My hair journey has been nearly 15 years in the making. I started with trying to convince my mom to let me put “Sun In” to lighten my dark hair. We then progressed to at home box dye and eventually finding a salon school to get my hair colored at a seemingly affordable rate.
All roads led us here.
In the last decade and a half, I’ve learned this. Education is everything. In order to get what you want, you need to be able to understand how chemicals work, how your hair naturally lifts, and what to specifically look for in a colorist.
Since you don’t have all the time in the world, I did the work for you. Read on.
At the end of the day, coloring your hair can potentially damage your hair and your wallet. The last thing either of us want is for you to muster the 3 hours & $300 dollars and hate your hair.
Here’s how we avoid that.
Raise your right hand and repeat after me: I will not get balayage.
But wait, Sabrina, I love the way balayage looks! The Pinterest pictures are so pretty!
My sweet girl, I know they are – but we are opening up room for error when we ask for Balayage. It’s not that balayage doesn’t look good – when done properly it can look amazing the problem is that it’s harder to do perfectly, and we’re trying to minimize error here.
I have an entire post explaining why that you should 1000% read. It’s called The Problem with Balayage.
TL;DR – Balayage is not a color, it’s a technique. It’s a process that allows your colorist a freehand option to place the bleach and color where they *think* your hair would look best. It’s less precise, and it’s likely to be more chunky because they aren’t using a rat tail comb to evenly divide the strands.
Related: What Is Balayage? Read This Before You Go To The Salon
What To Ask For
- Full highlights. This means you want foils folded into your hair, full on baked potato style.
- Baby or Micro-highlights. You want to explain to your colorist that you want the smallest highlights ever seen. Extremely small and evenly placed.
- A root smudge. I swear this is the key to my hair growing well. I only get my hair highlighted twice a year and it grows out beautifully in those 6 months because the placement is so precise and the root smudge allows my natural color to come in without disturbing placement of the highlights.
- Bonus points for teasy lights. One thing that my colorist Lauren at Ritual the Salon in Alpharetta, GA does is that she teases my hair before she applies the bleach that lifts the color.
All salon color formulas are custom. I know that’s an annoying answer, but they are. What your colorist applies to your hair reflects your current hair color, texture, and state. Even if I gave you the exact formula that my colorist uses, it would be useless to you.
Custom colors aren’t like a box in the store. I could tell you that we do “mushroom brown” hair but it likely won’t be that helpful because there’s not a universal chart that your colorist can pick from and say “great! I know exactly what that is” You have to take inspiration pictures and explain *exactly* what you like about the hair color. More on inspiration images at the end of the post.
Here’s what you need to know. Dark brown hair will naturally lift orange. It just will. A good colorist will be able to combat that natural lift with the right chemical formula to get your hair to the shade you want. My highlights are colored in cool tones on the ashy side.
Maintenance is key here. I like to say that my hair color only lasts about 10 washes, which is about 6-8 weeks. This also depends on how long I spend in the sun, heat tools used, and other environmental factors. This is why toners in between color sessions are so important to keep your hair color looking fresh.
In case it helps, my colorist tones at a level 6. Everyone’s hair is different depending on how light the stylist needs to get your hair there, but Lauren lifts to me an 8/9.
Related: How To Remove Brassy Tones From Brown Hair
Is it expensive to get your hair professionally colored?
Yes, it is. Highlights can run you about $250-$350 depending on your hair state. It’s a long process that will take a couple of hours, but investing in a good salon that can get you what you want with minimal damage is important and worth it in my opinion. Glazes are less expensive and usually about $45-$65 a session.
How often do you color your hair?
I get my hair highlighted twice a year and get glazes every 6-8 weeks to keep my hair color fresh.
Does your hair get damaged when you color it?
Damage is inevitable when you do anything to your hair, including heat style, but if you go to a good salon and explain your concerns they will be able to help recommend products to you to help you keep your hair healthy. Highlights also help because you aren’t coloring your whole head.
Isn’t bleach bad for your hair?
This is the biggest lie we were told growing up. Bleach isn’t the devil. It’s a necessary evil that you need to be comfortable with if you want to get your hair done properly. A good salon will minimize the effects.
What’s the difference between toner and glaze?
Nothing, the words are used interchangeably.
Related: The Ultimate Guide To Adding More Volume In Hair