Sep 4, 2020

Low Maintenance Hair Color: A Pocket Guide

Get the low maintenance look you've always dreamed of with this handy-dandy guide

Need a color change that won't send you back to the salon every month?

The good news -- you've got plenty of options. The bad news -- your stylist will miss you.

Stay close to your natural color

There's a pretty direct correlation between dramatic color changes (with a few acceptions -- we'll get to that in a few) and how often you'll have to return to your stylist. Sure, unicorn hair would look great right out of the salon, but you'd be back in the chair for a touch up in no time at all.

Keeping your new color close to what you've already got will assist you as the dye fades over time and as your roots grow in -- your color job will age gracefully without you having to lift a finger. Our advice is to stay within two shades of your natural hue.

There's also a hidden bonus of staying close to natural that many of us don't take time to consider when we change hair colors -- your hair won't suddenly clash with your wardrobe. Because really, is there a worse feeling than realising that your favorite sweater now clashes horrendously with your new hair color?

Avoid a complete dye job (and stay away from too much color on your roots)

Guess what happens if you dye every inch of your hair from root to tip a completely new color? The moment your roots grow in, they'll stand out like a sore thumb. Sure, it won't be completely awful if you stayed pretty close to your natural color, but you won't be able to avoid getting a touch up for long.

If you really want your new color to stand the test of time, find a colorist who is well versed in the balayage technique. It's an excellent option since it involves hand painting hair instead of using foil, resulting in a less obvious demarcation of color -- subtly is a low maintenance gal's best friend.

You'll also want to request that your colorist withhold from applying too much color at your roots, so that you'll be able to embrace a controlled version of pre-grown out roots while still at the salon. And if you think faking roots at the salon sounds crazy, think again -- if you truly don't want to be at the salon more than once every six months, you'll have to embrace a certain amount of rooty-ness; you're far better off making them look good in the first place. Let your stylist know that you want to see them only when you absolutely have to, and they'll work with you to create a style that fits your schedule.

Go darker, not lighter

If you were born a light blonde, you've definitely got an advantage in the hair dyeing game -- you can dye your hair basically whatever color you want, without having to bleach it first. Having to only chemically process your hair once significantly lowers the damage sustained from dyeing hair.

Unfortunately, the rest of us aren't so lucky. But, we've got one secret weapon: lowlights. The magical thing about dark hair is that you can nearly always go darker (have they invented a vantablack hair dye yet?) to create a pop of definition.

If you're truly dead set on a color that's drastically lighter from your natural hair, you should consider using the "shadow root" technique. It leaves your roots semi-natural while the rest of your hair is more obviously dyed, kind of like the grown-in roots at the salon strategy, but more dramatic. And just like the other strategy, your roots will be able to grow in a more intentional way, allowing for fewer touch ups at the salon.

Try using just bleach and toner

And speaking of lightening hair... If you want a brighter color than the one you've already got, you'll almost always have to apply bleach before you begin dyeing. While dye the toner will fade over time, bleach is permanent -- it strips the color from your hair, leaving it permanently sans pigment.

So why not try going lighter by just using bleach and toner? You won't be able to get a color that's completely different from your natural hue; bleach without toner gives dark hair a reddish hue, brown hair a yellow-red hue, and dark blonde hair a bright yellow blonde hue.

So if those are the colors you wanted anyway, score one for you! Skip the toner, and go about your business with your permanently lightened hair. But if you'd like to ditch the red/yellow look in favor of something a little more neutral (and optically brighter), apply a toner after bleaching, and commit to regular usage of a purple shampoo. Like we said before, the toner won't last you forever, but the purple shampoo will be able to pick up the slack in its absence.

And don't go red.

Some colors just love to fade. Bright red hair in particular is notoriously difficult to maintain, since its molecular structure is so teeny that it will just fall right out of the hair cuticle. It'll be even harder to maintain if your hair was porous pre-bleach, as bleach causes hair to become even more porous.

Fortunately, there are colors in the family of red that aren't quite as high-maintenance as red itself. If you're a natural blonde and yearn for red, strawberry blonde hues are a gorgeous low-maintenance solution.

Wanna further up your style game and take better care of your hair? Here's what's next:

Hair Secrets: 7 Things Your Hairstylist Won't Tell You

(but totally wants you to know)

What's a blowout? (No, seriously)

...in which we provide both the literal definition of a salon blowout and also attempt to figure out the gobstopping popularity of professional blowouts.

Blue Highlights: 40 Stunning Examples

pink highlights = so last year 🙄

Caroline Schmidt