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The 10 Best Box Hair Dyes To Cover Highlights, According To An Expert

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Whether you’re looking for a style change or need to hide unwanted bleaching, covering up your existing highlights yourself can seem a little intimidating. That’s why I reached out to Kerry Yates, trichologist and founder of Colour Collective, to explain how to get great results at home. According to Yates, all the best box hair dyes to cover highlights are formulated to be less damaging and come in a variety of colors. As you shop, you’ll also want to consider how long you want the dye to last.

The Expert

Kerry Yates is a trichologist and founder of Colour Collective, which develops brands across hair care, cosmetics, skin care, and more. Yates has previously done marketing for brands such as Revlon, Christian Dior, and Matrix.

What To Consider When Shopping For Box Hair Dyes

When it comes to picking a hair dye, there are two main types to choose from for covering highlights: permanent and demi-permanent. Permanent hair dyes will last about eight weeks and typically offer better coverage. However, keep in mind that when your roots begin to grow in, there will be a visible line of demarcation where the dye stops and the new growth starts. Demi-permanent colors, on the other hand, last about 28 shampoos, fade gradually over time, and therefore have a more subtle line of demarcation, although the dye won’t wash out entirely.

When choosing a boxed hair dye, “not all box dyes are created equal,” according to Yates, who suggests looking for color kits that are free from PPD (p-phenylenediamine) and resorcinol because they can be irritants to some people and have some undesirable side effects. Other ingredient considerations? Alcohol-free formulations are less drying to your hair, while silicone-free formulas won’t weigh your hair down. In addition, if you’re looking for the least damaging hair dye overall, ammonia-free formulas may be gentler and less irritating — but the color may be less vivid than ammonia-based hair dyes. But while there are some ingredients to be wary of, many formulations feature hair-loving and nourishing ingredients like moisturizing oils and keratin to improve the condition of your hair.

Finally, in terms of the best colors of hair dye to use, Yates suggests staying away from ash shades (because of the potential to make highlights look gray, unless that’s what you’re going for) and sticking with colors that are within a shade of your natural root color.

With these considerations in mind, check out this round-up of highly reviewed box hair dyes to cover highlights, which are all available on Amazon.

1. The Expert’s Pick

Pros:

  • Winner of Allure’s Best Of Beauty award
  • Doesn’t contain PPD, resorcinol, or ammonia
  • Infused with nourishing ingredients

Cons:

  • A pricier option

For a box hair dye that’s free from the most damaging chemicals and common irritants, consider this one recommended by our expert. It doesn’t contain ammonia, PPD, resorcinol, parabens, phthalates, gluten, or titanium dioxide but still provides great results. Plus, it has been dermatologist tested. To nourish and protect your strands, this dye is infused with keratin, argan oil, and ginseng root extract. In addition to an after-color conditioner, this kit comes with a convenient barrier cream (to reduce skin-staining) as well as a protective cap, gloves, and moisturizing shampoo.

Type: Permanent | Colors: 25

One reviewer wrote: “I’m so glad someone recommended this product. Not only does it work well but it’s actually chemical free. So many other hair dye brands have harsh chemicals that I and so many others are allergic to. My hair feels healthy, smells great and actually left me with that fresh-from-the-salon feeling at home. Not to mention I love the shade I picked! I was definitely pleasantly surprised and will be ordering again.”

2. A Budget-Friendly Permanent Box Dye In 30 Colors

Pros:

  • Vegan formula
  • No ammonia
  • Less than $10

Cons:

  • Contains PPD and resorcinol

This popular budget-friendly box hair dye has garnered over 13,000 reviews and is known for its high concentration of moisturizing oils. The permanent formulation is also vegan and doesn’t include any ammonia, silicones, or parabens. It’s available in a wide variety of colors and several reviewers have raved about how much shine the dye has added to their hair.

Type: Permanent | Colors: 30

One reviewer wrote: “This is the best hair color. I get salon quality results at much lower price point. Very easy to use, makes hair look healthy and shiny, does not smell (like the ammonia-based hair color products). I have been using it for many years with success.”

3. A Permanent Hair Dye That’s Alcohol- & Silicone-Free

Pros:

  • Free from alcohol, ammonia, and PPD
  • No silicones
  • Uses a blend of hair-loving ingredients

Cons:

  • Contains resorcinol

This dermatologist-tested box hair dye uses oat milk, soy protein, and argan oil to deeply moisturize and strengthen strands while coloring. The permanent formula doesn’t include any silicones which might weigh hair down and is free from ammonia and alcohol. If your hair is longer than shoulder length, the brand recommends using two boxes for optimal coverage.

Type: Permanent | Colors: 6

One reviewer wrote: “My hair was light brown, chocolate brown, & bleach blonde. My hair was super dry. The hair dye(intense [espresso]) covered it all!! I’m in love with it! & My hair has never felt so healthy and silky in my life! I will be buying this again!”

4. A Semi-Permanent Hair Color Cream

Pros:

  • Made with aloe vera, jojoba oil, and vitamin E
  • No ammonia, PPD, or peroxide

Cons:

  • Contains resorcinol

If you want to lightly cover your highlights, this semi-permanent option lasts up to 12 shampoos and leaves a softer line of demarcation. The formula doesn’t contain any ammonia, PPD, or peroxide and includes moisturizing and repairing ingredients such as aloe vera, jojoba oil, and vitamin E. Choose from nine shades.

