Usually, I’m not exactly adventurous when it comes to dyeing my brown hair. Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t even colored it since 2015, and even then, I just got some very subtle tortoiseshell ombré. Then, one day, I suddenly just thought, "Screw it, let’s shake things up," and that epiphany took my hair from its natural light brown to a smoky grey and purple shade that can only be described as crystal ball hair.
How else would you describe a color that combines pastel silver, hazy purple, and a subtle pop of blue to keep the colors cool, if not with ???? I guess you could describe it the way I first did to genius hair colorist Stephanie Brown — the woman behind this summer’s stunning cold brew hair — who took my crystal ball vision and turned it into a reality.
Before first meeting Brown at Nunzio Saviano Salon in Manhattan (Brown is now taking appointments at Eddie Arthur Salon), I tried to explain what I wanted over email. "I was interested in getting some icy purple highlights," I told her, and "keeping my roots natural, then adding in some light highlights throughout along with the icy purple/lavender." I also sent along some photos of hair colors that had components of what I wanted but didn’t quite capture the full ~vision~. Luckily, Brown knew exactly what to do and got to work on my "virgin hair."
If you can’t tell from the photo above, I have extremely long, thick hair, so I was ready to settle in for an hours-long process, and assumed I’d have to come back regularly for touch-ups. Much to my surprise, however, this initial appointment took less than two hours, and I only had to return once, for a followup that took literally 15 minutes.
As for what actually happened during those first two hours, Brown started by actually painting bleach into small sections of my hair, and teasing it a bit with foils, before I sat under a surprisingly soothing heat lamp for about five minutes (not my best look). Then, she painted some more bleach into my hair, this time on the sections without any foil, and put me back under the heat lamp for another five minutes.
After removing the foils and rinsing all the bleach out, it was time for the main event: the purple. Brown mixed up a bowl of various hair dyes that included silver, purple, and blue, along with oVertone conditioner in the pastel shades of each color.
This time, instead of honing in on specific sections of my hair to color, she covered my entire head in the dye, which I found a tiny bit terrifying in the moment. Then, it was back to the heat lamp for a few more minutes, until Brown came over to check out the progress, added some more purple to a few spots, and had me bake under the lamp for a final two minutes before rinsing it all out.
Finally, it was time to dry and see the end result. After seeing just how much dye went into my hair, I was definitely nervous, but once I saw my blown-out hair, I was absolutely in love.
By only bleaching specific strands and then covering my whole head in dye, Brown had given me a color with tons of depth. The bleached parts of my hair were a bright purple — yet still icy thanks to that bit of blue — that immediately popped, while the darker sections showed more of the smoky silver. Every time I turned my head in the mirror, I saw a whole different shade.
Thankfully, though different sections of my hair looked completely different, they still felt about the same as they did when I first walked into the salon. Part of why I was always hesitant to make any significant changes to my hair was the fear of damage — I blow dry my hair every other day and usually straighten it every day, so my ends aren’t exactly the healthiest to begin with. But since only some small strands were bleached, my hair didn’t feel noticeably different.
Before I left, Brown suggested that I come back and get the color touched up a bit once I’d washed it and seen how the color fades. I took her advice and went back after about two weeks, once again feeling trepidatious, because the purple had faded rather quickly, in just about five washes.
There were still pops of it here and there, but the color didn’t have that same gorgeous dimension that it did for the first week. Of course, I didn’t need to worry, because Brown knew exactly what to do.
Now that my hair was no longer "virgin," Brown explained, it would likely hold color better, and she knew to add even more pigment this time, so that it would fade to the crystal ball shade I wanted. She mixed up a more vibrant dye and, again, covered my whole head in it.
When I walked out 15 minutes and a quick blow-dry later, I felt like a goth mermaid (in a good way).
After a couple of washes with regular shampoo and conditioner, my purple faded back to that lighter, icier hue. Once again, it was exactly what I wanted, and to keep it that way, I started using oVertone conditioner at home, as Brown had recommended.
If you’re not familiar with it, oVertone is basically conditioner with a bit of color pigment in it, which you can use to add or maintain color-treated hair. Even though Brown had used all pastel shades in her blend of dyes, I started using oVertone’s Pastel Silver Deep Treatment ($28, overtone.co), Extreme Purple Daily Conditioner ($18, overtone.co), and Extreme Blue Daily Conditioner ($18, overtone.co), since they wouldn’t show up as strongly in my brown hair.
Now, whenever I wash my hair, I mix up a concoction of plain white conditioner, a lot of purple oVertone, a good amount of the silver, and just a drop of the blue, and use that to condition my hair and ensure it stays hydrated. In case you’re wondering, to do this, I do need to keep a plastic cup and spoon in my shower, and yes, my roommate thinks it’s weird AF. Still, it’s definitely worth the extra effort, because my hair is back to its crystal ball glory and staying that way.
The only change I really have noticed in my hair since then is that it tends to tangle more easily, and I come across more knots than I’m used to. I think that’s because the few extremely bleached pieces of hair are a bit coarser than the rest, which can make them harder to untangle. And since I wanted to mix the oVertone with a plain white conditioner, I bought the most basic drugstore conditioner I could find, when I typically use an amazing custom conditioner from Function Of Beauty, so that certainly factors into the tangles.
But I’ve also changed up how I style my hair since I dyed it, and went from straightening it every single day to using a texturizing spray to make it wavy, and that definitely contributes to the abundance of knots i’ve been finding. Ultimately, I think that will actually help my hair, since the less I straighten it, the less heat damage it’ll suffer. And, perhaps even more importantly, I can wake up a solid 15 minutes later every morning, because throwing that texturizing spray in takes way less time than straightening the ridiculous amount of hair on my head.
After living this crystal ball life for over six weeks, I could not recommend trying it out for yourself more, especially for anyone who wants to change their look without going too far outside their comfort zone. The unique color has me feeling so much more confident on a daily basis, but I still have enough of my natural color to feel like myself — and I don’t think you need a real crystal ball to see the fun future that can bring.
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