Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Journey Into Gingerhood

I've made a lot of hair mistakes in my life.  I suppose that is what your "youth" is for, making mistakes and learning from them. However, sometimes mistakes aren't viewed as such until well after the fact, like all of these:

School portraits are a great way to capture humiliating trend experiments.

Above are prime examples of: poodle perms (middle right), unfortunate bangs (bottom center), a lack of hairbrushes and love of hairspray (upper right), a run-in with Sun-In (bottom right), and the faded aftermath of a horrible grown-out cut coupled with Manic Panic blue-faded-to-baby-poop-green (bottom left).  My fashion choices clearly leave something to be desired, as well, but hey.  It was the 90s.

As I grew older, I started to take a little more responsibility for the styling and color of my hair, going through various lengths and shades.  I also bought a hairbrush (you're welcome, middle-school self) and educated myself on the art of products and heated tools.

Hot rollers, natural brown color, side-swept bangs.
Dishwater blonde mega-highlight mistake masked by re-growth, hot rollers, and headband.
Ombre hue of dark brown-to-dirty-blonde.  Cut and color by Alex & Jillian of Alfred's Salon.
Natural brown hue closely cropped with side-swept bangs.

However, every "yes!" look was born from the ashes of a horrible 'do decision:

Bangs.  Terrible, blunt bangs.  I must have been watching a lot of Brenda-Walsh-era '90210' at the time.
I thought this color was "blonde"... I also thought these bangs were "cute" and this style "contemporary". 
And yes, that is Sam Well of WHAT WHAT (IN THE BUTT) fame.
Mega-highlights.  Why, Kim, why???
Ducktailed nape hair.  Ducktales, WOOOOooooh!
In my defense, I remember being really pissed when I left the salon and saw the length to which they had chopped it down.  This was the only way to salvage it... flips and headbands.  I think I wore a hat for months just to get to THIS length.  Lesson learned:  never go to a salon IN A MALL.

Needless to say, I've grown to not have any fear of changing up the hairstyle.  The secret to having no fear?  Remembering that HAIR GROWS.  Nothing is permanent.  Don't like your color?  Get another one.  Short hair not working for you?  Wear a hat, a scarf, style it differently, accept your fate as it grows out.  Don't like your bangs?  Pin 'em to the side. 

By trying different hairstyles, with no fear of the consequences because you realize that nothing lasts forever, you learn what works for you and what doesn't.  It helps you to build your self-confidence (because sometimes, honey, that sense of confidence is the only thing that is gonna help you pull off a look).  It helps you to define your personality.  Most importantly, it allows you to indulge that underlying VANITY INSANITY that most people bury deep down inside.

Which leads me to my latest experiment.

Red.  Christina-Hendricks-in-"Mad-Men" red.   Bright red.  Obviously-not-real-but-not-crayola-colored red.

And so, I did it.  I baby-stepped my way at first by going a light auburn, but the color only served to solidify my redheaded restlessness.  I longed for an induction into the Gingerhood.  Since Mother Nature failed in that regard, Jillian and Alex of Alfred's Salon played God for me.

I researched for weeks.  How to care for fake red hair?  What tone would suit me best?  How long will it last and how do I maintain the hue?  What about my ashy brown eyebrows?  They'll be a dead giveaway, for sure!  My browser history was chock full of Google Image searches.  Many shameless selfies had been humorously painted over in Photoshop.  Endless questions of confidence and commitment were asked into the mirror.

After noticing the inch-long roots from my auburn job (funny how those suddenly seem to appear out of nowhere, never having been seen before), I realized that I had to do something.  Either strip my hair into something new or stick with touching-up a color I was already bored with.  I decided to respond to the siren song of the Gingerhood.  I shrugged my shoulders, bookmarked a favorite photo example, and called the salon.

I went red.

It took four hours.  However, a lot of that had to do with the friendship I've created with my two colorists -- lots of chitter chatter and storytelling, which always involves dramatic hand gestures -- and a lot of it also had to do with the fact that I have an insatiable appetite for industry education.  Each step demanded a thorough explanation.  Fortunately for me, both Jillian and Alex are incredibly well-trained and actually enjoy walking you through everything.  Slows you down, sure, but hey, knowledge is power.

Anyhow, to help embolden others who may be bored-but-balking,  I decided to document every step of the process:

1st STEP -- Research how to maintain your look.  Read reviews of products, put that Google site-a-ma-jig to good use.  Peruse other people's blogs, walk through their personal experiences.  Will you be willing to put the required care into the shade and are you willing to pay for the necessary products to help?

