Hair Dye : At Home vs Salon

Hair Dye : At Home vs Salon

January 30, 2020

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Box or salon?  Hair color can be very personal.  Sometimes the only way you can feel confident you will achieve the color you are seeking is to go to a salon.  However, there are many circumstances where box color can save you a trip. 

Are there certain hair colors that can be safely done at  home? 

Overall, if you are staying within your hair color range- just shifting within 2-3 shades of normal for you- using a box color is great. 

When should you seek a professional? 

If you are planning a drastic color change, say brown to blonde- then it’s likely a good idea to see a professional. Melanin (eumelanin for darker shades and pheomelanin for reddish hues) is responsible for our hair color. It may not be so simple for someone like me with darker hair color to simply pick up a box of blonde hair color and expect to be a blonde after one application:)  

Common problems with hair dye. 

This is where it’s important to understand what’s in hair color to achieve the pigments we seek and understand what happens when things go wrong. Scalp dermatitis is one of the most frequent complaints I see- I have had a number of men and women with blisters from using a product they were allergic to. 

 Ingredients to know:


This is also known as ppd. This is the dye responsible for darker shades of hair color. It is found in BOTH salon and at home hair dye products. If you prefer darker shades but have developed an allergy to this, consider using vegetable based dyes. 


Ammonia in hair dyes causes the hair follicle to swell to help hair dye penetrate the cuticle and attach or hold on to the hair. Even though we hear about ammonia free products- it’s difficult to say if they are better. Ultimately these products will still use some kind of alkalinizing ingredients to achieve the same result. If you are not using a permanent hair color this is not necessarily important to have as an ingredient. For me- since I’m always in need of covering my relentless grey hair I tend to use semi permanent colors  and these do not tend to have ammonia and can be used when needed.



Peroxide takes our hair from dark to light. This is considered a permanent change to hair. It will not likely be in our temporary or semi permanent colors because of this. Peroxide breaks down pigment in our hair’s cortex. 

Lead acetates

These gradually darken the hair over time. Lead is generally not considered safe in our products and it can have health consequences.

Now, to the photo above! Can you tell which is which- salon vs at home hair color? Both are single process hair color. 

The photo on the left - I can thank the amazing colorist at Madison Reed's Color Bar !

And the photo on the right is my go-to home hair color- Medium Brown by L'Oreal's Feria

Read more as Dr Erum ILYAS discusses hair color with the Washington Post!

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