Everything You Wanted to Know about Colour - but were too afraid to ask

February 04, 2022

Everything You Wanted to Know about Colour - but were too afraid to ask

I love using hair colour. And who wouldn’t benefit from hair colour in some form? Maybe Vin Diesel, and age-appropriate of course - I'm not recommending for babies or children.

But whether a subtle whisper or full on drama, the palette of opportunities has never been so deep or wide. Age corrective/reducing, enhanced natural/believable, spirited light-hearted, or high fashion statement. Hair colour enhances, rejuvenates and can create the full entrance-making experience though it’s vibrancy and playfulness. Add colour tone and texture then catch yourself in the mirror to feel the sparkle of confident energy. Others will too.

But I always come from a standpoint of minimum colour necessary for maximum effect and minimum maintenance. Maximum bang for minimum buck. Where buck represents the cash and also, the often more valuable time commitment. Except for clients in the public eye daily, and with a full entourage jetting around the world with them, then we make it work full-on for every day.

We’re devoted to helping you look your best for your fan club or social bubble. So it’s highly likely that we’d use some colour from our palette of techniques and tints because we know what a tremendous difference this can make to how you look and feel. In the same way, a world of zero make-up would play havoc with our sense of self and individualism. But too many people end up with too much over-processed colour and for less effect.

In order of commitment, from zero to platinum-blonde hero, these are the main nine colour techniques, all of which we'll use in the salon.

1. Colour shampoo
If you just want a bit of fun, or a boost for your existing colour. This gentle colour enhancement will just sit on the surface of the hair, and last you until your next shampoo. It cannot make the hair lighter than the natural base, and has minimal effect on white hair.

2. Colour Gloss Conditioner
This is a single product (no mixing) that you apply directly from the tube/bottle which also sits on the surface, but goes that bit deeper. It will wash off entirely in about 6 to 12 washes. It cannot make the hair lighter than the natural base, but can enrich to quite a range and tone white hairs slightly to give a highlighted effect.

3. Toners
Toners in it's general understanding are a helpful way of adjusting colour when used correctly. But these days hairdressers generally refer to a weak peroxide tint. Sometimes this is necessary, often it's not and a wash out colour could be used instead keeping the overall colour more stable for longer. Read more on toners...

4. Semi-permanent
This is a great way to colour hair with less commitment than a permanent tint, or if you want the colour to fade away as it grows so as not to have a hard regrowth line. It can lift base colour marginally and give semi-opaque coverage to white hairs.

5. Permanent Colour/Tint
If you won’t accept anything less than full coverage of those white or dark hairs then it has to be a permanent tint. These can darken or lift natural colour all the way from jet black to pale blonde depending on base colour, and can fully cover white hairs.

Be very careful about buying some of the hair dyes available on the retail market. If we are colour-correcting in the salon, we'll be familiar with the ingredients in a professional product. Retail products can be harder to colour-correct in the salon afterwards. They’re often full of heavy metals and odd elements, which are more aggressive on the hair.

6. Highlights

The colour choice combination of highlights and lowlights with virgin hair gives unlimited creative freedom to the master colourist. Our own salon artists are not going to get the recognition of Van Gogh or Leonardo but their deft textural placement of lights is a work of living art and can create a shimmering dance of vitality as intense on detail as an Old Master canvas.

7. Ombre

From the French word 'ombrer' meaning to shade, I think Madonna may have started this trend when she deliberately didn't colour her roots and left the dark contrast of regrowth against the blonde. Others credit it to the singer Aaliyah in 2000. It caught on for people to deliberately colour their roots dark or only lighten from mid-way down..

8. Balayage

Balayage comes from the French word for ‘sweeping’ and describes the free-hand application of colour. Professionally applied, the technique gives a delicate diffused effect and is sometimes combined with some foil lights. In untrained hands it can easily lead to over-colouring. Not one to try at home.

 9. Bleach

Not for the faint hearted. Bleach can lift hair all the way to platinum blonde but it’s the most aggressive on hair condition. This is also the starting base for the purest blues, purples, pinks and pewters, if you are not naturally Nordic blonde.

My mother was bleaching her hair blonde continually from the age of 12. She followed the Hollywood stars of the day, like Veronica Lake and Lana Turner. I used to brush it on for her sometimes when I was younger before I had any idea about hairdressing. But she is also very religious and when a Greek priest told her 70 years later that God wouldn’t recognise her, she stopped instantly. Though she did go back to painting her nails a few years later.

When I first looked after Paula Yates’ hair in 1980 it was pretty wrecked from unprofessional bleaching. I reminded her many years later how it was so over-processed and disintegrating in handfuls on that first visit. She said that if we’d told her off about her hair that first time, she’d never have returned. But we took control of her hair so she could still be platinum blond but without clumps breaking off each day. Maximum effect minimum cost.


And if you want to make your colour last, nothing comes close to LifeSaver Prewash Treatment. LifeSaver will extend your colour and style by keeping the structure of the hair together. No other product we’ve come across gets close to this. Combine it with our Cashmere Protein UV Protective Shampoo and Conditioner to retain colour vibrancy and extend the life between tints. www.vanclarke.com

 Michael Van Clarke

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