Hairfilter: High/lowlights in auburn hair?
December 17, 2007 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Should I get highlights/lowlights to make a boring but practical haircut look more interesting? And where can I get a boring but practical (read: no layers, long, cut straight across) haircut in Northern VA?

My hair is pretty thick, dark red/auburn, similar in colour to the wikipedia example photo. It ranges between gentle waves and a fierce frizz. Most of the time I wear it up, either braided or in a bun or a french twist. After it's cut it will be an inch or two above my bra strap line. I don't blow dry or straighten it, nor do I have any urge to do so. Similarly, I don't want to change the base colour.

I was thinking that subtle highlights would give the waves in my hair more definition without being too high maintenance, but I swim twice a week in a chlorinated pool, so... no go? Or are highlights OK as long as I'm faithful about putting swim goop on my hair beforehand and washing all the chlorine off right after? (Swim caps are unfortunately not an option, I spend a lot of time on the diving boards and they'll come off and generally be a pain.) Anyway, if highlights would be OK, what shade would come out... not orange, considering I've already got big naturally orange patches in my hair (yes, just like the picture)?

Or, instead of highlights, or in combination with highlights, what about subtle lowlights? They don't go awful in chlorine, right? Would they be enough on their own to add definition (especially if they're really subtle, which would be my preference)? What shade?

Lastly, where can I find a hairdresser who can do all of this in Northern Virginia (Centreville area, can travel, Fairfax/Alexandria/Arlington/etc. all fine) and who can follow directions about really not adding layers when they cut my hair? (No layers is very important to me.) Oh, and how much should I expect to pay? Is it reasonable to get everything done in one appointment, or should I get my hair cut asap and go back later for more interesting stuff? (Or just cut the stuff and then leave it the hell alone?) Anything else I'm missing?
posted by anaelith to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total)
the chlorine shouldn't damage your highlights if you take those precautions.

i can't recommend a hairstylist in your area, but any decent stylist should respect your wishes about not layering your hair. as long as you are not asking for the impossible, it's the stylist's job to give you what you ask for.

it's totally normal to get a cut and color at the same time, just tell the receptionist that's what you want when you book the appointment.

you might ask the stylist about a leave-in treatment to help combat the frizz, if it bugs you.

i would budget about $175-$200 for the whole shebang (based on what i would pay in new york). it very well may cost less, and if it does, hooray, treat yourself to a new pair of shoes.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:16 PM on December 17, 2007

Caramel colored highlights might go beautifully with your hair color. Highlights & lowlights are interesting, but I bet just highlights would work well.

If you don't mind going into DC, you could go to the Aveda Institute and you could probably get the whole thing done for ~ $75 using great products. (The stylists are in training, but they seem to be very well trained, and they use those nice Aveda products.) Your cut sounds very basic, so no need to spend a lot of money on that part.

I have been highlighting my hair blond for about 15 years and have spent excessive amounts of time (~4 hrs/day at times) in heavily chlorinated pools. I have been fine all but once (and I take zero precautions and have lots of very fine hair) when my hair turned mermaid green. That salon (only went there 1x and very cheap) tried to tell me that highlights always turn blond hair green. Since I absolutely know differently, I think they used bad products on me or in some way they damaged my hair. Anyway, you could be perfectly fine. Of course it's good to use leave-in conditioner first, but since you won't use a bathing cap (really? silicone won't stay on?), I'm not sure how much your precautions will make a difference. It is helpful that you don't blow-dry. And you might try not shampooing every day (just conditioning on odd days). There are also products that may or may not help with the frizz, and the general health of your hair. But you should really be fine.

By the way, why are you so set against layers? Good layers are absolutely as low-maintenance as no layers and look so much better because they are cut to flatter your face and head as much as possible. You don't need to blow-dry or style just because you have layers.

I think the major drawback with highlights (although I really love mine) is that once you start you feel like you need to continue getting them, and it ends up costing at least $1000 per year. I wish I didn't feel like they were such an improvement on my normal (dirty blond) color, but I do. I think auburn is a gorgeous color, so I'm not sure I'd spend my money on that if I had such a beautiful natural color. You could get a clear glaze at a drugstore, and have beautiful, shiny hair for cheap. Or you could give layers and and excellent haircut a try and see what that does for you. But if you want to give highlights a try, I would think caramel highlights would be very attractive.

