How to Use Hair Color

A Celebrity Hair Secret

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What You Should Know About Hair Color

Garnier blonde

Celebrities almost always have their hair colored by professional hairstylists. These stylists do not use the type of kits sold in drugstores but use special dyes that they can mix and match themselves to get more specific, custom--tailored results. This is sometimes necessary to get a natural looking result because your natural hair shade often has undertones that will prevent the drugstore color result from looking like it does on the box. However, sometimes celebrities do wear drugstore shades, like when they are endorsing commercial hair colors. For example, Heather Locklear, Milla Jojovich and Beyonce are wearing L'Oreal hair shades in those commercials. But the shades they wore were most likely professional versions of drug store shades, formulated by the same company. And you can bet that they did not apply the color themselves. However, with practice and experimentation you can master the art of getting close to salon-level results at home in some cases. This article will help you decipher which type of hair dying you can do by yourself from which type you should leave to the professionals. The advantage of coloring hair at home is that you can save a ton of money every year, but the disadvantage is that it may be difficult to achieve a flattering result.

When you color treat your hair you can perform strand tests, where you apply color only to a strand that you snip off your hair. This way, you get to preview final results of your color and decide if you want to go through with it, unlike with a perm where you don’t have a clue what the result will be. The most important, first steps when coloring hair are performing an allergy test and a strand test. Do not get so excited that you skip these two steps or you may end up with a head covered with scabs or a color that makes you contemplate calling out of work. First, you must understand that there are several different kinds of hair dyes available in a drug store. There are temporary colors that rinse out during the next shampoo, but they do not make significant differences in dark hair. Semipermanent colors last through four to six shampoos, but they do not lighten hair or make significant changes in color either. You should be forewarned that these products often do not disappear as soon as they claim to. Some people even end up having to grow their ‘semipermanent color’ out. Permanent color remains in the hair, but the roots require retouch every 3 to 6 weeks, depending on the difference between the color you choose and your natural root color (see What about the roots?). This is the only type of hair color that will do a satisfactory job of covering gray. These can lighten hair and make significant changes, but often do not produce satisfactory results. If you are not satisfied with the result you can not get your exact natural hair color back without growing your hair color out, which takes years. This is why for all types of color, one should perform a strand test, according to the package directions. This step is crucial, it shows you what color will end up on your whole head. Don’t skip the strand test because of impatience, to do so may results in tears and the need to plot out how you will be able to hide from the world. It only takes 20 minutes and can save you immense agony.

Using Hair Color If You Wish to Go Blonde

Les Blondsisimes

You can not go blonde with permanent hair color if your hair is dark brown or darker. You must double-process your hair (also called ‘bleaching’). (See “To Bleach or Not to Bleach”). This process consists of bleaching the color out of the hair so it is left a pale lemon yellow to white shade and then toning it down to the desired color with a toner. We recommend only doing this at a salon. Your hair dresser may instead choose to "foil" your hair, where your strands are wrapped in packets of foil, using one or two colors (a darker and lighter shade of blonde gives hair more dimension which makes it look more natural). The foiling will be followed up by a "glaze", which seals in hair color, adds color and toner, and adds shine. Look for a salon that specializes in hair coloring, or "European hair color", as you will want to allign yourself with an expert for these complicated processes. Foiling can be expensive (between $80 to $150 on average for 1 to 2 colors and a glaze). You usually have the foiling done with 1 or 2 colors on the first salon trip (the second color costs extra), followed by a glaze (also extra). The next time you go back in about a month, you will usually have just a root touch up and a glaze treatment which is less expensive. The foiling is done at about every third salon visit. If your hair is medium brown or lighter, you can usually achieve blonde without double processing. If you try a regular blonde dye, but find that it does not ‘lift’ your color to the light level you desire, try a super-lightening one-step blonde shade, such as the shades in the Les Blondisimes collection, by L’Oreal, or those in the Ultra Blonde shade collection, by Clariol. These shades take you to the lightest level of blonding possible in one step, which means that your hair is more toward the medium brown end of the continuum, it may appear yellow (referred to as ‘gold’ in the industry) or orange (referred to as ‘brassy’), especially after fresh color fades or when under fluorescents lights. It may also have a grayish or greenish cast. You can neutralize this, however, if you are willing to experiment with different shades. It may take a few tries to get a satisfying result.

