“Not eight thirty-four?”
“No, eight thirteen.”
Our hairstylist was having a conversation with his associate, a professional makeup artist, and I was standing nearby, totally baffled. Although I had been bringing clients to their salon for years, I had never before overheard them having this kind of jargon-filled chat. When I asked what they were talking about they smiled and explained that the stylist — who had experience working with clients in Italy and America — had said that he planned to lighten the client’s hair to light blonde with a subtle ash tone. The makeup artist — who also works with color every day, although primarily on the face and lips — had wondered whether it might not be better to wind up with a gold and copper tone instead, but the stylist, who had more experience, settled the question.
The reason the makeup artist was interested was because he wanted to prepare the tools of his trade for the application of makeup and lipstick, and knowing what final color the client’s hair would be had a significant impact on his choice of tones and colors.
HOW TO PICK THE RIGHT COLOR FOR YOU
As you can imagine, there are many different shades of hair dye and it can be confusing to the inexperienced. Some computer sites and salons allow you to upload a photo and view yourself with the new hair color. This is a very helpful idea, and can allow you to make a good choice from a wide selection of permanent and semi-permanent colors. The former will last for months, the latter for just a few washings. But if you’re trying to cover gray, a permanent product is going to provide the best results.
It’s recommended that only single process transformations be attempted at home. Single process color makes your hair either lighter or darker by applying a single color, and it involves no highlights. Although the results of single process can be good, at times, especially if you change to very light or very dark, it can look more like a wig than natural hair, which has a variety of different shades.
Highlights add a number of lines of lighter color to your base color, and lowlights add lines of darker color, which can improve the dynamic appearance, especially of medium and dark brown hair. Fun fact: many times you can save money by having a top stylist’s assistant do your highlights; in good salons these color artists are highly experienced and work under expert supervision, and the results are typically as good as work by the more senior stylist. These stylists will be happy to help you select the right colors, too.
HOW TO CHOOSE A GOOD SALON
Probably the two most important factors to consider when selecting a salon are the kind of rapport you develop with the hairstylist, and the results of their work.
We chose the salon that we currently use for our clients after visiting and talking with the owner. Although we had previously used another salon, we had been unsatisfied with the results, so at the new salon we asked about prices and got a sense of how busy things were on a weekday afternoon. You can also get an idea of the competence of the hairstylist by viewing his website and seeing what celebrities he has worked with. Our stylist worked with many high-profile people, but that wasn’t the deciding factor; what really clinched it for us was how he interacted in a friendly way with professional clients and talked with them before doing anything to find out exactly what we wanted to accomplish. Then, of course, the results were a key factor in our decision; everyone loved what he and his staff did.
Our stylist has a good sense of humor, always makes clients laugh and feel comfortable, and he tells jokes to make them feel at ease. If you’re not comfortable with your stylist, you will probably not be happy with the salon, so talking and chatting with him and his staff beforehand is a good way to find out if you’re going to work well together.
HOW TO CORRECT HAIR COLORING MISTAKES
Sometimes a mistake will be made and your hair color will look wrong. If you act within the first two to three days, you can sometimes correct the mistake by washing with shampoo and redoing the color process, but you have to act fast because by the third day color becomes fixed into the hair cuticle and cannot be removed.
Let’s say you added too much dark pigment to your hair . . . can you fix that mistake by adding a lighter color on top of it? Unfortunately, the answer is no: a lighter color will not work since colors are additive and the lighter shade will not subtract from the darker; it will actually make the problem worse. Instead, you can purchase a color remover — essentially a bleaching agent, which will remove color and leave your hair looking temporarily horrible. Don’t fret: the next step is to add the color you want for the final correction.
If your mistake was bleaching your hair too much so that you wound up with a strange orange color, further bleaching will tend to damage the hair. If your hair is in this damaged condition, do not attempt additional bleaching, instead apply a dark brown or dark blonde color to remove the unpleasant mistake.
I’ve explained the steps you can take mainly for informational purposes; it is in my opinion a much wiser option to let an experienced hairstylist examine your hair strands to determine if they are damaged and take care of the fix for you.
About the Author
Michael Christian is a former trial attorney and president of Manhattan Makeovers, which conducts research about effective attire for professionals. Writing as William Cane he is the author of eleven books. His firm provides image consultations and makeovers for attorneys from all over the world in their New York and Los Angeles offices. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.