Type: Semi-permanent | Colors: 9

One reviewer said: “I don’t want to chemically alter my hair. I have cork screw 3b curls and I don’t want to damage them. This product has been a life saver. I love how long it lasts and how well it fully covers my few greys in the front. It fades very slowly. After a few weeks it fades to a dark/auburn gold brown. Its actually pretty and looks like natural highlights. Then it fades to light brown, then grey again. I was able to get 4 uses out of this. I’m very happy!”

5. This Permanent Dye In 70+ Shades

Pros:

  • Available in 76 colors
  • Infused with biotin

Cons:

If you’re looking for serious coverage of your highlights, this permanent, professional hair color is designed to give you salon-quality color in the comfort of your home — and at a fraction of the price. Simply measure and mix the color with the developer (sold separately) as indicated in the instructions and use the optional “get started kit” to apply to strands. The formula is available in a whopping 76 shades, is infused with biotin, and produces rich coverage that lasts up to eight weeks.

Type: Permanent | Colors: 76

One reviewer said: “I have found that most hair dyes fade after several washings. This dye keeps its color, since it is a double neutral (NN) dye. I appreciate that it comes in many different shades and I have been able to find just the right shade for my hair.”

6. This Permanent Hair Dye With A Huge Following

Pros:

  • Over 23,000 reviews and a 4.6-star overall rating
  • Infused with collagen and a pre-keratine complex
  • No-drip creme formula

Cons:

  • Contains PPD, resorcinol, and ammonia

This box hair dye with a cult-following (over 18,000 five-star reviews and counting) comes in over a dozen shades so you can find the best match to cover your highlights. It features a collagen and keratin-infused formula to provide nourishment to over-processed hair and a no-drip formulation for less mess on the bathroom floor.

Type: Permanent | Colors: 19

One reviewer wrote: “Usually when I bleach my hair I get tired of it easily or just hate it and want to go back to my old color. I used the 5 medium brown and I LOVEEE IT.

7. This Botanical-Based Box Dye

Pros:

  • Herbal-based hair color
  • Gel formula
  • Free from ammonia, resorcinol, and parabens

Cons:

  • Contains PPD

This herbal hair dye uses botanicals, plant extracts, and pigments to provide rich, permanent color. It’s free from ammonia, resorcinol, and parabens and comes in a gel consistency for a no-mess application. In addition, the 26 color options can be combined and mixed together to create your own unique color.

Type: Permanent | Colors: 23

One reviewer wrote: “I've been dying my own hair for over 10 years and I've experimented with many different brands and colors. I wanted to try a more "natural" option since I'd gotten tired of the harsh chemicals. This dye is really gentle and doesn't have the harsh smell that many dyes have. I used shade 4N over my previously bleached and colored magenta hair and got a really nice dark mahogany color. This dye also left my damaged hair in better condition.”

8. A No-Drip, Easy-To-Use Foam Permanent Dye

Pros:

  • Thick, foam formula for ease of application

Cons:

  • Contains resorcinol and ammonia
  • Free from PPD but contains a similar ingredient

This permanent box hair dye uses a foam formula to make it easier to reach and saturate every hair — especially helpful for when you have long strands. There are 15 colors to choose from, and some reviewers love how natural their covered-up highlights look. It doesn’t contain PPD; however, the manufacturer notes that it uses a similar ingredient, so if you have any sensitivities to PPD, they recommend choosing another formulation.

Type: Permanent | Colors: 15

One reviewer wrote: “I was having the hardest time finding a shade of blonde that worked for me after I bleached my dark blonde color to almost white. [...] The color is beautiful, shiny, seems multi-dimensional, and it does look like salon quality, at least to me. It's very natural looking and in some lighting it looks like I've got highlights and lowlights in it as well.”

9. This Budget Box Dye For $3

Pros:

  • Doesn’t contain ammonia
  • Infused with keratin and silk amino acid
  • The most budget-friendly option on the list

Cons:

  • Contains PPD and resorcinol

You can’t get much more affordable than a hair dye for under $5, and this one even includes some nice extras such as nourishing keratin and silk amino acids. Plus, it’s backed up by over 33,000 reviews and an overall 4.5-star rating. The permanent formula comes in 41 shades, and some reviewers appreciate the more mild odor compared to some other dyes.

Type: Permanent | Colors: 41

One reviewer wrote: “This was the perfect shade I needed to cover my brassy highlights. So happy!!”

10. A Permanent Dye That Only Takes 5 Minutes

Pros:

  • Fast processing time
  • Ammonia-free

Cons:

  • Contains PPD and resorcinol

When you need to cover your highlights fast and don’t have much time to spare, this permanent box hair dye with a five-minute processing time fits the bill. Most box hair dyes recommend a 20 to 30-minute processing time, but this powerful formula gets the job done in a fraction of the time. In addition, the after-color conditioner wraps your strands in luxurious moisture so you can spend less time styling and get on with your day.

Type: Permanent | Colors: 5

One reviewer wrote: “I was very skeptical about this product. I did not expect it to work at all, because I've used other brands in the pass and none of those worked. I am still very surprised to see the great result I got in less than 5 minutes considering the low price. Money well spent, Thank you!!!”

More Pro Tips On How To Cover Highlights

When it’s application time, Yates recommends working in small 1/8-inch sections beginning with the roots and then combing down through the ends, and use a light hand along the hairline where the hair tends to be a bit finer. She notes that if you ever need help or have a question, “take advantage of your chosen brand's consumer hotline. A professional colorist usually manages the hotline, and they can guide you through all things color!”

Lastly, if you need something temporary to get you through until you can dye your hair again, Yates suggests using a powder root cover-up such as Madison Reed’s Root Touch-Up + Brow Filler to blend away roots and buy you some extra time.

Expert:

Kerry Yates, trichologist and founder of Colour Collective