Hair of a Different Color

Expert advice on changing your look with candy-colored locks.


Hair has always been a prime platform for making a personal statement. While chic or edgy cuts stand out, color makes a coif pop—and all colors of the rainbow are currently imprinting on street style, and even looks beyond.

“Bright hair is a commitment,” says Emily Grace Pole, Aveda-educated and licensed stylist at Salon Ciseaux in Winter Park. Untraditional colors call for more salon maintenance thanks to bleaching, which ultimately damages natural strands. So before jumping in headfirst, plan a consultation.

“This is sort of life-changing,” says Pole. She recommends asking yourself: Is your workplace okay with it? Are you comfortable with it? Because you’re likely to draw stares. 

If the answer is yes, it’s time to take the next step and consider skin tone and eye color. 

“Your stylist will have insight on which colors complement you best,” Pole says. “If you have cooler tones in your face, think purples, blues, greens. If you have a warmer skin tone, try pinks, reds, or rose gold.” And it’s important to consider your stylist’s professional recommendation—he/she has done this before and knows what works. For instance, you may want neon blue, but it may not be the best color for your skin tone.

After the consult, book an appointment with your stylist. And no, Pole says, never do this at home. 

Arrive at the salon with your hair clean, dry and natural (meaning: no styling product). Book early in the day, as the process can take three or more hours. The timeline depends on your hair’s length and color. “Virgin [undyed] hair will bleach quicker,” Pole says. “Colored hair is a longer process because the Enlightener [bleach] has to break through layers of color.”

When bleaching, Pole uses powder on the ends of the hair and caffeinated cream on the scalp that slightly numbs so there’s no tingle or burning. Hair often turns different colors while lightening, so spots that don’t lift are done again to make the hair an even white blonde. 

“This is the most important step,” says Pole. “Dark hair goes to red to orange to yellow, and blonde might go to yellow. Yellow is the toughest level to break through. But you have to do it until you hit white, no matter how long it takes.”

Why? “Imagine painting pink on white paper. It’s pink, right? Now imagine painting pink on yellow paper. It’s orange. Same goes for hair color. Once you get that perfect white blonde and put color over it, it takes right away.”

Once the process is complete, the hair color should be vibrant for 4-6 weeks. While bleaching is permanent, the dye is semi-permanent. This means getting a touch-up every month, unless you’re going for a faded look. Cost for the initial bleach and dye process can range from $150-$500.

Last step: Embrace your new look. “Ten years ago if you were walking down the street with lavender hair, people would say ‘what the heck?’” says Pole. “Now you see it often enough to not question it, which means we’re accepting people’s individuality more. And I think that’s really cool.” 


Helpful tips for maintaining your new hair color:

  • Heat fades color fast, so turn down the temperature on your flat iron and blow dryer. Consider using a heat protectant spray prior to styling.
  • Don’t wash every day. Go for every other day at most, opting for dry shampoo in between, if needed.
  • Avoid shampoos with sulfates and styling products with alcohol, which are two things that fade color fast.
  • If possible, ask your stylist to give you a little of the leftover color to mix in with your conditioner. That way, every time you condition your hair you’ll deposit a little bit of color.
  • Stay out of the sun—prolonged exposure is just as bad for your hair as it is for your skin.
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