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


How this Salon-Lifer Became a Box-Color Convert

How I finally gave in, after 18 years of salon coloring, and tried box hair color for the first time.


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 taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she spends most of her time in France, NYC, London and Switzerland, and travels extensively around the world. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She’s always looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 50 Comments

  1. May Baker

    Having used chemical-laden dyes for years, I was really pleased with this product. The mix came out a bit too liquidy, but it was smooth and easy to apply with no overpowering smell. The color looked just like the box and hasn’t faded much over the past few weeks. My only complaint is that it initially left my hair very dry and brittle.

  2. Camilla Collins

    I took your advice and I dyed my hair with Naturigin 5.3 Dark Blonde. I was currently using a brown L’Oreal shade, but I wanted to lighten up my hair a little as I am planning on going lighter for the summer. The color, as always, was so easy to use and apply and I love that there are no harsh chemicals and no bad smell. It also doesn’t feel irritating on the scalp and it doesn’t contain the masses of chemicals that many other brands contain. My hair lightened a small amount, but not quite as much as the picture showed as my hair was so dark, to begin with. I seriously love this stuff.

  3. Sasha Smith

    ohhhmyygoooddd Hillary, The color looks good on you 🙂 I definitely will be buying this. I’m hoping that it works well for gray coverage. If I wasn’t so tired I would go run over there now and see if they carry it in the store near me. I’ll let you know how it works for me.

  4. 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

  5. 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! ^^

  6. 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!)

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

  8. Francis Woods

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

    • Francis Lockwood

      Burning the scalp? Does this result in dandruff as well? I have friends who use different hair product and experience the same burning sensation as a side effect then afterward have dandruff. 🙁

    • 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…

  9. 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!

  10. 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

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