Slowly and cautiously, hair salons are beginning to open back up. Although many facets of the in-salon experience are radically different, from reduced occupancy to stylists sporting protective shields, the return is still an exciting one. And while there's nothing like having a pro massage your scalp in a shampoo bowl or that feeling of having your split ends sheared off, for many it's hair color appointments that are the most hotly coveted; not just because of grown-out roots months in the making, but because summer offers a special impetus to switch things up, whether it's a brighter set of highlights, or a fresh fantasy color conjured by the brightest, boldest season of all.
"A lot of the requests that I'm getting are for gray coverage and highlights that will grow out really nicely because I feel like everybody's anticipating a possible second wave," explains Jaxcee, a celebrity colorist and founder of The Coily Collective, a group of stylists that celebrate and specialize in the maintenance of textured hair. "They don't want to do something that's going to be high maintenance, so there's this trend of color enhancement as opposed to a whole color transformation." But in tandem with a desire for beachy, lived-in look there is also that hankering for a colorful "fuck it" dye job that equal parts fun and rebellious. "I think it might be a bit of a chasm between very natural, golden, surfery looks and bright funky celebrations of color," explains Bleach London colorist Freddie Leubner. "I would assume people would be either very hesitant to commit to high-maintenance looks, or absolutely starved for fun and wanting to reinvent themselves."
Here, pro colorists weigh in the best ways to approach different hair colors this summer, keeping the touch-and-go nature of post-lockdown in mind.
Consider a More Lived-In Look Overall
"Now more than ever, my clients want 'quarantine proof' grow-out," explains celebrity colorist Matt Rez, who counts Eiza Gonzalez and Lili Reinhart as clients. "They want lighter color through the summer that grows out super gracefully so they don't have to see me again until mid to late fall or right in time for the holidays." To make the transition from your base color to highlights more seamless, Rez recommends root shadowing and using his special midlights technique, which incorporates a transitional tone, applied between a highlight and the client’s existing color, for a more dimensional effect. "Whether it's blended ribbons and or more high contrast colors, or super natural and sun-kissed with floss-thin babylights, the root of the highlights melts seamlessly into the base color," he explains.
Blondes: Go Bright, But Not Too Bright
The arrival of longer days may tempt blondes to go even brighter, but it's important to keep the health of the hair, and oxidation process, in mind. "When you make highlights platinum, and then they get sun bleached, that's when damage occurs," explains Jaxcee, who recommends Mizani's 25 leave-in Miracle Cream for moisture and protection, particularly for curly and coily textures. "During summer, I like to do a healthier highlighting on my blondes, where I keep them like a little bit on the warmer side, more like a warm beige. When the sun hits them naturally, they're going to lighten up."
To avoid brassiness, Rez recommends avoiding lightening your base color. "No matter how beautifully us colorists do it, by having a base change, the hair in between the highlights that's been lightened will revert to warmer tones naturally, causing brassiness." To help keep blonde bright and cool, look to purple toning shampoos, conditioners, and mask treatments like Redken Extend Blondage Express Anti-Brass Mask as soon as you start seeing brassiness. A gloss treatment is another way to prevent brassiness, says colorist Cassondra Kaeding. "For blondes, a gloss that is on the cooler side, cooler then you would normally want, will help keep brass at bay," Kaeding explains.Photographed by Petra Collins, July 2016
Brunettes: Embrace Subtle Sparkle
During summer, Jaxcee encourages her brunette clients to embrace soft, subtle highlights that play up their natural color. "For a beachy brunette, you want highlights that play up the sun-kissed areas around the face and don't want to change your base too much," she says, recommending a gloss treatment that will revitalize and enhance color, while also ensuring highlights won't veer too blonde. In the same spirit, Rez is a proponent of midlights and babylights, which are "floss-thin" highlights that are no lighter than two levels aways from your base color. "They read extremely natural when rooted and glossed to desired tone," he explains. "They will be the most minimal way to lighten up and bring a subtle sparkle to create an all over lighter feel and vibe." For an even lower-maintenance look, consider a sombré, which can be achieved by focusing more on the mids and ends of your lengths, but with a gradation. "The Balayage technique, or lightly teased foiled tipping technique works great depending on how dark your base color is," says Rez.
