Unspoken Rule #25.8 of Being a Girl: Winter is serious, summer is fun. Match your hair color accordingly.
Ever notice how many women color their hair dark as soon as the temperature drops and gradually lighten come May? Even if you don’t acknowledge this long-standing tradition, or are not in fact a woman, long summer nights demand some sort of change. For those of us lacking the genetics that turn hair beach-ready blond after one day outdoors, color is the way to go. By now you’ve graduated beyond the unpredictable plethora of strange colors that can result from box color (or even worse, Sun In) but still crave that summer tint. Need help figuring out what kind of service is for you?
The simplest method to go from drab winter hair to shiny summer locks is to apply single-process color. This simply means one color is applied to the entire head, and any naturally occurring low-lights or highlights may get dyed out along with the rest. Single process is available in a huge array of shades, but consult with a colorist to ensure the shade you want will work with your natural color. For example, it’s not always realistic for someone with raven black hair to achieve strawberry blond in one session.When done properly at a salon, all first-time clients are given a small patch test to ensure there is no reaction to the color.
If you are one of the many whose hair cannot be simply color blond, highlights are the way to achieve sun-kissed hair. Even if you have no desire to be as platinum-blond as a Playboy Bunny, highlights add vibrancy and depth to match the lighter mood of summer. The effect is created by lightening portions of hair using carefully mixed pigments applied over foil. The foil both ensures the hair stays in place while being colored and keeps in heat from the process of lightening the hair.
The goal of highlights is to add richness and variety to the natural color, by either lightening or deepening strands of hair a few shades. Richness and variety of the highlights depends on how close together strands are placed, or what your colorist will call the weave. A tight weave provides more uniform color, while a loose weave is a sure way to re-create those blond streaks you swear you had as kid.
Unlike single-process, highlights can be applied by zone. You can opt for a partial, half, or full head of color. To figure out which of these is best for you, start by picturing a profile view of your head. The top line is your part, and where you would make a ponytail is the crown.
Partial highlights are applied to the very front of the head and the part, essentially framing the face with color. Now imagine a line from the crown of your head down to your chin.
Half-head means all the hair forward of that line will be highlighted. If you were to wear your hair half-up, the roots underneath that line would still be dark. With hair down, there is a contrast between the natural color and the highlighted hair.
A full head means the hair from the nape of the neck forward is highlighted. This provides complete coverage of your head, while maintaining the natural variety of color not available with single-process.
In addition to traditional foil highlights, which do not often reach all the way to the root, many salons offer Balyage. This technique requires the colorist to paint on the pigment free-hand using a special brush or cotton swab, creating a more natural highlighted effect. Skilled colorists can also apply color closer to the scalp with Balyage, which means roots do not grow out in a straight line. This process is considered more artistic by many salon owners and their clients, and definitely requires a professional consultation to be done correctly.
So why get highlights in the first place, and why get them professionally done? If you look closely at a head of hair, it’s never one color – there are several different shades that all center around a palate of colors. Highlights replicate and enhance this occurrence, and the more experienced your colorist, the more natural the look. Consulting with a colorist/stylist before getting highlights is the only way to ensure that your hair is as fabulous as your summer plans. Particularly if those plans include lounging near a large body of water.