August 20, 2017

Balayage (hair painting) : a Look I Love, But a Technique I Can Do Without

The More You Know the Less You FEAR

This post always generates a lot of hair stylists tearing me apart & putting me in answer to that, I have filled in some areas and re-written this so as to address the concerns they keep bringing up. Last I checked we still lived in the USA and there is room for everyone:

> professional hair stylists

> crib colorists 

> that damn Boxed hair color

   Had 1 more sad story emailed to me about Balayage this week,  this is a topic I have been tap dancing around for the entire time the KS Blog has been in existence. I have been promising forever to address my opinion about the technique. So, while it is not at all what I was planning on writing today, sometimes adapting to my readers, is the smartest decision.

 I need to be clear on something.......its not the "look" of Balayage I don't like ...its the "application " people are trying. Of course there are some beautiful balayage heads of hair out there, and a lot of talented artists doing the "freehand technique'' - but that is not the norm. that I hear from . Many people end up here because of some hair disaster - so when you hear it as much as I do, you really wonder if this whole hair painting thing is worth the marketing ploy.

About 18-19 years ago {yep, that’s how old this technique is} I first got wind of BALAYAGE - ( which was not its name for about 5 years). I can still remember hearing about it, and thought, uh geez……one more “cowboy color” move, I never talked or thought about it again. Once a year – every year, some new “technique’ within the hair color world gets introduced and then proceeds to (almost) always fail. I'm not saying no new hair coloring techniques won't be successful.....but you have to remember that unless a new chemical has been introduced, millions have people have been working on this issue for over 100 years......many brilliant artists and cosmetic chemists have been working and playing on new techniques and art forms.

 This dinghy Balayage is like gum on my shoe just won't go AWAY ! ! !  Everything about it makes absolutely no sense, although for the interest in the comment section, that shows me that many of you sure are intrigued by it....

Having wondered ‘where’ these quirky little processes  come from, makes me question - - the reason behind them. Within a Colorists world there is always a “new” technique around the corner..the industry of hair coloring was an 8 billion dollar sector of the market in 2016. That's right up there with the pentagon (j/k).   That new technique is almost always just a new name for something we already do, which means it is merely the result of the hair world’s > “Marketing-machine”.  In other words . . . the theory is, if a new technique is announced it will get more people into Salons, which is brilliant - do not get me wrong on that one.                          
Yep, that’s how the world of Color rolls! Why do you think they show pure white snowy blonds ( see my previous post) one month and raven dark haired vixens the next. As long as “change” is happening in hair color, then its a good thing for the “business” of hair color and the world of hair. If everyone were to remain a level 8 B ….year after year after year, what a boring ho-hum world it would be, and how hum drum it would be for business. Just like everything else in today’s world, Hair Color is first and foremost  - -  a business - -  and it needs rejuvenation and spark to stay interesting and provocative, just like any other.

I was trained at …. Vidal Sassoon. A school that has strict rules and regulations for extremely valid reasons. I admire their ways & means of teaching and continue to follow them all to this day. This entire BLOG is littered with both: KC-isms & Sassoon-isms… so if you want to learn the same, I would read and absorb…… and absorb. 

Now, when any Colorist is preparing to color a hair models hair, the first step always is the “consultation”. To me there is no more important step. The reason so many Stylists/Colorists make mistakes, is because they don’t take the time necessary to properly analyze this step and look at their clients hair back story. It is crucial to a successful outcome, to fully
  • analyze the hair’s characteristics,
  • learn the previous color processes performed
  • understand the “desired” look
Now, one of the biggest and most common mistakes one will see on blonds, is when the hair turns yellow/brass/orange/gold . I’ve tried many ways of explaining why that happens, we will try another one today. There is a misconception that ‘brass’ is a color and it can be removed, when nothing could be further from the truth. Its a bit of an ‘odd’ concept how the color Brass, or blorange, or Gold shows its ugly head in hair. But let me try  to explain how, where and why it comes from. I can’t tell you the amount of readers that have asked me if they could use the artificial hair color remover “VANISH” to remove the BRASS from their hair.’ 

