Want to fix my hair-- unhappy with highlights
March 16, 2013 6:30 PM   Subscribe

I feel like my hairstylist gave me bad advice last week when she told me to continue getting massive quantities of foil highlights. I walked in there wanting to get an all-over base color with just a touch of highlights.

I've been getting my hair highlighted for so long that it's turned into a mass of blonde. The color is no longer right for my skin tone. Now that I'm older (40s), this tone of blonde is really aging me. It tends to get very brassy. Even with lowlights, I hate it. I also do not like my natural color, a mousy, very dark blonde-- it washes me out.

So last week, I went to a new colorist here in DC-- one with outstanding reviews on Yelp. I explained in detail why I'm unhappy with my hair color-- it's wrong for my skin tone-- and told her I wanted to do an all-over base color and add just a touch of highlights. She told me that wouldn't be right for me-- actually what she said was that I don't have enough gray yet to require getting a base color.

She told me she'd correct the errors made by my previous colorist. She proceeded to load my hair with untold numbers of foils-- just exactly what I didn't want! However, because I just do not know much about hair color, I didn't question her-- I assumed that when she was finished, my hair would be a better color for my skin tone.

What I ended up with was a head full of highlights that are almost exactly the same color as before. The roots are gone and there are some nice lowlights, and overall it looks more natural-- I can tell she's an expert at doing highlights-- but it's still a color I don't like for my skin tone. She told me that in future visits, she would "pull through" more lowlights so that eventually I'll have a lot more dimension to my hair.

I don't get it. Did I just get ripped off to the tune of $200, or is this the way to go? Why couldn't she just dye my hair all over with a base color and add in some highlights to complement it? Returning every 6 weeks sounds like an inordinately expensive way to fix this problem. Should I go back to her and request a different procedure? Help.
posted by DianaV to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total)
If it's not what you asked for and you're not happy with it then I wouldn't give her money ever again.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:46 PM on March 16, 2013

You can get allover base color with face-framing highlights no matter how much (or how little) grey you have. That's what I do since I don't care for my natural hair color, and no one has ever suggested an alternative that would be better.

I would find a different salon.
posted by stellaluna at 7:02 PM on March 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

Every six weeks is pretty standard in the industry, so I'm not surprised that this happened to you. Having said that, you're the customer, and if you're not happy, it's her job to either make it right, or lose you as a customer. Regardless of whether or not she thinks her approach is the right one, if you wanted an all over color, that's what she should have done.
posted by carolinecrane at 7:02 PM on March 16, 2013

I guess to clarify my question-- if I were to get a base color over my existing highlights (which are at this point a mass of bleached out highlights covering my entire head) would the base color not turn out well, due to being applied over highlighted hair? It seems that the process she has recommended-- returning every 6 to 8 weeks to pull through more lowlights-- would take a long time for me to eventually be happy with my hair color.
posted by DianaV at 7:33 PM on March 16, 2013

Slapping base color over the whole thing will have variable results depending on the condition of your hair. (Also, you're going to end up with a nasty root line.) Pulling through two shades of low lights is probably the way to go here. It sounds like she didn't pull enough darker tones through for it to really alter the overall color your see.

In the meantime this product may help tone down the blonde.
posted by 26.2 at 7:50 PM on March 16, 2013

My completely unscientific, non-actual-knowledge based understanding of it is that lightening your hair is much more damaging than darkening it. So, all-over color might not be too bad. That being said, when my new, inexperienced stylist overprocessed my highlights, the salon owner did a keratin treatment and had me wait a week before coloring it again. But, yeah, coloring over highlights is totally doable, though I'd definitely have a professional do it. (A new one. Not the first one. Does the salon have an owner that isn't her? Maybe complain to the owner and get a different stylist for free. (But still tip the new stylist. It's not their fault the first one screwed up.))
posted by Weeping_angel at 7:54 PM on March 16, 2013

Taking already fried hair, darkening it, and then lightening the stuff you just darkened will make your hair super-extra crispy fried.

You can ask her to explain more clearly why this is the solution she's recommending and why all-over color and some highlights isn't a good solution for you at this time, and she should be happy to explain. But it's pretty likely the explanation is going to be a slightly more technical version of 'don't want to fry your hair more than necessary.'
posted by jacquilynne at 8:24 PM on March 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

What jacquilynne says is really key. Dyeing bleached hair darker and then rebleaching parts of it is really doubleplusungood (I say this as someone who has done this). Transitioning via lowlights is probably what I would have asked for, after my experience of the other.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:33 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Jacquilynne and 26.2 have it. Dying over bleached hair gives VERY variable results, first of all. Like very. Anywhere from not doing anything whatsoever, to coloring far darker than the intended shade, depending on the porosity of the hair. A stylist is far likelier to do an allover darkening in phases than one go, to get it even. Add the fact that you want highlights on top, and you would be taking bleached hair, dying it a couple times, and then bleaching it AGAIN. It would be completely frying.

Whereas if she, instead, brightens up your existing highlights while adding in some lowlights, it has two benefits:

(1) The highlights only require a little bit of processing to brighten them up - mild damage, verus dying them darker (damaging) and bleaching them out all the way again (ultra ultra damaging), and
(2) Doing the darker color in phases allows the color to sink into the damaged-and-extra-pourus hair strand, so that future color will go over it more evenly. Think of it as putting two coats of paint on a wall, or two coats of semi-sheer nail polish. Bleached out hair is less likely to absorb color well, so the first dose is a filler-dose.

Really the main problem I see here is that she did less lowlights than you wanted and perhaps didn't use enough toner on the highlights to make them not brassy. But I think as a stylist, her goal is to get the result you want ultimately without making you bald, since most customers would be more upset with having half their hair fall out from over-processing than they would be with having to do a couple sessions. It's in her best interests to be conservative.
posted by celtalitha at 8:34 PM on March 16, 2013 [10 favorites]

I would go back and tell her that you want more lowlights now, and toner applied to tone down the lighter ones. She should be able to perform that relatively minor tweak without having your hair fall out.

It sounds like she knows what she's doing, but since you are a new customer, you might need to explain your taste to her.
posted by rpfields at 4:17 AM on March 17, 2013

Also, wanted to chyme in that if she's good and you go as regularly as suggested, she should be able to mostly pick up and highlight the same sections of hair, to prevent the all-over blond. So that's another vote to stick with her a couple more times and see if she can do that. (FYI, my stylist says she can do this about 2.5 mos out, but any longer than that and it's hard to see the pattern.)
posted by mercredi at 6:01 AM on March 17, 2013

All right, thanks, everyone! I know next to nothing about the chemical processes involved in haircoloring, so your advice has been really helpful. I'll stick with her, and ask for more lowlights and toner. My previous stylist really screwed up my hair, so there is a lot of correcting to be done. I wish it could be fixed instantaneously, but that's not realistic, I guess. Thanks!
posted by DianaV at 6:36 PM on March 19, 2013

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