By Fatima Sheikh
You know what I am talking about …walking down the hair aisle at your local drugstore, you come across all these boxes with promises of new shiny hair color within 30 minutes! And only $12! Wow, it seems too good to be true. Yeah, too good to be true is correct. Why on earth would you pick up that generic box color at the drug store?
I will admit in my younger, broke years, I have definitely done it, and every time, I have regretted it. It’s a quick fix with immediate gratification. I really believe that anything worth having should have a little time and effort put into it. Unless you want to wear a head of hair that says, ‘yeah I didn’t care,’ from a stylist point of view, the amount of work and money it takes to undo a box job will cost well over $12.
When I was starting out as a colorist extraordinaire, I took a course on color correction, and I learned so much valuable information in this course. Let me preface this with one very important fact: the pigment of your hair is only 1% of the hair shaft–imagine that amount of attention we put into the 1% of our hair while the other 99% is getting compromised while we chase this perfect color. During class, we basically took different brands of box dyes and tried to create the desired result. Never once in the entire class did the result actually match what we were expecting. Now trying to undo what we had done and get it to the right result…that was the hardest thing. It took anywhere from two to 12 hours to get it right. Quite simply, the biggest drawback with box color is that the chemicals in that box are so strong with no regard to the type of hair it is going to be put on. What if you don’t need all that? You’re still getting the strongest chemical possible, no matter what your hair type, and chances are, the damage to your hair will take a lot of time and care to reverse. You may not see it at first, but after box color, your hair cuticle will be wrecked, which will result in dry, frizzy and brassy hair.
Year ago, I was hired to work on a luxury box hair color photo campaign, and I remember how blown away I was that the covers of those boxes were done by a professional. During the job, I used the product to try and make the color that was desired and not once did I get close to what the desired result was. I had to tell the owner of the company, who was not happy, pretty point blank….do you want me to use your color or do you want the desired result. In the end, she encouraged me to get the desired result and it was not possible without using professional color. The image finally chosen of the model for the campaign was achieved with a lot of styling and with Photoshop retouching, and not actually from the ingredients of the box color.
That being said, one word of advice if you have already been box dying your hair and now I have convinced you to stop; when talking with your stylist, be upfront about what you have done to your hair. The approach is completely different from our point of view and we can give you what you need…we just need to know the complete story. I always keep the integrity of the hair in mind when consulting about the result because in my humble opinion, if hair health is not up to par, no amount of color will make it look good. It’s the 99% that I am dealing with. I may try something gentle if I don’t know what is going on and when that does not work, I have to go round two with something stronger, and now we are two steps back when I could have made a better choice from the start. Don’t worry, you won’t be scolded… just be honest. The most important thing above all is that you can trust your stylist. If you are getting a bad vibe or your stylist has not taken the time to explain the process, then don’t go through with it. It’s totally fair. Also, before you start, ask them how much the estimate cost will be for the one time fix. And remember, the next time to maintain your look will not cost as much. Just remember as they say, “you’re worth it”.
Again let’s remember that your hair is an accessory you cannot take off so with that in mind, why are you risking it for a $12 thrill ride. I am not saying by any means that I have not seen box jobs that are decent. The quality of your strands is not going to be the best, but hey it looks ok, right? I have a really big issue with the mentality that we are willing to accept second best for ourselves. My own sister said this to me, “I know it wasn’t the best thing to do for my hair, but it was there so I said, ‘ok, whatever.’” I couldn’t believe my ears, and not to mention being slightly embarrassed that my own sister fell victim to the hype. Why not find a way to budget the time and money to feel incredible? It’s as simple as that. The practice of taking time to do something that makes you feel great is important discipline. I have written before about caring for yourself and how it projects an image of someone that demands attention. Are you really willing to compromise a chance to relax your mind and give the power to an expert so that you can walk away feeling like a million bucks? Don’t let drug store temptation take away your time to shine! And don’t get me started on henna. Just don’t do it. Please.
Fatima Sheikh is the principal stylist and founder of Rare by F.S. Charlie Salon, named in honor of her grandfather, Noor Muhammed Charlie, the legendary comic of Bollywood’s silent film era. A New York transplant by way of California, Fatima has a colorful background, stemming from a long line of celebrated film and television actors. Although her Tribeca salon specializes in hair, Fatima is also known for her editorial shoots and high-profile fashion shows for brands like Rock & Republic. RareNYC.com