Another KC-ism in Hair Color is

Using Vanish is the complete wrong tool, and it seems to be my issue in not teaching this concept properly….as to why some of you don’t understand why not....I would like to try to get this clarified in this post, if you don’t understand, PLEASE ask in the COMMENTS section below, so I can see what I am missing.

When you apply color to the hair you are adding color . Color + Color (=) makes more Color, so the hair has more pigment. If the color used is addition only, the hair will often (but not always) be darker.

When finally comprehending color theory, it can benefit much more than hair color, it can add to the Interior or Exterior Design of your Home, the Clothing you put together and wear, it can even benefit the Frosting or Decorations you make on a cake. Color Theory affects many different aspects of ones life, and once it sinks in,you will find yourself having “aha” moments that deal with color theory revelations randomly.I receive emails from new Crib Colorists all the time with various stories of how color theory has popped  into their everyday life. Remember ANY education, is good for you. 

For a balanced natural hair color: all 3 primaries must be present
An imbalance (lack of any of 3 primaries) of primaries leads to an imbalance of end result
Therefore if you are blond, with brassy tones, the method one would use to “COUNTER” the brassy tones is what?
If the hair color is brassy, that means the primary that is the strongest is the YELLOW.
{Primary colors are Red, Blue & Yellow}
So, if the YELLOW is predominant and is what is causing the hair to be an obnoxious brassy color
Use the rule, that if the color is objectionable, then play with the primary colors to solve the problem.Take the 2 other primary colors…..???? RED & BLUE, mix them together which makes PURPLE ( right?)
Add a PURPLE TONER to that brassy Blond and it will knock that brass right out of the hair .
Once you begin to lighten hair….warmth is released. The first pigment to be released during lightening is BLUE. If you start with the blackest most coarse hair and begin to lighten it with bleach, you immediately see a change.
Because BLUE is the first pigment to leave the hair, you would go very quickly into the RED Zone, which is also the most difficult zone to leave. However if you use a microscope to observe the same black hair being lightened, you would see a different dominance of pigment at each step
So, if you were to observe the amount of natural pigment remaining in the hair at each level under a microscope, you would see a dominance of blue pigment at LEVEL 1 – BLACK, Which makes sense because black is really the BLUEST BROWN.
  • Level 2: very very dark brown, a dominance of blue/violet, which is still very dark but not black,prevails.
  • Level 3 : violet dominates
  • Level 4: violet/Red
  • Level 5: Red
  • Level 6: Red/Orange
  • Level 7: Orange
**LEVEL 7, btw is the most difficult stage or level to get past  -  all the trouble with brassy colors in hair stems from this
  • Level 8 : DURP Gold
  • Level 9: Yellow
  • Level 10: Very Pale Yellow10 degrees99
Now, that is an overview of where “brass” comes from and why it is so very difficult to get rid of. It is the most dominant color, it is the hardest color to counter, and the most impossible color to eliminate. There is no avoiding it, it is the most predominant color in everyone’s hair, no matter ‘what’ color the Virgin hair is.
Now to explain ‘why the Balyage technique makes no sense to “this Colorist” anyway!
The color hardest to get out of the hair………is Gold/Brass {Level 7 Brass/Gold is like Glue}
The way in which hair is lightened is by applying bleach to the hair. The bleach then “lifts” the  color OUT OF THE STRANDS….in an effort to lighten it into the desired blond shade of choice….. in other words its like  sucking the color out the strands of hair…..
(I want to put this in the most simplified terms possible)
Say the hair is BLACK………….and you DESIRE PLATINUM
The mixture of Bleach plus 40 VOLUME DEVELOPER  is applied to the black hair and the bleach begins to suck the color out of the hair…………..
The lightening train goes like this….color is drawn out of the hair strand in this method:
  • BLACK - ->>> GOES TO
  • DARKEST BROWN ----> > >TO
  • DARK  BROWN  - - -> > >  GOES TO
  • BROWN  - - -> > >  GOES TO
  • LIGHT BROWN - - - -  GOES TO
  • RED - - - > > >  GOES TO
  • RED-ORANGE---->>> WHICH goes TO - - - >>>
  • GOLD  - - -  - which goes to
  • YELLOW - - - -> > > >
  • PALE BLOND the desired colored when millions of women go looking for a Sun-Kissed Blond Look).
Bleach/ lightener doesn't keep its strength forever.........Really after 75 minutes ( or knowing how well your hair lifts ,which should always be calculated with a strand test prior to using this product) 
Now what happens to so very many blonds that have BRASS instead of BLOND….is the lightener ( of whichever type or kind has been used)has not been left on long enough, OR a strong enough developer was not used. Resulting in the hair lightening up but getting stuck at the “GOLD” Level…..see it up there? If the lightener would have stayed on longer or a stronger volume developer would have been used it would have been able to climb those remaining 2 levels to PALE YELLOW BLOND .

