Sep 12, 2011

Answer Bag: Regally blonde

Since I write about beauty on different forums, I get frequent questions about hair salons, hair color, beauty products, etc. I don't think I'm an expert by any means, but I know a lot about the beauty industry, having been in it for almost nine years. Seriously.

So, I got this question from Christine N. regarding her hair color:

"Hey Kirbie!

Found your blog through googling fixes for my horrible hair coloring job...long story short, I have naturally light brown hair, went to a salon in Beverly Hills for "highlights" and ended up an ORANGE, ashy blonde. Although my hair color has improved since then (sunlight, etc), I saw you had a similar situation w/ botched highlights and I was wondering if you had any advice on how to get to a bright, buttery blonde? I'm thinking of going to a salon for a light blonde base color + balayage?

Do you still go to the salon that fixed it for you? Also, do they do balayage there?"

I explained to Christine a few things, after asking her some questions. First off, my hair fiasco she was referring to was this baby, where I went in asking for balayage highlights and received all over red. My situation is different because I'm naturally an ash blonde and Christine a natural brunette, and any time a brunette wants to go lighter, you, well, have to tread lightly (puns!). There is always a chance that if you're going lighter (as a brunette), that your hair will go orange.

Prime example? Katy Perry. She was attempting to go blonde (so she could go pink), but in the process, she had to sit with an orange/red look for awhile because when you lift color from brunette to blonde, it can really damage the hair. Katy had to wait three weeks before taking the next step from red to blonde because if she would have gone straight from dark to light, her hair would have been compromised -- in other words, it would have fallen out. Rita Hazaan in NYC perfected Katy's lavender hue for the MTV Video Music Awards and it was an expedited process, however carefully crafted so that Katy's hair wouldn't fall out.

It's important when you dye your hair, get highlights, etc. that you don't ask for "blonde" highlights unless you're really trying to go blonde. Sometimes you need to emphasize you want some lighter pieces, and the colorist will put in some lighter brunette highlights to help you looked sun-kissed, or else some colorists will hear "blonde" and head right for the bleach and peroxide... your worst nightmare!

I got my hair fixed after "the incident," however, my blonde was always Patty Mayonnaise yellow, never baby or buttery blonde, which bothered me. I was invited to a salon a few months ago that did not just one color of highlight, but four different hues, and they toned my hair as well. I think this was essential because my hair turned out beautifully and not brassy. I was always nervous about toning my hair, because some colorists can end up lifting your natural color (which I was trying to incorporate as a lowlight), but in my case it worked out. You just have to make sure the person knows what they're doing. It's an intuition thing.

I needed to clarify a few things -- did she want her hair to be light blonde, plus blonde balayage highlights? If you want to take your hair from light brown to light blonde + the highlights, that's called double process, which is drastically different than highlights and costs twice as much. Your entire head of hair is lifted to blonde, and then blonde highlights are painted in to create a sun-kissed tone, so you'll end up with an all-over blonde look, similar to Kate Hudson or Gwyneth Paltrow. They are not natural blondes, but more of light brown bases, so they lift their roots to blonde and add highlights to accentuate.

If you just want highlights with your base color, a great example would be Giselle. Her base color is medium to light brown, with highlights balayaged in. Sarah Jessica Parker trademarked this look as well. The key to balayage is that since they're painted in, they look more natural. Jennifer Aniston made this look famous, too.

Unfortunately, I haven't found a place with reasonable balayage prices here in LA. I used to work at Frederic Fekkai and would get my hair done for free -- but highlights there start at $200. I've been getting foils for awhile now, and I'm happy with the result. I see Rae at Byu-Ti in Santa Monica and she's very talented, not only as a colorist, but as a stylist as well. They use great products by Pureology, which are top-of-the-line products from Loreal. She has reasonable prices.

Following up, Christine sent me a photo of Tori Praver's hair to better explain the look she was going for.

Tori's hair, here, appears balayaged. However, if you're a brunette trying to achieve this exactly color, you'd need to double process your hair, starting with an ashier blonde/light brown base and then adding the balayaged highlights after. Most colorists steer away from ash blonde because it can look grey, so don't be alarmed if your base appears darker than you expected -- it will lighten in the sun and with a few washes.

Hope this helps! Send beauty questions and products recs to, or tweet me at @kirbiej

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