Nowadays the range of hair color options—from buttery blonde hair to luscious "bronde" to lively unicorn hair color shades—makes it so tempting to experiment with your hair color, especially now when a fresh, back-to-school or back-to-work look is in your plans. But before you decide to go for that pink hair or mermaid color melt, the hair color experts at Matrix recommend asking yourself these 10 important hair color questions.
1. How much hair color can my hair handle? Integrity is the buzzword when it comes to assessing the degree of hair color your hair can handle safely, as in the integrity or health of your hair. Every hair color process alters the structure of your hair, and the basic condition of your hair determines how quickly it will bounce back from the hair color service. Your hair stylist will assess hair health factors like moisture level (is it super dry?), elasticity (does it return to its normal shape when stretched?) and damage (split ends anyone?) If these factors don't check out, it's best to opt for a more low-impact hair color option, like a low-ammonia hair color gloss or hair color glaze. Balayage or ombré highlights are also ideal since they require infrequent touch-ups.
2. How much can my budget handle? The degree to which you change your color will determine how much you will have to spend for the initial shift, and to maintain your new hue. If the change is substantial—say you're going from dark brown to platinum blonde—you will probably need several processes to achieve the light color, and then you should plan to visit the salon every two-to-three weeks to touch up the new, dark growth. A subtler hair color change that is one or two shades lighter or darker than your natural color will require less frequent touch ups and therefore less of an investment.
3. How often do I want to be in the salon? Hair color equals money + time, so you'll also have to factor the latter into the overall equation. A hair color shift that needs frequent retouching also means you'll be spending more time in your stylist's chair.
4. Do I have grey hair to cover up? If your natural hair color is dark, the addition of grey hair into the hair color mix can be like adding another process to the equation. That's because different formulas will be needed to color the grey hair. Certain shades are also more difficult to achieve on grey hair since it can be coarse, wiry and more resistant to hair color formulas. You and your hair stylist should take your grey into consideration when formulating your new hair color, and come up with a shade that won't require more maintenance than your budget or schedule allow.
5. How committed am I to this hair color? Different types of hair color—permanent hair color, demi-permanent hair color, semi-permanent hair color—last for different lengths of time. Permanent hair color is just that—it stays in your hair permanently. Demi-permanent hair color lasts for about six to eight weeks, and then gradually fades away. Semi-permanent hair color lasts usually lasts up to eight or ten shampoos before it fades away. The latter is a good choice if you're experimenting with a new hair color for the first time, or if you aren't sure if the shade you want is right for you for the long haul.
6. Am I on the same page with my stylist? The rose gold hair color you're envisioning may be completely different from the rose gold your hair stylist sees in her mind's eye. So pictures are everything. Bring photographs of the precise shade you have in mind, as well as pictures of colors you absolutely don't want. Then be ready for a give and take. For example, your stylist may point out that the shade in the front section on the picture of the model you love would be better than the shade on another part of her head.
7. Am I clear about the best way to take care of my new hair color? Once you've invested your time and money in your new hair color, go the extra mile and invest in good shampoos and conditioners to care for it. After all, you wouldn't wash your beautiful silk lingerie the same way you wash your sheets and towels, right? Show your hair color the right amount of TLC with cleansing and conditioning formulas which are created to coddle color-treated hair. And the more radical the hair color shift, the more you will need to replace moisture. Weekly or bi-weekly hair masks for damaged or dry hair will bring thirsty strands back to life.
8. Am I willing to swim, sun and style with care? Before you dive in, lay out or power up the dryers and irons, practice prevention. Protect your hair color from salt water, chlorine and UV rays—all of which can strip it away or shift the color to something truly undesirable. Apply a hair mask that coats your hair and then tuck it under a hat or cap. Also, set your thermal tools to the lowest temperature possible for your hair type, and always use a heat protection hair product before styling.
9. Have I chosen a flattering shade for my complexion? Every hair color—whether it's brown, green or purple—can be created in a tone that suits you. Cool hair color flatters cool complexions, so opt for mahogany brown, emerald green or eggplant if you're going for one of those shades. Warmer versions of any hair color, on the other hand, are beautiful on warm skin tones. Neutral skin can go in any direction. One quick way to determine if your skin is warm, cool or neutral is to look at the veins on the underside of your arm. If they're predominantly blue, you're cool. If they're predominantly green, you're warm. If they're blue-green, you're neutral.
10. Have I chosen a shade that sends the right message? People form an impression of you within seconds of meeting you, long before you ever open your mouth. So your hair color will play a huge part in how you're perceived. Think, therefore about how your new hair color will affect those perceptions. Your burgundy hair tells the world you're an out-of-the-box sort who loves to shake things up. Your power-blonde highlights transmit a message of assurance and high standards. One look at your spicy red hair color and folks will assume you're the life of the party and up for anything. So before you settle in for a hair color switch, be sure your hair color is a true reflection of the real you!