July 1st, 2016
Ahhhhhh…… The ‘elusive’ ash blonde. Always in high demand and sometimes hard to master. I will share my insights on two methods of approach: the single process ash blonde and the double process ash blonde.
Your single process ash blonde approach is used when a client is wanting to achieve an all over lighter cool blonde without having to highlight or bleach out. This is by far the more difficult to achieve because the natural warm occurring pigments are harder to control. I happen to use a color line which has pigment concentrate additives and I use them often. These are permanent colors that are direct pigments, therefore have no base level. With years of experience I have learned that some are easier to control than others. I begin by determining my target result. My formula will consist primarily of the target level in an ash tone. However I manipulate the formula by breaking the ‘fundamental rules’ of color. It is widely known that simply applying an ‘ash’ tone will not simply achieve an ‘ash’ result. This is because the natural occurring warm melanin pigments in the hair are tremendously stubborn. And when lightening hair we expose these pigments. This is when I reach for my violet or blue direct pigments to add into my formula. Now, the color company that I use recommends that you use only up to 5g of these pigments…. And this is where I break the rules. But please understand that I do this after 20 years of experience and I strongly caution against approaching this carelessly. When it comes to my violet direct pigment I typically add up to 15 to 20g in a 60 to 80g formula. Using the blue direct pigment is far more tricky and has gotten me into trouble MANY times. I will use no more than 5g, usually closer to 2g unless adding to darker blondes. Now here is where it can get slightly complicated…. When adding cooler pigments, the end result can appear darker than expected so one mush then compensate for this as well. If I am adding a large quantity of an ash direct pigment I often alter my formula to include a portion of a lighter level of ash blonde. For example, if my desired result is a level 9 ash blonde, my formula may look something like 25g level 9 ash blonde + 25g level 10 ash blonde + 15g direct violet pigment concentrate + 6% hydrogen peroxide. I have found that using higher levels of hydrogen peroxide exposes higher levels of natural warmth so I try to use 6-9% hydrogen peroxide when lifting blondes. This means if I feel like I need more lift for a base color, I will then consider a bleach out approach.
Although using a double process can be more efficient when cutting through undesired naturally occurring warm pigment, I always caution against inappropriate use that can be hazardous to the integrity of the hair…. In other words, I only use bleach as a last resort but when used with caution it can be efficient and can provide beautiful results. A double process blonde simply refers to a ‘lift and tone’ application whether it is a highlight approach or an all over bleach out process. I try to always process the application of lightener at room temperature for anywhere from 20 to 45mins. In most cases I stick to a lightener with 6% formula, unless applying balayage techniques (which is a whole other blog entry). I aim to achieve a pale pale yellow result. This will allow for two things: an easier base to tone/glaze ash and it will allow for depth and hopefully shine. It is a common mistake that hair is lifted past yellow when trying to achieve cooler results but this is often an erroneous approach. When hair has become ‘white’ its integrity has often become compromised and results after toning/glazing can be dull and matt. When toning/glazing, if a pale ash blonde is desired I often cut my ash blonde demi permanent color with clear. This will provided the ability to integrate the cooler pigments without darkening the overall result. I’ve often found that violet ash demi permanent colors leave a clearer, brighter, more iridescent result, while blue ash demi permanent colors have a more opaque, denser effect. Keep this in mind when mixing for your target result.
Ash blonde clients should always be advised that as color fades, warm pigments are re-exposed, so color protecting shampoos are absolutely necessary as well as pigment infused products that help with anti-yellowing efforts.
I hope my humble words of wisdom have provided some insight into your next ash blonde journey.