Are you in the dark when it comes to the ins and outs of hair color? Whether you know your way around a color wheel or your hair is in its natural state, let some of Chicago's top colorists highlight the best ways to have it made in the shade, from prepping your hair for color to taking care of your brand new hue.
Getting Hair Healthy
It's no secret that healthy hair will look better after receiving color than if your hair is damaged before you start the process. Start babying your locks a few weeks before your color appointment with a clarifying shampoo, deep conditioners, in-salon treatments and perhaps a trim or completely new style.
As John Lorek, master colorist and color educator at the Michael Anthony SalonSpas suggests, "Work with your hairstylist. Your stylist knows your hair the best and will help you decide when it's best to trim or re-shape. I also recommend that you 'detox' your hair at the salon to remove product build-up and chemical residue."
Choosing the Correct Hue for You
Before a color brush should ever come in contact your head, you should have a thorough consultation with your colorist.
"During a color consultation, I'll ask my clients about their lifestyle, whether they're willing to come back regularly to keep up their color, or if they prefer something more low maintenance," says Brigette Sobus-Owca, owner of Salon Soca.
"But I also take into account their skin tone and eye color, as well as likes and dislikes. Even if I think a person would look great as a redhead, if they don't like red, it won't work." She suggests a proper color consultation should take about 10-15 minutes.
A color rule of thumb: If your skin has yellow undertones, try to avoid golden blond hair color. The same goes for skin with pink undertones; a bright red could overwhelm you. Your hair color should complement, not match, your skin tone.
George Zafiris, color director of Charles Ifergan Salons, agrees. "Skin tone is very important. Your hair color and skin tone should not blend into one color. Contrast and luminosity around the face is much more enhancing."
Highlights vs. All-Over Color
When choosing between highlights and all-over color, it's important to consider the up-keep you're willing to maintain, as well as your goal for the end result. If you want subtle brightening that you'll only have to touch up a few times a year, highlights are definitely the way to go.
If you're looking for a more dramatic statement and can commit to a touch-up schedule, you're ready for all-over color. Although, even with all-over color, you can still keep things simple.
"If you want something that looks like you, only better, and something that will be lower maintenance, stay within two shades of your natural color," says Sobus-Owca.
If you're still undecided, Lorek of Michael Anthony explains the difference.
"Highlights will blend, lighten or darken, and add dimension, with little up-keep. If you're covering gray, lightening your hair or adding tone, all-over color is a great way to go."
Alternatives to Coloring
If you're looking for alternatives to dye or enhancements to colored or natural hair, there are several options. First, you can try a toner, which is a color rinse that can add brightness to natural hair and tempers brassiness in colored hair. Glosses, whether used at home or as an in-salon treatment, add luster and seal in color on processed hair. And, you may have heard of henna as a way to color your hair naturally.
"I use henna for clients who are highly allergic to color or are health conscious and worried about chemicals," says Sobus-Owca. "Henna works for covering gray, adding auburn tones or going warmer for any color base."
Now you've got the hair color of your dreams. You might need to make some adjustments elsewhere, such as your eyebrows. All of the colorists we spoke with recommend subtle changes, if any change is made at all, to brows. Stay within one to two shades of your new hair color.
But, where you can and should experiment is makeup colors - your new look may require a makeover. Sobus-Owca will even have her clients try on new cosmetic colors in the salon and will make recommendations.
Caring for Colored Hair
To keep your color from fading and to keep your hair in great shape, you'll want to use products designed to do just that. Lorek suggests always using salon-recommended products.
"Products designed for color-treated hair most often have a complete line, from protection to enhancing. Work with your colorist and always be color safe."
Zafiris of Charles Ifergan also recommends using a color-enhancing shampoo when needed.
All of the products in the world won't keep highlights from growing out or roots from appearing. When you return to the salon is different for every person, but there are some guidelines. Typically, all-over color should be touched-up after four to six weeks, and three to four months for highlights. But, you'll know when it's time to return to the salon without ever looking at a calendar.
As Zafiris says, "When you look in the mirror, and do not like what you see, it's time to get a touch-up."
Lorek says that there is more leeway than ever for color "statements." "When to return for a touch up really varies according to current styles and trends. Re-growth works if you're styled well, and whether your look is carefree and/or confident," he says. The bottom line is to always consult with your colorist and stylist, and you can't possibly make a color faux pas.
As Sobus-Owca contends, "Color is meant to be fun, so experiment with it. People can pull off a lot of different hair colors than they may think."
◊ December 2007
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