Redheads: Stick to Finely-Painted Balayage
Red hair color is notoriously the most difficult to maintain, which makes it all the more important to tread carefully during summer, and with the possibility of another lockdown. "The last thing you want as a redhead is even more maintenance," says Rez. "If highlights are too prominent, when regrowth comes in, you have even more demarcation—your natural regrowth, the red base, and highlights." As such, for redheads that want to have some fun during summer, Rez recommends extra-fine balayage or foilayage done to create multi dimensional, lighter color. "The wispier, the better for lowest maintenance—especially for [those] who have a single process base done to achieve their red," he explains. In terms of longevity, Kaeding believes it's best to go extra vibrant, especially during the sunnier months. "Reds fade so fast, so the more bold, the longer it will be between glosses and root touch ups," she explains. "This is especially important during the summer because the sun has a tendency to strip out color very quickly."
Raven Hair: Go Warm and Gentle
The first piece of advice for raven-haired individuals? "Do not fight warm tones," says Rez, who tends to stay off the roots for his darker-haired clients, lightening from the mid lengths through the ends of the hair in a gradual, gradated way. "I personally don’t do balayage for super dark bases in order avoid unwanted red tones," he says. "I do however love simulating that look and feel with 'teasylight' and 'teased tips' techniques to break up super dark lengths for a super melty transition of color." For curly and coily hair, it's important to be extra careful—particularly when using any form of bleach. "Usually textured hair tends to be darker hair and if a colorist isn't educated enough about it, then you end up damaging it because it's so delicate. You need to be very gentle when you're a lightning or coloring textured hair," explains Jaxcee.
To supply color-treated hair with extra hydration and moisture, Leubner is a fan of Dizziak Hydration Wash. "It’s a great product for all hair types, but especially curly and kinky hair, which really benefits from not having too much of its natural moisture stripped when shampooing," she explains. "The Wash and Conditioner are also fantastic for bleached and color-processed hair that feels dry and thirsty."Photographed by Remi Lamande, Vogue, February 2019
Fantasy Hair: Try a Pastel, or Colorful Extensions
A key factor in achieving fantasy color is the shade of your base. The lighter it is, the more saturated the color will be. "The best hair to work with is a very pale bleached blonde that has been toned to remove any yellow or brassy hues and create a clean canvas," explains Leubner. "Pastel colors show true to color on a white blonde base, but the bold and bright colors also take well to a deeper blonde. Dark hair can sometimes be hard to lift to a very pale shade, so you might want to try more vibrant colors." As a general rule, warm colors (pink, red, orange, yellow) fade better and quicker, while cool colors (blue, green, violet) can sometimes mean that unwanted blue or green tones hang around for longer than you’d like. "When you’re thinking about trying a pastel color, the one thing to be aware of is that they can fade extremely quickly," says Leubner, noting the realities of sun bleach during summer. Another option that requires less diligence is a dip-dye, or streaky "sliced" color effect. "It’s such a great way to experiment and have fun without being committed to any long-term maintenance... put it anywhere you want to see a flash of color!"
Since fantasy dye jobs often involve lightening your base, again it's important to consider the health of your hair, as well as the upkeep. Colorful extensions can be a robust alternative in that you get the same high-impact results, without having to commit. "If a client wants a fantasy color, maybe something super light or mermaidy, but I know they're not somebody that's going to want that forever, I'll tell them to get extensions," explains Jaxcee. "I'll take the extensions and color them in to make sure it goes with their cut and what's going on with their natural hair."Photographed by Greg Harris, Vogue, November 2018