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To start off – I will say that I have a greater than average knowledge of hair. Having worked in the beauty industry for 10+ years, I have seen endless takes on fishtails, braided crowns, updos, down styles, babylights, highlights, color melts, ombrés … the list goes on. I also have over 10+ years experience sitting in a salon chair for hours on end intently watching my professional colorist lift my level 3 / 4 hair to an ashy 9 / 10.

I am probably the most annoying client to have; I know too much but also admittedly fall short when it comes to science and formulations because I am not a professional cosmetologist. 

The point is - experience is not a license to color

My family friend asked me to color her hair. She wanted to try saving a bit on expenses by transitioning to at-home color. The stylist she was seeing was also pretty far away and with 3 little ones between the ages of 10 and 3 - booking out that kind of time for herself (travel plus appointment time) was easier said than done.

I arrived to her kitchen faced with her at-home coloring kit, a chair, poor lighting, a color bowl, color brush, sectioning clips, gloves and a lot of unease. I knew that she had a lot of confidence in what I was about to do but I was nervous, to say the least. I knew enough to know that I didn’t know enough to be doing what I was about to. However, there was also a part of me that wanted to, in a sense, rise to the occasion. 

Her previously professionally highlighted hair had about 3.5 inches of regrowth. I was handed the two bottles of this pre-measured/pre-formulated hair color, we threw a towel over her shoulders, and I got to work. 

The 3-year-old walked through the kitchen and asked her mommy if she was nervous. My friend confidently said, “No - I trust Jessie.” The 3-year-old shook her head and said: “I’m nervous!” …From the mouth of babes. 

While my sectioning skills were fire, my consultation skills were shit. I guess somewhere along the way I assumed the allover color I was applying was intended to match her roots. In my world, she would be darker than she had been but it would all blend. I mean, I thought I knew what we were doing but the reality is there was no discussion. Turns out the allover color she chose was to get her roots to match the previously highlighted hair. Had we talked even a little bit I wouldn't be writing this article because I would have said I can’t make that happen for you.  

Instead, what I did make happen was add some warmth to those roots. I remembered Tracey Cunningham at Redken Symposium when she said that professional colorists are superheroes fighting red and that clients will typically be happy if you can address the warmth at the roots. I was not equipped to address the warmth at the roots.

I started texting my co-worker (a professional cosmetologist) asking for quick-fixes, solutions - ANYTHING. She said “this sounds like a color correction” and she was right. 

While we were able to lessen the severity of the problem through an at-home gloss the next night, in no way did we fix the issue at hand. 

I am happy to report that she booked an appointment with a professional colorist and absolutely loves her hair now. Glass half full - this new colorist is conveniently located only a couple of minutes from her house and they settled on a technique that would allow for more time between appointments. 

Written by: Jessica Gutierrez