How to fight back over the box

PAINT pulls together a panel of experts to prep responses to those everyday arguments you hear from clients over their box colour use

In-salon colour treatments are more pricey than a box dye, yes. But if consumers want a fantastic, bespoke result, they need a professional. Clients have their reasons for buying the box – so PAINT asked the experts for red-hot responses to help you make your case with clients for salon colour

“I can do it just as well on my own at home…”

Tegan Robertson

Tegan Robertson from Not Another Salon takes this on: “Colourists undergo education for years to achieve an expert level of knowledge and professionalism, only to have some retailers tell us we can achieve pastel pink, level 10 for only £8! Our knowledge is being completely undermined with these unrealistic expectations.

We also need to talk about this ‘one size fits all’ idea. When I’m out shopping I know that there’s no way in hell the cute sequinned miniskirt in size 6 is going to fit over my ass… and the same applies to our hair. The beautiful honey blonde on the front of the box may look gorgeous on the model, but will probably look orange on them!

Explain that when when picking their colour, there’s a whole array of things we take into consideration before coming up with a customised formula, from skin tone to ratios and even the condition of their hair. We will always use the lowest percentage peroxide possible when colouring hair to keep the shine and condition. I may use a 3% on one person and then a 6% on the next. However, with most box dyes, they use 12%, just to ensure there’s some effect on all hair types. That means the same high per cent is used on a damaged, over-processed white blonde AND a healthy, warm dark brown.

Finally, there’s no way they’ll be able to achieve an even application with a box dye. We know all about virgin application, regrowth and grey coverage. So, without that, they’re left with dark spots, glowing roots and unwanted tones.”

“In-salon colour just isn’t worth the cost…”

Kain Lawrence, from Q Hair & Beauty, suggests explaining that the ‘true cost’ is far less than they believe: “The costs of coming into the salon compared with doing it at home aren’t always as vast as they may think. The most cost-effective way to book a colour service at our salon would be £35 with our Future Professionals, who are in training for their NVQ. These appointments are exactly what would appeal to the type of guest worried about the cost. If they were to colour at home, they would be looking at around £15 for colour (they would probably need two boxes for full coverage) plus a towel that they’re willing to ruin and replace etc. We worked out the cost to be around £20. The true ‘cost’ of colouring your hair in the salon then becomes just £15 more. Clients then receive professional colour that has been chosen just for them, a relaxed experience, plus the benefit of having access to bonding additives, such as Olaplex, meaning much less damage. Finally, we clear up the mess!”

Tracy Hayes

Tracy Hayes, global head of technical training at Fudge Professional, argues it’s worth pointing out that at-home hair dyes can actually cost clients more in the long run: “Cutting corners and applying home colour can often result in more expensive colour re-dos in a salon, so in fact no money is saved.”

But box dyes are so much more advanced nowadays…”

Steve Robinson, art director at Electric Hairdressing, believes this gives mixed signals, so suggests unpacking all that “science” for the client, so that they understand how these colours actually behave.“While the vast majority of box dyes come with an additive or colour shot, which does enhance hair tone, it is very difficult to remove from the hair if needed. Normal salon colour is made up of thousands of molecules that colour the hair, but are easy to remove. Box dyes with enhancing colour shots behave more like stain or direct dye and can’t be broken down as easily. It often means that more damage is done to the hair longer term.”

Sarah Black

Sarah Black, colour specialist at Linton and Mac and winner of the 2017 L’Oréal Colour Trophy, says that while DIY colours might be more advanced than before, it doesn’t mean they deliver better results: “With home dyes, you have to apply the dye and hope for the best. But in a salon, the colours are layered onto the hair. Also, the colour that you see on the box isn’t realistic, as the overall result will depend on your hair type, original hair colour and whether it has been coloured before.”
Not Another Salon’s Tegan weighs in again: “Box dyes use a bunch of cheap and harmful ingredients. Has your client ever used a box dye and had it come out three shades darker than it should? That’s probably metallic salts, which are still commonly used in box dyes. Metallic salts build up, so their hair will always darken past the desired tone.”



“Box dyes can even offer all the latest techniques, such as balayage and ombre…”

Clayde Baumann, national colour director at D&J Ambrose, sums up a great counter argument to this: “Box dyes can’t do individuality. When you pick up a box of colour in the chemist, chances are there are many other women walking around with that same colour. When my clients come in, I make sure that the formula created for them is suited not only to their skin tone and eye colour, but also to their personality, career and lifestyle. There is a lot to be said for colour application – we’ve mastered various application techniques to ensure maximum colour saturation and absorption, which will lead to perfect grey coverage and more vibrant, longer-lasting colour.” Don’t be afraid to talk about your skills and your experience!

“Both damage your hair, so I might as well use a box dye…”

Gabi Libertini, advanced technician and stylist at Brooks & Brooks, argues that while this is true, professional colour is far kinder: “Professional colour is a lot more gentle, because not only will a colourist be able to determine the strength and tone of a client’s colour, they will also take into account any damage or previous colour applied.” No box is gonna do that… “The application is also really important,” he continues. “Having a colour applied professionally will ensure there’s no overlapping from previous colours, preventing colour build-up and uneven colour saturation.”

Sean Nolan

Sean Nolan, head of technical at HOB Salons, suggests the argument that a client simply can’t get the same professional quality bonding additives (like Olaplex ) with box dyes. “A colourist will always take steps to minimise damage to their hair while colouring as it’s in their interests to look after and respect hair in order to build a relationship with that client. Revolutionary treatments, such as Olaplex, can be applied with the colour, which means that healthy, coloured hair is now achievable and this is something you can only get in-salon.”

“I just need to cover greys, so a box dye suits me perfectly…”

HOB Salons’ Sean knows how to disagree with this point – if they happen to have grey or white hairs, these require a particular type of colour to ensure they get covered and STAY covered! “A salon colourist will overcome both of these challenges with ease. For other certain colours, for example an icy clean blonde, a home attempt will undoubtedly result in patchy, off-colour or even ruined and broken hair.”

“It might be messy and time-consuming, but I still prefer to colour my own hair to sitting in a salon for hours…”

How many other times in life is your client able to relax on their own? asks HOB Salons’ Sean: “Salons are working really hard nowadays to make their visit as pleasurable and stimulating as possible. In everyone’s busy lives, where else would you have a good excuse to sit still for a few hours, being looked after, drinking good coffee, reading a good book or magazine, and having a good gossip? Some salons now even offer other add-on experiences, massage chairs, cocktails… It surely beats perching on the loo seat with colour running down their neck, or trying to clean the colour off the shower wall afterwards?” Good point, well made.

Sign up for FREE access to the Salon Smart HUB

Creative HEAD on Instagram