I remember first spying the hair trend that is balayage slash American tailoring slash ombre in the dire 2011 romantic comedy No Strings Attached. Lake Bell was the co-star chasing after Ashton Kutcher who was in turn chasing after Natalie Portman, and her performance slash hair was the movie’s one redeeming quality. That and the scene where all the medical students period cramped together because it is a rare that Hollywood acknowledges menstruation and we should celebrate when they do.
Lake’s hair made such an impression on me I debated for months about showing up to the hairdresser with a printout and a plea to make my head look like that. I eventually did succumb to a dose of dye months later, and my relationship with balayage since has been ongoing. Sometimes we have taken breaks which coincide with binge watches of The Good Wife. Then I realise my face can’t hack all-over intense colour and I show up on balayage’s comforting doorstep with a rueful smile. Only now I’m clutching a smartphone with photos of Dakota Johnson saved to my Pinterest.
Forget all those click bait galleries screaming rainbow hair is for everyone. Kylie Jenner blue will never be a thing. Balayage, ombre, sombre and all the cousins are the only true hair trends I actually observe, and every hairdresser I’ve spoken to of late is in agreement. It’s Christmas season touch-up season, and considering people get Instagram snap happy on every step of the 12 pubs, it helps when you’re happy with what you’ve got.
I asked John Harvey of Peter Mark for some pointers to help us next time we set aside some salon time. As John explains, “it can become confusing to describe to your stylist and visualise the techniques what your stylist is describing.”
Sort the cut first.
“If you’re considering a freehand lightening technique you have to have the right hair cut. This doesn’t mean your hair must be long because mid-length and short hair work equally as well. But it is important that your hair has some form of layering. This is to create a sense of light and depth which will give the illusion of volume and texture showing off your colour. If you don’t like having layers or you’re a “had them hate them” person, you should ask for your layers to be disconnected from your outline as this will make drying and styling easier. If your hair is long and one length your colour technique will get lost inside of the solid outline shape whereas even a subtle amount of layering will reveal the colour in the correct way.”
“Be aware of your face shape and features. This may seem obvious in regards to your hair cut but it’s just as important with your lightening. If you have a really strong jawline you would look to increase the lightness around this area a little to soften any unwanted strength in your face shape. Or say you have an oblong face you should try to concentrate your lightning around your cheek bones and temple area as this will add a little width to your face shape giving you a more flattering oval appearance. If you have features you wish to show off you should try to focus your lightning or keep some depth around these areas depending on how naturally light or dark you are. The lighter you are the more depth you should leave and the darker you are the more lightening.”
If your hair is a stubborn brunette shade, a subtle Dakota Johnson style works best.
“If you love the effortless elegance of Dakota Johnsons colour, the subtly of the placement and lightening are key. If you’re really dark naturally, going superlight defeats the purpose of having this technique in the first place. Every client wants their colour to look sophisticated and expensive. Dakota’s look will give you this in spades. It’s handy to know that hairdressers talk about colour in terms of levels, so remember if you’re after subtle and beautiful never more than two levels lighter than your natural hair.
Blondes/colour chameleons should be careful.
“Every lightening process your hair goes through will obviously change the condition of your natural hair and if you’re Elizabeth Olsen that is a lot of colour changes. Being mindful of the lightning process and in turn the condition of your hair is a job for you and your stylist as this will increase your hairs longevity and manageability. Not over-lightening will not only give you a more sophisticated colour result but also be more respectful to your hair.”
And remember, take care of your hair.
“This isn’t a sales pitch but investing in the right professional home care should be part of your colour technique as cheaper alternatives will cost you more in the long run. Colour-specific ranges which include treatments are a must for every client who has colour in their hair. Would you clean your favourite, specialist dry clean only dress in your kitchen sink with washing up liquid? Didn’t think so.”