How this Salon-Lifer Became a Box-Color Convert - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog


How this Salon-Lifer Became a Box-Color Convert


While I’ve colored my hair since I was 16, it took me until my early 30’s to try boxed hair color. Wondering why I didn’t try it sooner? Well, it all started in Africa. No, wait. It all started as a teen model.

You see, models usually get their hair colored for free. I know, it’s not fair. Like, at all. I’m not even sure why models get it for free, but I assume it’s because they can then say “I colored her hair before this shoot” and point to a photo in a magazine (although I’ve never actually witnessed such an exchange). But I digress.

How this Salon-Lifer Became a Box-Color Convert

So there I am, a newly-scouted 16-year-old model, and my agent at Ford tells me (surprise, surprise) that I need to lighten my hair, like, pronto. As a full-fledged hippie country girl in Canada, I really didn’t know much about makeup or hair coloring, and I basically believed anything that anyone told me. So when my new colorist – Fritz – at Vidal Sassoon told me that I should never use at-home color, and that I could never grow my baby-fine sparse hair long because it would just look oh-so flat, I took  him at his word.

So therein began my love-hate relationship with hair salons, and the time-consuming and expensive ritual that I endured every two or three months. The thing is, they never seemed to get it right. Even at the most posh salons, the color always seemed to fade or go brassy, and the highlights they gave me always seemed to look artificial; a dead-giveaway that my hair color wasn’t my own. And as a girl who’s always coveted the natural look above all others, I found this to be far from ideal.

Fast-forward about 20 different salons in two countries, and fourteen years later, and I’m in Africa for my 30th birthday. I had just colored my hair a week or so prior, with the same highlights and low-lights that probably 90% of NYC-salon-blondes sport. Basically, the only blonde that the salons I’d been going to thought I’d look good in.

How this Salon-Lifer Became a Box-Color Convert

Then something hairmazing (yeah, I just made that word up) happened. The red dirt in Africa actually dyed my hair red. I mean, the perfect golden strawberry blonde shade. And I really (I mean really) loved it. It was me! This was how I was supposed to look! I’m not exactly sure how it happened; my best guess is from the dirt in the air on dusty roads clinging to my porous hair. The color lasted a solid month, during which I took lots of photos to make sure my salon colorist knew what I wanted.

Back in NYC, my colorist couldn’t seem to match the color. It somehow always seemed to come out looking, well, too blonde and too streaky. It just didn’t look natural.

Eventually, I moved uptown, but I was loyal to my downtown colorist. Each visit took about four hours door-to-door; and though I’d work during the visit, taking that much time became harder and harder, and visits became more and more seldom. Finally, I decided to try at-home coloring instead of finding a new uptown colorist (plus, I called around and for full-head highlights, lowlights, cut and blow-dry, salons up here charge between $400 and $600!)

By this point, my roots were about four inches long, and very dark blonde, so I swallowed my fear and went to a drugstore. I picked out a box of at-home hair color and brought it home. I resisted gagging (it smelled awful!) as I tested it on a small section of my hair (to see how the color would turn out), and on my arm (to test for bad reactions). I left it on my roots for about 30 minutes, then put it on the whole length of that section of hair for 10 more minutes.

My eyes stung from the chemicals — without even getting any in them! When I washed it off and blow-dried it, I showed my husband. “Where?” he kept asking. He couldn’t tell which was the section I’d tested the color on. When I looked very carefully, I could see a very slight red tinge, but my roots definitely weren’t lightened. #ug

How this Salon-Lifer Became a Box-Color Convert

Not one to give up, and not one to want to use any more harsh chemicals on my body, I did a bunch of research (#ThankYouGoogle!) and found a natural hair dye brand with good reviews called NATURIGIN (which is made in Denmark). Here are a few more compelling reasons why I chose this brand:

  1. Their hair dye ingredients are 98 % naturally based and contain natural oils and extracts that are certified organic by ECOCERT (which has stricter regulations than USDA organic). The dye also has the lowest level of PPD (a yucky chemical that’s –unfortunately– necessary to make the color stick long-term) on the international market (0.07 %) and all the colors are 100 % free of ammonia and parabens.
  2. NATURIGIN is the winner of the best natural beauty product by Natural Product Awards in the USA in 2014 and 2015.
  3. Their products are NOT tested on animals. As a vegan, only using products that are 100 % cruelty-free is super important to me!
  4. Their packaging is eco-friendly and made from recycled material.
  5. NATURIGIN is based in Denmark, and the motivation to start the company was Mette’s diagnosis with breast cancer. She wanted to make sure that other women had a healthier and cleaner choice of hair colors without dangerous and unhealthy ingredients. Having had cancer myself, I really appreciate this!

