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Ever since my early twenties I’ve been box dying my own hair completely blonde. Naturally my hair is a mousy brown colour that goes blonder if I spend a lot of time in the sun. But I’ve always preferred my hair completely blonde.

Never once, until 2019, did I have my hair dyed professionally. I was always afraid. I’d had bad experiences. I didn’t want the judgement from hairdressers who were horrified by my box dying skills. But, finally, I took the leap.

David Marshall Salon on Fade Street in Dublin kindly invited me to have my hair revamped and restored by them and see what the salon experience had to offer. In this post I’m going to take you through my experience of switching from box hair dye to salon colouring, my thoughts during the process and how I’m feeling about it now.

What I Used to do – Box Dye

Ok, so in the beginning I started with going lighter and lighter with box dyes. I started with a light brown, then a dark blonde and on and on until at one point my hair was nearly completely platinum. Some of the dyes I used were basically just jazzed up bleach. Eventually I got my hair to a colour I liked and then just used the same one all the time – L’Oreal Recital Preference 10.21 Stockholm Lightest Pearl Blonde.

Why Switch to Salon?

So, basically, the process of box dying my own hair was a pain. It took maybe two hours between applying the dye, letting it develop and then washing it out. Then maybe it would be coppery so I’d have to tone it using purple shampoo and conditioner.

Plus, since I travel so much the products I needed wouldn’t always be available. It’s hard to get blonde hair dye in Asia, I even had trouble trying to get the one I needed in New Zealand. Also, the last thing I wanted to do on any trip was spend hours dying my hair. It just felt like a waste of time.

So when Laura from David Marshall contacted me I was, of course, open to the option of change.

The Process and Results

When I first went in to chat to Laura and the professionals at David Marshall they gave me a patch test to make sure that I wasn’t allergic to the dye and that the dye would actually work on my hair. Then Carly, the creative stylist, made a plan for how to get the best results for me/my hair that required the least maintenance.

First Salon Appointment

David Marshall Salon
The David Marshall Salon on Fade Street.

The first appointment is always the longest because they have to deal with everything you’ve done to your hair before with box dyes. My first appointment lasted about 6 hours. I felt bad for Carly having so much work to do. She did back to back traditional highlighting with plenty of toning (€195). They she also used Olaplex (€50) to keep my hair in great condition. Then there was a cut and a blow dry (€72) too.

The service was so good, getting my hair dyed became a relaxing experience. Carly, Laura and the other girls weren’t judgmental and didn’t make me feel bad about my hair. They offered me hot drinks and biscuits. There were even massage chairs at the basins when they were rinsing my hair. It was a bit like a treat or going to the spa, but coming out with incredible hair.

Second Salon Appointment

Massage chairs David Marshall
Enjoying the massage chairs at the rinsing station!

My second appointment was just an Olaplex treatment(€50), quick trim and a wavy blow dry (€72), my roots hadn’t grown in enough for another hair painting session. This was a quicker appointment and it was so lovely to see the girls again.

Third Salon Appointment

My third and final (up to this point) appointment took around 4 hours and Carly did her Hair Painting Service giving me a half head of highlights (€125), choosing which strands and where to paint to blend the dye in with my natural colour as my roots grew out to give it a nice natural look. She also gave me an Olaplex treatment (€50) and another trim and blow dry (€72) to tidy everything up.

Before and After Photos


blonde dyed hair before salon treatment
My hair before any salon treatments. You can see the uneven colour and banding.
Box dye to salon colouring before
Another before shot.

After Treatment 1

blonde box dye hair after first salon treatment
The end result after my first official salon colouring experience.
Blonde hair after first salon treatment
And another one! So much better already.

After Treatment 2

box dye to salon dye after treatment 2 David Marshall
After my Olaplex treatment and wavy blow dry.
box dye to salon dye after treatment 2 David Marshall
Looking healthier already.

After Treatment 3

box dye to salon dye after treatment 3 David Marshall
The final result after my third appointment at the salon. Now I should only need to get my hair done once or twice a year.

Price Comparison Box Dye vs Salon

Ok, so I’ve done the maths and actually, the salon turned out to only marginally more expensive than box dying and when you take into account the overall experience and quality as well as time-saving I reckon the salon is the clear winner. Here are the numbers.

