Where does this myth/rumor/fact come from?
January 18, 2012 4:51 PM   Subscribe

Are stylists telling the truth when they say that professional haircolor after drugstore haircolor will literally destroy your hair?

I've been told by many stylists (most recently, a friend who's in cosmetology school and my grandmother, who is an instructor at another cosmetology school) say that if you've colored your hair with a box dye within, oh, six months or so, you can't get your hair professionally colored because it will *melt*. Yes, melt. And/or fall out, break off, turn into plastic, etc etc.

Common sense tells me that there is *no* way this can be true, as I have never heard of someone's hair "melting" and I'm sure that many people go to the salon and don't mention that they've used box dye. I'm also skeptical of anyone who has a potential financial gain for saying such a thing.

Additionally: I can't find anything on teh internets suggesting that this happens. Sure, lots of warnings about getting a color you didn't expect and how stylists are more knowledgeable in what will work best with your hair type, but nothing about this whole melting thing.

However, some beauty schools are obviously teaching this as fact, which makes me think that there is some kind of reaction that's possible... I've even been turned away by colorists because of my supposedly inferior dye job, so clearly it's not *just* about money. I'd love to find out if there's any truth behind the rumor.

Mefites: have you ever heard this before? Can you point me in the direction of some articles or at least semi-legitimate sources on the melting hair phenomenon?
posted by nataliedanger to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Melt? Destroy? No, I've never heard of this before, from any stylist I've ever known (even the ones who sniff in disdain at the notion of someone using box dye), and I've been coloring my hair either by myself or with the help of a stylist since I was a teenager.
posted by scody at 4:53 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I go back and forth from dying my own hair out of the box to using a stylist to do it for me. A stylist will always comment and note that I probably did my own dying out of the box last time and do a "shame on you" little speech, but the truth is, I can't afford to have a stylist do it every time. Ironically, they almost always always comment on how healthy and thick my hair is.

I am 47, I have been doing this back and forth thing for 20+ years, and I am not bald.
posted by HeyAllie at 5:02 PM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

The only thing I can think of is that henna + commercial dyes don't mix well - so if you colored at home with henna, going to the salon for a traditional dye would be a bad idea. However, your hair would not melt, it would just turn a funny color.

Other than that? Nope, no problem mixing at-home and salon dyes.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:08 PM on January 18, 2012

Weird, I've always heard stuff along the lines of "if you screw up your at home dye job, you need to see a professional for a color correction, or your hair will freak out/be seriously damaged."
posted by mesha steele at 5:13 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've never hear that either. I'm a dyed redhead and tried using box color to save money for a year. I found that it was cheaper, but since I had to recolor more often, the price + time +results weren't satisfactory enough to keep doing it myself.

When I went back to my stylist, all she said about it was, "yeah I totally feel you on the price being high; don't feel bad about trying to do it yourself, I would do the same if I were you."

Then she colored my hair and it came out looking much healthier.
posted by nerdcore at 5:17 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you could see unexpected damage, and the stylist doesn't want to be responsible for things like odd hair color, hair so dry it is brittle and prone to breakage -- things like that. But, this is a short term thing. Dyed hair continues to grow. In the meantime it can be cut and styled and grown out sections can be colored.
posted by bearwife at 5:20 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think this actually applies to blondes-- the other times it isn't such an issue, even though I've heard from many stylists that box dye is *always* evil. Although there has been a marginal difference in the times I've had my hair dyed brown/red by a stylist as opposed to at home, when I was blonde there was a HUGE difference if I did it at home vs the salon. Did it ever *melt*, though? No...
posted by devymetal at 5:31 PM on January 18, 2012

I can't speak to that product specifically but I'd recommend taking what stylists say with a grain of salt. About 15 years ago one guy told me to never cut the hair on the top of my head, as he 'could tell by the pattern that I'd be bald there in 5 years' and I'd want options. Hasn't happened yet.

Others have categorized my hair as (alternately) dry, oily, brittle, fragile and coarse - I doubt they are all correct, and suspect some of those diagnoses had more to do with the product they were pushing at the time (not meant to be a blanket statement; most times this doesn't happen.)

So yeah, I wouldn't take any one stylist's opinion as fact.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 5:41 PM on January 18, 2012

To put the best possible spin on it: hairstylists see a LOT of hair and assess it from a professional standpoint. So maybe if they see a bad home dye job (where the hair is overbleached, dried out, etc), they notice it to react badly to salon double-process color - badly by their standards, ruined by their standards. It's just like when a fancy restaurant critic talks about something being just awful and you've had it and you like it - their standards are so rarified and they see so much of a specialized thing that they see problems where you don't. And often experts forget that what seem like large obvious flaws to them are perfectly acceptable to the layperson - consider dentists, many of whom sincerely see most ordinary sets of teeth as flawed because they're always comparing them to the platonic ideal of teeth.
posted by Frowner at 5:57 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've been told that the reason stylists can tell is because when most people do their hair at home they put the color full-strength all over their hair from root to tip and when they do it professionally they put it full-strength at the root and then maybe diluted(?) down to the tip. Not sure exactly what they do, but I guess the parts of the hair closer to the tip would look more damaged.

