After fifteen years of chemical coloring, perming, and straightening, I consider myself fairly weathered in the world of hair treatments. My college roommate went to cosmetology school at the Southern California Paul Mitchell Academy, and I was her model for bright color, bleaching blonde, choppy cuts, and, of course, bangs of all shapes and sizes. While I’ve since sunk into a simple highlight-and-cut-rut, I’ve recently run across some new hair trends that make me miss my days of tress experimentation.
I consulted Jessica Martinez, a stylist at a Northern California hair salon, to get the scoop on these up and coming trends. Can anyone pull them off? Are they really all they’re cracked up to be, or will I be left regretting it faster than that dual-color ’do I tried to sport in college?
Ombre Hair Color
What, you may ask, is ombre hair? It’s a spin-off of last year’s big fashion trend: color slowly fading from dark to light. This year’s take on the trend requires full commitment: taking the fade from roots to tips. There are good ways to sport this look (see: host of Shear Genius, Camila Alves) and not-so-good ways that leave you looking like you’re way overdue for a root touchup. How do we do it the right way?
At the salon: To avoid the grown-out roots look, a hair stylist will artfully weave the color into the hair midway down the strands. Martinez says it shouldn’t take longer than a regular highlight session.
Lasting results: Depending on how far from your normal color you’ve gone, results will pretty much fade as regular hair dye would. “Darker dyes will fade faster on lighter hair, and lighter dyes will hold longer,” says Martinez.
Cost: I called San Francisco, New York, and Denver salons to get an idea of what this look was running for across the nation, and prices ranged from $80 to $180.
Who should try it? This trend doesn’t discriminate. It works on light- or dark-haired types, and looks best on longer hair, which emphasizes the fade of the color.
As a naturally curly girl myself, I yearn to be one of those pop-out-of-the-shower-and-let-my-hair-naturally-dry girls. I’ve given up and given in to strengtheners and long blow dries, but a new onslaught of straightening treatments has me rethinking those salon visits.
At the salon: Japanese straightening, says Martinez, is a chemical process that’s different from traditional straightening treatments in that it’s applied to hair, and then hair is ironed piece by piece to lock in the straightness for good.
Lasting results: The treatment should last about six months, or until roots start growing out.
The cost: This is a whopper. Treatments can run up to $800 and four hours in the salon chair.
Who should try it? “Don’t do it if your hair has already gone through a chemical straightening process, is bleached, or severely damaged,” says Martinez.
Risks: Women have reported hair loss, extreme breakage, and irreparable damage. “Experienced and properly trained stylists will do it right, but it’s hard to tell until you get the treatment done,” says Martinez.
Brazilian Keratin Treatment
According to Brazilianblowout.com, this whole treatment takes less than ninety minutes and will leave you with wash-and-wear hair. So you can do whatever you want—like work out or swim—without having to worry about becoming a frizz ball. The treatment simply washes away over time and hair returns to its natural state.
In the salon: Stylists infuse the hair with chemicals that open up the hair cuticle and push keratin onto the strands, relaxing their texture. The big difference between this and Japanese straightening is that it doesn’t completely straighten the hair, relaxing it instead, softening whatever curl we have. The stylist washes the hair, applies the solution, dries and flat-irons the hair to seal it in, then rinses it out, conditions, and re-blow dries. It takes around two hours.
Lasting results: It should last around three months, depending on how often you wash your hair.
Cost. The multi-step treatment will cost from $150 to $600 depending on the salon and hair type.
Who should try it? If you have wildly textured hair and you’re looking to calm it down a bit, you can try it as a way to simplify your morning routine.
Risks. “There are still risks,” cautions Martinez. “Make sure the formula the stylist uses on your hair does not contain formaldehyde, which is not good for you or your hair.”
Eighties-Inspired Punky Color
Sunny highlights are always an easy, classic look, but recently celebs and runways have been sporting more obvious bolts of color—from hot pink to blue to neon green. Just look at Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Adam Lambert. As these celebs prove, people of all colors and styles can pull of the look.
In the salon: The stylist will pre-lighten the strands you’re planning on dying before coloring it the bright shade. “This allows it to hold and come out the right color,” says Martinez. It will take a bit longer than the usual highlight because of this additional step.
Lasting results: These über-bright dyes don’t last as long as run-of-the-mill color, fading after around six weeks. Avoiding hot water and using color-friendly shampoos and conditioners can help them last a bit longer.
Cost: Equivalent to a highlight, anywhere from $80 to $200.
Risks: If hair isn’t properly lightened before applying the bright colors, you’re not going to end up with the intended shade. “You’re mixing the dye color with whatever your underlying color is,” says Martinez. “You’ve got to start with a blank slate.”
Alas, when all is said and done, it’s about finding a style that meshes with our lifestyles and makes us feel good about ourselves. Recently I’ve decided to embrace my hair—curls and all—and life sans straightener is much easier. If a relaxer will let you do that, then these just may be the treatments for you. “Just make sure you find an experienced, well-trained stylist to give you the treatment or color,” says Martinez. “Check their references and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”