Hair Diaries: To all the hair colour virgins around the world
“Don’t even think about it’” is what my mum would say to me every time I mentioned dying my hair. “What if it goes brassy or worst still, green?”
Growing up I’ve witnessed even some of my closest friends encounter hair colouring faux pas: blonde highlights with a green tinge anyone? Or how about an orangey ginger? (Beautiful copper-coloured hair hadn’t been invented at this point). In some respects, my mum was right. Did I actually have any idea how my hair was going to turn out? No. I could ask for highlights and come back with horrorlights for all I knew. This erratic fear stuck with me in my teens and right through my years at University.
Orthodox hair in an unorthordox city
With it’s proximity to London, studying Fashion Journalism in Southampton meant being surrounded by some of the most style-savvy students in the city’s most hipster-prone zones. If you weren’t rocking something retro or on trend, you didn’t exist. Luckily for me I had a thing for Vivienne Westwood handbags, so I was ok in that area.
But whilst everyone around me opted for all sorts of wonderful hair colours like millennial-pink and golden balayages to go along with their undercuts and micro-fringes, I was plodding along with my mid-length, natural brown hair.
The hair colour virgin
I kind of liked my hair though. I always received compliments from people who thought that I had dyed my hair. It almost became a bit of a novelty for me as people just couldn’t believe that at the prime age of 21 I had never coloured it. “Are you sure you haven’t and just forgotten?” No, I really hadn’t. It was my natural colour, but I can see why they would think that as when my hair hit the light it had a chocolatey brown come chestnut ‘sparkle’ to it. I was quite fortunate really. But I suppose it was a bit strange that I had never ever considered dying it. The lighter tones in my natural hair would have been the obvious canvas for something more vibrant. In a social media world where colouring your hair in a salon is just as popular as getting your nails done and going to the gym, I probably was a bit unique.
The universe decided for me
However, no matter how nice everyone else thought my hair was, I always had that nagging feeling at the back of my mind that I was missing out by not experimenting with colour. Was it really going to ruin my precious, brunette locks?
Then something happened. It’s almost as if the universe pulled together to give me the ultimate sign: I got offered a job at Regis as their Social Media Assistant. My days of CV sending and ‘I’m-a-graduate-give-me-a-job’ saga had swiftly ended. And better still, now I’ll get to spend all day long looking at beautifully coloured hair – and get paid for it. Things couldn’t be better.
Gathering some pinspiration
Rather unsurprisingly I found myself turning to social media for ideas. You’d think I’d have worn weary of looking at hair all day at work, but no. I’d come home and still be glued to my phone browsing through possible options. I’d be on the couch or in my bedroom catching up with Netflix whilst thinking ‘should I colour it all over or maybe go for a balayage? I couldn’t possibly do highlights – a bit too radical for me. Or should I?’ I’ll admit the nightmares started soon after I started considering colour options more seriously; I even had visions of coming home from the salon and giving my mum a cardiac because she’s so used to my natural, chocolatey brown hair. But I thought to myself maybe, just maybe if I find the right colour for me, it could work.
#balayage vs. #highlights
So I pressed on with my research. The amount of times I searched #balayage and #highlights on Pinterest and Instagram was unimaginable. Despite the hours spent, I cannot stress enough how important it was as it helped me come to the realisation that my hair definitely needed a bit of colour in its life. I was partly scared to dye my hair after everyone had made such a hoo-haa about how lovely my natural colour was, but on the other hand I wanted to do this for myself, not others. The truth was I was bored of my colour and felt the need to brighten things up.
I spent hours (literally) trawling through feeds to find the perfect colour for my skin tone, eyes and as my research discovered, a colour to suit my lifestyle. I had absolutely no idea that choosing a colour meant considering all these different areas. Ok, eyes and skin tone I can understand, but lifestyle?
