You just know your colourist has your best interests at heart when he suggests growing out your colour. In my case, the colourist happens to be one of the world’s best and most in demand - Josh Wood - and he had begun to drop hints years before I actually took any notice. At the time, I was beauty director of a glossy magazine and my hair was a warm, expensive looking shade of ‘double process’ blonde painstakingly created with tint and artfully painted on sunny lights. It was high maintenance, needing a re-touch every three or four weeks.
Back then the upkeep didn’t bother me. Plus, I was enjoying being a blonde, even though I hadn’t set out to be one. My hair had been ‘geeky/mousey’ light brown as a teenager and into my 20s and I hadn’t dreamt of colouring it until I began to spot white hairs - a few at first, then more. Semi-permanent ‘wash in, wash out’ colourants were a good disguise, but soon I needed more coverage and highlights became the best solution, until I was officially blonde. This worked really well through my 30s - the colour suited me and where I was at. By then I was editor-in-chief of a beauty and health magazine, going to the shows in New York and Paris, on shoots to exotic places, and attending launches with big beauty brands. I needed to look the part.
Until, as I realise now, I hit a mid-life colour crisis. I was around 45ish when Josh began to suggest letting my colour grow out. After 15 years of default blonde I had no clue what was underneath, but he seemed convinced it would look good. Ironically, we were doing an interview about going grey gracefully. Wood, brilliantly, had just sent models down Jean Paul Gaultier’s Paris runway show wearing wigs with amazing tones of romantic silvery white and soft cloudy grey, turning our perceptions about hair colour and age upside down. But it was another few years before I began to apply this thinking to myself.
The pivotal moment came when my ‘grey’ roots seemed to be growing through faster, I was hurtling towards 50 and wanted to make changes in my life. Little did I know my hair colour would play a part in this. I remember I’d gone to see Josh at his newly opened Atelier in Holland Park - I was there to see the new space and plan a photo shoot, but we started talking about my colour, how the roots were becoming more pronounced the lighter (i.e. whiter) my hair was becoming.
Josh suggested lightening just the front section to blend in my natural colour to see what it looked like. I trusted him, he did it and I loved it. It seemed to magically make my skin tone look healthier, my eyes bluer, and somehow I needed less blusher, less concealer, less makeup in general. The biggest plus: my roots were virtually invisible. Finally, I could relax and let my colour grow out. Just as well - a few months later I decided to quit my job and head to India to study yoga at an ashram in the remote Himalayas, where you wash your hair in a bucket of cold water and £300 colour re-touches don’t exist.
Two years on, I’ve not been back for colour (though I still love going to the Atelier). In Hackney hipster territory, I see twenty-somethings looking gorgeous with bright, white hair, others with tones of mint and baby pink - I think in part kickstarted by Josh’s candy floss colour creations for the Louis Vuitton show a while back. And now there is a shift towards something less bling in hair colour which seems to stem from the Prada Spring/Summer 14 show. Wood tinted all of the models’ hair (around 40 of them) to what he describes as monochrome colours - red, blonde, brunette in block shades. (No highlights! No dip dye! No crazy colour!). Which brought a kind of intellectual librarian style hush to hair. This continues on in the Marc Jacobs Autumn/Winter 14/15 show where models sported hair looks striking for their tempered slightly ‘off’ tones (designed by the Atelier’s Sandy Hullett).
Meanwhile, I’m still getting used to seeing myself with my practically white hair. I won’t lie, ‘no colour’ is a bit of a shock. ‘It’s like being naked, you’re exposed,’ said Josh when I spoke to him yesterday. He’s right, it feels raw, revealing, the real me. My rational brain tells me it suits me better, it chimes with my yogic life and I’ve never had so many compliments on my hair. I’ve even been stopped on the street and asked where I get my colour done. I’m now tempted to dip back into a bit of colour, going for what Josh calls a ‘seasonal, tonal adjustment’ (see below for explanation). But I’ll never be a slave to my roots again.
Effortlessly Done - Josh Wood explains how to update your hair with the new toned down colour:
- Dial it down: ‘Brights aren’t quite so bright. A lot of it is to do with finish, which is why I created the professional permanent colour Illumina for Wella. It has a lustre not gloss, which gives more of realistic looking natural beauty.’
- Avoid stripes: ‘All over solid colour looks more modern than stark highlights. We’re using what we call ‘free lights’ - putting lightness where you need it - not so intensely coloured at the roots, or as heavy on the ends as in ombre colour techniques.’
- Adjust your tone: ‘This anti-bling approach to hair is all about hitting the right tone. I’m currently creating a new colour for Wella called ‘Instamatic’, a collection of soft, antique faded neons, such as jaded green, ice cube, amethyst which can be used on top of browns and blondes for a layered, tonal effect, acting as semi matt/semi gloss top coat.’
- Finish right: ‘It’s all about glamorous grunge, but not about doing nothing. For example, instead of blow drying, we’re plaiting hair or using a diffuser to give a crafted, by-hand undone finish. It’s a definite move away from the high gloss, plastic flat ironed look.’
- Change your products: ‘We’re used to thinking the more shine, the better the condition, but somewhere between matt and hi shine looks more modern. For example, switching to using pre-shampoo conditioning oil instead of a heavy duty post shampoo conditioner will help create this.’
Get the look
Bumble & Bumble Surf Foam Wash , £18 and Surf Creme Rinse, £20 gently cleans and conditions without leaving hair slippery or overly shiny.
Purely Perfect Cleansing Creme , £35 this new, completely natural no-foam lotion shampoo and conditioner in one takes a little getting used to but leaves hair baby soft and ‘virgin’ feeling.
Pureology Perfect 4 Platinum Miracle Filler Treatment , £13 is great for taking away the brassiness and bringing the sparkle back to blondes. A little goes a long way.
Josh Wood Radiant Shine Hair Treatment Oil , £12.50, use before you shampoo to keep hair soft and naturally glossy looking.