A Lesson on Recovering From Bad, Bad Highlights

(Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro)

I've been highlighting my hair since I can remember. In fact, when people ask me what my natural color is, I smile and say, "What do you think it is?" That's my coy way of saying, "I don't know." In the past, I've had very good dye jobs (or at least I've been naive enough to think they've been good). But alas, this summer I found myself with a shade of blonde I'm pretty sure isn't even on the color spectrum.

And to make matters worse. I had roots. Bad. Bad roots. Don't say I didn't warn you.

(Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro)

My poor hair color was a result of an interesting dye job in November that turned my hair bright red, another dye job in February that attempted to make me dirty blonde, a whole summer's worth of blonding shampoo, and of course, a number of weekends spent in the sun. After months of struggling to find a hair color that looked normal, I eventually gave up and left my poor highlights alone and neglected.

But just when I thought I was destined to remain on the radioactive hair color spectrum, I found myself at the Warren-Tricomi salon at the hands of celebrity colorist and salon co-owner, Joel Warren.

Warren gave our own Sasha the perfect shade of brunette back in May. (Archive Photo: Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro)

"My favorite woman is a desperate woman," Warren said when I came in. And boy was I was desperate. Within one minute of laying eyes on my locks, he had a plan of attack and his assistant got to work.

Warren and his team took my highlights from roots to ends—as opposed to the stylish block of blonde highlights I was rocking. This helped remove the stark contrast between my roots and highlights. Once all of the highlights were foiled and in place, his team applied a color close to my hair's natural dirty blonde shade. The combo of high and dark coloring creates contrast and dimension, which, Warren explained, is important for getting a more natural look.

My hair was foiled, dyed, glossed, and trimmed, and by the end, no longer on the radioactive end of the hair spectrum. Rather, it was on the flouncy old-school Jennifer Aniston end. (That's what I'm telling myself, FYI.)

(Evan Agostini/Getty Images Entertainment, Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro)

Uncanny, right? OK, maybe not so much.

After my magical recovery process, I quizzed Warren on how to avoid those brassy highlights and care for my new, more natural 'do. He offered four basic but important tips for getting and maintaining your ideal hair color.

My magical transformation from radioactive to au naturel. (Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro)

1) Find a pic of what you want: "Words are very vague," Warren said. So to avoid ending up with a shade of blonde that's not quite the Blake Lively hue you imagined, bring a pic to your stylist to make sure you're both on the same page.

2) Go for a subtle change: "I like to think of it as hair evolution instead of revolution," Warren said of hair coloring. He suggests avoiding drastic changes and, instead, sticking to small changes, so eventually you can find your perfect shade. "Then we can transition you from season to season," he said. "And that's the way it should be. You change your clothes, makeup with the season. You hair should be no different."

3) Listen to the pros: You may think you know what you want, but when it comes to choosing the exact shade, listen to the experts. They really do know their stuff. Warren said he always asks a client what they want first, so he can interpret that into what's realistic and what will work with their hair. "It's like at a restaurant," he said. "First you decide if you want chicken, meat, or fish, then you let the professional chef fix the delicious meal!"

4) Give your strands the proper post-color attention: This is the step I am guilty of failing. But, I learned, it is one of the most important steps to follow. "You absolutely must use a color-safe shampoo, a color-safe conditioner, and a good blow-dry serum to protect from wear and tear," Warren explained. To keep my new 'do looking just as great as the day I left the salon, I'll be using L'Oreal Professionnel INOAColor Care shampoo and conditioner. These products are made with Argan oil and green tea extract to nourish and protect color-treated hair. Warren swears by the INOA brand and actually uses it in the salon.

(Caitlin Miller/StyleBistro)

So there you have it, folks! Recovering from scary hair color is really that simple. Trust me, I am living proof there is life after a bad highlight job.

Former Senior Associate Beauty Editor at StyleBistro. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram: @CaitlinSMiller Follow me: Google