Now when this dippy Balayage method, paints the Lightener on the hair –  FreeHand as you see in this photo:  001 Ballyage001
Why would you paint the lightener on the hair free hand? I have no idea what that accomplishes?
I wonder if they think it looks more natural??  It won’t……I wonder if they think it’s faster ?? Most likely.. . . .
 Foils are difficult to learn - they had foiling BOOT camps at Sassoon because they not only wanted your foiling work to be 'pretty' looking - when the foils were on the head  ( which at first I thought was sooooooooo bizarre - who cares???) ..............then after I finally absorbed and understood the entire Sassoon world and education I finally GOT IT ! While the other people in the salon had screwy looking uneven and  horribly placed foils - yours would be perfect and orderly, it not only made your client feel special I cannot tell you how many clients switched to me to be their Colorist -- SIMPLY because of my foiling work. I OWE THAT ALL TO SASSOON ! ) Remember Foils keeping moisture in and on the strands. Moisture keeps the lightener active and working, the last thing you want is for it to dry out.........which is what will happen to it in the AIR .....during Balayage. Do you really think no one thought of this before?  That's the part that gets me. So 70 years ago when all of these techniques were first being formulated you don't think the first Colorists didn't think of painting the bleach on the hair FIRST????


Because when you did that the client would repeatedly end up with brassy hair - then the hair needs to be "re-colored' and REPEATING lightening processes on top of each other is called OVER-LAPPING and check in my rules about how to achieve the most damage in lightening hair. OVER-LAPPING is at the top of the list. 

They figured out a long time ago if foils were used that the majority of people would have properly colored blonde hair. They did NOT make up the process just because they wanted to add a useless step to lightening hair. 


I know this is a very controversial subject but I stick to my guns about how foiling is the proper method for achieving natural looking "off- scalp" streaks, wisps or ribbons or ropes or pieces or whatever you want to call little pieces of hair that are lightened lighter than the rest of the hair.
FOILS are hard to learn. Ask anyone who is an A List Colorist and if properly placed they can achieve the exact same look with less time and more control.

 Here is another photo of Balayage, which I would foil and would achieve this exact same look.


As a Colorist .......what you want when you color hair is “control”. 

Control and Timing so I know exactly what is going to happen and WHEN. If you are to paint lightener on the hair you are going to lose the body’s warmth that comes from using foils. Once the lightener is applied to the strand of hair then the foil is folded over that strand …. both the body and the foil create HEAT a very mild warmth which is actually just perfect -- it gently helps the lightening action along. if you don’t use foil, you lose that, which means you have a much greater risk of ending up in the BRASS RANGE. The dreaded BRASS – range......... its why we use foils. 
 Lightening hair without the use of foils is archaic and unnecessary. If anything, apply the foils with the lightener, as hair stylists you must learn how to check hair that has lightener on it, and KNOW WHAT STAGE IT IS, I mean it doesn’t take long…in about 2 months of practice you could be good at foils and should know what hair looks like when you scrape off the lightener from a clients foils….to be able to tell whether or not you should rinse a client now or in 20 minutes. Yes, its an  art, but dammit, get GOOD at that art….its why you went into this biz, don’t be a slacker.

I cannot even figure out what the purpose of Balayage is, to be perfectly frank.