There are some decent tips here.
posted by n'muakolo at 6:55 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Salon Nordine in Reston Town Center or someplace in Gainesville/Haymarket (but I don't do PW County). Or Salon Chakra at Lake Anne Plaza in Reston. As for the rest, I don't color my hair, so I'm useless.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 7:46 PM on December 17, 2007

I would also encourage you to rethink your no layers standpoint. I have long layers and hair at about chin length. They're actually pretty hard to screw up from my perspective (I am so not a girly girl) and easier to style (with or without blowdrying) than hair with no layers.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 7:48 PM on December 17, 2007

I had good luck getting a no-nonsense haircut and highlights at Bubbles Salon in Fair Oaks Mall. I'm not usually a "mall haircut" kind of girl, but I was very pleasantly surprised, and it sounds like your hair type is similar to mine. I think I spent about $125.
posted by arianell at 8:31 PM on December 17, 2007

Consider complimentary lowlights about two shade levels deeper than your dominant shade. A blue green shade would create brunette or cool brown, the compliment of your own color. Very carefully placed layers in the fringe can be very flattering, good luck!
posted by hortense at 8:34 PM on December 17, 2007

Listen to n'muakolo. I also have long auburn hair - well, okay, sometimes it's dirty blonde and sometimes it's, like, orange or fuchsia, but at the moment it's auburn - and I need layers so that I don't have to blow it dry or pay any attention to it whatsoever. Without them it just hangs there and looks blah. I also once got the whole highlights & lowlights done, about two years ago, at the same time as a cut. It took, and I kid you not, 7 hours in the salon. It looked fantastic but it cost the earth; in fact, it cost my entire yearly hair budget in one swell foop. As it grew out it looked worse; I couldn't afford to go back and thus it took about a year before my hair was back to "normal". To keep it looking good, you'll probably need to be in the salon - for the day - at least once every two months, so, unless you're sure you can afford to keep on doing it, be very wary about the highlights/lowlights thing.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:02 AM on December 18, 2007

I second bubbles -- there are locations in Pentagon City, near reston town center, and apparently fair oaks mall.
posted by bananafish at 12:12 PM on December 18, 2007

I have long, red hair (about bra-strap length), which is alternately curly, wavy, and frizzynightmare.

Layers can be a total pain in the ass. Great for straight or slightly wavy hair, yes; terrible for hair that has a tendency to curl. The reason is quite simple: at the time of cutting, there is simply no way to tell where any layer is going to end up sitting, especially relative to other layers. One thing for sure: the placement will change (often dramatically) the next time your hair gets wet and dries.

Bitter? Me? No, actually. Just cautious these days. After getting the last set of layers cut out, I'm sticking with a straight cut for a couple years, I think.

However, given your maintaince schedule, personally I'd go for lowlights - and mention to your hairstylist that you often wear your hair up or braided, or both, as this may affect a good placement of said lights.
posted by ysabet at 9:15 PM on December 18, 2007

As ysabet said, part of my layer avoidance is because my hair is all over the place, what I see in the salon is pretty much nothing like what I get at home. In particular, the front parts go for tight waves and the back bits go flat, so the front is already shorter when cut bluntly, and tends to bounce around without any assistance. The other reason is that layers just don't braid (or bun) well. Actually mostly what they do is stick out the sides, and make the end of the braid really thin and mangy looking--not good.

For the record, a bun is, hands down, the lowest maintenance style for my hair, since I don't feel compelled to brush it before putting it up and yet it still looks somewhat cared for.

Anyway, I'm calling the Aveda Institute now to see if I can get an appointment in a reasonable time frame, it sounds like just the place for me. If that doesn't pan out, I'll try the salon in Fair Oaks, which is at least super close to home. Thanks everyone!
posted by anaelith at 8:41 AM on December 26, 2007

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