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Hair Color > Articles > Bleach Session:
Solving A Litany of Lightening Woes
By Kate Hahn
Sure, blondes have more fun. But what about their colorists? Turns out, not so much. These poor creatures huddle in salon dispensaries, their lives ruled by developer volumes and the cream-versus-powder debate. But it doesn't have to be this way. In an attempt to make the world a better place, we sat around with a bunch of burnt-out blonders and had a "bleach session." They vented. We listened. Then we jotted down their most common complaints, and asked leading professionals how to deal. Here's to good times.
"Some hair is so bi-polar. The ends get blown out, but the scalp doesn't
lift enough!"
Freud was right about one thing - everyone needs analysis. Including individual strands of hair. "Before starting the lightening
process, examine hair so you understand it from scalp to ends," says ANDREW BARTFIELD, vice president of education and shows, L'OREAL PROFESSIONNEL. Texture, porosity, and the effects of previously applied color will not be

consistent throughout. This means that the scalp, mid-length, and ends will absorb lightener differently. Typically, the ends are more porous than the re-growth, leading to pale tips and darker roots. The solution? "You often have to mix more than one formula," says Bartfield. A classic strategy using L'Oreal Professionnel: place Platine Precision lightener with Maji Creme Developer 20-volume on ends, but bump it up to 30-volume on the mid-shaft. It makes for a much more well-adjusted blonde.

"My clients take so long to process, I never get home in time to watch Lost."
Actually, slow-going can be a good thing for the blonding process. "I look at developer as gasoline," says STEPHANIE KOCIELSKI, PAUL MITHCELL master associate and artistic director of A ROBERT CROMEANS SALON in San Diego, CA. "The more you press the pedal to the metal with higher volumes, the faster you will get to your destination." But Kocielski prefers the school zone to the freeway. "I like to work within the 5 to 20 volume range," she says. "I'd rather see a client get to their target color safely with 20, than go too far with 40 and have to tone." She uses Paul Mitchell Dual Purpose Lightener, and a companion developer that ranges in strength from five to 40-volume. Still, sometimes Kocielski has to floor it. "The further you are going from the natural color, the higher strength developer you will need," she says. Just opt for the lowest volume you can use to get the desired results. And try Tivo.

"I dread working on thick, coarse, curly hair. My highlights don't process
evenly."
Don't run away from clients who have the Medusa gene. They can't really turn you into stone with a glance. If that were true, the paparazzi who chase Sarah Jessica Parker would be granite by now. Getting great results on loopy locks requires a few simple

strategies. For evenly-colored highlights, use this simple trick. "Start your application in the back near the nape, where hair tends to be darker and thicker, with 30-volume developer," says SONYA DOVE, international artistic director, WELLA. "Then move to the front and step it up to 40-volume." This way, highlights around the face can process faster, and catch up to the rest of the hair by the time you need to rinse. Dove also suggests taking fine sections to ensure product can saturate tresses. For perfect sections, Kocielski uses chopsticks. "They are longer than a tail comb so you can get a longer section," she says. Another must for the ringlet set - the right product consistency. Kocielski loves the new Paul Mitchell Cream Lightener. "Because it is creamy, it clings to curls, and won't slip," she says.

"The retouch area comes up too white, and I don't know why."
Granny color is about as sexy as granny panties. So why does hair go all octogenarian on you? "This happens most often when you have a new client," says Bartfield. She comes to your chair with one inch of re-growth and light blonde ends. The hair at the scalp looks dark brown, so you create a batch of bleach you think will lift it to match the rest of the hair. When you rinse, the roots are so white they glow. What happened? It all started with an optical illusion. "When ends are super light, you perceive the re-growth as darker than it really is, so you mix too powerful a formula," says Bartfield. To prevent this, start your service by making a part from the fringe to the nape. Cover the blonde hair with your hand, and study the re-growth along the entire part. That way, you will see the true color and avoid a snowy scalp.

