How To Make Your Hair Colour Look Natural

The hair colour secrets I swear by (since boys think mine is natural... ha!).
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Michelle Villett
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The hair colour secrets I swear by (since boys think mine is natural... ha!).
Isla Fisher red hair

Okay, it's kind of natural. I just need a little bit of hair dye to take the ashiness out and dial up the red, okay?

But seriously—can we talk about how guys love to delude themselves that women don't colour their hair? Newsflash, boys: they do. At least, something like 75 percent of us dip into the dye. And yet, I'm a firm believer that the closer you are to what you were born with, the better. That's why—after a long stint of blonderexia—I call what I'm sporting now my Life Colour. (You know, like my Life Cut. Wow, everything is really coming together! I fully expect to win the lottery any day now.)

Anyway, what I'm saying is that I don't do MUCH to my hair anymore... but what I do seems to be working, because most people think it's completely natural. Not just the male population but even hairdressers! I'm not even kidding.

Wanna know my secrets? I shall now spill:

1. Forget highlights. I do an all-over colour.

I did a couple of interviews lately where I was asked about my number one beauty pet peeve. And it's highlights! I hate highlights. Was victimized by them for years. But now that I've let go, life is so much better.

You see, many hairdressers try to blondify everyone with semi-fair skin (and sometimes even not) because they make upwards of $150 per job... and a lot of them can't think out of the box (no pun intended) about colour. Meanwhile, not everyone suits going blonder... such as myself. It's such a cookie-cutter ideal of beauty, it drives me nuts.

Here's what I mean. (I have no idea who these people are, but I did a Google image search for "bad highlights" and this is what came up.)

Atomic Kitten - bad highlights

Now, don't get me wrong. A lot of the time (not counting the above), highlights can look pretty good, especially when you first get them done. But over time, unless your colourist is verrrrry careful about selecting the same sections, you can wind up with solid blonde hair and dark roots ANYWAY... which kinda defeats the purpose of supposedly low-maintenance highlights in the first place.

Also? Solid colour isn't even THAT high maintenance—at least if you don't go red—and it's actually less damaging than the bleach. So that's what I suggest (and yes, I've written about this here before, but it bears repeating). Most of us have ashy instead of warm base colours, so what I do is warm mine up with an all-over colour. Not lighter. Not darker. Just warmer. Honestly, it will change your life if you've been suffering from the blonde highlights plus ashy base colour syndrome where you look like your hair is grey!

To "break up" the solidness, I do just a sprinkling of tone-on-tone highlights to make it look sun-kissed. (If you've got dark hair, I suggest lowlights.) But you only need to do the highlights every three, four times you colour.

Got it? Good.

2. I get a toner put in every three weeks.

So here's the thing. My hair is this coppery colour... and anytime you put red into your hair, it has a hard time sticking. Fades fast. Especially if you're putting red on top of previously lightened hair (which makes it more porous).

I used to visit my colourist, the excellent Tony Chaar in Toronto, every five or six weeks for the whole shebang, but found that those last couple of weeks just weren't making me happy... my hair was looking blah. So now what I do is go every three weeks for a toner. (I KNOW. High-maintenance... but this is really only necessary for red shades. Or blondes, if you find yours goes brassy.)

The toner just gets shampooed through your hair and rinses out, so it's really just a quick little jobby at the salon, and doesn't cost much (I think it's around $40).

Or barring that, there is the next option...

3. I do at-home colour treatments.

I haven't done one of these in a while now since I've been doing the toner thing, but in a pinch, an at-home colour treatment that adds a bit of dye back in your hair will work similarly.

Artec makes these amazing colour depositing shampoos, which you can find at beauty supply shops.

Artec Color Depositing Shampoo

But what I'm REALLY keen to try is the Nutri Color Creme from Revlon Professional:

Revlon Professional Nutri Color Creme

They just sent me a couple to try (I'm going to use the Copper Gold), and they look freaking amazing... and more potent than my Artec. You have to apply them to dry hair with gloves and then leave in for three minutes. Each bottle has enough for 10 to 15 applications. Apparently the red shades are "very powerful"...  I'll keep you posted!

4. I try not to wash my hair too often.

This is a tough one (since I'm not one of those people blessed with wash-it-once-a-week texture). But it's a fact that the less you wash your hair, the more intact your colour's going to be—especially red tones. That's because the molecules are smaller than other colours and therefore aren't able to hold on to the hair cuticle as well. You're literally washing your colour down the drain. Sob!

So remember that it's not just the act of shampooing—it's any kind of water on your hair. Good thing they invented dry shampoo, yes? (In case you haven't heard my mad ravings yet, read this post to find out all about the product I love.)

5. I only use colour-safe shampoos.

And they tend to be the professional not the drugstore kind. What can I say? When you're this invested in your hair colour, you don't want to take any chances.

Right now I have to say that my favouritest shampoo is the Matrix Biolage Color Care one, which feels amazingly light yet non-drying, lathers well and has a great fresh scent. (I hate when colour care prodz are too moisturizing... ick!)

Matrix Biolage Color Care Shampoo

I also like Pureology, which is an entire line devoted to colour care. They have a shampoo that is volumizing:

Pureology Pure Volume Shampoo

And finally, Giovanni is the third brand in my shower at the moment. They're a natural brand and this is their eco-friendly shampoo for red tones. I do like it but the non-lathering bit is a matter of personal preference.

Giovanni Colorflage Remarkable Red Shampoo

6. I use colour masks a couple times a week.

Like face masking (which I've now made into a verb), hair masking is important. For both colour maintenance and overall hair health. Because getting in and out of the shower is annoying, most of the time I just use my hair mask as a conditioner, applying it to the length of my ponytail and leaving it in for about five minutes in the shower while I, um, do other things. Right now I'm rotating between the ones in the Matrix and Pureology lines mentioned above.

7. I try not to use hot water, and I have a water filter.

Ever considered that water itself could be a factor in your hair colour maintenance woes? Yep, for real. Hot water helps accelerate colour fading, so if you can bear it try to rinse in warm or lukewarm temps. It's also a good idea to pick up a water filter to eliminate any colour-fading minerals that get deposited on your hair (ew). I got this tip from a colourist years ago and he swore it was one of the biggest yet least-known hair issues. I use the Jonathan Product system (although it's probably time for a replacement, eeks!):

Jonathan Product Shower Filter

8. I avoid the sun and chlorine.

Did you read my post about ditching the sun for once and for all, and embracing my pale skin? Well, there's another reason that was a good idea—and it's because the sun is bad, bad news for fading hair colour. (What else is new?)

The other HUGE no-no is to get exposed to chlorine. I had a bad incident a few years back during my first experiment with reddish hair. I was sent to Monaco (yes, Monaco!) on a press trip in July... and AS IF I was going to forgo swimming in the luxury oceanfront pool. I won't lie, it was a career highlight. Problem was, it gave my hair kind of a greenish cast and I had to meet with this famous celebrity hairdresser, Ted Gibson, when I got back to Toronto.

He totally judged me.

Don't let this happen to you. Or, you know, wear a swim cap.

Have you found your Life Colour yet?
What's your hair colour maintenance regimen? (Tried any of my tips or prodz?)
Do you share my hate-on for highlights, or do you have another colour pet peeve?