2nd STEP -- Go on a photo hunt for a look that embodies the shade you want, but be honest with yourself about how that shade would actually look on YOU.  What is your skin's undertone?  Are you fair or tan?  What colors do you wear regularly?  Will they clash?  Will this shade wash out your skintone or contrast poorly with your natural (or fake-baked) glow?  Ask people's opinions on your color proposal, but never let those opinions sway you towards something you don't otherwise reeeeeeeeeeeeally desire.  I asked a lot of people "should I go blonde or red?" and was amazed at the amount of people who wrinkled their nose at red.  I took their reasons into consideration, but ultimately made my own decision on what I wanted.

3rd STEP -- Find yourself a good salon.  If you're lucky like me and already have an established relationship with a trusted colorist, then hooray.  You've cleared this hurdle.  If you aren't as fortunate as I, then start looking around.  If you're gonna go bold for the first time, don't do it yourself.  Touch-ups?  Sure, go nuts.  But a full-on drastic color change?  Leave it to the pros.

Ask your friends if they have any references, do some Yelp!ing, hell -- even schedule consultations with a few leads.  A reputable salon will give you one for free.  A perfect salon will not only give you a free consultation, but they also won't hesitate to give you honest feedback and guidance towards getting you where you want to be.  Sometimes our starting point is a long ways from where we end up.  You have to be flexible.

4th STEP -- Load up your arsenal.  Colored hair, especially red, fades over time.  The most common culprit?  Shampoo.  Make sure that you stock up on a color-safe shampoo and conditioner and sulfate-free styling products.

My faves?

CLEANSERS:  Gentle Shampoo / Super Rich Conditioner (Bumble & Bumble), as well as Color-Care Shampoo & Conditioner (Biolage Matrix).  Bumble & Bumble also has a new "sulfate-free" shower set called "Color-Minded", which I plan to try once my current bottles are empty.   Once your hair is colored, it's imperative that you wash as little as possible (like, only once or twice a week).  "Gross!" you might be saying.  But it's true.  Nothing fades your color faster than frequent shampooing.  Go ahead and hop in the shower eighteen times a day if you're a germaphobe, but keep your hair dry.  If your roots start to get a little greasy, just hit up some dry shampoo.  Oscar Blandi Pronto Invisible Volumizing Dry Spray works wonders.  If you are washing your hair, make sure to use as cold of water as tolerable.  Hot water is bad for colored hair.  Think of it as "hot water will melt it out, cold water will freeze it in."

STYLING PRODUCTS:   Pre-blow dry, or even as my hair dries naturally, I comb in Sebastian's Potion 9.  Once dry, I comb in some Bumble & Bumble Styling Creme and begin to style with whatever heated tool I choose that day.  Some days, I want to go with beachy waves and I'll grab my ceramic wide-barreled iron.  Other days, I want to look more polished and will hit up my hot rollers.  If you want more info on how to use hot rollers (they scare a lot of people), I'll gladly write another blog as a tutorial.  For all brushing, I use a ball-tipped nylon flat paddle brush.  When the hair gets greasy and I'm going the dry-shampoo route, I use a boar-bristle brush to re-distribute the oil.
Ball-tipped nylon flat paddle brush
Boar bristle brush

5th STEP -- Clear your schedule and buckle yourself into that stylist's chair.  Let them do their magic.

Since I still had my auburn dye job with about an inch of roots, Alex coated my dyed tresses with bleach to lift the color and allow for pore penetration.  She left my roots alone, as they were uncoated and virgin.

I joked that this was the look I was actually going for, that they should leave it as is.  This is the ugly brassy hue my hair takes when bleached.  Note to self:  Do not attempt platinum.  For anyone who's wondering, this is also the scarecrow-like shape my hair naturally takes on if left to its own devices.  Hence, curls every day.  Thank you, hot rollers.
Now that the tresses have been prepped, we tackled the roots with our chosen red dye and allowed them to soak it in prior to pulling the color through the rest of my hair.
The dye.  Alex & Jillian actually spent the night prior to my appointment researching the exact professional formula used by Christina Hendrick's colorist in an effort to obtain the same hue. <slow hand clap>
After the darker, virgin roots had been penetrated, Jillian added dye to my bleached tresses and pulled it through my strands.  I sat like this for about 45 minutes, which was fine.  They had the "Comedy Issue" of Entertainment Weekly on hand.
A few minutes before washing out my dye, Alex added a little color to my eyebrows.  Your brows should always be a shade or two darker than your hair in order to maintain a natural appearance, but my natural color is a mousy, ashy brown.  Gross.
And voila!  A trim by Alex later and a blowout from Jillian, and this little lady is a redhead.

And that, my friends, is the end of the journey.  My initiation in the Gingerhood.  I am a redhead. 

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