So all of that said, I don't think it is necessarily the store color itself, but rather technique that ruins the hair. One of my stylists told me that she once colored her hair too many times to the point that her hair was breaking and she had to chop it all off...and she was using salon color.
posted by fromageball at 5:59 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Okay, so I destroyed my hair once, although it was two home dye jobs in a row. First I had bleached it and then dyed it with a vegetable dye (Special Effects). A few weeks later I wanted to go back to brown so I put a semi-permanent color over top. My hair started breaking off as I rinsed out the color. I mean, breaking in my hands. It was slightly terrifying. I had healthy, virgin hair before the bleach job so it was definitely the combination of things I had done to it.

I think I researched it at the time and it was the combination of semi-permanent and permanent (well, bleach) that probably did it. So, I've always took the advice to not mix to be not to add some Clairol Loving Care over your professional dye job.
posted by cabingirl at 6:10 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with fromageball. It is very difficult when coloring one's own hair to "just do the roots"and so the temptation is to cover all head full-strength so that you don't miss anything. Particularly if you're trying to cover gray and/or working in hard to reach or see areas like the back of the head. Generally this results in ends that are too dark if you're using a medium to dark color or too light if you are going blond. It can also result in excess damage.

I have been supremely lucky in having stylists who have been willing to work with me and teach me techniques to do my own 3/4 of the time. Basically I've been honest and tell them upfront that I can not afford to have my hair color done at the salon once a month, which is the maintenance I'd require to cover the gray (I have or had naturally brown hair so the roots are very visible). I've learned through advice from my stylists to just do the roots, even though it's more of a hassle. I'm sure that there is some overlap, but as a general rule, I'm pretty careful and thankfully the back in particular is short so it's not as big a deal. I have my stylist do my color every 3rd or 4th time to keep the color even because as careful as I am, I do miss spots in the back and I've found that going to the salon every 3rd or 4th visit is the right balance for me to both keep the color even and not break my budget.

Most recently my stylist has given me a tube of the color that she uses in the salon, but not because the salon color was reacting to the drug store color in any way that you describe. It was because they switched brands/formula and the new color is less opaque and therefore harder to match to drug store brands. I've found that I can buy the same stuff she uses on me through Amazon.

As an aside my hair is super thick and very healthy. Granted it's short now, but other than coloring my hair I do not dry it or use any other styling tools such as a flat iron and rarely have, even during periods when my hair was shoulder length or longer. I remember once during a period of prolonged unemployment I hadn't cut my hair in over a year. I went to an Aveda Institute to get a cheap trim by a student. The student was surprised that the ends weren't a mess. The instructor asked if I used a hair dryer or flat iron and when I said never, she turned to the student and said that was the reason. I had been using drug store hair color during that time.
posted by kaybdc at 6:31 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Drug store hair color might not destroy your hair, but it's junk. You can buy good quality color--Schwartzkopf or Goldwell--online or on ebay, and mix your own shade, rather than having to depend on Clairol. Killer Strands has excellent advice on how to do your own and not look like you dumped brown paint over your head.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:34 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I worked in a hair salon and remember at least one woman coming in with a bad at-home bleach job whose hair we fixed. It's not true that your hair will melt if a stylist touches it after you dye it out of a box.
posted by prefpara at 5:00 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not true at all! I had been dying my hair very dark brown/black for a few months (with box dye) on top of what used to be blonde hair. Then I decided to go a bit lighter, so I went to the salon. A lot of money later, and I had auburn highlights and pretty, pretty hair. I go to my local beauty school who does touch ups on my longer-than-shoulder-length hair for $25. I have very thick hair, and I wash it MAX twice a week, but usually once a week. YMMV.
posted by two lights above the sea at 5:24 AM on January 19, 2012

My mom used drug store color for a long time (she's in her 50s now) and it said it really damaged her hair, but I think drugstore color has really come a long way. I bet it depends on the age of the stylist whether this was true for them.

I have gone to and from box color for 10 years. The only real time I had a problem was the first time I went to a stylist to get the black removed from my hair. I had used the Robert Craig line, and we didn't just touch up the roots, we put it on my whole head every time. When the (totally inept, as we later learned) stylist went to lift the black out, she accused me of using some proprietary thing and not being honest with her and my hair turned out to be in about 12 different shades by the time she was done.

Anyway, I've not had a problem since, but I've never gone back to that idiot. And I've gone from black to red and back about 6 times. (Box color, manic panic color, henna, salon dye)
posted by getawaysticks at 6:42 AM on January 19, 2012

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