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More Hair Coloring Tips

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


Mmmmmm........ Is Blonde really the Right Color for me?

1. To Tell the Truth

If you’re a baby boomer (or a tad older), you probably remember the old Clairol advertisements from the 1950s and ’60s, which posed (and answered) the question: “Does she or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.” These ads for hair dye implied that the product was so effective that no one—except your bouffant-prone stylist—could tell that your new color came from a bottle.
Times have changed, and salon chemistry has improved dramatically. Even your hairdresser may not “know for sure” what you’ve done to your hair—and this can cause problems. You must be 100% honest with your stylist about your hair’s history, just as you would inform your personal physician about important medical conditions.

“Previous treatments affect not only the health of your hair, but also how your hair responds to a new process,” write the editors of Latina magazine and Belén Aranda-Alvarado, the publication’s first beauty editor, in Latina Beauty (Hyperion Books, New York). It’s imperative to tell your hairstylist about any chemical treatments you’ve had over the last two years, whether performed in a salon or at home: coloring, bleaching, henna, straightening, relaxing, perming and the like. This is especially true if your hair is long, which means traces of chemicals may remain. Your goal: to prevent any interactions that will damage hair.

2. It’s in the Cards

And while we’re on the subject of full disclosure, make your life easy by keeping accurate records of hair treatments.

In Beautiful Black Hair: Real Solutions to Real Problems, veteran stylist and Clairol Professional color master consultant Shamboosie encourages you to buy a package of index cards (3” x 5”) and a file box. Keep notes on everything hair-related: dates of salon or do-it-yourself treatments; the names of shampoos, conditioners, chemicals and colors you have used; and any changes in your hair-care regimen. Think of it as a “chart”—just like the one maintained in your doctor’s office.

“Be precise,” Shamboosie writes. “The more information you put on each card, the better.”
Be sure to share the information with your stylist, who will appreciate your meticulous attention to detail.

3. Boxing Yourself In

Most of us tend to be bad judges of our natural hair color, and it affects the way we view and select a hair color shade. Sandy St. Roi, senior manager of product evaluation for Clairol, says most of us think our hair is darker than it truly is, according to Dr. Susan Craig Scott, a cosmetic and hair replacement surgeon in New York City, and author of The Hair Bible: The Ultimate Guide to Healthy, Beautiful Hair Forever (Atria Books, New York).

Every box of hair color has a series of “before and after” panels that show how natural hair color will respond to the product. When we choose a brand, we seem to innately guess one shade too dark: for example, dark blonde if we have medium blonde hair, dark brown if we have medium brown hair—a gaffe that will ultimately affect how our hair color turns out.

“Roi suggests thinking of your natural shade as one level lighter than what you think it is and selecting hair color that’s within two shades of your natural level,” Dr. Scott writes. For example, if you’re dark blonde, choose a light blonde shade—but not the lightest shade on the shelf, better still upload your photo and see how you will truly look with that new shade.

4. Hair & Your Heritage

Years ago, women who colored their hair at home were forced to use mass-market brands meant for everyone, regardless of age, race or ethnicity. But manufacturers have developed special lines for women of color, who have drier hair and require more conditioning. Clairol’s Textures & Tones line, for example, contains special conditioners enriched with Brazil nut oil, with 14 shades available—from lightest blonde to silken black. Dark & Lovely’s hair color kits also nourish hair with conditioners and help prevent color from fading too quickly.

“Today’s black woman of the millennium is throwing off the shackles of dowdy conservatism and using color,” writes Alfred Fornay—a former creative director for Revlon, marketing manager for Clairol and the first male beauty editor for Essence magazine—in his book, The African-American Woman’s Guide to Successful Make-up and Skin Care (Amber Books, Phoenix, Arizona). Companies like Dark & Lovely, which cater specifically to women of color, have been joined by mainstream manufacturers, who have created ethnic lines to meet a market niche.

Fornay says his favorite hair colors are the “fabulous berry shades,” from strawberry to plum. He’s also a fan of rich bronzes and browns, with “apricot-cinnamon and chestnut highlights.”

5. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

The chemicals in hair color have come a long way and are much gentler than those on the market even a decade ago. Even so, color-treated hair deserves some Aretha Franklin-style respect and gentle handling, according to Jane Campsie, author of Marie Claire Hair & Makeup (Heart Books, New York):

  • Don’t over-brush hair.
  • Avoid excessive use of the blow dryer, flat iron and other styling aids.
  • Use premium and leave-in conditioners.
  • When shampooing and conditioning, always rinse with cold water. It will help hair lie flat and add shine.

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