Speaking with stylist Paolo at my consultation was a really big help (he’s based in the Regis Birmingham salon by the way and is truly a DARLING when it comes to explaining what he probably thought were the basic of things). He explained that considering my lifestyle was one of the most important aspects of choosing a hair colour and colouring technique. Why? Because no matter what sort of colour we opt for, there will always be some level of maintenance or upkeep required by me, the salon guest. How much time you can spare to maintain your colour depends on your lifestyle.
And with that I’d like to point out that my lifestyle is a pretty simple one to be honest. I work full time, I come home, eat, watch TV, see the boyfriend, catch up with friends on the weekends (because I have literally zero energy when I get home from work) and browse holiday packages online during my lunchbreak and you know, daydream about living the high life in sunny L.A one day. Although it may seem like I have time on my hands to maintain heavily coloured hair, if I were to place myself on the lazy scales, 1 being active and 10 having derriere imprints on the sofa, I’d say I’m about a 6. So, I’m pretty laid-back I guess. It’ll take a lot of convincing to get me to change my simple wash and go hair routine. But I knew deep down that with a great hair colour comes great responsibility – cringe I know but I just had to get that phrase in somewhere!
Although browsing feed after feed did leave me largely spoilt for choice, I picked out a handful of hair colours that I found myself referring back to over and over. I screenshotted the images I loved and took them along to my consultation.
Fast forward to today…
I have to say, I absolutely love my final transformation. I got used to it quite quickly and to be honest, I’m finding myself thinking about my next colour already. I’m hooked. I can’t believe that all it took was one sitting for me to fall in love with hair colouring. There are some things I learnt along the way however and I’ve shared these points with you below, for all the hair colour virgins out there who need a little helping hand like I did…
Know your skin tone
As I found out, cool skin tones look best with cool hair colours, while warm skin tones look best with warm hair colours. I wasn’t quite sure which category my skin tone fell under so during the consultation process Paolo informed me I had a yellow-ish tone to my skin, meaning that a warm blonde would suit me best. So, be mindful that when you collect images of celebs with hair you’d like, try and pick celebs with a similar skin tone and eye colour to your own. However, keep in mind that hair colour looks different on everyone. If you’re unsure, don’t worry, that’s exactly what Regis stylists are there to help you with. Copper may look good on your favourite actor, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for your complexion. Which brings me nicely onto my next point…
Research the process
YouTube is your best friend. The amount of hair colouring videos on YouTube is amazing, granted some aren’t the best and I totally wouldn’t recommend dodgy DIY dye jobs that some vloggers have been trying out lately. Bleach + non-expert application = DISASTER. (Trust me, I have friends who live to tell the tale.) However, watching YouTube can give you an idea of the colour application process and possible timings.
Trust the experts
If you’re not the type to sit through a 40 minute vlog about a girl getting her hair dyed and talking about her cats, fashion hauls and boyfriend troubles, then remember you can always sit with your stylist and hear it from the horse’s mouth. Your stylist’s advice is golden. Remember their words wisely and your hair will reap the benefits.
Ok so I’ve got to admit I was shaking in the chair a little. Despite all the calming, lovely things my stylist said to me, I was still nervous. Even though I knew he did this for a living every day and even though he’s been awarded as a Wella Master Colour Expert (the highest hair colouring accolade in the industry), and even though I’ve seen the results on his guests first-hand, I was still nervous! I realised that it’s easy to tell others to not worry, but when it comes to your own hair, it’s a different story. The key is to not over-think it.
I had to remind myself the importance of being realistic as it might not have turned out looking exactly like my favourite Instagram goddess, but to be honest I think my hair came pretty close. Listening to your stylist is the biggest piece of advice I could give. They know hair, they know the process and after your consultation, they should know you too – well as much as they need to anyway. My stylist also advised me that if I wanted to go lighter next time that I could, after all colouring is a gradual process. To achieve a lighter colour in a safe way that is not damaging to your hair, means lightening your hair in stages, resulting in lighter hair after every appointment. I learnt that hair colouring is a process; embrace it, enjoy the journey and the many shades you’ll get to experience along the way.
