I posted about my hair inspiration a week or so ago so now I can update you on exactly how it turned out and what I learned during the process. Thankfully I'm really happy with the results! It took a good amount of research, some patience, and a few mistakes, but in the end I got the look that I wanted (natural-looking balayage highlights) for a total of about $25 instead of the hundreds it would have cost in a salon. I call that a success. If you're curious about attempting this yourself, here's a little bit more about how my experiment went and the tips I'd give to anyone else who wants to try it. Even if it seems a little daunting, I think that almost anyone could do this as long as you take it slow and take all the necessary precautions.
Do a little research - I had been thinking about trying an ombré look or something similar for a while, so I started by collecting images of looks that I liked over on my Beauty Pinterest board. Having images of the highlights that I liked helped me decided where to apply them on myself. Once I found out that the look I really wanted is called "balayage," I did a lot of research on YouTube, just watching how professionals do the highlights. This step made me a lot more confident when it came down to it.
Have a friend help - I thought that I could do this myself, but it was a lot easier to have a couple friends on hand (we were also dyeing their hair) to make sure everything went smoothly. I showed them photos of what I wanted so that they could make sure what I was doing matched up with the look I was going for. It was also really helpful for doing the highlights on the back of my head.
Do a strand test - This step is incredibly important, especially if you are using a lightening product like the L'oreal Ombré kit or a highlighting kit. It's a little less risky on blonde hair, but since my hair is dark brown, I wanted to make sure my hair did not lighten too much. I did a strand test in the middle of my hair (near the ear) for the recommended development time of 25 minutes and discovered that it was much too bright for the look that I wanted. After that, I knew not to leave it on for so long. Everyone's hair is different so I highly recommend doing this a day before you actually highlight. That way you can see the color in different lighting before you decide to do it all over.
Work quickly - One of the downsides of using a lightening solution is that it will continue to develop (lighten) until you rinse it out. Since I was being careful to apply the highlights where and how I wanted, I really had to keep an eye on each highlight to know when to rinse it out. So it wouldn't get too light, I rinsed out the first highlights that I did a few minutes before the last ones. If you wait and rinse them all out at once, the ones you did first will be significantly lighter than the others. I'd also suggest highlighting the bottom half of your hair, then rinsing and drying before doing the top layer. You won't be as rushed that way and you can see what it looks like.
Have fun! I'm really happy with how mine turned out. It looks significantly lighter overall than my old hair, but the look is still very natural and not harsh at all. It blends really well into my roots so I'm not worried at all about grow-out. It lightened my natural hair color so it looks reddish in some lights, but that's exactly how I wanted it to look so I'm a happy camper. This is definitely a great subtle change for anyone with hair like mine that was dark and pretty one-dimensional. The highlights give it some much-needed contrast and dimension and brighten it up a bit for the warmer months.
Step by Step
1. Work with dry, unwashed, product-free hair. Purchase a lightening kit like the L'oreal Wild Ombré Kit (I used 060 for medium to dark brown hair). Make sure to buy the kit designed your own hair color.
2. If you want the balayage highlights look, also purchase a color mixing bowl and a highlight brush. Both are available at beauty supply stores and are very inexpensive.
3. Decide where you want the highlights to be, how thick or thin you want them, and how close to the root they should go before mixing your bleach.
4. Do a strand test! Do this the night before on a small strand of hair behind your ear and in the middle of your hair. Let the lightener develop according to the kit instructions, and determine how long to leave it in your hair based on that test.
5. Mix your lightening kit in the mixing bowl with the plastic brush you bought. Once you have mixed it, start applying! *I made the mistake of leaving my bleach out for a long time while I was helping my friends with their hair, so by the time I got to my last highlights, the bleach had pretty much stopped working. I had to go buy another kit the next day and re-apply to those spots.
6. Take a strand of hair and apply the bleach from the bottom up. Coat the bottom half of the strand thoroughly, and use a lighter hand where you want it to blend into your own hair. When you get to a few inches before the root, paint the bleach on the strand in a sharp V shape. This creates the natural, blended look and no grow-out line.
7. Apply the highlights wherever you want them, and make sure to stagger how close the highlights come to the root. If you do one up to 2 inches before the root, the next one might be an inch from the root or 3 inches. This keeps the look natural.
8. Keep an eye on your highlights and rinse out when needed! I just used my bathroom sink to rinse out my individual highlights once they were ready. Using a stopwatch on my iPhone helped me keep track of when to rinse them out.
9. Condition, condition, condition! Any kind of bleaching kit will damage your hair, no question about it. I didn't think this kit was very damaging to my untreated hair, but it definitely felt a little more dry and coarse afterwords, so I've been using my Organix Macadamia Oil Intensive Moisture Mask in place of conditioner. I also really like using the Organix Coconut Milk Anti-Breakage Serum on my ends if they are feeling a little dry.
I hope this was helpful to some of you and inspired someone to go try this themselves! Let me know if anyone ends up giving it a whirl!