Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

February 18, 2009

Home Hair Color. Francesca says: Tread Carefully

Filed under: Uncategorized,You Asked For It — Francesca @ 11:16 am


Our internet friend Rachel wrote:

Like many recessionistas, I’ve finally decided I’m ready to face home hair coloring again, even going so far as to consider a coloring-highlighting combo. As an unabashed nerd, I began searching around in cyberspace for advice, and I distinctly remember one of you posting about your love for L’Oreal Experte.  Sadly, your search engine came up empty, but I’m certain I remember this post.

That said, might I request from whichever diva created the original mention that you post it once more … along with whatever tips you have to share for those of us whose last home-highlighting experience was back in a 1987 college dorm room? I — and I am certain many others — would be eternally grateful.

Francesca says:

Indeed, I freely admit to coloring my hair myself, with L’Oreal Couleur Experte. I posted about it once before here. Ever since, there have been requests for more details about how to color at home. Here is what I wrote to Rachel:

The best thing to do first is to find a stylist who will work in  your price range. If you have a relationship with someone, ask if they can “throw in” services, for example, if you pay for a pricey color and highlighting, ask if they’ll do the haircut for free. If you ask nicely,
especially at a one-woman hair boutique, you may get a “yes.”

That having been said, indeed Francesca has been coloring her own hair ever since her own just-out-of-college, parents-won’t-support-Francesca-because-she-must-build-character days. Once she found a color that looked SO NATURAL THAT NO ONE KNEW SHE COLORED IT, she stuck with it.

It is IMPERATIVE that you find a color that looks very, very natural on  you. Do not stray far from the color of your eyebrows. None of this  Bozo-the-clown magenta, OK? No going blonde unless your hair is already very  light. No going raven black unless you are Native American. We understand?  The idea should be that once your roots start to show, there is so little  difference between the roots and the color that your friends are hard-pressed to even see that your roots are showing at all. You want to find a color that is “you, plus.”

If  you want to do something very dramatic, Do Not Try It At Home. The chances of choosing something all wrong for your skin tone are just too  dire. You will come away looking either like a washed-out vampire or like a pink newborn piggy.

(The only exception is if you are the artsy or goth or rebellious teenager or college student and we are talking about colors like green or purple, in which case Francesca says to go for it and be creative in whatever way you like, while you are still young and free and need not worry about getting the corporate job.)

Next. Regarding the highlights in  the L’Oreal product. Indeed they make all the difference. Our hair naturally has highlights and lowlights, so the highlighting makes everything look natural …

… IF you do them properly. This means following the instructions exactly. It means giving yourself only the teeniest, tiniest of highlights  on very leetle, itsy-bitsy strands of hair. No dramatic streaks!!!

It is important not only to put highlights on the top  layer of hair, but to pin up the hair and highlight a few strands around the  bottom, then a few more strands in the middle layer, and finally a number of strands around the top of the head. Again, we are talking about itsy-bitsy strands.

Also, make sure the highlights are not evenly spaced. Evenly-spaced highlights are a tip-off that they are man-made.

Again, I cannot stress enough that this process works well for Francesca only because she has had much practice and knows what she is doing.

But it does work for her, and it is quite convenient, and the money she saves she uses to buy more dresses from Igigi.

Good luck! xoxo!



  1. As someone who has consistently colored her own hair at home for the past 1.5 years, I say good advice. Don’t forget, also, that a lot of brands offer more short-term hair color if you aren’t sure. I use “Nice N Easy” by Clairol and love it. I do use color that is dramatically different from my natural hair color, which is light brown/strawberry blond. However, “blessed” as I am with almost-black eyebrows, the fake, dark-brown coloring ends up looking more “natural” than my natural shade!

    Comment by Emily — February 18, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

  2. I haven’t ever done home coloring….but I am anixious to try it….

    I am African-American, and really want to try that raven black that you speak of….

    It seems that the ladies hair I most admire have the beautiful blackest of black shade, and it’s so glossy and healthy looking.

    My own natural color is wonderful for summer, it’s a copper penny brownish red deal, but in the winter it looks all dry and brittle and sad looking.

    I can’t imagine having to high/low light, but am afraid of that same, all over matte color.

    Decisions, decisions….

    Maybe start out with a professional color and try to maintain it at home?

    Comment by Jeanine — February 18, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

  3. Your instructions made me laugh. Unusual hair colors are more acceptable in some climates than others, thank heavens. I myself had green hair while working at Blue Cross Blue Shield once. When I moved to Seattle and temped out at Microsoft, a LOT of programmers have funky hair. I even saw a dude with a blue mohawk, and he wasn’t working on games. :) Other fields in Seattle are okay with it, too. I had a patch of cobalt blue in my hair for a year, and I’m a department coordinator with a non-profit health insurance company. Oh, and I’m almost 39. If your work is okay with it, why not? You only live once. (just don’t forget the conditioner and to take care of it.)

    Comment by Mo — February 18, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

  4. I, too, colored my own hair for many years. I use L’Oreal Feria which gives a shimmery, multi-faceted look (Rich Auburn Shade). I received many compliments (even from professionals), so it seemed to work well. I would recommend this product so long as one picks a flattering shade. As I got older, I went a bit lighter and brighter to perk me up. If you are lucky enough to have gray roots, (oh joy), you’ll still need frequent touch-ups.

    The bad: The product stains (keep away from tile grout, carpets etc). If you spill, RINSE QUICKLY. Also, it does seem to fade faster than professional coloring. It is easier to go darker the next time, BUT hard to get lighter again. So, if uncertain go a shade too light. Hope this helps!

