Why Double Process Hair Colour is Better Than Highlights

It's the reason why celebrity hair looks better than yours.
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Michelle Villett
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It's the reason why celebrity hair looks better than yours.
Scarlett Johansson Spirit Party 2008

Eeks! Two days in a row of hair colour posts—and slightly shouty ones at that. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to insinuate that you have bad hair, or anything like that. But possibly it could be better.

Wanna know why? Because after more than half a decade of putting myself out there in the name of "research," I think I may just have found my—wait for it—Life Colour. It's true! (And if you're just joining us, you need to get caught up and read the original and epic Life Cut post.)

I only wish I'd made this discovery five years ago. But maybe all the battle scars... er, fried ends and bad photo evidence... will be worth it if I can impart some tips to YOU.

So let me backtrack. After test-driving the Ombré, which I just felt wasn't "me" for several reasons (blonderexia, for one), I went back to my regular salon. I got them to put some highlights back in order to break up the colour as an interim stop-gap measure. A few weeks later I went back for a hair cut and my Hairdresser For Life, Bill Angst, let me in on an insidery celebrity colouring secret, which is a little thing called the Double Process.

This is how it's different:

Single Process Colour

Single process colour is all one tone. It can be permanent or semi-permanent, but there are no highlights—your entire head is the same. This can look fine a lot of the time... but the blonder you go (*cough* Holly Madison *cough*), the more wig-like it can get.

Holly-Madison-blonde

Highlights and lowlights

Highlights and lowlights are just sections of your hair that are coloured darker or lighter, leaving your base colour intact. As we learned yesterday with Charles Baker Strahan's excellent Leighton Meester hair tip, lowlights can be fantastic on brunettes especially. However, for all hair colours, highlights alone sometimes work and sometimes don't. First of all, there is the problem of the ashy base, which is more likely to happen the older you get (and combined with highlights can create a greyish cast). Also, depending on how much of a contrast there is between your base and the highlight colour, you run the danger of looking stripey, instead of the desired tone-on-tone effect we want.

Kate-Gosselin-Hair

In my humble opinion, the best result is achieved via...

Double process colour

Double process colour involves both highlights AND all-over colour. It's more natural-looking because it's less one-dimensional, and you can get that lovely tone-on-tone look that CBS was telling y'all about yesterday. It is also the secret behind most excellent celebrity hair colour jobs that you admire.

Kate-Winslet-blonde

The thing is though, you need to specifically ask for it, and be willing to pay extra for it (since it takes more time, and probably talent). Which leads me to how I ended up with my "Life Colour." Thanks to Bill's advice, I knew I wanted double-processing to warm/lighten my base. And I ALSO knew that I wanted a slightly more strawberry tint to my blonde (based on the advice of celeb colourist Marie Robinson, who does everyone from ScarJo to Amy Adams and really knows what she's doing).

So when the people at Schwarzkopf kindly offered to colour my hair gratis with their brand-new Essensity line, I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. If you're a secret hippie type like me then you'll like the sound of this stuff. It's probably easier to tell you what it doesn't contain first: no ammonia, no odour, no silicones, no paraffin, no mineral oils, no parabens, no alcohol and no artificial colourants. Oh, and what it DOES do? Complete (100 percent) grey coverage, with 50 permanent shades in total.

Schwarzkopf-Essensity

I had the treatment done at Toronto's Tony Chaar Salon, and since I'm deathly afraid of new hair people, I annoyed Tony to no end with photos and descriptions of the look I wanted. (You gotta dewit, though, to make sure you're both on the same wavelength.) The photo of Scarlett at the top of this post was the inspiration. Here is what it sorta looked like before (notice the streakiness):

Before-Ombre

...and after highlights, all-over colour and a toner, this is what I ended up with:

Schwarzkopf-hair

As you can see, I like stripes.

Anyway, maybe you can't really see the difference all that well in these photos, sorry. (This is why I am one of those bloggers that just WRITES, dang it... I'm hopeless at taking photos and figuring out lighting, etc.) Anyway, it's MUCH more tone-on-tone instead of stripey, and a slightly darker, more reddish blonde. Plus, getting rid of my ashy, mousy brown base was life-changing (if your life involves around this kind of thing, as mine sadly does).

I might do a toner to go even more red when I'm due for a touch-up, but overall I'm extremely pleased. And most importantly, the colour left my hair in great condition! I've been using the Essensity line to care for it ever since, and the prodz are surprisingly lightweight, which is a good thing for fine-haired types like moi that hate those grease-inducing heavy formulas.

Schwarzkopf-Essensity-duo

Have you ever had a double-process colour?
Might you consider it now?
Word on the street is that many salons, in the quest to get everyone in and out quickly, don't even enlighten folks about it. So wrong, no? We need to get the word out!