Box dye – I would use 1 or 2 boxes every 6 weeks. So that’s 9 times a year. Let’s say 8, just in case I let it lapse a bit a couple of times. 8×2 = 16 boxes of dye. Each box of dye costs €11-14 depending on where/when I buy it. 14 x 16 = €224 per year, and that’s just on the dye.

The purple shampoo I used to use is the Kerastase Blond Absolu Bain Ultra Violet Shampoo which costs around €20 and the Conditioner is about €25. So say I used about 5 of those a year, that’s €100 for shampoo and €125 for conditioner. I also had to visit the hairdresser for an emergency toning treatment one which cost €60.

So in total, I used to spend about €519 per year dying my hair at home. Plus, on top of that there’s the hours that go into it. If I spend 3hrs per box and use 16boxes that’s 48hrs a year of dying my hair – 2 full days.

Salon – So the very first treatment I had at David Marshall was a total overhaul. I had the Hair Painting Service with Carly on my full head which cost €195 including toner. I also had an Olaplex service No.1 – No.7 (excluding No.3) for €50. Then I had a hair cut for €72. So altogether it took about 6 hours and cost €317.

The second appointment cost €122 and the third appointment cost €247 altogether. So the total was €686 and it took about 12 hours. I shouldn’t need another appointment for 6-12 months.

Of course salon treatments will be more expensive in the beginning because they need to fix whatever previous damage/colouring was done. However, after the first appointment everything should be less expensive and time consuming from then on.

Advantages and Disadvantage of Box Dye

Ok so technically box dying is a bit cheaper and convenient in that you don’t have to leave your house to do it. However, it is time consuming when you add it all up over the year, the results are variable and it’s hard work. Plus you might end up in the salon anyway if it all goes wrong.

Also, it’s not always convenient when you’re traveling. You have to find time to fit it in every 6 weeks, or more if your hair grows quickly and you have very obvious roots.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Salon

David Marshall tea and coffee
It’s all about the salon experience!

The obvious advantage of the salon is the experience. The great customer service, not having to do any of the works, having hours to just relax, being brought lovely teas and coffees and hose glorious massage chairs at David Marshall.

Not only the experience but the RESULTS. My God, I don’t have to worry about my hair looking yellow in photos anymore, I don’t have to feel embarrassed when getting my hair done. I just feel a lot more confident about my hair now.

There’s a sort of insurance policy when it comes to salon service. Things can go wrong with hair dye, no matter who is doing it. However, if anything goes wrong in a salon (not that it’s very likely) they have to fix it for you.

Salon stylists obviously give the best advice. They know what works and what doesn’t and how to keep your hair in the best condition between visits. They’ll give you all the tips and help you choose the style, cut and colour that’s best for you and your lifestyle. Like me and my low maintenance balayage to suit my constant traveling.

The only disadvantages are that it is that bit more expensive and the first appointment can take a long time.

Future Hair Plans

So the plan is to let my roots grow longer and longer and ultimately have a soft balayage effect that blends with my natural colour for a more lived in colour. Ideally I’ll only need to have it touched up once or twice a year. Obviously that will be incredibly handy for me with travelling. We love a low maintenance hair plan! I just need to make sure I treat my hair well in between visits to the salon.

Overall Thoughts and Final Verdict

I cannot overstate how happy I am that I made the switch. Especially with the plan that I made with the wonderful ladies at David Marshall. What better time to be growing out my roots than during a quarantine?! I don’t need to do anything to my hair for months now, which is super convenient and in the future I’ll just need to go in for some highlights/balayage. The last time I was in the salon was over 4 months ago and, honestly, I don’t think I’ll need to visit for at least another few months again.

I no longer need to edit my photos so that my hair doesn’t look so yellow. I don’t have to worry about dying my hair every 6 weeks or so. When I do visit the David Marshall salon I absolutely love my time in with the girls and, of course, the glorious massage chairs. Ultimately, I don’t have to do any of the work and I get much better results, so I’m DELIGHTED. 10/10 would recommend salon colouring.

You can check out the David Marshall website for more info on their services or to book an appointment.

DISCLAIMER – David Marshall provided their services free of charge. However, all thoughts and opinions are, as always, completely my own.

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