    Comment by Debs — February 18, 2009 @ 3:23 pm

  5. I have been coloring my own hair for several years. Because it is quite gray, I have to touch up the roots every three weeks or so. Nothing looks more aging and slovenly than a stripe of white roots showing! So I would add if you are gray like me, please keep on top of it!

    Also, gray hair is very resistant, so you may need a product that is designed for this.

    I think my home color is successful (people don’t know) because, as you said, I found a color that is very natural and I stick with the exact same shade. Coloring one’s roots with a different shade will result in a stripey effect that is a dead giveaway.

    Comment by Constance Kent — February 18, 2009 @ 3:58 pm

  6. I use Clairol Natural Instincts. It’s the semi-permanent stuff that is supposed to fade after 28 washings. The good thing is that it does fade some as my hair grows, so it is very hard to see roots (although gray does show against #24 Clove, alas).

    I color my hair about once every three weeks or so. The roots aren’t so bad, but the brightness and luster definitely starts to go. (I think it’s just my natural blah hair returning.)

    My hairdresser told me to ignore the instructions and leave it on my hair for 40 minutes or so without doing the roots separately.

    I use only half the package at a time, because with my chin-length hair, I was getting tired of pouring $4 worth of chemicals down the drain every time I colored.

    Comment by class factotum — February 18, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

  7. I’ve colored at home for years with occasional forays into getting professional highlights. You can color over the highlights several times getting a more mild faceted look. The highlights do grow out but I tend to highlight at the beginning of the spring/summer and let them grow out as the fall and winter progress and I gently darken the overall color giving me a look similar to what I used to achieve when I had my summers off and got naturally highlighted hair from being outside all summer long.

    One tip for picking colors is to look at pictures of yourself from childhood (or your children’s hair if you have them). For some reason children seem to often have more vibrant hair and more natural highlights. I had red hair as a kid that has darkened into a rather blah brown that only reddens if I’m out in the sun and with my fair skin, hats are a must so I don’t get this option very often. Copper red tones mixed into my brown work really well on me and I get tons of compliments when I use those colors. Rich darker browns wash me out completely even though I’m always drawn to them.

    Another thing to remember is that you may have to change some of the tones of your make-up and clothing if you change your hair-color. When my hair is redder I can wear black so much better than when it’s brown. With brown I can wear many more pinks and reds.

    Comment by Kimocean — February 18, 2009 @ 8:12 pm

  8. My hairdresser told me to ignore the instructions and leave it on my hair for 40 minutes or so without doing the roots separately.

    Good advice. I’ve actually had BETTER luck colouring my hair at home than at the salon. My hair is a light, slightly reddish brown, and I dye it more of a coppery colour (which is what I had as a baby). The one time I had it done at the salon, she dyed the roots and left them, and then just put the dye through the rest of the hair for a short while. Well, that doesn’t work out so well with red. My drier ends sucked in the dye like a sponge, while the healthy mid-lengths didn’t. So when we rinsed and dried, I had bright red roots, slightly reddish mid-lengths, and bright red ends. She tried fixing it a few days later by putting the dye through the rest of the hair sooner, ignoring me when I said it would work best if she just put all of the dye through ALL of my hair at the same time, and left it on for 5 minutes longer than indicated. Once again, it looked like utter shite. I fixed it at home a week later and it looked great. But yes, if you’re dying your hair at home for the first time, semi-permanent dye is the way to go until you get more used to things.

    Comment by La Petite Acadienne — February 18, 2009 @ 10:07 pm

  9. Class factotum-

    Can you tell us how you manage using just half the bottle? Once one mixes the chemicals, one is supposed to use it and throw the rest away, as the chemicals immediately start reacting with each other and definitely do not “keep.” If you are only mixing half, how do you store the other half?

    Comment by Francesca — February 19, 2009 @ 5:17 am

  10. Hi Francesca,

    I only mix half of the chemicals. For this to work, you have to save the empty bottles from the previous batch where you mix everything together. Then I just pour half of each bottle into the empty bottles (sometimes I eyeball it, sometimes I measure — with Natural Instincts, I think half is two tablespoons in the opaque bottle) so they are still separate and save them for next time. Then I take the remaining halves and mix them.

    Kimocean, you are right about changing clothes, etc. Before I started enhancing my mousy brown to a rich brown, I tried to highlight my way back to my blonde childhood. With blondish hair, I couldn’t wear white or beige or black without looking washed out. Now I can wear those colors just fine.

    LPA, I recommend Geri at Tangles in Memphis! She did my color when I had a job and could afford it and then gave me the right advice when I had to do it myself. She also never laughed at me or interrogated me when I came in with an obvious home haircut. (You’d think by my age I would know not to cut my own hair, but sadly, that is not the case.)

    Comment by class factotum — February 19, 2009 @ 10:38 am

  11. I’ve been coloring my hair at home for a very long time – I use Clairol Nice and Easy in Natural Light Auburn, and I love it! My real color is plain, blah, medium brown, but I have pale skin and green eyes so red hair suits me very, very well. It looks so natural that the owner of the salon where I get my hair cut came up to me one day and commented on how lucky I was to have such gorgeous natural red hair. I figure if a trained colorist can’t tell the difference, neither can anyone else!

    The only downside is that it does fade very quickly, so I have to recolor every four weeks on the dot before my roots become too noticeable. I also have better luck coloring my whole head at once and leaving it for 35 minutes than I do following the directions and combing it it halfway through.

    Comment by RB — February 20, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

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