Is it worth it to pay a salon to dye your hair?
March 20, 2006 8:01 PM   Subscribe

What is the difference between hair dye bought at the drugstore, vs. at a salon?

Or...why am I spending so much money to colour my hair?

Is there really a difference in quality between dye done at home, with a kit purchased at a drugstore, vs. having it done in a salon? As far as I can tell, the price difference is about $80. Is it worth it? Can one get the same results with the drug store brands?
posted by Badmichelle to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I personally prefer to get my hair colored professionally when I can afford it because whenever I dye my hair myself, it comes out more quickly (because I don't have one of those fancy hair dryers you sit underneath), and I never get full coverage and always look like a complete clown. And I always dye my face, hands and bathroom sink.

But then again, I am a total and complete clutz.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:07 PM on March 20, 2006

ou can always split the difference and buy dye at a beauty supply store like Sallys.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:10 PM on March 20, 2006

It's just like cooking dinner for yourself versus going to a restaurant -- pretty much the same products, but you're paying extra for the service, having it done for you by someone who does it for a living and is presumably fairly expert at it. If you know what you're doing, you can do just as well at home as you can in a place where someone does it for you. But it all hinges on that "if." If you can't boil water without starting a kitchen fire, you're best off leaving the cooking to someone else, and if you don't think you can apply the dye thoroughly and evenly on your own head without ending up looking like a Bozo the Clown lookalike contestant, same diff.
posted by Gator at 8:11 PM on March 20, 2006

Seconding Gator: The difference is the price. You're paying for convenience. It's the same reason those prewashed bags of lettuce cost more than a head of lettuce. Now, there are some minor differences in quality when it comes to hair dye, but even the most expensive store-bought one is probably cheaper than having it done at a salon.
posted by fvox13 at 8:31 PM on March 20, 2006

According to my colorist (who, admittedly, has a vested interest), the quality and quantity of dye/bleach used by a salon is much higher and lower, respectively, than drugstore brands. An accomplished colorist should be able to acheive exactly what you want without a damaging amount of dye/bleach - something that can't always be said for do-it-yourself versions.

I go to what is probably an overpriced salon in Chicago, but my colorist is truly the best in the industry. I have never even looked at a hair sample; I just tell her generally what I want and she does it, without fail. To me, that's worth the extra money. For me, however, it's more like an extra $200 over drugstore brands, but well worth it. Additionally, it's well worth the exchange in time and effort I would have to spend attempting to reach what I want. I guess it's all about your priorities. If you want to save money, then don't go to a salon.
posted by MeetMegan at 8:35 PM on March 20, 2006

Professional hair salons mix in more or less pigment (and different pigments) or lift as needed. This is impractical for home users -- while they can get the necessary chemicals at a beauty supply store, practicing with the chemicals can be pretty tough on one's appearance.

When I had long hair, I got my hair dyed at a salon several times a year and made due with drugstore dye the rest of the time, which kept the color relatively even. If your hair is more than two inches long, I'd recommend getting a friend to help.

(Or cut off all your hair. My hair is so short that it's easy for me to do at home...with half a bottle of dye...and even my hairdresser approves.)
posted by desuetude at 8:41 PM on March 20, 2006

MeetMegan beat me to it. Lift=bleach. FYI: Knowledge gained from the sometimes brilliant, sometimes unfortunate experiments by friends who did indeed DIY-style their dye jobs.
posted by desuetude at 8:43 PM on March 20, 2006

Quality of product, and the stylist will also use foils for a few minutes, and then remove the foils, blend the whole mess together for a few minutes, and then wash it all out.
Foils are a skill, and colors are a matter of a Maaco paint job vs. a pro job.
posted by buzzman at 9:07 PM on March 20, 2006

My wife is a pro and a pro can make all the difference between happy and very, very unhappy. And her hair looks pretty damned great!
posted by fenriq at 10:08 PM on March 20, 2006

I think it really depends on the complexity of the dye job. When I had fancy four-tone punk hair I had it done at a salon, but now I dye my hair at home with a supermarket kit. The main reason I do it myself these days is my ever-increasing cache of grey; I decided to just choose one colour that suits me and stick with it. Cost was certainly a factor.

What a salon offers: the luxury of being groomed, artful placing of colour if more than one pigment is used, and a wider variety of hues to choose from. If these things are important, then yeah, it's worth the money. But if you just want one colour all over, and you don't mind getting gloved up once a month, then you may as well do it yourself.

My mother was a hairdresser when I was a kid, so I never considered home dying a big deal, and I learnt a few handy tips from her. If you want to cover regrowth properly, for example, it's worth it to invest in a good colour brush rather than relying on the nozzled bottle that the dye comes in. I mix the colour in the bottle, squirt it into a flat plastic bowl (don't use metal, it reacts with the chemicals in the dye) and use the long handle of the brush to separate my hair into segments. Then I paint the dye on from the roots out. It's pretty easy. More advice here.
posted by hot soup girl at 11:25 PM on March 20, 2006

One of the biggest factors is how much of a change in color you are going for. If you just want to brighten by one or two shades or cover the grays to match the rest, coloring at home is probably fine. If you are going more than 3 shades one way or the other, go to a professional.

I've had my naturally medium brown hair lightened to a platinum blonde (hence the username) for the last four years and I wouldn't dream of trying something like that myself. Not even all colorists can get that drastic a change right, I went through about four to find one that could get it to the shade I wanted and still keep it healthy.

Invisible Ink - Great link, Paula's Choice is a terrific source for skin care, cosmetics, or haircare questions.
posted by platinum at 2:38 PM on March 21, 2006

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