Neutralizing Blonde Color:

If your blonde shade is too yellow (gold) or orange (brassy), look for a blonde shade with the words champagne or ash in the shade name. Try this shade instead next time. Another option is to look for a product known as a "drabber". This can give the hair an “ashier” appearance, thus neutralizing gold tones. Follow instructions carefully to avoid going overboard on the “ash” which can make hair appear greenish or grayish.

If your blonde shade is too green or grayish, look for a blonde shade with the words golden or warm in the shade name. Try this shade instead next time.

Artec blonde shampoo

Another option for those wanting to neutralize their blonde hair color is to use color enhancing shampoos which help to neutralize brassiness. These shampoos, however, do not make significant differences in the hair color but will help to maintain ashier hair color longer without it fading to brass, thus keeping the color neutralized longer (Revlon or Clairol). Also look for shampoos for color treated hair that deposit a small amount of hair color to counteract brassy tones (usually the one’s formulated for brassy blonde contain small amounts of violet dye).

Another option for those with a medium brown hair color, who seeks a natural-looking blonde shade, is to dye the hair with a ‘dark’ blonde shade. This will ‘lift’ the natural color to a dark blonde which should be free from undesirable tones. You can then use a highlighting kit in a few weeks, and your hair will look even lighter. (See, “If You Wish to Highlight”). The dark blonde shade, or “base”, will then make you look as though you were a natural, dark blonde who had highlights done, and that is a very flattering look.

Any brunette with dark eyebrows who dyes her hair blonde has the option of lightening her eyebrows with a cream bleach, (usually found in the hair depilatory section of a drugstore), such a Jolen. You can then darken your brows to a dark blonde shade using a taupe or blonde eyebrow pencil. Use soft feathery strokes to apply eyebrow color, then brush eyebrows upward to blend. Seal with a brow sealant. This will balance your coloring and make you look more natural. If you leave very dark brown eyebrows alone, you will resemble Madonna during her “Who’s That Girl” stage. Or maybe you want that look. To each, her own.

If you’ve colored your hair yourself and it always seems to turn brassy or yellow quickly, you might want to let a professional take over. It is easier for a professional hair stylist to get your hair color to be that “ideal shade”. Plus a professional hair stylist can add a glossing treatment after the coloring process that helps seal in the hair color for longer- this trick is used by celebrity hairstylists. Sometimes brassiness if caused by dull hair. Try using shine sprays or glossing serums to subtly revive your locks.

Using Hair Color If You Wish To Go Red

Generally, you should dye your hair as close to your natural color as possible. If you do plan to make a drastic change, do not dye your hair red with drug store hair color dye! Go to a hair dresser, unless you want a punk look! It is very hard to get a believable red shade, red dye often looks apple-red, or even purple or pink. If your hair is naturally red and you just want to cover gray, you may be able to get a believable red shade, but always do a strand test first to preview hair color results. If you really want red, but don’t want to pay salon prices, try a hair glaze which falls in the semipermanent family (Glintz by Clairol). This way you can get a subtle hint of red, which is usually more flattering, and turn back if you don’t like it. Hair glazes also make the hair shinier.

Using Hair Color If You Wish to Go Brunette

It is usually painless for brunettes to dye their hair at home. However, do not expect to look perfectly brunette under all kinds of lights. Commonly, hair dyed brunette shades can look purplish or reddish in certain fluorescent lights, but some people like this look. Some shades do not produce this effect and look very natural, however. Whether your hair will take on these tones depends on your natural color and what shade you pick. A good rule of thumb is to not use shades darker that medium brown, even if your hair is naturally dark brown. Shades darker than medium brown often appear very black with odd color tones (like red and purple). If you want to dye your hair black use a dark brown dye for the most natural effect and less purple and reddish tones than a pure black color would produce.

Using Hair Color If You Wish to Highlight

Hair highlights

This is also an easy one. Get your highlighting, frosting, foiling, or any other process that deposits color to only certain areas of you hair done at a salon.. The lightening solution is almost as intense as bleach and can look severe, when done by an amateur. Highlighting done at home can sometimes end up looking like zebra stripes because of the tendency of amateurs to highlight in big chunks. Highlighting done at a salon, by someone who specializes in the process, on the other hand, can look beautiful and very flattering. Salon professionals give you a choice of highlighting shades to use in your hair, unlike at the drug store where you have little choice. They also can create highlighting that is very subtle and that looks natural. It is worth the extra money, since you only need to touch it up every 3 to 6 months. To find a salon professional that specializes in highlighting, consult your phone book and look for this service listed in the salon ad. The exception to this rule is if you want the “big chunky highlight look”. Then you may be okay with a drug store highlighting kit. Another exception is using Color Experte by L’Oreal. This kit, is not necessarily a highlighting kit but the premise is that there is a base tone that you color your hair with first, and then a lighter shade to add a lighter or highlight shade.