I’d found a winner! I immediately bought their golden blonde shade (it’s available on Vitaminshoppe and on Amazon) and tested it on a small section of my roots. It smelled very faintly like the pleasant natural fragrance my aunt wears, which I love. No chemical smells or stinging eyes.

How this Salon-Lifer Became a Box-Color Convert

20 minutes later, it’d done what it was supposed to do: lightened my roots. Halleluyah! So I put the NATURIGIN color all over my head and left it on for 20 minutes, then I added the rest to the length of my hair. I left it for 5 more minutes, then started washing it all off in the shower.

What I was left with was absolutely perfect. It was the exact strawberry blonde shade I had always wanted — and all it took was fifteen bucks and 30 minutes (during which I also meditated, checked email, and made a smoothie). It even gave my hair parts that look like highlights and lowlights (I had been afraid it’d have no depth, but –thankfully– it does!)

How this Salon-Lifer Became a Box-Color Convert

Some people may love the salon experience, but personally, I plan on never setting foot in a salon again. I mean, why would I? Now that I know that box color won’t make my hair fall out or turn green (as Fritz would have wanted me to believe), I’ve saved myself what probably amounts to months of valuable time over my life. #DIY #Excited!

A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.


  1. Thank you so much for a great article, Hilary! We are so happy to hear that you have discovered NATURIGIN and love it! Your hair looks absolutely amazing!

    // Natalie, NATURIGIN

  2. Sara Rypstra

    Before your trip to Africa, your hair color looked pretty much ordinary in comparison to your current. It highlights your natural beauty very well. ^^ I’m thinking seriously to try out Naturigin, although I like my hair as it is now. A little change won’t hurt after all! ^^

  3. I became interested with Naturigin so I did additional research. I just wanted to share this video for women who are like me (finding it hard to do it alone, LOL!)

  4. This is perfect for “vegan” like me! Great discovery!

  5. Francis Woods

    My problem with DIY hair color is that I feel burning sensation on my scalp. Does Naturigin have this issue?

    • It does a little. Definitely not as much as the drugstore brand I tried. It doesn’t hurt my scalp and I have very sensitive skin…

  6. Caroline

    I would like to share how impressed I am with Naturigin. I tried it after reading your article. At first, I thought my DIY hair dye wasn’t successful because my hair was quite dark after application. (I used Light Chocolate Brown.) But after a couple of washes, beautiful chestnut color shined through.

    My hair is noticeably smooth and shiny. Highly recommended!

  7. I love this product. It has become my go-to hair color. It doesn’t damage my hair. It actually leaves it soft, shiny, and healthier-feeling. I naturally have dark blonde hair, and when I use this shade I get a ton of compliments on it.

    • Hi Waleria,

      Thank you for the kind words. That makes me so happy to hear!

      //Natalie, NATURIGIN

  8. Amanda Roberts

    I have been using this color for two years and I absolutely love it!! I receive compliments daily on how vibrant the color is. I don’t know if it is because I have had it this color for so long, but the color lasts nicely for 6-8 weeks and I still get compliments when my roots are showing. I absolutely love this product and my life will be so miserable without it!!! 🙂

  9. Leslie Merkal

    I’ve been using one called Clairol Natural Instincts, which I thought was natural but I just realized isn’t. That said, it doesn’t drip, it’s not messy. It smells nice. The gloves actually fit my hands (I’m a tall girl). It covers my originally dark hair 100%. I know a lot of others claim to cover grey and stuff, but this actually does the job. My color lasts until my next touch up, and because I am greying, that’s about every 2 months. Still, I’ll try Naturigin because if it does just as good a job, I’d rather not be exposed to all those nasty chemicals.

  10. Frances Seifert

    I love how this hair dye made my hair feel afterwards. So soft! but I had to dye it twice to get the color I wanted. My hair only looked like the box color in the sunlight until I dyed it the second time.

