Fact vs. Fiction: The Truth About Hair Color


Just as hairstyles have changed over the years – from bouffants to pageboys to the Rachel and more – so has hair color. In the 1950’s and ‘60s, blonde hair was the color of choice, largely driven by “Blonde Bombshells” like Marilyn Monroe and Carole Lombard. With the advent of the “Love-in” generation of the ‘70s, natural color ruled the roots, and even those who had previously colored their graying hair, decided to “let it all hang out,” and go natural.

The Reagan years of the 1980’s ushered in two decades of prosperity, and men and women alike returned to salon-professional styles and color. Over the years, we have seen a roller coaster of different hair colors, from frosted tips to henna, and from highlights and neon colors to the still in-demand ombre.

Hair care products represent the largest portion of the multi-billion dollar beauty industry, with 70 percent of U.S. women using hair-coloring products, both at home and in salons. So, is one better than the other? Having experienced both, this is what I discovered:

Fact: A Professional Hair Colorist will take into account your skin tone, eye color, and brow color. Box colors don’t. When you color your hair yourself, you usually use one color to dye your entire head of hair – which often leaves your hair looking flat and lifeless. You don’t consider how that box color will look with your complexion – it could make you look completely washed-out, especially if you stray too far from your natural shade. Hair colorists know that the best hair color is the one that is closest to your natural shade, and either one to two shades lighter or darker – and it highlights your face instead of hiding it.

Fact: A Professional Hair Colorist will custom blend your color for volume and buoyancy. Let’s face it – we color our hair at home for two main reasons: 1) to save money and 2) to save time. For a professional look at home, you would have to purchase two to three complimentary hair shades (about $28), blend them (one-third of one, and one-fifth of another? Who knows?), and then test it on your skin for 24 hours for any allergic reaction – and to confirm the final color. Do you really have that kind of time, not to mention effort?

My expert hair colorist at Fantasia Hair Salon & Hair Restoration Center will blend different hues and tones together to achieve more volume and to frame my face, rather than leaving it flat. She’ll often have new ideas prepared before I even walk in, saving valuable time. A Fantasia licensed, certified colorist will consider the underlying pigment of your hair, the level of porosity (how much color your hair absorbs), previous artificial pigments (which can GREATLY affect the end result), and the percentage of your hair that is gray, if any. No box color on earth can do all that – and also save you time.

Fact: A Professional Hair Colorist can see what you can’t. Okay, picture this – there you are, protective gloves on, a drape covering your shoulders, bending over your bathroom sink, with your so-so bathroom lighting…are you sure you can apply the precise amount of color exactly where it needs to go? Hmm – probably not. A Hair Colorist can see the whole picture, from the top, front, and sides. They know not to overlap the color, which results in banding (darker areas), and they know how to avoid damage. Even your very best efforts won’t get you the same results – and you could possibly end up with straw-like, yellowy/orangey, splotchy color all over. And once your hair is damaged, only a professional can help restore its health and natural color. Not to mention once you’ve colored your own hair at home and realized your mistakes, it can cost you $100+ an hour to fix. Color correction is usually a minimum of 2 hours.

Fact: A Professional Hair Colorist KNOWS your hair far better than you do. Once you start visiting the same professional each and every time, he or she will know your hair inside and out – pun intended. They will know what color you currently have in your hair, how your hair reacts to a certain developer and toners, what color blend is right for your skin tone, how color absorbent your hair is, and so on and so on. (We may think we know our hair as well as any other part of our bodies – but if that was the case, we’d never have to see a doctor!) A certified, licensed cosmetologist with specialized training in color, takes MONTHS of specialized training that includes chemistry and psychology. Passing that certification test is no small feat – the pass rate is often less than 20%. And then there’s the continuing education they’re required to take to stay current and renew that certification.

Fact: Box hair colors often change while professional formulas don’t. A girlfriend of mine couldn’t understand why her hair color came out looking so different from previous at-home applications. After all, she’s been using the same box color for years, and the latest version is even “new and improved.” That new formula can make a huge difference in your end result – they may have changed the hues, or the level of the developer, or added something for volume – that doesn’t agree with your hair health. Professional hair formulas never change – so you get the same bouncy, beautiful result you’ve always enjoyed.

For my money – and my time! – seeing my hair color expert once a month at Fantasia Hair Salon & Hair Restoration Center is the only choice to make. When you weigh the pros and cons, you’ll reach the same decision, too.