What Can I Do to Keep My Hair Color Longer?

To preserver your new hair color even longer use a shampoo designed for color treated hair (such as Colorvive by L’Oreal, this particular one contains UV sunscreen). Another option is to use a color enhancing shampoo (Revlon or Clariol). These shampoos help maintain hair color by depositing a touch of pigment on the hair. They generally are used every other time you shampoo your hair. For example, if you dye your hair golden blonde and it tends to fade to brass quickly, the blonde color enhancing shampoo will deposit some blue and brown pigments on the hair to counteract the orange-like tone.

If your hair color has radically faded and you are due to touch up your roots, touch them up and apply the rest of the hair color to the rest of your hair for a lesser amount of time. The instructions that come with your hair color will tell you how long to keep the solution on this part of the hair. (usually for about 10 minutes). If the rest of the hair does not need to be touched up, however, do not touch it up until necessary, to give your hair a chance to rest.

What about the roots?

How often you touch up your roots is your personal decision, basically you touch them up when they start to bother you. There is a new product by Clairol called Root Touch-Up , which will cover the roots in as little as ten minutes flat. It comes with a special comb that makes the application process very easy. The point to this is that instead of making the ¼ inch parts in the hair and covering every single root area like you do during a normal hair coloring touch up, you instead just cover the roots that show all the time, like in the front and back of your head and down your part.

Or you can just touch them up when they really, really start to bother you. This will depend on what the natural color is and what the dye color is and the difference between the two. If your natural color is very dark and your dye color is very light and you can’t stand the sight of roots, then you may want to touch up your hair as often as every 3 weeks. If your natural hair is very light and your dye color is very light (or dark and dark) then you may want to put it off for a whole 6 weeks. After all, touching up the roots is not the most pleasant experience that there is. It takes a lot of patience, not to mention maneuvering. You must aim to cover all of the roosts without rubbing mixture into the scalp (which will cause irritation). The best method is to divide the hair into sections by parting it, and clip each section out of your way except for the one you will be working on first. Use the tip of the applicator bottle to make ¼ inch parts to squeeze the solution onto, until the entire root area is covered. Be sure to follow the instructions that came with your color exactly, especially concerning times. You will find that it is extremely difficult to do the back of your head yourself. So what is the solution? If you can’t find a friend to do the roots at the aback of your head for you, get a three-way mirror. Or if you have a bathroom with walls on each side of the sink hang mirrors on each wall. You will then be able to color the back of your hair with ease. You will also feel that you have more control styling the back of your hair, so it will be a worthwhile investment. With time you will find the root touch-up process much easier because you will have developed the skill and will have gotten much faster at it.

To Bleach or Not to Bleach

If you have dark brown hair or darker and wish to go blonde, as said before, you cannot achieve a blonde color with permanent dye. Permanent dye is a “one-step” process. It takes only one step (coloring the hair) to achiever the results. Hair as dark as yours requires a “two-step” process to achieve a blonde result. It must first be lightened with strong lightening agents that are found in permanent dyes. This process is sometimes referred to as “bleaching”. Bleaching leaves the hair a very unflattering bright yellow or bright white. The hair must then be toned down to a softer, more natural looking shade. This process is referred to as “toning”.

If you are considering bleaching your hair, you must think very seriously first, because it is a very harsh process which requires intense maintenance and care. Do not bleach your hair yourself with drugstore bleaches and toners! These bleaches are very severe and cause the hair to become brittle and frizzy. As if that’s not bad enough, the toners often look gray, too green, or too brown.

We hope that we have eliminated bleaching your hair yourself as one of your options, because the poor hair color result is just not worth the damage. Salon bleaching is a little less damaging, but still very brutal on the hair, not to mention very costly. You will notice a lot of hair falling out on your clothes and in your brush. You will notice that your hair feels frizzy unless it is constantly moisturized, which closes the door on a few styling options. Your roots will also be obvious because your salon will advise you to only touch them up about every month or so, because the process is so harsh. Because of the contrast between our dark natural color and the bleached hair, the roots will be very obvious before this time. It will cost you a great deal of money to keep touching up your roots and applying toner every month. The toner tends to fade very quickly which will leave your hair a bright yellow or lighter for a week or so. Many clients opt to have toner applied between visits, because of this, which costs extra money. In addition to all this, because the toner is a mixture of may different pigments. It can look green and violet in some fluorescent lighting.

