Gracious NO! They are certainly not the same. And it’s not just the price tag either. The home hair care industry is a beastly opponent, and promotional shows like Project Runway certainly do not help matters. (Love you Tim Gunn!)
Chemically they couldn’t be more different. Ammonia is the component that helps to swell the cuticle of the hair shaft so the artificial color can get in and be deposited. Box color has 20% ammonia. 20%!! The color molecules in box color are manufactured cheaply and are therefore very large, so the hair shaft has to be swelled quite a bit in order for the pigment to get in. Professional hair color has between .78 and 3% ammonia, so because the micro pigments are so much smaller, they only need the cuticle to be open a fraction of the way. The result of a blown open cuticle is of course, damage. The hair shaft does not shrink back down to its original size, so you are left with the scaleys again. With .78% ammonia the cuticle can clamp back down. This is also important for the life of the color. When the cuticle is closed down again, it helps the color stay put. But if the hair is more porous, color fades faster. And don’t even get me started about home bleaching. Mercy!
That’s the chemical reason, so let’s be honest ladies and talk Vanity for a moment- are you always so sure you got all the spots in the back? I have to say in my time as a beauty operator (my favorite stylist term) I haven’t seen many home jobbies that had 100% coverage. And when I say “not many” I mean perhaps two total. Not to mention the artistic dimension that is totally lost with box color. Flat matte tones are so often the result, regardless of the ridiculous assertions made on the boxes and advertisements about “multi-tonal color.” Grandma may swear by her Miss Clairol, but As The Curl Turns swears at Miss Clairol.
p.s.- question for As The Curl Turns? Please post it and I am happy to answer.