 I need to be clear on something.......its not the "look" of Balayage I don't like ...its the "application form" people are trying. Of course there are some beautiful balayage heads of hair out there, and a lot of talented artists doing the "freehand technique'' - but that is not the norm. I hear from . Many people end up here because of some hair disaster - so when you hear it as much as I do, you really wonder if this whole hair painting thing is worth the marketing ploy.
With foils you can create just about any work of art you would like….. foils let Color 1 be on a certain portion of hair. . . . while allowing Colors 4-7 & 9 to NOT be other portions…. 

Using foils are the mark of a Great Colorist. Everything they claim Balayage can create we have been doing for years with foils. There is a certain strain of hairstylists that don’t use foils and the only reason I could possibly imagine for not using foils is laziness, they are untrained in the art, or...the clients hair lifts so quickly it may get damaged.  . Foils are used for the heat they retain – the art they allow to have and the mobility they impart when trying to display a rainbow of colors WITHOUT BRASS in the blond’s. 

I will have at least a half dozen people every week ask me what they can do to get the brass out…..or the ‘orange’ out…I ask how the Stylist colored their hair and the answer is ALWAYS BALAYAGE!!!!!! So, if you believe nothing else, believe that, or your own experience.
The only way to lighten hair with “control” over how light it does or does not get is with Bleach. So many are hesitant of the use of bleach, . As an experienced Colorist, bleach can be your best friend … there are just soooo many uses for it, but never ever use it without plenty of experience behind you. 

Balayage began in the country of France, which explains a lot (to me) . Balayage,  is a French term for hair painting. It is a freehand placement of highlights, without the use of foils, allows for a more natural color application that complements and contrasts in all the right places.THAT is what the textbooks say. I say, bring back the foils!

This is what Balyage looks like;


Think before you request this technique and I never EVER would suggest or imply that anyone should try to do this technique at home, this is where the talented hair colorist comes in and they come in with a BANG doing this right! Ask that Stylist if they also do foils. 
Remember foils give the colorist more control and get the hair PAST that dreaded ‘brass’ stage.
Something.................anyone Loves !

August 19, 2017

Become LLLEVEL Headed, Knowing the ''Level System of Hair Coloring" Can Prevent Disasters

Back to the Books
 If you plan on trying to learn the CRIB COLORIST method you must review the entire blog.
 Please, read through the entire Blog, take a week to do it - if it seems overwhelming or 'too much' ... it doesn't take that long and everyone I ask to do that - 'Thanks me' - when they are finished.... they really do! Absorb and learn it so you have the advantage/knowledge for the rest of your life.


I want to go back and review some of the Level System. Of course in this small arena, I have not covered it all. I tried to focus on the important parts, but I realize there are additional areas I must cover so the education is more thorough.

What I'd like to do is to get everyone on Killerstrands talking in 'Levels and Tones', as a Sassoon Colorist that's how we roll. Everyone is known by their hair color level & tone, every single person has one, even if they have never colored their hair. So as you go through your day, as you stand in the line at the post office - start guessing everyone's Level and Tone - practice makes perfect

The first task in learning hair color theory is to understand the difference between LEVEL and TONE. These 2 characteristics of Color are the most important and vital to understanding the concept.

Level, I thought I felt confidant that most everyone understands this concept, it simply refers to the lightness or darkness of hair color be it natural or artificial............. but over the course of this last week........I am realizing there will always be brand new people showing up and my teaching will never be done.  If anyone out there is having a difficult time with the concept of "Level" I want you to post a comment at the end of this post OR email me so I know. Everyone here needs to be able to name every person in your life's Level/Tone of hair. Think about that. . can you?

 Everyone is one level between  LEVEL 1 & 12 .

The amount of Tones is a whole different story. Especially in 2017. Because now it is normal to have a Rose-Gold in your line and if you don't you better get back to the Lab and invent one ! Because that was the single most desired tone in Salons  in 2016 ! and I don't see it doing away anytime soon. I guess the confusing part comes from the fact that as soon as the major hair color manufacturers decide on a basic 8 Tones, one of the companies decides to add a new tone or two, for Pizzazz! As colorists we are never more thrilled when we hear of a new tone coming down the pike. They call that a Lab-Rat, and sadly I may fit well into that category -- what a loser.

