How does salon dyeing work?
September 18, 2013 2:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm new to colouring my hair, hence this probably very basic question about how it works and reasonable expectations. Way too much info inside.

Three months ago I went to my usual salon to get my hair dyed for the first time. I wanted my natural colour, just wanted to cover the grey which is starting to show. They did a brilliant job, beautiful colour, perfect match to my natural colour only with no grey, and I was very happy. Nobody else noticed, which was exactly what I wanted. Bonus points for difficulty level: I'm a natural redhead.

Six weeks ago: back to have my roots touched up. The colourist felt that it was better to colour all-over once again, not just the roots. This time the colour ended up being quite a lot darker, almost a brown, without much warmth in my opinion. I was I thought I looked quite pale and washed-out. The colourist was dismissive, saying that otherwise it would fade too much. I thought, hey, she knows better than me, so I said ok, although I was quite taken aback as I when I came in I had raved about how great the colour was and how nobody had commented on it because they couldn't tell the different. This time I got lots of comments about the colour, "Hey, you've dyed your hair!" which was also not what I wanted. Regrowth was obvious this time as it was a different colour to my natural colour.

This morning: Went back again and explained that I had been really happy the first time, not so much the second time. The colourist said she didn't understand it because she had done exactly the same thing both times (this surely can't be true?). She couldn't see a difference between the dyed part and my light roots growing out, probably due to the salon lights as the roots are very noticeable otherwise, to me at least. The colourist made a couple of suggestions about what she would do, though I wouldn't have a clue about how it all works so I just went along with it.

I now have brownish-red hair with red roots, which are very noticeable as they are about an inch long (with that tell-tale straight line on either side of the parting). Surely this isn't normal? Otherwise what's the point in getting roots done? It wasn't as noticeable in the salon, but now in natural light it looks terrible, to me at least.

What should I do? I was so happy the first time, but the next two visits I've come out with what looks like a bad dye job. I'd rather have visible greys thanks! Are my expectations too high? I know that it's not that easy to dye red hair, but they did it perfectly the first time. Now it looks horrible, but when the salon staff say it looks great, what on earth am I mean to do?
posted by rubbish bin night to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
First of all, no, absolutely not, your expectations are not too high. You should be able to trust that the colourist wrote down the exact formulation of dye that they used at the first appointment, and be able to reasonably match to what the ends look like in subsequent appointments (although colour refreshing through the ends is sometimes necessary, especially with dyed red hair, which tends to fade much quicker because of the size of red pigment). Colour refreshing, however, is generally not done by just colouring all over again; typically, the dye is applied to the roots first, left to develop, and then that same colour may be pulled through the ends for the final 5 or 10 minutes, or emulsified with water at the shampoo basin and left for ~5 minutes. Tint cannot lift tint: if dye is applied over previously dyed hair, it will continue to become darker and darker.

My best guess (although it's impossible to say) is that the colourist did not write down what they used in the initial appointment, so the formulation of dye that they used in the second was not the same, hence a darker, less warm tone. It sounds like in the third appointment, she then used either the 1st appt's formulation, or a 3rd formulation, for the roots. In any case, this is shoddy workmanship and they would be pulled up in any salon I've ever worked in.

If you're up for it, I would really recommend going back to the salon, or giving them a ring, and ask to speak to the manager or owner, explaining that you've now had two visits where you were unhappy with the colour, and you'd like them to refund your money (or you could ask them to try and fix it, but from how you've described it, it would be a fairly long, complex colour correction with them stripping the mid-lengths and ends in order to match the roots). If whoever you speak to insists that they cannot see a difference between your root colour and the end colour, I would ask them to go outside with you to look at it in natural light. Salon lighting can make some difference to the visibility of that type of contrast, but my guess is that the colourist and the rest of the salon staff are employing CYA tactics by telling you they cannot see a difference and that it looks great. I would also ask to see your record card where the colour formulation was written down for all of the appointments you've had (there should be notes written for each appointment detailing formulation and application). If they can't produce this, I think that's a telltale sign that the colourist's record of the formulation (or lack thereof) is at fault here.

It will be awkward and stressful, and I imagine they will give you the impression that you're being difficult, but this is not an acceptable standard of work from a colourist, and they need to be aware of that.

If you're not interested in having a colour correction done to try and match up the roots to the ends (and I would not recommend that you see the same colourist for such a procedure), it might be possible to mitigate the contrasty effect by having a few very subtle highlights put through your hair -- these should be in keeping with the overall red tone that you want to maintain, so not blonde or garish, but simply some subtle textural pieces that would help to break up the obvious line between root and mid-length/end. It's up to your discretion whether you would trust the salon to perform even that, but it would be my recommendation if you came in to see me with your current colour issue.

(I'm really sorry you've had this as your first colouring experience; it's so upsetting when it isn't right and you're being fobbed off by the salon. I hope this helps.)
posted by catch as catch can at 3:29 AM on September 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


They only should do roots when you go back after all over color.

All over color is done maybe every 2-3 times, depending on the fade.

I would look for an Aveda salon in your area. (Not the name of salon, but a salon that sells Aveda. You can do a search on the Aveda website to find ones.)

I have gone to two different Aveda salons over the past almost 6 years and the stylists there are very knowledgeable and have done a great job with my color, much better than any other salon I've ever gone to.

One thing I've learned is that an expensive salon is not necessarily a good one. My place now is mid-range, but they do a FANTASTIC job.

