Let me get that (n)Ombre : Part 1

The compilation of a multi toned banded palette's journey to a high contrast ombre

This beauty above us didn't walk through the door and sit in my chair with this head of hair. She wasn't a referral from an existing guest, or a stylist friend who thought we would hit it off. This gorgeous, long, healthy head of hair seated on top of this amazing woman's head started out as a banded, brassy, scraggly head of confusion. This was a big accomplishment, guys. And dear lord am I proud. But this also wasn't the end result of round one. Thus, I bring you "Let me get that n(Ombre) : Part 1" of 3 to be exact.


We've all had those days. The ones where your first appointment shows up 15 minutes late and doesn't even acknowledge it, our second guest is in the books for a blow out but thinks they're down for a touch up, and our last guest of the day decides that instead of a touch up they want to start going blonder.

This guest (we'll call her Rapunzel) was scheduled as a first time touch up. JUST A TOUCH UP. You can imagine my surprise when this is what sat in my chair.


As a hairdresser, and human in general, I pride myself on having integrity. I mean that in every way that it translates. I create & maintain integrity in my guests hair, I have integrity to my family and friends (follow through on promises, tell the truth, try to be on time, etc.), and I try to have integrity to my daily work schedule. WITH THAT BEING SAID, this head of hair posed a bit of an ethics issue. Does my integrity reside with my next guest who I will undoubtedly be late for it I don't play my cards right here, or does it reside in helping this hair? Doing what I can to set the stage, give her an amazing first experience in my chair so that I can knock this color correction out of the park? Because, guys, I'm confident that I can, but not in less than 2 hours.

We start to talk. Like, really hash this out. I need to know how this happened.

SIDEBAR, I find that as hairdressers we always assume the worst. Either some other hairdresser totally ruined a guests hair and we're going to save the day, a guest decided to try box color and ruined their own hair... and we're going to save the day, etc. I challenge you to put your ego aside the next time you have this head of hair sit in your chair. Rather than finding a place for blame, figure out what actually HAPPENED, and you will be a better stylist for it. In this approach, you may hear things that you never would have before. Maybe that your guest tried to box color her hair to save a little extra money for a few months so she can do something special for her kid, and she's a single mom. Maybe her cousin just finished cosmetology school and they really wanted to support their education and business. There is always a reason for how something has happened. Is it sometimes because another stylist royally forked up? Yes. Is it always because of that? No. Watch your ego, watch your words, and be kind guys. Just be kind.

SO. We're digging. We're talking, I'm asking questions, and the history is starting to unfold. She wants a high contrast ombre. Dark roots, cool tones on everything. She doesn't want to cut her hair and hasn't had it trimmed in roughly 6 months. She used to go to a stylist that she traded services with, and that stylist started to get flaky and hard to get in with, so she found somewhere else to take her business. She gave this stylist a couple tries, and they just couldn't make magic together. The next stylist she went to was fine, but the same issue. And now, here we are. In my chair, with more than 10 minutes already gone talking about the last 6 months of her hair color.

This is the point where I get real with her. "Rapunzel, I love your end goal, and I'm on board. What I'm seeing right now is some heavy banding, a large variation of textures and colors in the hair. Today, I have you on my books for a touch up, which I know in my heart of hearts is NOT what you are looking for, so lets make a game plan on how to get you from right now, to your dream ombre."

RAPUNZEL IS ON BOARD. We talked, I got her up to speed on what was going on in that head of hair, and exactly what it would take to get her where she wanted to be. Then, I padded my # of appointments quote with a full extra color application just to make sure that I delivered. THEN, I broke it down to what I could do today, and to be honest, it wasn't much. We just didn't have the time. Here is what we had to start with:

Band 1: Virgin level 6

Band 2: Colored level 5


Band 4: Colored level 2 & warm levels 7 & 8

Lengths & Ends: A variety of ashy 9, warm 8, and a lowlight of a neutral 8 with some pieces of 5

Here's the kicker. I HAD TIME FOR A BASE TOUCH UP AND PARTIAL HIGHLIGHT. THATS IT. So, I know that there are one million ways to approach this, and in any world other than what I was dealing with (serious time restraints and a guest that if I didn't do something to her hair today would leave and walk right into the first nice salon that would take her) I would have done something different. But I also knew that I was the woman for this job, and I already really liked her.

We started by touching up her base through her back two quadrants BELOW her crown. We wanted to stay in the cool family, and in order to marry her zone 1 in to her zone 3 in ANY way visually, I would need to take her bands above the colored level two (band 3) darker. I decided on a cool level 5 that I would drag through her band 3 in between her highlights.

After I applied the two quadrants, I foiled her crown in a diagonal weave and painted her new base color in between. Because her base color was dark AND cool, and we were already starting with a challenging palette, I didn't want to create any additional work for my bleach to have to cut through by applying my base color first and foiling through it after.

Once the back was applied, I sectioned a mohawk section over her natural part and clipped it away. I then foiled 4 woven packets on a diagonal back section starting at her hairline by her temples on either side, all while still painting my base color in between and finishing the remaining un-foiled parts of the section by completing the touch up. I foiled the mohawk section on a slight diagonal forward following her hairline and touched up her base in between. In each foil packet, I painted a lower volume bleach at her base through zone 2, and in zone 3 used a higher volume, careful not to overlap to any prelightened hair. Below are her formulas.

Base Color (applied zones 1-3) :

40g 6,71 (level 6 beige with blue based ash)

60g 10 volume

Highlight Formula 1:

16g bleaching powder

16g 20 volume

Highlight Formula 2:

16g bleaching powder

16g 30 volume

Rapunzel processed for 30 minutes and pulled almost exactly as expected, which wasn't terrible. We got a slightly banded lift, BUT it wasn't a large contrast due to the 2 different bleach formulations. Huzzah! Score one for science. I then toned her with 1 formula, dried her, and here are some of the finished results from application #1.


10g 10,01 (level 10 natural blue based ash)

10g 9,0 (level 9 natural / neutral)

50g 5 Volume


MAN. At the end of this whirlwind, I was so disappointed. I wanted to have done more to set myself up for success, to have gotten her close to where she wanted to be, and to have just had more time with her. The key points were that her hair was VISIBLY more cohesive, it felt much better than when she walked in, and she was happy. Nay, thrilled. She was thrilled. Which is what really matters, right??

Just to give you guys an idea, our next appointment was THREE MONTHS AWAY. 12 WEEKS. IT WAS TORTURE. Luckily for you, this is the internet, and you will be able to see the progression that took us 6 months (12 weeks in between each visit) in under 2 weeks.

Impatiently waiting to finish this hair.