Going gray is easy, natural and "authentic" but some of us couldn't care less. We're hooked on hair color and perfectly happy to opt out of reality every four to six weeks. We'll give up sugar, bread, wine and Spanx before we let go of our Clairol. Some women stay close to their original hue, but others (like moi) trade their shade for frankly fake. Either way we get a buzz just sitting around in foils or foamy shiny glop waiting for the color to kick in. When it does, we leave the salon or bathroom (depending on whether you go pro or do-it-yourself) smiling like former supermodels. But when it comes to our # 1 cosmetic boost, three questions inevitably cross our minds. I asked Marie Robinson, owner of the Marie Robinson Salon in New York City, a super- star colorist to celebs like Kate Winslet, Uma Thurman, Marcia Cross, Renee Zellweger and Annette Bening and Clairol Color Director, for her take and then added my own beauty pro tip.
1. IS MY COLOR THE BEST IT CAN BE? Sometimes we wonder if this is as good as it gets.
MARIE: If you've been going to the same person for a long time, get another set of "eyes" to evaluate your color. It helps to have a fresh opinion. I always ask clients how they're feeling, since mood is a big factor. Menopause, some prescription medications or medical conditions- especially thyroid issues, as well as diet and lifestyle changes, can dramatically affect your hair...and all affect your mood and in turn your looks. You hair may now feel thinner, drier, frizzier, or lack body.Rebooting your hair color and updating your hair care routine can help. Tweaking your hair color can freshen your skin tone fast.
LOIS: I agree! You don't necessarily need to change colorists or salons. Even within the same salon, a good colorist should lose the ego and be willing to bring a colleague into the conversation for fresh input. If you're doing your color at home, stop into several salons for "color consultations" to get confirmation or redirection. You may now be dealing with rosacea, wrinkles, deeper under eye circles, a sallow or tired skin tone and brown spots, in addition to changes in hair quality. You may have stopped tanning (hopefully) or stopped self-tanning and need to rethink your hair color and makeup. The same shade of faux blonde you had at 35 won't work at 55.
2. WHAT MAKES HAIR COLOR LOOK YOUTHFUL? Longer hair ? Straight smooth texture?
MARIE: Healthy looking hair is the key. Your hair and color will often look healthier if you go a little shorter. Color and cut need to work together. The right cut can help hide a receding hairline and boost thinning hair. Then color- especially going blonder- provides additional thickening. It adds physical bulk and texture and the lighter color can create a fuller look.
LOIS: Holding on to long straggly stringy hair adds years to your face. You do know a lot of that long Rapunzel-like Red Carpet hair on celebs over 40 is due to extensions right ? Years of extreme dieting or a bad diet, hormonal changes, heat styling and chemical processing add up to a damaged tacky, fried and dyed look. You don't have to go short- collarbone length is a "short" version of long that flatters most women and makes the most of great color. You can go for a blunt cut, add bangs or long tousled layers for a modern look. Your hair is supposed to flatter your face and features not your body! Smooth hair does reflect more light and looks glossier which looks healthier which looks younger ! Question answered!
3. WHICH PRODUCTS SHOULD I BE USING? Do I need twenty tubes, jars and bottles sitting on the shelf?
MARIE: Maintaining hair health is the most important factor. Healthy hair holds on to color better than dry, porous damaged hair so that's exactly what you want to avoid. Clear or white cream based hair-care products will prevent processed blonde from getting brassy, fading or changing between colorings.
LOIS: Use products labeled "moisturizing" that are designed to nourish and protect color-treated hair. Ingredients like botanicals, proteins, ceramides and vitamins help compensate for exposure to heat and chemicals, strengthen the hair and smooth the cuticle for a shiny look. This summer, use a leave-in conditioner or repair serum, deep condition twice a week with a hydrating hair mask and ask your stylist about alternatives to daily flat-ironing and frequent blow-drying. A ponytail and dry shampoo can help stretch days between blow-dry sessions. You need a moisturizing shampoo and leave-in conditioner, a mask, a styling cream or serum and a dry shampoo. Done!
Lois Joy Johnson is a beauty editor and blogger and author of "The Makeup Wakeup: Revitalizing Your Look At Any Age."