I would not go back to the salon you went to, even if it's where you've been going for years. They don't sound like they know what they're doing.
posted by sio42 at 4:32 AM on September 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


It sounds like she's not a very good colorist, nor is she responsive to customers' input. You could try talking with the salon manager, as suggested above, or you could find a new salon with someone who knows what they're doing.

I've been going to the same stylist for years for cuts and color. We discuss what I want from the color each time, it's very collaborative, and she's very responsive when I describe things about the last color I wasn't happy with. (For me, mostly that red tones go orange very quickly on my hair.)

She definitely doesn't do all-over color every time, unless I request a change to a new color. I'd say every 4th time I see her, the color isn't exactly what I'd hoped, but I dye my hair so much, and we experiment a lot, so I can accept that.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:55 AM on September 18, 2013


Huuh? No, not typical. She made a mistake and isn't owning up to it. Get a new colorist.
posted by desuetude at 7:04 AM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Welcome to dyeing your hair!

It is pretty much impossible to have consistently colored hair that always matches your original color and never fades or shows roots or varies in any way from your original color. It is definitely impossible to achieve those results perfectly every single time no matter how intently you stare at your roots in the mirror, mentally comparing them to some platonic ideal of your Real True Hair Color. I mean, it's hair dye, not a miracle.

they are about an inch long (with that tell-tale straight line on either side of the parting). Surely this isn't normal?

If you are going to color your hair with an eye to banishing all grey forever and trick everyone into thinking that you just magically don't have any grey hair without taking any particular action*, you are going to have to color your hair more often than you seem to be doing. On average, hair grows about half an inch a month. If you are getting clearly visible roots of longer than an inch, you are not coloring your hair often enough.

*Also, sorry, but, yeah, people are eventually going to notice that you're coloring your hair, no matter how perfectly it matches your original color. Even if you have the best colorist in the world, eventually you're going to be 60 with the hair of a 25 year old, and people are going to notice.
posted by Sara C. at 3:58 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh forgot to mention.

My stylist will stagger highlights and make them varying shades so that I do not get the straight across grown out roots thing. This means I can longer time between needing to get all over color.

This should work for gray as well. It won't be quite as obvious because you're sticking close to natural color and staggering.
posted by sio42 at 6:24 AM on September 20, 2013


It is pretty much impossible to have consistently colored hair that always matches your original color and never fades or shows roots or varies in any way from your original color. It is definitely impossible to achieve those results perfectly every single time no matter how intently you stare at your roots in the mirror, mentally comparing them to some platonic ideal of your Real True Hair Color. I mean, it's hair dye, not a miracle.

Did you mean to be so rude?

On average, hair grows about half an inch a month. If you are getting clearly visible roots of longer than an inch, you are not coloring your hair often enough.

I had my roots done that morning, and there was - and is - a clearly visible line about an inch from the parting. The roots have been dyed a different colour to the rest of my hair. My question was whether or not that was normal. The salon tried to tell me that it was. Apparently you agree with them.

Also, sorry, but, yeah, people are eventually going to notice that you're coloring your hair, no matter how perfectly it matches your original color. Even if you have the best colorist in the world, eventually you're going to be 60 with the hair of a 25 year old, and people are going to notice.

You seem angry. My hair doesn't have much grey; that was simply the reason why I chose to have it dyed. People noticed that it was dyed because it was dyed a substantially different colour to my natural colour. A darker brown colour that made me look very pasty and washed-out. (I'm closer to 25 than 60, so that part isn't really a concern of mine just yet, but thanks for the tip.)
posted by rubbish bin night at 7:25 AM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had my roots done that morning, and there was - and is - a clearly visible line about an inch from the parting.

Oh god! In that case, your stylist is awful and I was way off base! Take everyone else's advice, and I'm sorry I was rude about it. My read of your question was that you were irritated because you got roots when your hair grew out, because the color didn't perfectly match what you were born with.

I kind of didn't think a professional colorists could be THAT bad. My apologies, again.
posted by Sara C. at 10:44 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I had my roots done that morning, and there was - and is - a clearly visible line about an inch from the parting. The roots have been dyed a different colour to the rest of my hair. My question was whether or not that was normal.

Well, it is sorta normal, technically, in a manner of speaking, in a very literal sort of way...but not the way that your colorist did it. At all. Either time.

If were to get your hair all-over-dyed and then do just the roots with that exact same dye a month later, your roots would look weirdly bright and totally unlike the rest of your hair because the fresh color hasn't oxidized yet and the dye on the rest of your hair has faded. Plus, red hair dyes are particularly unstable. But people have mentioned upthread a few different techniques to mitigate this...and that's what you're paying a colorist to do instead of doing this at home from a box.

Maybe she felt that your initial dye was too faded to be able to do the roots without it looking garish and fakey, and that's why she wanted to do the all-over color again...but it sounds like she just flat-out used the wrong color. Maybe she used a more subdued color intended for the roots on your whole head? Who knows. But regardless, you need a more experienced and/or skilled colorist.

Hair salons are generally very accommodating to customers who are unhappy with their results, even when it's not entirely a reasonable complaint. Every hairdresser has a collection of stories about customers who insist vehemently on overruling their stylist's judgement and insisting on some ill-advised crazypants thing, only to come back apoplectic about the very crazypants thing they insisted upon.
posted by desuetude at 10:52 AM on September 20, 2013


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