The magic of balayage
Foils, foils, foils
So, prior to my appointment, I narrowed it down to two potential shades. Medium blonde was the safe option – a natural blend that would ease me into the world of hair colour, but light blonde was vying for my attention, too. So, what’s a girl to do? My stylist Paolo (I feel so boujee saying that!) advised me to “go with the lighter shade as it’s easier to darken hair if you don’t like it than having to lighten a darker colour.” So, I guess that was the answer to that. As always, if you’re unsure, your stylist is there to advise you – so don’t skip the consultation!
Now before I forget, getting your skin test done is just as important as a consultation. This is a vital first step and will protect you against any unexpected allergic reactions to our salon dye. Although uncommon, they do happen so it’s always best to stay safe. The last thing you want is to book your appointment only to find out you’re allergic to salon dye. In fact, it’s so important, that Regis stylists will not dye your hair without it – so it’s a must. During my consultation I was offered a skin test there and then and I just had to let them know if I had any sort of reaction within 48 hours. The skin test and consultation is free at Regis.
When ‘hair colour’ day finally arrived I’m not going to lie, I had sweaty palms and a twitching face. I walked into the salon very nervous but also super excited, anyone would think I was collecting my degree again. My stylist went through again what we chatted about in my consultation to make sure I was happy. This really settled my nerves as it meant they hadn’t forgotten about me and we were both on the same page.
Remember, you might be in the salon chair for a while, which your stylist will warn you about during the consultation. I was in the salon for a grand total of five hours, which consisted of adding fine foils, waiting for the colour to develop, washing, treating and applying toner. But I can assure you the end result was worth it.
I looked at my hair in the mirror with this uncontrollable, beaming smile. I couldn’t stop touching my hair – not only to look through the colour but also how it felt. I was worried I would lose my soft, supple hair but, thanks to the salon’s treatment of L’Oreal’s Smart Bond, my hair looked and felt shiny, glossy and soft. I took my staple selfies and uploaded them to my Instagram story as soon as I left the salon. And that’s so not me. I’m the type to carefully curate and upload my pics according to season, trends and most importantly, mood. But I couldn’t resist on this day – my hair was incredible.
But, it got me thinking, what if I wasn’t 100% pleased with the outcome? I was assured by Paolo that if it’s not what I had expected, i.e. if I had wanted it lighter or darker, to let him know and he would be happy to talk this through. He was so committed to making sure I was happy with the end result and it felt really good to have a stylist look after you in this way, rather than rushing to the next client.
Build trust in your stylist
Having a relationship with your stylist is so important – and based on trust. You trust the stylist and in turn they trust you to tell them if there’s something you’re not happy with. They can be many things, but hairdressers are not mind readers I’m afraid! If you don’t tell them how you feel about your hair, they won’t be able to fix it. But remember, everyone’s hair is different, to the point that even using the same dye on similar coloured hair will result in a different finish. Hair colour also looks different in different lights – for instance my hair looks more golden in natural daylight than it does when I’m in the office. I found this blog post on being colour confident really helpful, if you need some more colour advice. Having the confidence in your colour choice means placing absolute trust in your stylist.
The Morning After
I’m sure I’m not the only one who had to double-take in the mirror the morning after a colour appointment, as I walked past thinking “omg who’s that!?”. My dreamy balayage was all I had been dreaming of for the past few weeks, and now I was at home (my mum didn’t have a cardiac by the way) living the reality. Thinking ahead about hair wash night was a slight worry however, as I had been forewarned by everyone that bleach causes breakage. Was my hair going to snap off? Will my colour begin to look faded already? But I remembered Paolo’s advice: “when you’re ready to wash, avoid hot water and clarifying shampoos that can strip hair colour. Instead, invest in products that care for colour-treated hair.’ I grabbed the bag of goodies for coloured hair that I picked up from the salon (I’ve listed them below by the way) and began life as a balayage babe.
My new salon-quality hair products:-