"My blondes look like clones. My blondes look like clones. My blondes look..."
Our pros are not huge fans of toner, but when you need to punch up your platinums or add bling to your beiges, they say it's a great way to go. "I'm a big believer in putting your signature on color," says Bartfield. He doesn't tone the old fashioned way, with locks lifted to a stark white and then toned back. Instead he applies toner as an all-over finish to make blondes more interesting. "It's like adding a topcoat to nailpolish," he says. For light blondes, he opts for L'Oreal Richesse Blonde Reflectors. When Dove lightens a whole head, she completes the job by dousing locks with a blend of Wella Koleston Perfect permanent color in a level nine or ten, and Koleston Perfect Pastel Developer. "The Pastel Developer reduces ammonia 70%," she says, "So it doesn't hurt hair." Kocielski also has a go-to formula to improve final results - using pure color. "If a blonde client is a little yellow, I apply a mixture of conditioner and few drops of purple Paul Mitchell Inkworks color to even it out," she says.

"Ugh! Sometimes I end up with ugly orange bands at the scalp."
No one asks for highlights with a Halloween pumpkin hue. To stop the scariness, keep product safely sealed inside the foil. "If it stays in the foil, it lightens to maximum capacity," says Dove. "But if it slips out, there is nothing to protect it from drying out or cooling. It loses effectiveness and only lifts to an orange or gold." The resulting orange band at the root of blonde locks leaves the head looking like another mainstay of the trick-or-treat season - candy corn. Dove has three ways to prevent problems: don't put lightener too close to the edge of the foil; mix product so its consistency is thick enough to cling to hair; and fold down the top corners of the foil to make a more secure seal - without smashing them or creating an intricate work of origami art. Leave the jack-o-lantern look behind.

"My highlights just don't pop."
To make highlights more noticeable, Dove uses a two-step technique. She does a regular weave with lightener, but just below each highlight she adds a slice in a color that is two or three shades darker. For example, she uses Wella Blondor lightener to create a cream-colored highlight, and then chooses Wella Color Touch, a demi-permanent, to make a caramel or milk chocolate shade to sit below it. Large sections of hair can be left untouched. "You can get great effects using just 25 foils," says Dove. The technique is particularly popular with men. Another way to add sparkle is to kick up the all-over color. "When highlights sit on natural dishwater blonde, or on a cool, flat, tone, they get dulled down by the surrounding hair," says Dove. "You only have to lift it a fraction to make a difference." She takes the whole head a half shade higher with Color Touch.

"The formula I use for the re-growth bleeds into the mid-length."
Some things should never overlap: mashed potatoes and peas; marriages; applications of lightener. To protect the rest of the hair while doing a touch-up, Bartfield suggests placing a conditioner like ARTec Kiwi onto previously lightened locks before applying color to the re-growth. "It will protect hair in the mid-length that shouldn't get lightener on it," he says. Kocielski uses a technique she calls "the Barbie touch-up." The name comes from the tiny foil, about the size of a chewing gum wrapper, which is placed over the lightener at the scalp. "It prevents overlapping," says Kocielski. "It helps get consistency from the base to the line of demarcation, extends heat and erases the any banding lines." Now, if only we could get the Simpson sisters to stop trying to be pop star sensations at the same time.

"The brunettes who want to go back to blonde are driving me crazy."
It's a hair salon, not a strip club, but clients still walk in the door expecting you to take it all off. "When someone wants to make this extreme change, we call it color balancing," says Kocielski. "It's for people with overdone hair who want to look like Madonna." To create a clean canvas, Kocielski mixes shampoo and lightener, and applies it at the bowl, working it through the darker sections first. "You can only do this if hair is healthy enough to handle it," she says. For a brunette who wants blonde, red or chestnut locks Dove uses Wella Magma Ultra Lifting Powder Color, a lightener with a bit of color in it. "It does two jobs in one, lifting color from very dark hair and depositing a new shade," she says. "What used to take three hours takes 45 minutes." It is off-the-scalp color so it can only be used in foils. The line's 11 colors can be mixed to customize shades. Bartfield opts for L'Oreal Effasol color remover, which is similar to a lightener but buffered to be gentler. "It gives you more working time because you can mix it with water and a lower volume developer," he says. Use these methods and you'll get way bigger tips than the kind that fit in a g-string.

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