Manufacturers Level Systems vary somewhat from one another. Some products have ten levels, some 11, some 12. Regardless of the variations the lowest number will be the darkest color in any given system - highest number the lightest color.

Levels are precise degrees of lightness standardized across the manufacturer's tonal groups. All colors of the same level will have the same degree of lightness or depth, whether natural (neutral), ash, gold, matte, Pearl, Brown-Red-Violet, or any other tone.
To illustrate this, visualize a tall building, black is the basement and white is the penthouse, graduating from dark to light each story a grade lighter than the one beneath it. 
That is the International Level System, with numbers identifying those grades of dark to light. 
If you wash this image with a hue, such as gold, then you have a tonal series. 
 Imagine a "black and White" photograph - in that you are only seeing 'Levels" of color. Before color in our TV's and in our photographs we only had this "tonal" look. Its taking one color and going from the dark to light in each.

Tone refers to the hue of a hair color, be it natural or artificial. The main tones, or hues, of hair coloring are natural, ash, beige, gold & red...although I like to add, matt, pearl, brown-red and a few others. 

Another point I know I didn't clarify was the labeling of hair color, so when you go to buy that first tube of color you won't be thoroughly confused by what's printed on the end of the box. Manufacturers usually indicate the tones of their colors with letters: 'A' for Ash ....'N' for Neutral and so on. Numbers are also used to designate 'tone', for instance, if ".1" means ASH , then a Level 6 ASH would be a 6.1. That's the method, my European based WELLA line uses and to make it easier on the end of the box it says : 6/01A, so you get both.

Any color can be described in level and tone. If the sky is blue and darkest blue almost navy along the horizon and then graduates up as you look into the sky. Those are also distinctions in "levels". The level system pertains specifically and only to hair coloring.
If you are having problem distinguishing between level and tone, give it some more time. It will come to you. Its just foreign lingo.

FYI: the painters use of these words are totally different than the hair colorists and should not be related -- each has different vernaculars, but it is still all COLOR THEORY !
August 15, 2017

Brunette, Brunette . . .Our Scarlett Was Brunette . . . What Say You, Dear Rhett ? ?

Let’s give it up for our Dark Haired Beauties

Lately, there seems to be so much focus on blonde or platinum blonde hair that we almost forget about all those gorgeous brunettes out there.  Brunette hair comes in so many different shades of brown, from the deepest, richest dark to chestnut, to honey brown. There has always been something mysterious about dark haired beauties. And do blondes really have more fun? The answer is NO! I can tell you from experience, blondes are high maintenance, especially when your hair is naturally dark like mine. There are a few Boost and Burst semi-permanent colors that could either enhance or tone your beautiful brunette hair. Keep in mind, these are color depositing shampoos and conditioners that will eventually wash out.

Boost Shampoo and Burst Conditioner are both great for delivering semi-permanent pigment on top of the hair strands, and with Burst being a conditioner, you can leave it on for as long as you like as it conditions the hair while helping you reach your desired color or tone.

CafĂ© Azul – This is a gorgeous brown (blue base) that will remove any orange tones....excellent for Latino's or any damn person, orange is a very common complaint!

Cashmere Chocolate –  Is a rich deep chocolate brown with a bit of ash (green base) which will fight those annoying reddish tones that sometimes show up, especially after lightening your natural brown.

H.Ash Brown – This a deep rich brown (deeper green base) that will really cool down those reds.'

Note: Please careful if you have any yellow blonde pieces or highlights as they will turn green with blue or green based colors. 

Chocolate Mauve - Is a great option to enhance your brunette hair with purple-red-rose  tones.

Chrome Chocolate – Is an excellent silvery chocolate that is really hot right now, takes that brown hair to an Ashy -Icy brown

Hanalei – is a wonderful color for the lighter brunettes (violet/blue base) that will fight gold/brass in brunettes.


Crib Colorist