Coloring Your Hair: What to Know
Given that I work at a hair salon, I am no stranger to coloring my hair. Getting to this point took a lot of baby steps, however. I remember the first time I ever got highlights, I followed my stylist around the entire time repeating that I want a “natural” look - a little neurotic, yes. Luckily, we’re friends, so it wasn’t that bad, but I had seen so many failed dye jobs amongst my peers, and I wasn’t about to be another.
Coloring your hair is a leap of faith. You never know for sure how it’s going to turn out, and this is why I 100% recommend getting it done professionally. I started off very subtle, trying out an ombré as my “first”. From there I went very dark, then to a reddish brown, then to a lighter brown, then to blonde, then back to dark, and now back to a dark blond - I’ve been all over the spectrum. My natural color is a very dark brown - though I seem to prefer the blonde. Once you become more comfortable with how your hair turns out, you will be open to trying new, different looks - take me, for example. To help prepare for coloring your hair in the future, here are some tips:
1) Find a stylist you trust. A client/stylist relationship is extremely important and is the foundation to achieving the image you want to bring to life.
2) Communicate your needs. While stylists are arguably magicians, they cannot read your mind. If you want an ashier blonde, you need to specify “ashy blonde”. If you want subtle painting, you need to say balayage, not an ombré. You need to specify which you want. It’s one thing if the stylist is unable to achieve what you asked for, but your failure to convey your wants properly is NOT the stylist’s fault.
3) Know your hair history. When your stylist asks what you have done with your hair, you need to tell her or him everything. Yes, this includes that time your friend decided to dye the underneath of your hair blue, even though your mom told you not to. This also includes the Sun-In you used over spring break. Once any form of color, dye, highlights, etc. touches your hair, it is no longer considered virgin. This is CRUCIAL for your stylist to know, because virgin hair reacts differently to color than previously colored hair does. This could result in damage or discoloration if you fail to fess up to your stylist (again, your fault, not theirs).
4) Go for a natural look. What i mean by this is to pick a shade that is flattering to your skin tone and your face. This can be hard to decide on your own, so this is where your stylist comes in. It’s a good idea to come in with a general idea and then discuss specific shades with your stylist. She or he can show you hair colors that are in the color family you desire, but are more natural to your features. For example, I look better with a more golden blonde, rather than an ashy blonde.
5) You cannot dye your hair light. People have the common misconception that you can dye your hair a lighter color, but when you lighten your hair, you are actually bleaching your hair. This is why you need to get highlights in order to go light, because “dyeing” your hair light, will only budge your base color (the color of the rest of your hair) a shade or two. In other words, you dye your hair dark, and you use foils or painting to lighten your hair.
6) Be willing to spend money. I’m not going to sugarcoat it - coloring your hair is very costly. You have to pay for the initial coloring, then maintenance (unless you want roots - please!!! don’t do this to yourself, it’s very unflattering), and product. This is something to take into consideration before you make the commitment of coloring your hair. Tip: balayage and ombré are much easier and more cost-efficient to maintain than regular coloring and highlighting.
7) Beauty takes time. depending on what you’re doing, hair appointments can be long. When making an appointment, be sure to take into account any extra time you may take. Depending on the length and thickness of your hair, your appointment may take longer/shorter than what was initially anticipated. Different hair types react differently, as well. I happen to know that my hair is VERY picky, and takes much longer to budge (change color) than most, so my stylist and I know that my appointments need more time. To give you an idea, the first time I got my ombré, it took FOUR HOURS. So be sure to eat and do/bring whatever else you may need to in order to be comfortable for the duration.
8) Care for your hair. This refers back to #6, when I mentioned products. When you color your hair, it is more susceptible to damage, and you need to make sure to prevent or lessen that as much as possible. The more you take care of your hair, the less you’ll have to cut off when you have dead ends. Cheap shampoos can quickly strip your hair of its color and cause it to fade, so don’t sell yourself short. Be sure to buy a shampoo that is meant for color-treated hair. Unfortunately, this is a little costly, but it saves you money in the long run, because you won’t have to touch up your hair as frequently (which is a lot more expensive).
9) Please, please, PLEASE do not color your hair from the box. I cannot stress how harmful it is to your hair. It’s full of chemicals, and there is a reason it comes as cheap as it does. It’s also very damaging and leads to more breakage. If you’re really tight for money and can’t afford a salon, try to find people who are in school working toward getting their cosmetology license. They are usually looking for models to practice on (with supervision, of course) and will do it at a discount.
10) Be courteous to your stylist. People greatly underestimate the work that goes into satisfying a client’s needs. While being part-time magicians, they are also scientists. Coloring hair is a science, and they truly do go to school to learn about the foundations of how chemicals react, health concerns, and anything else you really wouldn’t consider when you go in to get your hair done. They had to pass a practical and written exam, so they are qualified and intelligent. They also put up with a lot from people. Make their time as pleasant as you can, because they work extremely hard to make you feel your best. Give deserving tips. most stylists’ pay are based off their tips, so please don’t be selfish when giving your stylist his or her gratuity. If you don’t like your service, kindly tell your stylist or the owner. Also important, if you need to cancel or reschedule, do it as soon as you know. When you book an appointment, you are taking up the stylist’s time and making it so that they cannot accept any other appointments (or means of making money). When you don’t show up for your appointment, you not only waste their time, but you prevent them from the opportunity of servicing another paying client. Also, keep in mind that running late screws up the stylist’s entire schedule. Lastly, remember that every person you talk to throughout the day is also somebody’s sister, brother, daughter, or son. People are people, and deserve to be treated with compassion - no matter what their current role is.
As you have probably inferred, I have a ton respect for stylists. I’ve seen the wonders they perform, as well as the hardships they face. Given that I am a receptionist, I also love pleasant clients - they make my job all the more entertaining. Of course, there are the few bad apples who are the reason for some of the aforementioned points of emphasis. Regardless, these tips have your best interest in mind, so be sure to remember as much as you can before you go to the salon.
Coloring your hair is a great way to add that needed change into your life. I'm one of those people who rarely changes up my hair’s style, so to compensate, I change my color around here and there (usually with the change of the seasons). Be warned that once you start, you will probably get hooked! The feeling of walking out of a salon with a fresh color and blowout is incomparable.
Feel free to ask me all and any questions you may have concerning hair. I have a good share of knowledge, as well as access to many stylists who have been practicing for years.
For those of you who were wondering, I go to Signature Salon and Spa in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. They are ridiculously talented/wonderful people, and I have never once walked out without being 100% satisfied - this includes before working there.