Brassy! Warm tones are in, but the term brassy is not how you want your work to be described. When you lighten a clients hair in any way you’ve entered the arena for battle with the unrefined red-orange or “orangy” gold tone the hair sometimes reflects; A.K.A Brassy. How does a color champion put the odds in one’s favor and win the battle? Your reward is a client with amazing hair advertising for you daily and pre-booked appointments for maintenance.
The Battle Begins!
A level 4 comes in and she wants Jennifer Aniston’s hair color, what do you do? Is there preexisting color on the hair? Has the hair been over processed previously and only being held together barely by treatments and coated with products to trick you into thinking it is still hair? Let’s just say it’s a natural level 4. Highlights and a base color, okay. You reach for a tube of 8 ash and some lightener and begin to work your magic. You process, shampoo, and dry. Your client says, “It looks nice. It’s a little reddish, but it’s nice.” She’s not thrilled because orange hair with yellow highlights is not a good look, and that’s probably how that turned out. But why?
You will be on the losing end of the battle if you underestimate your opponent, underlying pigment. Almost everyone naturally has underlying pigments just waiting for the chance to show itself (especially orange). Only people with 100% grey or white hair are not included, because there is no underlying pigment to expose. The darker the hair color the more red and orange the colorist has to control when lifting, so you may have to breakout the heavy artillery.
GENTLY pre-lighten or decolorize the hair 1 to 2 full levels before applying a base color that has been formulated for the target shade, which should still be in the dark to medium blonde range. Base colors should stay within 4 shades of the natural color. Although dark and medium blonde (level 7-8 range in most color lines) is still within 4 shades, neutralizing orange on these levels can be difficult. This is also why using a high lift color for the job doesn’t always do the trick. You can add an ash, green, or blue additive, but this will make the color appear darker. There simply isn’t enough pigment in the tube to control the color without a little help. You can apply the same concept to doing a platinum blonde, but I’ll talk about that another time.
If your client is a natural blonde, chances are they want you to recreate those highlights the sun gave them every summer during their youth. However you don’t want to give them highlights that are yellow-orange like the sun. Toning can help, but if your highlights are under processed you still won’t get what you are going for, but you’ll eventually get brassy color. This is often because we’ve under processed our highlights. This doesn’t mean add heat and extend the time on every blonde, but it does mean that you should do a thorough examination of your highlights before you shampoo. If you notice your highlights aren’t as light as you need them after it’s been rinsed, rough dry the hair and balayage over a few pieces throughout the top and front of the hair and let them process for a bit. Tone if necessary.
Toning appropriately is an effective way of refining the color, but healthy hair is the key. You and your client have to maintain the color. Under processing the hair is bad for the look of the color but, over processing hair is bad in general. Try to maintain a pattern so you’re not just bleaching then low lighting the same hairs over and over again. After a while that hair just doesn’t hold color very well resulting in endless bouts with brass and a client that’s not that happy with their hair. Offer your clients color depositing shampoos for refreshing the tone. Clients love to be told what to do with their hair. Give your clients treatments regularly and require that they give their hair some TLC once a week.
Adjust your technique to properly deal with that underlying pigment and you’ll beat it every time. Be honest with your client about the process, the maintenance, and the cost, then take your time and do it right. They won’t mind. In fact they’ll feel that you are serious about your craft and worth every penny. You do have a reputation to up hold and having amazing work walking around your city is great advertising!