"Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can’t put on make-up, or dress yourself, or do you hair with any sort of fun or joy if you’re doing it from a position of correction."
When it comes to major haircolor overhauls for instance! I know, I know BIG surprise a hairdresser telling you not to color your own hair at home, what bigger exercise in self interest could there possibly be?
Here’s the thing, I am not entirely against it! Ladies and occasional gents wanting to subtly enhance their color while short on time or dollars…proceed. In my opinion cutting or coloring one’s own hair is on par with attempting to give oneself a massage. It’s just not as nice as having someone else do it for you. However, not everyone can justify the expense, and I respect that.
BUT! When the itch for a major change must be scratched, I beg of you to think twice before buying that box off the shelf at the drugstore, fumbling with those clear plastic gloves attached to the inside of the extremely small text covered instruction pamphlet with what appears to be hardened snot. Do you really think that highlight kit you saw on the commercial is going to work for you? Really!?! Highlights are as easy as dipping a comb in some stuff and then running said comb through your hair? Turn up your logic…
Time to get nerdy. For instance, let us dive into the process of going lighter with your haircolor. First thing we need to determine is your starting level. Pro’s use a scale that starts with 1 (black) and ends in 10 (lightest blonde). For our hypothetical scenario, let’s say starting level is 4 (technically medium brown but the average person would call it dark brown). Next we must decide how far up this scale we want to go, let’s say 8 (technically light blonde however most people would view this as dark blonde). So we are looking at 4 levels of lift. Ok, now we can decide whether to use a high lift hair color, or bleach! Well as any pro knows, you can get 4 levels of lift with a high lift tint and 12% hydrogen peroxide (40volume), but barely, so you will definitely need to consider underlying pigment if choosing this option. You see, when you lighten natural hair color, most of the cooler tones are diffused first, leaving visible the red, orange, and yellow hues. Each level has a corresponding “underlying pigment”. For our target level of 8, the underlying pigment is GOLD. Due to skin tone, eye color, clothing palette, and general preferences, most will be unhappy with this much gold, so we will need to choose a color that is OPPOSITE in tone, in order to achieve a more neutral result. So what’s the opposite of gold?? Any art majors in the house? Gold lives somewhere between orange and yellow, so the opposite lives somewhere between blue and violet. Great! Our formula is coming together, so we need to use a level 8 tint with a blue violet base and 12% hydrogen peroxide! This is going to be beautiful! Now just slop this mix all over, wait 45 minutes and viola!!
Not so fast.
You forgot to take heat into consideration. That’s right, body heat. Your hair is connected to your body at the scalp, which is warm, and when you put a bunch of ammonia and peroxide on that skin, it heats up even more in protest. This means that the first inch or so of your hair will lighten faster than the rest, but that area is usually where you put the color FIRST! Oh no. You will either have to adjust your formula and do one half to one shade darker on that fist inch OR you will need to carefully (by yourself) apply from one inch away from scalp first, and THEN go back for the roots.
You forgot to take porosity into consideration. That’s right, the hair towards the ends has been around a lot longer, and is likely more porous than the rest (like a sponge, it soaks things up faster) which means it might slurp up those blue violet tones a little too much and end up looking drab. Maybe you should save those ends for last. But only if they really are porous, because if they aren’t you’ll end up with dark ends. Oh and you’ll want to make sure, whatever you decide, that you get all this business done in under 20 minutes because once you mix the color it immediately starts losing power and if you take much longer than that all bets are off.
Did I mention everything we just went through ONLY applies if the hypothetical hair in question is virgin? Previously colored hair has an entirely different set of rules. This is just one scenario of infinite possibilities. There IS a science to this, I promise. It’s really not as easy as picking up a one size fits all box. Sure you might get lucky. What the hell, it only costs 10 bucks!! It will only set you back 15 times that… per hour… to get it corrected.
Still feeling up for the challenge? She was….
But then decided she didn’t want to be a blonde after all…
The good news is, it can (almost) always be fixed!