Thursday, August 14, 2008

Product.... Review? Clairol Natural Instincts

From the archives: A couple summers ago, I decided to take out my highlights by going over them with a semi-permanent colour. I had... shall we say "interesting" results. Even though this is an old post, it still gets some comments, so I think it's worthy of another mention. I've actually toyed with using Natural Instincts again (in a lighter shade, of course), since it did leave my hair really really shiny, but I've yet to take the plunge. For now...

Ok, fine, so maybe I was overreacting a bit. The hair is dark, but it's not that dark. The freshly dyed hair, still wet from the shower, combined with the late hour and the long black nightgown sort of made me feel like I should wear lots of eyeliner and draw pentagrams everywhere. But today, after a good night's sleep and some berry lipgloss, things don't seem quite so bad.

Let's start at the start, shall we? Because I'm so indie and cool*, I apparently like to do the opposite of what the seasonal hair trends are. In the winter, when everyone's going dark, I get highlights. When the sun comes out and people go lighter, I have manic compulsions to take out all my highlights and go monotone. The many highlights I'd had from months past were getting kinda freaky. Plus, there were hella roots, which is never a good look. So after months of saying that I wanted to cover my streaks, I finally took the plunge.

A very capable stylist once told me that the best way to grow out highlights was to use a semi-permanent rinse in a shade close to your natural (or base) colour and apply it all over your head. Because of its low peroxide levels, the rinse won't lift your natural colour, but it will cover any lighter strands. As it's not a permanent dye, the colour will eventually fade and wash out gradually, but your highlights will still grab on to a tiny bit of the darker hue. After 3 or 4 weeks, repeat the process. By the 3rd time, your highlights should be close enough to your base colour so that roots are not noticeable. This repeated dyeing shouldn't be too harsh for your hair, since you're not bleaching or lifing any colour.

Sounds good in theory, right? So yesterday, off I go to pick up a box of semi-permanent dye. The only one I could find at the drugstore was Clairol's Natural Instincts, which made brand selection pretty darn straight forward.

The Hazelnut shade is described as a medium brown, and I chose it because it was fairly neutral. I didn't want to go with too warm of a shade since I didn't want it to deposit with a red tinge, and I feared that a really cool shade would make things look ashy. And I like Hazelnut coffee and Hazelnut chocolate and Hazelnut ice-cream, so it seemed like the right choice for me.

The process was fairly simple: pour the developer into the dye, then shake the bottle like you're channeling pre-crazy Tom Cruise in Cocktail (I miss you, pre-crazy Tom!). After it's thickened, squeeze the product from the pointed spout onto your hair, starting at the roots and working down.

10 minutes later (or up to 20 min if your hair is resistant), you're supposed to rinse the dye away to discover your great new colour.

So what went wrong? Maybe I should have followed instructions and not left it on for 20 minutes (what? I thought my hair was 'resistant'. It is not.). Or maybe I should have picked a lighter shade. Because somehow, the dye made my BASE colour darker than before. WTF? My base IS black, how could it get any darker?

As it turns out, most of my hair was probably an "off-black" (is that even a term?) to begin with. Between the highlighting and the sun and the 14 years of hard mountain water I'd been subjecting my hair to, my natural colour had faded. And so, now not only were my highlights covered, my overall colour was darkened, leading to my mild-to-medium-rare freak out last night.

In all honesty, it's not that bad. It's more the shock than anything. The highlights are still visible, albeit much darker than before. The ends of my hair seemed to absorb more colour, which is not a surprise since the ends are always drier. Besides, this shade is technically much closer to the one with which I was born, and if Lucy Liu, Sandra Oh, and eleventy bajillion people in China can look good in it, so can I.

Generally speaking, Clairol Natural Instincts did its job. The colour was darker than expected, but it did do a beautiful job of covering highlights -- they are toned down, but still kind of visible, which helps break up the solid colour. And, the best thing is that my hair is now shinier than I have ever seen it. It feels really silky and healthy too. The darker shade (great for hiding split ends!), minus the brassy highlights, plus the kick-ass conditioner they include in the box, make me want to toss my locks around and say things like "daaaahling". So that's really cool. Also, my hair looks longer for some reason. That could be the fumes from the dye talking though.

Obviously, I can't tell yet how this will wash out, but I think I'll use a clarifying shampoo tonight to see if I can lighten the colour just a tad. I think it's safe to go outside without scaring the children; the dogs didn't seem to think I was Satan Incarnate when they saw me this morning.

So, if you're looking to grow out your highlights gracefully, using a semi-permanent colour like Natural Instincts is definitely an option. I would pick a shade or 2 lighter than you think you'd like to end up. This way, the change is more gradual and you won't be tempted into melodramatic 2AM hystrics. If it doesn't end up as dark as you'd like, you can always wait a bit and re-do it with the darker shade.

Besides, new hair colour means I simply must go makeup shopping to tweak my colour palette, right?

Oh, PS: I am wearing a luscious Tarte mascara and bronzer today, which I am testing out so that I can review them for Meg's Makeup! Stay tuned for more details!

* Read: perpetually confused

[EDIT: Oh, for those of you who hate your new semi-permanent colour and want to get it out, please go see the Left Brain's enormously helpful tip in the comments here Who knew a good ol' head soak was the answer?]

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