  11. Lana Urie

    I have used this product for several years. Since my original hair grows out pretty quick, I use it about every three to four weeks. I get compliments on the color…especially when it is fresh.

  12. Kimberley Foulkes

    This is my favorite hair dye to use on my thick, naturally curly hair. When I use other brands I often have to purchase more than one box but not with this one. I use the shade Medium Intense Blonden and it is extremely long lasting for a bright blonde shade. I only have to touch it up every 4-5 weeks. Overall this is a great product and I will continue to use it.

  13. Evelyn Sandler

    I’ve used L’Oreal colors for years. It’s harsh on the hair, but I had always thought that’s to be expected when adding chemicals to hair. It lasts long enough for what you pay for it, beats $60-$100+ at the salon. Depending on what shampoo I use, it lasts me a good amount of time. I have long hair, so I usually need a bottle and a half, I end up throwing half a bottle of product away because it becomes watery and drips. I’m wondering if I could save a half bottle of Naturigin in between colorings (about a month)? I hadn’t even considered natural non-toxic color before, but I’ll definitely try it now. If we can reduce our exposure to toxins, why not??

  14. Emma Blackwood

    I have really thick hair! So regardless I have to use multiple boxes of hair dye to do the job and even then I don’t get an even hair color. Do you think Naturigin will do a better job?

    • Hi Emma,

      Normally it’s not a problem to cover your hair, even if you have really thick hair! We have had a lot of good experiences with girls with thick hair, colouring it with NATURIGIN and still getting a great result! I will recommend you to use two boxes, but that will also be enough. When I colour my own hair with NATURIGIN, 1 box is more than enough 🙂

      //Natalie, NATURIGIN

  15. Matilda Parker

    I tried this recently after reading this article. I admit love it, but the color didn’t match the box. I expected a darker medium blonde but got a lighter color. But it doesn’t matter cause I adore it lol

  16. Gwen Keaton

    I have a tip to share: After I have covered all new hair / roots, I add some conditioner to the last 1/4 of bottle on lighter hair and ends. It makes the color more consistent throughout my head and makes the bottom of my hair not as dry.

  17. Dorothy Harris

    I’ve been using this hair color for about 5 years, it matches my own color and I don’t have to do touch ups very often. It takes about 25-30 minutes to cover the original color. My hair looks very healthy after using it, soft and manageable.

  18. Teresa Tanner

    I’ve been using this product for years and although my natural color is brown, I use it often enough that my roots don’t get bad and lots of people think I’m a natural blond. I think that says a lot for the product. 🙂

  19. Betty O'Leary

    I used this after a major red-head fail using a competing brand. It covered all of the mistakes and gave me a beautiful vibrant color even over the brown hair that the original dye didn’t color. And turned it into blond. I love this, my hair felt silky smooth after and honestly this stuff smells great!

  20. Suze Whitherman

    My mom is a red head, and I am a blonde. Finding a good color match is hard for me. I’ll try Naturigin! Seems like their system won’t irritate my scalp like the other brands.

  21. We use the same brand! I have naturally brown hair and this is the only color I’ve found that gets me the natural-looking color I want. I’ve tried many other brands colors and none of them worked as well as Naturigin. I’ve been using it for years now and always get compliments on my color. When I tell people I don’t get it professionally done and that I dye it myself, they are always shocked! 😀

    • Hi Anouska,

      Thank you for your kind words! I’m so glad to hear that you love our hair colour!

      //Natalie, NATURIGIN

  22. I’ve been on the hunt for a color that is essentially an “enhancement” of my natural color with more depth and richness. I’ll try this! I usually dye at home… My hair is long and the first application I usually only need to use 1 box. I used all of it but didn’t need to double up. Repeat applications I do myself and it is very time consuming and you just have to figure out what is the best technique for you to apply it to your own hair. It always turns out great on myself. I always try to have someone review the application to see if I missed any spots before I pin it up and let it set. I use Biolage Naturals color protectant shampoo to help keep it from fading. 🙂

  23. The gentleness is the important part to me. Thinning hair is an issue for me. When I use other name brand hair colors or have it done at the salon my hair falls out at an alarming rate. I hope it does not fall out with this product.

