I chose this brand:
- Their hair dye ingredients are 98% naturally based and contain natural oils and extracts that are certified organic by ECOCERT (which has stricter regulations than USDA organic). The dye also has the lowest level of PPD (a yucky chemical that’s –unfortunately– necessary to make the color stick long-term) on the international market (0.07%) and all the colors are 100% free of ammonia and parabens.
- Their products are NOT tested on animals. As a vegan, only using products that are 100% cruelty-free is super important to me!
- Their packaging is eco-friendly and made from recycled material.
- Naturigin is based in Denmark, and the motivation to start the company was Mette’s diagnosis with breast cancer. She wanted to make sure that other women had a healthier and cleaner choice of hair colors without dangerous and unhealthy ingredients. Having had cancer myself, I really appreciate this!
I’d found a winner! I immediately bought their golden blonde shade on Amazon and tested it on a small section of my roots. It smelled very faintly like the pleasant natural fragrance my aunt wears, which I love. No chemical smells or stinging eyes.
15 minutes later, it’d done what it was supposed to do: lightened my roots. Halleluyah! So I put the Naturigin color all over my head and left it on for 10 minutes, then I added the rest to the length of my hair. I left it for 5 more minutes, then started washing it all off with shampoo in the shower. (Depending on the color you’re starting with, you might need to add 10 more minutes.)
What I was left with was absolutely perfect. It was the exact strawberry blonde shade I had always wanted — and all it took was 15 bucks and 15 minutes (during which I also meditated, checked email, and made a smoothie). It even gave my hair parts that look like highlights and lowlights (I had been afraid it’d have no depth, but –thankfully– it does!)
Some people may love the salon experience, but personally, I plan on never setting foot in a salon again. I mean, why would I? Now that I know that box color won’t make my hair fall out or turn green (as Fritz would have wanted me to believe), I’ve saved myself what probably amounts to months of valuable time over my life.
I’ve been dying my hair at home for years now and I still love it. I’ve learned through trial-and-error that the color you see on the box is rarely the color you get, so it’s important to try several brands and shades until you find the one perfect for you. You can experiment by mixing up the colors and applying the dye to a small section of your hair (at the front, so it’s easier) to see how it turns out. If you don’t like it, just wash that small section, dry it, and do another experiment with the next bottle.
I decided to switch to ash blonde, which leaves my hair looking a very natural color, with lots of depth and natural highlights. I love that it only takes me 20 minutes at home to get a better-than-salon look. I even cut my own hair at home (sometimes I enlist my husband to make sure it’s perfectly straight, but he rarely needs to make any corrections.) It’s much easier than you’d expect, and there’s no time like the present to try it yourself!