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Hair Coloring Tips

Experts offer words of wisdom in the latest collection of beauty books to hit retailers’ shelves.


1. Don’t Try This at Home…

Many women choose to color their hair at home to save money. It’s a viable option—but only if you know exactly what you’re doing.

“I don’t recommend this unless you’ve already had lots of experience with the use of these chemicals and do not have damaged hair,” writes Dr. Susan C. Taylor, a Harvard University-trained dermatologist, in her book, Brown Skin: Dr. Susan Taylor’s Prescription for Flawless Skin, Hair, and Nails (HarperCollins Publishers Inc., New York).

“To avoid damaging your tresses, it’s worth it to see a licensed and experienced hair stylist,” Dr. Taylor advises.

2. Henna Hazards

Henna is a natural vegetable stain that has been used for more than 6,000 years to color hair, but perhaps it’s time to take full advantage of modern technology.

“I love the idea of using a nature-made color on my hair, but I must confess, henna scares me,” writes New York City beauty and health journalist Stephanie Pedersen, author of the K?I?S?S Guide to Beauty (Keep It Simple Series, DK Publishing, Inc., New York). “That’s because, while henna generally produces some shade of red, you won’t know exactly what shade until after you’ve completed the treatment.”

And you’re truly stuck with the color, she warns, because henna cannot be removed or combined with conventional hair color (your hair will turn green or greenish-black and quite possibly break off altogether).

3. Sexy Silver, Gorgeous Gray

Even if you choose to go gracefully gray (or, shall we say, stylishly silver), your color can use a boost to avoid flatness and yellowing.

“Any shade of gray, or any stage of graying, can benefit from the boost of a special color process,” writes former Vogue marketing director Diana Lewis Jewell in Going Gray, Looking Great! (Simon & Schuster, New York).

With salt-and-pepper hair, “the effect will be subtle, emphasizing natural light and shadow,” she notes. With completely white hair, tone will be enhanced and become more dimensional, without adding streaks. And with hair that Jewell describes as “just plain blah,” it will take on a silvery sparkle and be revitalized. Your hairstylist can advise you on specific options that meet your needs.

4. Hair Guacamole

Colored hair can become brittle and damaged if exposed to too much sun—so what do you do when you’re on vacation at some secluded island resort and your hairstylist is a thousand miles away?

Turn to Mother Nature, advises British Hairdresser of the Year and product manufacturer Charles Worthington in The Complete Book of Hairstyling (Firefly Books, Buffalo, New York).
“Mash up an avocado and work it into your hair after shampooing,” he writes. “Leave it on for at least five minutes to let the moisturizing oils penetrate the hair shaft, then rinse it off thoroughly.”

5. Chemistry Set

Never have two chemical processes—such as coloring, perming or relaxing hair—performed at the same time, according to Drs. Fran Cook-Bolden, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University in New York City, and Dr. Jeanine Downie, director of Image Dermatology in Montclair, New Jersey. Together, they have penned Beautiful Skin of Color: A Comprehensive Guide to Asian, Olive and Dark Skin (Regan Books, New York).

Drs. Cook-Bolden and Downie quote New York hairstylist Dale Edgehill on the critical importance of following this advice: “You must wait at least two weeks between each chemical process to avoid breaking or damaging your hair. African-Americans should never use bleach.”  Is a color change really for you?

Regardless of your race or ethnicity, be sure to use a shampoo and conditioner designed for color-treated hair, which provides much-needed moisture.

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