SELF polled everyone from dye-hards to color virgins to uncover the biggest color complaints and found solutions for the top five shade stressors. Brilliant!
56% of those of you who color say, "My hair used to be healthy. Now it's…not."
Heal it at home. Dyeing your 'do can parch hair (like heat styling does), so its bounce and shine can be hard to hold on to. To repair past damage, apply a moisturizing mask such as Aloxxi Colour Rich Treatment Masque, $25, which has shea butter to soften. Another reason to heal pre-coloring: Healthy hair holds dye longer.
Easy does it. For vibrant color that's gentler, hunt down a salon that uses ammonia-free L'Oréal Professionnel INOA. This one-of-a-kind system uses oil to infuse the inner cortex (the center of a strand) with pigment instead of forcing open the protective outer layer—damage alert!—as much as ammonia does. Smart, right? Read More
Let there be dark. Consider going darker, as lowlights deepen color and are less destructive than highlights, which lighten hair. Why? When you highlight, your cuticle is forced open and color is stripped out, leaving strands pitted and shineless. When you darken with lowlights, your cuticle is opened, then coated with pigments that act like glue to help seal dulling gaps. Think of it like lipstick: It doesn't change your lip's color; it simply deposits a new tone on top of your natural hue.
Pamper with protein. If you do go bombshell blonde or lighten several levels (the lighter you go, the more damage you incur), sidestep problems post-appointment with Pureology Perfect4Platinum MiracleFiller, $24, a daily treatment loaded with proteins—the building blocks of hair—to fill in tiny shine-busting potholes that coloring can cause along your strands.
44% of readers who color say, "I don't have two hours to spend in a colorist's chair!"
Prepare your hair. To zip in and out, arrive at the salon with your hair free of tangles and devoid of sticky stylers, dry shampoo and root concealers (those camouflaging hair mascaras), which take time to wash out. Clean strands—meaning, you washed your hair in the past 24 hours—will lengthen the life of your color, because dye molecules won't have to work as hard to penetrate built-up dirt, grease and product to reach your hair shaft, says Kathy Galotti, color director at Rossano Ferretti Hairspa in NYC.
Go halvsies. If you normally get a full head of color, try switching to a half head, and ask your pro to focus only on the sections framing your face and the very top layer of hair, to brighten without the time suck. By weaving in a few highlights around the hairline and top layer, you can be in and out in less than an hour. Yes, please! Read More
Multitask. When getting roots retouched, ask your colorist if she can refresh the rest of your hair with a glaze now while your root color develops, versus later, at the sink, when most stylists apply it. Then, instead of reading the latest celebrity gossip for the umpteenth time, hit the front desk to pay your bill, stuff tip envelopes and schedule your next appointment to save 15 to 20 minutes. Now you can be ready to bolt out the door as soon as you're blow-dried.
45% of colorholics want to quit regular visits but feel trapped by telltale roots.
Mix 'n' mingle
To disguise root regrowth, skip allover hues and highlights, and chat with your colorist about a new technique named Flamboyage. It may sound like something RuPaul would do, but in fact it's excellent for phasing out color. In lieu of traditional foils, your colorist uses a sticky strip called flamboyage mèche (which is sort of like a lint roller strip) to grab single strands to dye. Unlike highlights, which create chunkier stripes and obvious roots, this tool helps your pro paint only wispy strands, so you're left with subtle grow-out and pretty color. "Regrowth is practically undetectable, because dye is applied so finely," says Edoardo Paludo, Davines's color ambassador in London.
Fade to black (or brown)
If you've been going lighter for years and want to wean yourself from the chair altogether, ask for a demipermanent dye a shade between your natural and faux colors. Because it slowly fades over six to eight weeks, you get to test-drive a color closer to the shade your mama gave you before committing fully, says David Stanko, a Redken colorist in New York City. (It also helps banish brassiness while you wait for your own color to come in.) Repeat until your light hair grows out. Then you'll be free of foils for good!
49% of color virgins don't love their hue but fear major change.
Your color—in HD! Enhance your true hue without altering it much by using a conditioning mask that deposits color. Choose one close to your natural tone, and, to ensure it looks subtle, dilute the mask with your conditioner and apply it every other week for as long as the instructions advise (half the time if you're a newbie). Use a 50-50 ratio of color conditioner to regular conditioner. For extra softness, slather on a clear color-protecting leave-in conditioner daily.
Get heavyweight hydration. To upgrade your natural color, get an in-salon conditioning treatment like Nigelle (about $70), says Hitomi Ikeda, a colorist at Louis Licari Salon in NYC. The treatment helps reverse damage from the sun and heat styling, a major boon, because healthy hair reflects light—hello, shine!—making your color more vibrant. Treat yourself every five weeks for ever-lustrous, bouncy hair.
MORE FROM SELF: Easy Beauty Routine Tweaks for Major Results
49% of readers who don't color avoid it because it's too pricey.
Color is much more affordable if you extend the time between appointments from six weeks to nine. (You'll whittle your yearly color costs by a third.) If you decide to dye, lock in the lifespan of your new shade by keeping showers lukewarm: Hot water "can swell the cuticle, allowing dye molecules to escape," says Tohmas Elmlund, a colorist at Valery Joseph Salon in NYC.
To avoid the salon even longer, shampoo no more than three times a week, and use a low-lather, color-safe shampoo (like Kérastase Chroma Sensitive Caressing Cleansing Balm, $42). (Test it in your palm to see how much it suds up.) "Too much lather can leach color by rubbing out dye molecules," Elmlund says. Finish with a conditioner (like Nexxus Color Assure Radiant Color Care Conditioner, $15) that has UVA and UVB filters to guard against color-sapping sun for radiance that's priceless.
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