A woman brought a landscape image of a sunset to colorist Kenzie Hamilton’s salon chair the other day, a layer of diminishing pinks and oranges and golds she wanted Hamilton to create in her hair.
Then there are the people who bring Hamilton crystals – irridescent ones, brilliant ones, ones that seem to glow from the inside – and entrust Hamilton to make these same colors appear.
Yes, these are extreme examples, but they’re part of a seriously huge hair trend that’s been building and shows no signs of slowing down.
Wild natural colors and ones not found in nature, once reserved for cartoon characters or punk rockers, are showing up in school classrooms (on students and teachers alike), on A-list celebrities, in board meetings and everywhere in between.
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(Above: crystal-based color by Hamilton. /Courtesy of Hamilton)
Extreme color has been on the upward march for awhile, stylists say. But as other previously “fringe” style statements like tattoos and piercings have become more mainstream, so has out-there hair color once worn only by the edgiest.
What’s in? Local stylists say we’ll be seeing more rose gold, acid (neon) gold, slate gray and black plum around Charlotte in 2017.
On their way out, some say, are two styles: the mermaid (a blend of blue and green tresses) and the unicorn (picture a pastel-colored rainbow).
Curious about what intense color entails? Here are four things you should know – especially if you’re tempted to treat your tresses (or your kids’ locks) to some serious color.
Even soccer moms are doing it.
Jennifer Misenheimer of Selwyn Avenue Salon says she’s seen a dramatic shift in the types of people seeking bold hair color.
“When I was in middle school in the early ’90s, I got ridiculed for putting these colors in my hair. I had blue hair, I had magenta hair,” she says. “It’s been funny to me to just kind of watch the shift as in the ’90s, how you were really on the fringe if you did it, and over the last five years, everything – everything – hair color, tattoos, anything that used to be really fringe or edgy has become very mainstream and accepted. I think it’s great that if a soccer mom wants pink hair, she can do it.”
Misenheimer says her bold-color clients include an over-40 preacher’s wife who wanted hints of Kelly Osbourne-lavender intermingled in her champagne blonde hair – a look that would allow her to showcase the lavender or hide it, depending on where she’s going and how she styles it.
(Above: “Hidden lavendar” by Misenheimer. /Courtesy of Misenheimer)
Another client, Misenheimer says, is a conservative mom and wife of a banker who added hot pink panels that when styled a certain way look like ribbons of magenta through her blonde hair.
“If it’s done really artistically and professionally, you can wear it to the PTA meeting,” Misenheimer said. “You don’t want your hair color to walk into the room before you do.”
Hamilton, who works at Hair Klaudt Salon in Plaza Midwood and is one of the city’s best-known colorists with 22,000 Instagram followers, says that when she started coloring hair professionally five years ago, “I could only do it on teenagers in school” because most mainstream employers wouldn’t allow unnaturally colored hair. Her clients now include people in nursing careers and office jobs.
Enlist a pro – and beware of DIY ‘kitchen hair.’
Finding the right stylist to do intense color is key, experts say, not only because of the technical expertise required to get the hues without damaging hair, but also because they’re more likely to take the time to find out what will best fit their clients’ complexion and lifestyle.
Intense color in the hands of a professional won’t be quick – or cheap. Hamilton, for example, says she charges between $150 to $200, depending on the amount of “lifting” (bleaching the hair of its natural color) and the number of colors she’s using. And clients getting a drastic transformation can expect to spend hours in the chair, sometimes over the course of several days, if their hair needs treatments beforehand to prepare it to accept such bold color, stylists say.
Misenheimer says bold looks can start at around $75 for a few strands of color and range up to $200 depending on the level of intricacy and the amount of time it takes to create the look.
Uber-intense looks may only last 4 or 5 weeks if clients use drugstore shampoo and wash their hair frequently – then they’ll be back in Kenzie’s hair for another $150 or $180 color appointment. But some can get up to 12 weeks out of a color session, she says.
Takiyah Rená, a stylist at Organic Hair Boutique, says she asks clients about their jobs and gets to know their lifestyles before helping them choose color and style.
“I definitely choose colors that fit my clients’ personalities. I just did a guy’s hair green – a local rapper. A freelance photographer has neon green,” she said.
(Above: Placement of each color is key, says Rená. /Courtesy of Rená)
And then there’s the issue of how chemicals in hair dye will change the hair. Sometimes Rená recommends strengthening treatments for weeks before she’ll even apply color, to avoid damaging clients’ hair. For some African-American clients with curly hair, she must smooth the hair before adding color.
“I would rather turn you away if I feel like the color would not be safe for your hair,” she says.
When it comes to hair color, “there’s a fine line between trendy and trashy,” Misenheimer says. “The people who can pull these colors off look really good because it’s professionally done. When you do it at home it looks like kitchen hair. The colors don’t have the intensity or the staying power. A lot goes into it – a lot of planning, a ridiculous amount of training and knowledge of color theory.”
And a good stylist, Misenheimer says, will tell you when the photo you’re bringing of your desired look has likely been photoshopped or won’t turn out on you the way it did on the model. (Or if it will, how long a super-bright color will last before fading.)
One of Rená’s clients, branding and marketing consultant Rotrina Campell, says she’s had Rená transform her hair countless times: red, fuschia, purple, blue, orange, yellow. Now, it’s rose gold.
The key, she says, is having a stylist who can make even wild colors look “classy.”
“I’ve never had a problem with any of my clients, creative clients, political clients, having a problem with my hair,” she said. “Even in politics, they are trying to reach that younger crowd. Maybe my look makes them think, ‘Hey, maybe she can reach that crowd I’m trying to reach.’ ”
Kids love the trend, but parents need to do their homework.
“I think if a child wants to take a risk, what a great, safe risk to take,” says South Charlotte stylist Amy Anzalone. “You can put a pop of color on the ends, and cut it off and nobody will know it was there.”
Because the brightest colors often require bleaching the hair before coloring, it’s important for parents and kids to realize that the dyed hair will never return to its natural color or texture. But other options, like semi-permanent dyes – or even Kool-Aid, Anzalone says – will eventually wash out and the hair will regain its normal color. (Just watch your bath towels – Kool-Aid may transfer when drying off.)
Anzalone says she bleached and colored the ends of her own fourth-grader’s hair blue as a fun summer look, then trimmed the color off when it was time to go back to school.
Misenheimer says she recommends colored hair extensions for youngsters craving streaks of vivid color. They don’t fade, they last up to 2 months before needing to be reapplied, and are chemical free.
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In hair color, as in fashion, Charlotte tends to be on the later side of the style curve, so some styles that are hot and trendy in major metro areas aren’t yet big here.
Grays, from ashy silver to slate, remain on the uptick. (Misenheimer says she’s seeing light ashy gray fade and stronger slate grow in popularity.)
Deep, rich colors like dark plum, mahogany, black cherry, and slate gray will dominate for people with naturally darker hair, Misenheimer said, while lighter colors like mauve and acid (neon) gold will be big with people with lighter hair.
Interesting side note: Some believe the economy partly dictates hair color trends. The ombré trend became popular during the recession, when many women lacked the cash for constant root touch-ups. A stronger economy may be to thank for higher-maintenance styles.
Hamilton says her clients tend to see their hair as wearable art, whether they’re following a trend or are inspired to change their look based on a color they simply love.
“I think it just makes people happy to look in the mirror and see something beautiful,” she said, “and have a customized piece of art just for them.”