Disclaimer Disclaimer Disclaimer: I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL HAIRSTYLIST/HAIR-COLORIST. Everything in this post is based on my own 10 years of hair-dying experience. DO NOT go directly from this post to the store, do more research if you plan on “professionally” dying your own hair. Be prepared to fuck up. I’m serious. Be prepared for something to go wrong, and you either accept it or head to the salon for a fixin’.
So I was doing something pretty “basic” to my own hair. I say basic because I was not highlighting my entire head, and most of what I was doing was getting covered by hair anyway. A bit of a twist on peek-a-boo highlights. So on the crown of my head, I had created a star shape. Twist it out of the way, and outline the star in pale blonde. (My next step was to dye the whole thing red, I haven’t done it yet.)
But that’s it, just outline the star in foils. Ohohohohohohoooooooo, no, not so simple. Even after watching videos, and reading pages and pages of step by step tutorials, I come to the realization that this is nigh impossible to do on your own head! Holy crap. But I’d already started, so I needed to finish it. I’m just lucky I had picked something that was getting covered up anyway, because if I was trying to actually highlight my hair with foils I would have been in deep shit, and I would have needed to go to a salon to fix it.
DO NOT take the internet’s word for it. They will tell you it is simple enough, but it is NOT. The foils move, if your hair is long enough you’ll have a surprising amount of trouble fitting the rest of it on the foil (which will cause the foil to move), even with mirrors you can’t see the back of your head well enough to do something as simple as an outline.
It took me so long, I ended up taking some foils out before they were finished because even though the ends had not reached the right color, my hair was going to fall out. I know my old box bleach maximum time was something like 90 minutes, but this was 60 minutes and I had left it in longer than that just trying to finish all the foils in the first place. I didn’t even end up getting them right.
It’s not like this is my first foray into “professional” style hair dying. I’ve got a couple of box hair dyes left over for emergency fixes, but for a few years now most of my hair dying has been me at Sally’s, picking out colors and bottles of developer, etc. I’ve even done strange patterns where you follow “Zone 1” “Zone 2″ Zone 3”, and each zone is a different shade. I’m pretty experienced with this (without being an actual hairstylist) because mostly I don’t care what my hair looks like. I have been blessed with a skintone that will accept nearly every shade of hair, and when things get funky looking (I once had a blonde go wrong and left me with bright orange hair and white roots. Yep), I just keep them and say whatever now I look edgy and bad-ass as hell.
SO WITH THAT BEING SAID, here are my friendly tips:
- IF you are going to be attempting highlights (foil or not) skip the bleach. Bleach works fast, it’s easy to screw up, and after you bleach you need a toner on top. Unless you were going for highlights that are yellow… weirdo.
- In place of bleach, pick out a blonde that fits your skintone AS WELL AS fits your current hair (light ash, light golden, light neutral, etc.) You’re going to walk into Sally’s (or your local beauty supply store) and pick out little boxes of color. Some are creme, some are liquid. They will look something like this.
- Part 1: Next grab a bottle of developer. Try to use the same brand as the box of color you picked. They’re made to work with each other, so use the same brand as much as possible. It’s certainly okay to use a different brand if you really want to/need to, but if you can, just don’t even bother. Another note: NEVER NEVER EVER mix two different brands of developer together. I DON’T CARE IF THEY SAY THEY ARE THE SAME VOLUME. You cannot guarantee they are the same formulation, and why bother risking it on your hair? Anyway, developer looks like this.
Part 2: Okay so you see how they say different volumes? That does not refer to how much is inside the bottle. Instead, it means how much color will lift out of your hair, and how quickly. 10 Vol means it will be lifting almost nothing and pretty much just depositing color. Perfect for if you are going darker, nothing else. I’ll give some examples for novice hair dyers.
- Say you are a natural light blonde, and you want some platinum highlights. If you used a 40 Vol developer, you hair will lighten so quickly you might not be done highlighting the rest of your hair! In this example, I would recommend using a 20 or 30 Vol developer. It will lift your hair to your desired level, but slowly enough to let you get through your whole process.
- Say you are a natural medium brunette, and you want some natural looking highlights. If you used a 40 Vol developer, it would get you there quickly, but probably too quickly. At this volume, you risk unknowingly leaving it in your hair too long, and you will be left with strange blonde (if you’re lucky, orange if you’re unlucky) streakiness in your hair instead of nice pretty highlights. In this example, I would recommend using 20 Vol developer and wait wait wait. It is better to use a lower volume and have the process take longer than to use a higher volume and risk ruining your hair so that you need professional fixing. In addition, as a brunette, I wouldn’t recommend using blonde highlights at all. The lightest you should use is a “dark blonde”, otherwise I’d stick with the “2-3 shades lighter” you always hear.
What’s that? Your pretty highlights didn’t turn out how you thought? You’re left with yellow pieces in your hair?
TONER TONER TONER. You can do this one of two ways. First, you can use a demi-permanent blonde in a lighter shade than your highlights because demi-permanents are deposit only. If you use a matching shade or darker, you WILL darken your entire head of hair.
Second, you can use an actual toner. They are boxes just like the professional hair dye ones, only these say TONER on them. This will be best if you’ve tried to go platinum and it didn’t get all the way there. Also, they’re just nice and easy to mix if you want two different toners in your hair. Easy-peasy.
Toning your hair should be fast. I’m talking 5 minutes, 10 absolute maximum. You are risking turning your hair purple or blue or green while you tone if you go any longer than that. This is why when you tone, you typically apply it to your entire head. It’s easy, It’s kind of like shampooing, but in sections. You’d take a large section of hair, quickly plop some toner on it, rub it through to make sure it’s all coated, then move on to the next section. When I tone, at the end, I typically use the left over mixture to massage throughout all my hair, really making sure I am getting everything. I know there’s other toners out there, but Wella toners are probably the most common (outside of using demi-permanent to tone) and that’s all I’ve ever used. Here’s an example.
That’s it! Everything I’ve said also applies to full head applications. Instead of just picking out where you want to highlight, you would apply all over your head, using your normal method (bottle, bowl and brush, whatever). So here’s hoping any of you adventurous types can learn from my mistakes. Good luck, and don’t forget the deep conditioner!