Galaxy Hair For Dummies: A Crash Course

You’re friend’s friend who’s instagram you follow just posted a picture of her new hair and it’s every shade of purple and blue blended together into a perfect amalgam that sparks that little engine in your heart bringing forward all those longing and envious feelings to the forefront of your mind. You switch over to pinterest real quick to stop the wave *WANT* but you’re bombarded with picture after picture of flawless pinks and pastel purples, casual greens that fade into deep yellows, and you decide then and there- it’s time. You’ve never colored your hair before, or maybe you have but only those box dyes you’ve found at CVS (we’ll get to that later) but you’ve never done anything like this before, and you have no idea what it entails or where to find someone who does this and CAN you do it at home?

Welcome to your “Galaxy Hair for Dummies” sort of crash course- complete with a time lapse video of the process!

Let’s start at the beginning- what the hell is going on with your hair?

It’s a weird question, and not one that people really know how to answer, or really what the question is even asking. It’s more like a feeling you get in your gut that manifests as a question in your mind, “what is going on with my hair? Can it even *be* colored like that?” We can start to answer this question with another question- have you chemically treated your hair before? That means- box dye, in a salon by a professional, highlights, grey coverage, toner, bleach, henna, so called “blonding” shampoos and sprays, relaxers, perms, permanent straightening treatments, Brazilian blow outs etc. Any and all chemical treatments to your hair are a relevant item to bring up to your hairdresser, is your hair permed? Well it sure as hell isn’t gonna be platinum blonde with pink tips then, unless you want it to break off in your hands every time you touch it.

Depending on how long your hair is will determine how many years of chemical and color history you have to cover. Hair on average grows at a rate of 1/2in per month- which means for every foot of length of hair you have that’s 2 years of hair growth. So if your hair is down to your butt and you got an ombre done 3 years ago- guess what? You gotta mention that to your hairdresser. Or that one time you thought it’d be cool to just change your color by a shade or two on whim, to see if you like it, and you just never re touched it, how long ago was it now? A year? 7 months? You should mention that. It may seem minuscule but there are contraindications in hair that a lot of clients don’t realize. For example one brand of box dye, Feria, is formulated with metallic dyes, which means that you can’t bleach it. The chemicals don’t react well and result often times in severely compromised hair and without any results (Yes, you CAN fry your dark brown hair and it’ll still be dark brown, but now the integrity of the hair is out the window and flying to someone who will take care of their hair)

If you have colored your hair before, do not despair for you can still have galaxy hair! Honestly for most clients previous color isn’t a huge problem, it’s just a matter of how much, and how your hair is doing. One option available to clients is adding Olaplaex to their service, which when added to lightener (or color) helps rebuild the hair as it’s processing, and you get a small bottle to take home that you use once a week as a treatment to continue the health and healing of your hair. But being aware of what is possible with your hair is an important aspect to these kinds of color services- lightener is heavy duty, and you have to be willing to follow through after your service to take care of it.

If you’ve never colored your hair, you’ll have to make sure to come in 2 days before your appointment (or earlier if convenient) to have a skin test done. This is a small piece of color that is placed behind the ear on the neck and left there for 48 hours to ensure there is no reaction and that you do not have an allergy to color. It may seem trivial, but that last thing you want is to have a full head of color sitting on your scalp and before you know it your skin is in such a crisis that it feels like you stuck the top of your head into the sun itself, and your hairdresser doesn’t want to hear you scream for dear life and beg to have it washed off, and with each moment that cold water is run over your scalp they discover a new scab that managed to form in the short 10 minutes you were processing.

OKAY, so you’re ready to make the appointment- how do you find someone?

Word of mouth is always good, talk to your friends, ask the lady walking down the street with the andromeda galaxy on their head where they went. The other way is to use social media and review based sites to locate someone. Instagram is a great place to locate stylists, you can search through tags such as “galaxy hair” or “bay area stylist” (or wherever you’re from!) Utilize sites like yelp and style seat to see what other people are saying about stylists, and look through their pictures. And, from a stylist to a client- if we don’t answer please leave a message! We can’t call you back if you don’t leave a name and number.

But what’s the actual process like?

Honestly it will vary person to person, based off of what needs to be done. However much of it is consistent. In order to get those colors on the hair, it has to be lightened. Different colors require a different level of lightness, such as reds only need to be lifted to a level 7 to be seen vibrantly, however any kind of pastel the hair needs to be lifted to a level 9 if not 10, and then often times toned before it will “take” any pastel colors.

This I think is where the biggest disconnect comes in with clients. There are a lot of variables that come into play when lifting hair. Often times certain previous color will only lift so much before the integrity of the hair is compromised. On top of that for natural hair, everyone has different amounts of eumelanin and pheomelanin in their hair. Pheomelanin is what’s responsible for the orange and red tones in hair, whereas eumelanin is responsible for the amount of brown and black in hair. Eumelanin also controls the level of lightness in hair- so if someone has a low concentration of eumelanin in their hair then they’ll be blonder, but if they have a higher concentration their hair will be a darker brown. When we lighten hair, we’re going into the cortex layer of the hair and decolorizing the melanin, but because pheomelanin is less chemically stable then brown eumelanin, it breaks down at a slower rate. This is why you’ll see the hair first turn red and orange when we’re lifting before it turns yellow. When clients do their hair themselves at home often times it is never lifted past this orangey stage before they toss on whatever other color they were going for, which is why often times when they fade it turns quite brassy or into shades of muddy orange. For most colors and for platinum blondes particularly, you’re going to wash out when the hair hits a pale yellow.