  24. Winona Miller

    I normally get my hair professionally done, but after several months of time consuming appointments and scheduling, I decided to just go for the box to delay my imminent appointment. I’m actually very happy with how it turned out and will definitely be coloring at home again — this time with Naturigin! 🙂

  25. Ingrid Winston

    I wanted a product that would last longer on my hair than what I was using (a temporary dye). I’ve tried one other and then this product….and this product is the best by far. The color is perfect, it lasts, and it makes my hair feel great. Much improved over the previous products.

  26. Lauren Gilson

    I’ve been on the hunt for the least drying of all the over the counter hair colors on the market. Is Naturigina color drying? I would assume that because it is not a professional hair color like that in the salon, it can dry your hair out a bit…? I guess it’s best to recondition your hair with oil once per week.

    • Hi Lauren,

      Our hair colours are filled with natural oils, so it won’t dry out your hair. Also, the box contains a colour-lock, which you use in the end, when you are washing out the colour. That really makes your hair soft too.

      //Natalie, NATURIGIN

  27. Ariana Rhyder

    This sounds like an amazing product! I don’t have much experience with hair dying and such, but when I got a bayalage highlight done on my hair and turned out horrific, I used an at-home dye (I can’t remember which one) to dye it back to my normal color. It left my hair softer, smoother, and shinier than before I dyed it! I got compliments on how healthy my hair looked. But if I wanted to change my hair color again, I would definitely use the one you use!

  28. Daisy Clarke

    I couldn’t agree more!! I love DIY haircolor. It’s the opposite of what my stylist told me… It is gentle on my hair, smells good, and does not fade easily. The best part is it’s between 7 and 10 bucks depending on where you go. I usually find the color is true to box picture as well so there are no unpleasant surprises. You’ve definitely sold me on Naturagin though.. I’ll try it next..

  29. Aw! I dye my hair myself too! I’ve used natural hair dye (Henna) before, and it gave great coverage!! No strong ammonia smell left behind. Leaves my hair looking, smelling and feeling great. 🙂

  30. Lucretia Asher

    I can relate! I used to go to the salon to color my hair, but now I just go for cuts and I color myself. So much easier and less expensive. Just wish I’d done it sooner – I’d be tens of thousands of $$ richer now!

  31. Just keep in mind that when coloring, the final result will be the same “tone” as the picture on the side of the box, not the front. This is common with all hair dyes. I use Garnier because the avocado oil that they give you to add to the mixture really keeps your hair from drying out. And the results are on par with anything done in the salon. But now that you’ve made me think about it, Garnier probably isn’t very natural. I’ll try out Naturagin because if it works just as well, I’d rather use it than the chemical drugstore brands’ stuff.

  32. Love the strawberry blonde color on your hair! Sometimes salon treatments can be misleading and it's worth a try to color your own hair. I haven't dyed my hair at all (it's a really dark brown) but maybe I will try more natural highlights eventually…

  33. Randie Cadiogan

    I've definitely had my fair share of box dye disasters. Thankfully since your hair was already light, you were in a great position to use those. However if you have dark hair and you want to go lighter, never try and do it yourself! Trust me, I've had to walk around with flaming orange hair many a time. I agree how exhausting salon visits can be though, I've spent at least 6 hours there once trying to go blonde. Who has time for that?!

  34. Don’t you think you will miss that salon experience? I realize that the savings are tremendous, but I think I would miss the pampering and the lines and the sales pitch…oh, wait, what was the name of that brand again?! (jk) 🙂

  35. Gabrielle Williams

    I've heard some horror stories about using products to color your hair, but it seems that you managed to get it just right. I have never actually changed the color of my hair, in fact, the only time when my hair has ever changed color, was from going on holiday to France, when it was a particularly sunny period.

  36. Courtney Watson

    Luckily you got that mix right. I'm very 'bold' in the way I go with my hair. I go very dark, very light, very everything, but I do it from home. I was lucky enough to have my sister work at a shop where she could buy the product and give it to me to use. It was awesome. And you can go to Sally's and find professional stuff you can buy there too. Brava for giving it a try and kicking butt.

  37. Interesting to hear how doing it yourself can turn out better than the (more expensive) salon alternatives. I've been thinking about cutting my own hair, since I have a really simple style. I have long hair, which spikes up salon prices, but the thought of doing it myself makes me a little nervous. This article was encouraging, maybe I'll give it a try!

    • I’m with you! I feel scared just thinking about HOW “I’m going to do it myself.” But this article is motivating and gives me second thoughts. I might give it a try soon…

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