YES I Tried L'Oreal's New Pastel Box Color and Here's How It Went

Plot twist: I actually read (and followed!) the directions, but the results were still surprising.
Publish date:
January 15, 2016
L'oreal, DIY hair color, Hair Color, pastel hair

First off, let me say this — if I’m going to insist on having pastel hair, I’m going to use salon products and have them applied by a professional. You don’t have to like my lavender hair, but I’m sure not gonna make it any easier for you to hate on it by letting it get dull and fade.

In fact, I haven’t colored my hair myself since college. Box color isn’t really my thing. I know a lot of you have found the perfect box kit for you, but pastels don’t come in boxes. At least, until now.

But back up. I already mentioned that one of my biggest beauty game changers in 2015 was oVertone Color Depositing Conditioner. It’s truly a lifesaver because you can maintain your color as you wash it and those two things never go hand in hand. I could go six weeks between appointments (not that I ever would) and still have my hair looking fresh from the salon. I’ve also been seeing some strong looks from mixing Manic Panic shades lately. Manic Panic has never been my thing, but you’ve got a guy tempted.

Rambling! What I mean is that I can’t really say that I never fuck with my color on my own anymore. But working with color depositing conditioners, even at their most pigmented and intense, is still a lot different (and safer) than working with box color because you're not using ammonia, peroxide, or alcohol that usually accompany hair dye.

Which is why I knew I was boned when I saw L’Oreal’s new line of pastel box color called “Smoky Pastels.” How rude. They could have started with full intensity colors and worked their way back to pastels so I wouldn’t be having this moral dilemma about using box color again. That didn’t stop me from sending the publicist a belligerent email demanding to know why these had not already hit my mailbox.

She was like “can you chill? They’re not out yet.”

This product had me all types of excited, because it's just another example of how the big guys are not only taking note of what's actually going on in beauty right now, but also catering to it.

It wasn’t long after that the smoky pastel boxes were finally in my greedy hands. By some cruel twist of fate, they were unable to send me my "natural" color, lavender, but were able to send me the other two, Smokey Pink and Smokey Blue.

I was stoked because I am always trying to achieve the perfect pastel pink, but have so far come up short. It was about two weeks until I saw my stylist again, so I weighed my options.

Should I apply the box color right then and hope it faded enough to be colored over again during my appointment in two weeks?

Do I skip it altogether?

Do I bring it into my appointment and have him apply the box color? No, not that. My stylist is cool and down to experiment but I think bringing box color into a salon would be really pressing my luck. My salon is on the fourth floor of a building and were I to be thrown out a window, I probably wouldn’t live.

I tap danced around my dilemma for a few days and finally decided to just take the plunge. I hadn’t worked very hard to maintain the lavender since my last appointment because I was trying to fade it to silver so we could switch the color up entirely. Plus, putting the color on top of a silver base would be a surefire way to get the best results (or at least that’s how I justified it to myself).

The great thing about having lavender hair is that the purple — even if you let the color fade out — tones out any residual yellow tones from the bleaching process, leaving you with perfectly silver hair, which is very hard to achieve by any other means. Sometimes, when I do a full bleach with the intention of switching to a color other than lavender, I’ll still do lavender for the first four weeks in order to ensure that even the slightest hint of yellow from bleaching new growth is toned down to silver by my next appointment. You want silver hair? Go purple first. Remember that for later.

Since it had been so long since I used a box and colored my hair myself, I called a friend to be a second set of eyes and make sure I didn’t screw it up. Then I remembered that I don’t have any friends and just went at it by myself.

I threw on the gloves, mixed the color, inhaled the fumes (which gave me a heavy flashback to coloring my hair in a frat house bathroom) and started in. Working from back to front, I separated my hair into half-inch sections, squirting the color in at the root and pulling it through to the ends, making sure everything was evenly saturated. When my head was evenly covered, I squirted some more all over my hair and worked it in with my fingers. Then I waited.

Plot twist: I actually read (and followed!) the directions, which instructed me to leave the color in for fifteen minutes before rinsing.

I rinsed, conditioned, blow-dried it, and was…well, this was the color.

I wasn’t exactly disappointed, or, maybe I was just a bit. It was pink…ish, but certainly not what was on the box.

See those yellow tones? If this had been marketed as rose gold, I would have been over the moon because that was what it gave me and, in that respect, it was beautiful.

But Smokey Pink it was not.

And the thing was, there was no yellow hanging out in my hair before I put this color on.

Remember how I said lavender can tone your hair to silver? Here is (the best picture of) my hair before, silver with, if anything, just a bit of lavender left over. Where those yellow tones came from is beyond me.

But, like I told Claire after I found her the perfect boxed hair color, you gotta wait and let it fade a little to see the true color. Even when I get colored in a salon, I think the color looks its best after two washes. So I waited.

After a few serious shampoos, the color did lift a bit and become more of a true pastel pink, especially at the ends.

I put up a teeny review on my Instagram right away since I was one of the very first people to use this product, and even my friends who had seen it said that it had faded and looked like more of a pink in the following days, so that was promising.

OMG I never use hashtags that is EMBARRASSING.

The prettiest pink bits started about halfway down the strand, where the hair has been double and triple processed. I try to only lighten my hair four times a year, so the ends are never damaged that badly and the ends are where the real pastel bits show through, as was the case with this. I couldn’t help but notice that there were still some gold tones hanging out near my roots.

The pink wasn’t perfect, but I was satisfied. Would I recommend this? Yes, cautiously, with the understanding that your hair has to be as light as you can get it beforehand, especially if you're doing the pink.

Have you tried L'Oreal's Smokey Pastels? Would you? How do you think mine turned out? What do you use to color your hair at home? Bonus points for selfies in the comments as always.

Tynan is searching for the perfect pink hair color on Twitter @TynanBuck.