After this point in the process you either get toned or your stylist will go straight into the colors. I find this just varies stylist to stylist. I personally tend not to tone the hair for the same reason that a lot of stylists do tone hair. The purpose being to neutralize yellow tones and fill the hair so it will hold color better. Which in theory is exactly what we otta do if we want the color to come out vibrant and true to pigment. However what I’ve found personally is that this is often time consuming and not necessary to the outcome of the hair unless one was to be  wearing entirely pastels. It can do more superfluous damage to the hair and fill the hair so much that it is unable to hold the direct dye afterwards. If you’re working with opaque, neon, and/or generally heavy colors, you do not need to tone the hair. Direct dyes sit on the outside of the hair, the shaft, its it does not oxidize and therefore doesn’t actually interact with the base color of the hair as much. Now this only works to a certain extent, anything lighter, pastel will not come out vibrant, however as long as the hair has been lifted to a pale yellow it should reflect everything that is placed on top of it.

Even in the application of the color the technique will vary stylist to stylist and the outcome desired as well. Foiling will keep colors from intermingling and retain heat, so when placed under the overhead heater it really helps push that color further into the hair, so it will hold better. However if one is only doing one of two colors, or an ombre of sorts, foiling is unnecessary as well as wasteful (literally).

So how often do I wash my hair and when do I come back for my next appointment?

Questions I get everyday! We always want to know how often to wash our hair, and unfortunately there’s no magical scale that you can just input your hair into and it will tell you what to do. With hair transformations like this, the less you wash the best. The first couple of washes may turn your bathroom into a murder scene or mermaid cove, and often times you’ll find that these kinds of colors will actually fade into some beautiful pastels. Think of also everything your scalp has just gone through, that skin is raw and out in the open environment now due to that massive exfoliation. So washing right away isn’t gonna be the best for it, and you should allow your hair and scalp to rest and heal before you go back in shampooing it. Usually 3 days is a good amount of a time, I find for a lot of clients with these colors that once a week is the sweet spot.

As for regrowth, a diligent stylist will tell you to come in every 4-6 weeks to get those roots taken care of. However with these kinds of colors the results often last much longer the 4-6 weeks, and due to the nature and price of the service, most clients aren’t going to want to pay that and sit through that every 2 months. These processes can often take up to 8 hours between lifting, treatments, the color it self, a hair cut, and blow dry- and that’s assuming there’s not other things the stylist has to do with your hair, such as if they have to start the service with a color remover before even applying lightener to your hair. Generally clients come back every 4-6 months for me, and honestly with these kinds of colors I find that a perfect time frame. Because it also gives the hair enough time to heal before another large process, and for that other color to fall out, which means when you decide you want to go from being bubblegum pink to an underwater scene of blues and purples it won’t be as much of a hassle, because much of that pink will have already fallen out.

The downside to this is how long roots get. But often times due to the very nature of the hair color you can get away with it, it just becomes more “edgy”. The other issue with longer roots however is what’s known as “hot roots”. The scalp releases heat naturally which means when we apply lightener or color, there’s about a 1/2in of the hair that’s connected to the scalp that will process slightly faster, resulting in it being lighter then the other inch and a half of regrowth you have. For the most part, due to the nature of the color this isn’t issue I’ve found, except that a client’s scalp may become irritated due to that area processing faster and being ready but a stylist leaving on the lightener to wait for the rest of the hair to be at the right level. This can result in scalp burns as well as over processed hair. In this case many stylists will apply lightener off root first, and then go back in to apply to your root area to avoid the hot root issue and have an even lift through out. Depending on the desired outcome, I tend to do this.

Can I do it at home or what?

Well the true punk does their own hair, but that’s all some bullshit because plenty of punks become hairdressers because they were doing their friend’s hair in their bathroom in the 80’s. I can certainly say that I started with hair because I wanted to do my own, and that I have seen people do amazing things to their hair at home, however I’ve mostly seen battered and exhausted hair with clients wondering why it’s so dry after they’ve run lightener through it 3 times because it wasn’t long enough. To be honest I can’t tell you not to do it at home, but I can also tell you that it will likely look better and be in better condition when a hairdresser does it. And it’s more likely to come out how you want it- which is what it comes down to in the end, if you want it done right go to professional. Sure Tom from next store says he can fix that leaky pipe in the bathroom but you’re a renter and it’s probably safer to just double check with the landlord first who likely has their own handy man that will fix it and make sure there’s not an underlying larger problem. So should you risk it? Maybe Tom knows what he’s doing, maybe you won’t have to call the landlord, or maybe Tom will manage to complete destroy your shower and now you’ve gotta explain to the landlord why your bath has turned into the Bellagio fountain.

So is it for me?

That’s something only you can decide. A saying in the beauty industry is “sometimes the client wears the hair, and sometimes the hair wears the client.” What this is essentially saying, is that if you want a style to work for you, you’ve gotta work the style. I honestly believe that everyone can wear any style they want, as long as they want to wear it, but if you go around acting and saying it’s not you, then of course it’s not gonna look as good.

AU: Don’t take this to your stylist and tell them to follow these instructions or start telling them what to do. This is meant to help you just understand what’s going on, trust your stylist.

//Apologies for the lighting in the video, the camera was on the wrong setting.

Thank you to Joey for filming the video for us, and for Dimitri for being such a rad model and always doing something awesome with his hair!