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Ok, so I’ve been getting a little bored with my hair … LOL. As a result, I have been toying with the idea of coloring my hair for over 7 months! Oddly, I haven’t colored my hair in ages (almost 10 years) since an at-home colortastrophe turned my relaxed hair bleach blonde (not the color I was going for)!
My natural hair color is actually a very light brown, but after living in Seattle for 12 years, it has significantly darkened. So much so that my hair almost looked black unless I was in direct sunlight! I felt my color looked dull and lifeless, and I missed my natural light brown hair. So, after getting tired of my dark tresses, a few weeks ago, I decided to take the plunge!
Before attempting to do anything, I purchased a highlighting cap kit. Then, I spent a week or two trying to pinpoint exactly how I wanted to transform my hair. I decided to layer in two different colors to achieve the most natural results:
Both products are by L’Oréal Paris. I chose the first color (Hi-lift Brown) because it’s a permanent hair color gel that was created exclusively for dark to very dark hair. According to the box, it offers “extreme lightening with no brassiness.” It is supposed to gently lighten the darkest hair up to 3 full levels while simultaneously offering multifaceted shimmer across each strand to prevent flat color. Exactly what I wanted! However, there are some important words of caution …
Note: This hair color (Hi-lift Brown) IS NOT recommended for
- hair that has been previously colored black or dark brown
- blonde, light brown, bleached, or gray hair
- hair that has been previously processed with henna
- hair that already has progressive color
- relaxed hair
If your hair is permed or previously highlighted, you should wait two weeks before coloring. The manufacturer suggests that best results will be obtained on virgin black or dark brown hair (for this particular shade).
Here’s what’s in the box:
I started by carefully detangling my dry, unshampooed hair. Next, I parted my hair to the side (how I usually wear my hair when down). Then, I tied on the highlighting cap. I have to admit, I looked rather silly, but I figured it would be worth it!
I tested out the plastic highlighting needle by pulling through the strands of hair I wanted to highlight. I ended up buying a sturdier metal highlighting hook. The plastic one worked okay, but I felt the metal highlighting hook gave me better control. After about 5 minutes, though, it became painfully obvious that I wouldn’t be able to do this by myself. So, I called my sister for reinforcement. Thankfully, she came to my rescue. However, the process was painstakingly slow … It took my sister about an hour to gently pull through all the strands I wanted to highlight through the cap!
MIXING AND APPLYING THE COLOR
The most important thing is to make sure that you start out with dry, unshampooed hair that has been detangled. Because of the extreme coily/curly texture of my hair, I took extra pains to make sure my hair was detangled properly. Then, I donned an old T-shirt and jeans, added the included colorist gloves, and started the mixing process.
Mixing the hair color gel and developing cream was very easy and straightforward. All you have to do is simply twist off the tip from the Developer Bottle (labeled Step 2). Remove the applicator cap from the bottle completely, and pour all of the Shimmering Conditioning Colour Gel (labeled step 1) into the developer applicator bottle. Next, open the shimmer serum (labeled step 3), and add that to the contents of the applicator bottle as well. Securely replace the applicator cap. Then, place a gloved finger over the tip of the applicator bottle. Point the bottle away from your face and shake well (until the contents are thoroughly mixed).
Because I applied the dye to virgin hair, I felt like it took longer than stated to lift the color of my hair, but I used my cellphone timer and checked the processing progress periodically to make sure my hair was lightening without over-processing my hair. If you have fine strands like me, checking your hair’s progress will be crucial!
RINSING & AFTER CARE
With my highlighting cap still on, I did an initial rinse with cool water, applied the hydrating conditioner, and rinsed my hair with water that was more tepid. Then, I removed the highlighting cap, conditioned my entire head with the hydrating conditioner, and rinsed a final time. According to the instructions, there is NO need to shampoo, so I didn’t. The instructions also recommend using the remaining hydrating conditioner in the following weeks to prolong the life of the color.
