The first summer I was working at the salon, I was ready to learn as much as I could about everything 'hair'. I was fresh out of school and didn't yet have my grip on color. (BTW, what they teach you in beauty school basically just touches the surface of what it is like in the real world of hair color!) I was not really busy yet, but I was at work 40 hours a week. I was eager to be available for any call-in/walk-in there could possibly be.
Lucky for me, they came. "They" were every teenage girl, out of school for the summer, that attempted to color, highlight, darken, and essential mess up any natural color their hair had previously been. This, my friends, is what started me to become the colorist I now am. Color correction is a tricky business and it reinforced what I thought I knew about coloring hair and taught me so much more!!
You see, coloring hair isn't as easy as Sarah Jessica Parker makes it sound on the 'Nice and Easy' commercials. Applying a color named 'Beautiful Blond 555' doesn't automatically mean your hair is going to come out beautiful or blond. It might, but it certainly might not!
Don't get me wrong, I am not bagging on the home hair color industry!! They are a multi-million dollar a year industry and they are filling a need for many women and men. However, there are times that you should leave it to the hands of the professionals. Here are a few guidelines as to when and when not to try it at home!
Don't color it at home if:
- you are going for a major change. This is a time that you want to leave it to the professionals. Light hair going dark can easily turn really ashy (a.k.a. green) in a hurry without replacing the pigments that don't exist in light hair. In contrast, dark hair might need the quality of professional products to lighten efficiently. Also, the damage that may be caused by drastic changes can be remedied by your stylist/colorist right in the salon before you leave.
- you want a new hair cut. Your hair color should compliment your hair cut! Precisely placed highlights or a deep rich color can turn a rather ordinary cut into an edgy style!
- you have skin allergies or sensitivity. Your stylist should be knowledgeable about what ingredients are in the hair color they are using and can/should perform a patch test to determine if you will have a reaction to the product.
- you aren't sure what you want. This is where your stylist can be invaluable! They can give you suggestions, tell you what may or may not work with your skin coloring and hair type, and talk you through your decision!
- you need to color your hair more often than you like to go into the salon. I have some clients that are extremely gray, but don't want to show it! For some, visiting the salon for a retouch every 3 weeks or so just isn't in the budget. Some clients touch up 3 weeks after their salon appointment and come to me 3 weeks after that. (Most of my clients book every 6 weeks.)
- you don't drastically change your color often. This way, when you find a shade you like, there isn't a lot of guesswork.
- you know your natural color level. Without getting too complicated, your level is how light or dark your hair is and it is based on a 1-10 scale with 1 being the darkest and 10 being the lightest. Knowing what level you are can help determine what a shade will look like on your hair. Most boxes in the store will have a guide on the label to help you know what to expect with that particular shade on your own hair. For more on levels click here.
- your hair is healthy. If your hair is free of damage and yucky ends, you will get more predictable color results. Porous hair tends to grab onto color and thus create an uneven effect as well as lose the color quicker than healthy hair will. Every artist likes to start with a clean canvas without rips or tears!
Maybe use a semi-permanent formula for starters. They fade over time (in theory!) and can be gentler on the hair due to a lower peroxide developer.
Use permanent formulas for ultimate gray coverage and for the longest lasting results.
There are also temporary rinses that can be fun to play with. They wash out with one shampoo. They can blend gray or just tone over blond for the day. I like to use Fanci full Temporary Color.
I would recommend keeping the label of the color that you use. This way, if you love it, you can repurchase the same color. Also, if you end up needing to go into the salon for a color correction, your stylist can have an idea of what you used and this can help fix or improve upon what you have.