I’m the first to admit how vain I am about my hair. Like an evil queen in a children’s movie, you can catch me making eyes at my own reflection in the mirror while running my fingers through my long dark brown hair on any given day. Blame my parents for creating this monster—I do whenever I need an excuse to seem humble! Some of my earliest memories are of my hair reflecting copper in the sunlight and my dad noting that it was “a touch of the Irish” that trickled down from his beloved grandmother. Here’s what I’m getting at: no matter who’s fault it is, I’m pretty territorial about my natural hair color.
Aside from a botched home ombre (say that five times fast) in college, no one’s been allowed near this head with bleach. I’m worried about hair that feels like straw, becoming one of those lost souls with brassy color who haunt my neighborhood salon, or even liking it so much I become a full-blown hair color addict. Fears aside, when I got the email that L’Oréal Professionnel needed a model with virgin hair to try out balayage, I was quick to respond YES. What’s life without an adrenaline rush to keep you on your toes?
Virgin Hair Transformation: The Consultation
So that’s how I found myself nervously tapping my toes at L’Oréal Professionnel’s academy earlier this week, watching a herd of busy stylists run back and forth while I waited my turn for color. As I sat for my color consultation with Sebastian Langman-Kirtley (@sebastiancolorist), I believe I even heard the terminally embarrassing words “be gentle with me” come out of my own mouth. What am I, some kind of hair editor who’s never dyed her hair?
For about ten minutes, Langman-Kirtley and I chatted about the State of My Hair. I confirmed that it had never been dyed, that I’d always had baby hairs in that one particular spot (a technique, I later learned, that exists so customers don't think bleach broke them off when the appointment's over). He promised to treat me gently and start with subtle warm highlights that mimic a natural red-blonde streak in my hair.
The Color Process
Consultation complete, Langman-Kirtley grabbed his balayage board (think of it like an artist’s palette but for hair dye) and went to work painting my freshly washed and blow-dried hair. He worked in unbelievably thin sections, chatting away as he painted on color in W-shapes while I tried not to think about whether or not my hair would break off. I shouldn’t have worried—you don’t get to be a pro at Langman-Kirtley’s level without seriously knowing your stuff. In just about 15 minutes, he’d finished painting all over my head and left me, swaddled in layers of plastic wrap, to cook while the dye set. Although I had an unfounded suspicion that my head would begin itching uncontrollably, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I wouldn’t have even remembered the chemical process taking place a few inches away from my scalp if there hadn’t been enough plastic on my head to wrap a Thanksgiving leftover turkey.
Langman-Kirtley’s work done, I sat quietly for around 20 minutes and tried not to panic about the sudden change past me thought was a good idea. Where did she get the nerve, anyway? It didn’t help that my trusted pro leaned in to check my hair every few minutes with the focus of a man who’s trying really hard not to burn something in the oven and announced how much time was left. By the time he proclaimed me a finished masterpiece and pulled the plastic out of my hair, I was mentally steeled for the results.
The Final Verdict
Here’s the best part (one that shouldn’t have been a surprise at all): My hair looked stunning. Washed, rinsed, dried, and styled, I looked like I was just having the best hair day of my life. Like the sun was permanently shining on my mane, the coppery gold highlights played up everything I love about my natural color without looking obvious or stripey. I caught my own eye in the mirror, finding the reflection of a former evil queen who was pretty thrilled with her new look. We exchanged a knowing glance.
On the other side of my appointment, I’m grateful for Langman-Kirtley’s gentle guidance and the way he set me up for success (he even assured me I’d never have to come back for touch-ups if I didn’t want to). It’s confidence like his that makes salon appointments so worthwhile! It’s a new day, and I’m a hair editor with highlights. Maybe hell has frozen over, after all!
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