OPINION OF RESULTS ACHIEVED WITH HI-LIFT BROWN
The directions were VERY confusing! The instruction booklet states that you must first apply the color mid-shaft to the ends of your hair, wait 20 minutes, apply color to the roots, and wait another 10 minutes. I found it difficult to avoid my roots entirely, especially since I have very curly hair. Once I started to apply the color, the dye dampened my hair and caused my curls to shrink (almost up to my roots)! So, it was a little impossible to avoid my roots entirely, but I managed to do it for the most part.
In addition, I found the final color to be COMPLETELY inaccurate. Here is the color results chart provided on the side of the box:
As you can see, based on the pictorial representation (with my dark brown hair), I should have obtained medium blonde highlights. However, I ended up with reddish brown/auburn highlights. After doing hard core research online, this seems to be a common result with this particular color. While there are some who receive the EXACT results shown on the box, many people (of various hair textures and ethnicities) seem to receive a reddish brown hue instead of the blonder shade shown. Because of the inconsistency of the color, I wouldn’t recommend this particular shade. I’ve used Féria in the past, and I’ve never seen such inconsistent consumer results. In addition, the included gloves are pretty chintzy. So, I would invest in a sturdier pair.
The other thing that I noticed is that the highlighting cap worked 70-80% well. It effectively highlighting the front, side, and top of my hair, but it COULD NOT seem to reach my hair in the back. As a result, I ending up choosing strands to highlight in the back and manually applying the color to the back of my head specifically (as it looked as if I highlighted all of my hair except that area)! So, that extra step was a huge hassle.
In addition, to make my reddish-brown results look more intentional, after a two-week interval, I decided to layer in a second color (Light Golden Brown). The process was pretty much the same … My sister spent another hour gently pulling my hair strands through the highlighting cap. (Thanks, sis!) I applied the color, allowed it to process for the requisite amount of time, rinsed my hair, and applied and rinsed out the included conditioner.
This time around, my sister’s patience waned, and she told me that she was sick of fooling with the highlighter cap. And, I couldn’t really blame her! I ended up having to manually highlight the back of my hair just like I did the first time. By the time we finished (2 ½ hours later), we both loved the results but also both agreed that it was well worth shelling out some cash to sit back and let a professional do all the work!
- Prep your hair for color. Make sure you properly detangle your hair before coloring it. Don’t skip this important step, or you may end up with uneven color, especially if you are applying color to your whole head of hair!
- Choose the appropriate clothing. Wear that old T-shirt your mom hates and those ratty pair of blue jeans your BFF has been begging you to throw away. Think house painting party attire … You want to color your hair while wearing something you could care less about. Because even if you drape a towel over your shoulders, you still might get a drop or two of dye on your shirt or pants. So, wear something you don’t mind getting dye on. After all, you can’t ruin something that’s already ruined! 😉
- Visualize your plan. Before coloring your hair, browse the hair color aisle at your local beauty supply or Big Box store. Use hair color software online to get an idea of how you might look in a certain shade. This is particularly important if you’ve never colored your hair before, or if you are choosing a vibrant hue like red or a bold pick like lavender!
- Get help! Enlist the assistance of a loved one or friend. Unless you are a professional, it will be very difficult for you to achieve salon-worthy results at home. And, even more difficult, if you attempt to do so on your own. If you must go solo, use a large hand mirror so that you can see the back of your hair, especially if you are not applying all-over color!
- Don’t procrastinate! Because of my schedule, I couldn’t start coloring my hair until late at night. I DO NOT recommend this. I started detangling my hair at 10:00 p.m. By the time my sister pulled my hair through the highlighting cap, I mixed and applied the color, allowed the color to process, rinsed and conditioned my hair, and manually highlighted the back of my hair, it was almost 2 in the morning! A good rule of thumb is that it will always take twice as long as you expect, so set aside enough time (preferably in the morning or early afternoon) when you won’t be innately tired. You’ll thank me later!
- Be realistic! Home hair color is notorious for being less than accurate, so if you are keen on a very specific celeb shade or a creative, new coloring technique, plan to seek the expertise of a professional salon. And, don’t be ashamed to ask a trusted source for a referral or to observe the work of a color technician in real time.