All in all, we feel that bleaching the hair, in both a salon or at home, has more disadvantages than advantages. We feel that those with dark brown hair or darker that really want to be light-haired, should lighten their hair a few shades lighter than their natural color (perhaps to light brown) and then have a salon put highlights in their hair. This will inflict much less stress on the hair and on the wallet. It will also look more flattering and believable with dark eyebrows.

If you are still considering bleaching your hair answer these true or false questions:

  1. T F I do not mind hair that is frizzy, if it is the color I want.

  2. T F I have a lot of time to devote to my hair care regimen.

  3. T F My hair is worth spending a great deal of my money on.

  4. T F I do not mind having dark roots for about one or two weeks a month.

  5. T F I do not mind if my hair takes on odd tones in certain lighting.

If you answered false to any of these decisions you may regret your decision to bleach your hair. Bleached hair takes a long time to grow out, and the part that you will be trying to grow out will be significantly more damaged that the rest of your hair, not to mention the fact that your hair will be severely two-toned for a long time. Bleaching should be a life-long commitment, if you want to avoid having such an awkward hair grow-out stage.

How does Gwen Stefani’s bleached platinum blonde hair look so healthy?

Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani’s hair is bleached platinum blonde, yet it always looks so healthy. Celebrity hairstylist Mark Slicker, who has worked with Amanda Bynes says that Gwen must take very good care of her hair. Bleached hair needs a heavy protein deep conditioning treatment several times a week (the conditioner must have protein in it because protein is removed from the hair during the bleaching process and needs to be replenished). Gwen must also make sure to protect her hair from the sun. You can try one of the hair oils that contain an SPF or you can apply sunscreen to your comb and then run it through your hair if you just have to go out into the sun.

What if I already bleached or colored my hair and want a change?

What if you already colored your hair and want to go back to your natural hair color: Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the awkwardness of growing out your hair color. If you have bleached or colored your hair a light shade, and want to go back to your natural hair color, you can lessen the severe contrast of dark roots in light hair by getting the roots highlighted at a salon, in a shade close to the hair color your are growing out, especially in the front and sides. The hair will blend better. Then when you have cut all the one-tone lightened hair off, you can stop highlighting and let the natural hair color grow in. The highlights will look fine at the bottom of your hair. Do not buy a product that says it can remove hair color thinking you will get your natural color back. You do not get your natural hair color back. What it actually does is bleach the hair, leaving the hair a bright yellow or white.

If you have bleached your hair and would like to go to a one-process darker color, it is a good idea to grow the roots out long enough so that you can snip a lock of hair from the bottom of the back of our head that you will not miss. This lock of hair should have enough natural color at the roots to do a strand test. If you like the new color, then apply it to the root area only! Do not apply the dye on top of hair that has been bleached. You will damage the hair even further! Just be patient and let the bleached hair get long enough to cut it off. You won’t miss it!

It is also a bad idea to dye a one-processed color on top of another one-process color, unless it is in the same color family (blonde, red, brunette). For example, if you dyed your hair black and want to go blonde, you may wind up with green or orange hair, or another strange color, because the black pigments were too heavy to lift. If you cannot wait to grow your black hair out to go blonde, then visit a salon professional. You may have to have your hair “stripped” of the artificial color. Unfortunately, this does not bring you back to your natural color, but to a bright blonde or white, similar to what “bleaching “does to the hair. If you are a natural blonde, this may not be so awkward to grow out. If not, the salon professional may then be able to tone this color down in some way, depending on the makeup of your natural hair pigments. Do not attempt this at home with drug store hair color removers. You will often get a green result.

If you had dyed your hair blonde, it is usually OK to go from dyed blonde hair to other colors, but you should keep in mind that the blonde hair was lightened, and therefore is more porous and will absorb more pigment. Therefore, strand tests are crucial, to be sure you are getting a soft, believable result. It is much harder to go from hair that was dyed a brunette shade to a color in a lighter color family (blonde, red) because of the pigmentation of brunette dye. You should also visit a salon for this, in case your hair will require being stripped to remove some of the dark pigment, and make the hair more receptive to a lighter shade. Remember, switching hair colors is not like changing underwear. There is a lot of risk of “bad color” and potential damage. To be on the safe side, visit a salon and ask if it is advisable.

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