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Hair Color Misfires And Backfires!  Demi Lovato - Ebony Hued Hair

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I recently caught naturally brunette Demi Lovato on Ellen with newly minted summery blonding tresses. As much as I love Demi and admire her talent, I honestly didn’t like her blonde tresses. I felt she was the victim of hair color misfires and backfires.

Even though I’ve attended cosmetology school and trust my own tresses to a professional colorist, I’ve been hating my own hair color every day since my last salon visit a few months ago due to a horrible hair color misfire.

The reality? Whether you color your hair yourself, or at the hands of a professional, you’re still at risk of hair color misfires and backfires. A seasoned professional colorist poses less of a risk then a DIY home color session, but mistakes may still happen. Even in the very best hair color hands.

Cause Of Hair Color Misfires And Backfires

Why do hair color misfires and backfires occur?  There are a list of possibilities which might include, but aren’t limited to:

1.  Spontaneous DIY Color Selection – You were seduced by the never ending row of beautiful women with gorgeous hair color smiling back at you from the packaging in the grocery or drug store. After spontaneously picking up a new box of hair color you applied it at home with the greatest of expectations.

Unfortunately the vibrant color on the box didn’t come close to matching they way it looked on your hair. Or even worse, it clashed with your shin and eyes give you a sickly pallor.

2.  Broken Natural Color Codes – Demi Lovato is guilty of breaking her own color code. While many people dream of being blonding, their natural skin and eye tone isn’t remotely compatible. A classic autumn looks best with warmer, deeper hair hues, makeup and fashions. When an Autumn tries to go with a pale blonde, the results are usually disastrous.

Whether you break the color code splurging on the wrong hair colors at the store or convince your colorist to make the change, the results are the same. You’ve experienced a hair color misfire.  Once upon a time Julia Roberts went pale blonde and Cameron Diaz went raven. Neither actress looked their best with their incompatible hair hues. That’s because they broke their natural color codes.

3.  Miscommunication – One of the biggest causes of hair color misfires and backfires occurs at the talking stage. An ebony hued hair consumer may plan on adopting a platinum blonde.

If she discusses her plan with either her friends or professional hair colorist, it’s possible they won’t be honest about the proposed hair color change. Some people just assume changing their hair color will turn out how they visualize it in their mind’s eye.

When working with a professional hair colorist it’s important to have a very clear conversation about hair color goals and expectation. The worst thing a client can do is sit down in the salon chair and throw caution to the winds. If a client gives their colorist permission to do whatever they want, it’s often a recipe for disaster.

4.  Not Honoring The Client’s Wishes

Behind the chair the colorist is responsible for utilizing a consultation conversation to really understand what the client wants to be happy. An ongoing relationship should be built where the client trusts the advice of their colorist.

Professional colorists should never ever experiment with new color palettes on a long term client without first discussing it at length. While a professional needs to try and gently steer their clients away from known hair color disasters, at the end of the day, the key is to understand what the client really wants. Ultimately the colorist should always try to make the client happy within the guidelines of the most flattering hair hues.

5.  Age Confusion – All hair color transitions through a natural aging process. One of the most significant factors to consider is that hair tends to first lose pigment around the hairline. If hair is colored, highlighted or low lighted to cover or incorporate gray, white and silver, it needs to follow a process which mimics the natural aging process of the hair.

At times selecting the very best hair color can be like a moving target. Why? Because it changes and morphs over time with age. Hair color should incorporate subtle tones instead of over-the-top unnatural colors. Ideally lighter hues should be layered throughout the temples incorporating medium and darker hues underneath.

6.  Misjudgement Of Cool Versus Warm – One of the biggest reasons for hair color misfires isconfusion over whether the natural skin and eye palette is warm or cool. Many colorists study skin tones and the iris of the eyes to determine the base palette.

While some color experts believe no clients are ever 100% warm or cool most agree everyone has a majority of either warm or cool indicators. Although there are always exceptions to every rule, cool suggests the per-dominance of blue along with related tones of greens, grays, indigo and violet.

Cool Versus Warm – Blue Versus Yellow

Cool suggests the presence of blue in its many tones, as well as an array of greens, grays, indigos and violets. Warm suggests the presence of yellow, red or orange. It should be noted that in some cases blue eyes might contain flecks of gold which would tend to indicate a warm palette over cool.

Cool skin (olive, beige and fair Celtic skin with pink cheeks) is flattered by equally cool, ash-toned hair. Warm skin contains lots of golden, red and amber-honey notes. This is true even when the complexion is fair. Warm skin is flattered by hair which also contains sunny tones, versus blue-based eggplants, burgundies, cool brunettes and/or platinum blondes.

7.  Hair Color Wild Cards – There’s always the wild card or two.  Some hair colorists believe a naturally fair-skinned client who is consistently tanned can go with more golden tones which might normally appear too brassy under normal circumstances.

When in doubt about the impact of tanners, the skin at the nape of the neck or the underside of the arms can be studied to determine the skin’s true tone. If the veins are blue at the wrist, the skin tone is most likely cool with pink undertones. When the veins look green, the tones is most likely warm inviting gold and bronze coloring.

8.  Sticking With Only One Color -  Another problem with hair color misfires is limiting the color palette to just one hue rather than creating a nuanced flattering palette which blends two to five different hues interspersed throughout the head.

It’s important to remember real hair and skin contain a range of hues which are not flat toned like a wall. Highlights and low lights provide a beautiful richness and dimension.

Depth as well as darkness must be considered. The key is to develop a color palette which is similar to the one Mother Nature creates.


The hair color selection process is equal parts science, intuition, psychology and preference. Hair color must be selected based on the majority of either warm or cool tones which can be determined by looking at the eyes, the wrists or the neck. As in all things hair, what works with hair color for one may not work for anyone else.

Most hair color experts agree that the wrong hue can enhance the shadows and/or lines on the face and amp up all the skin’s flaws. Whether this occurs through reflection, refraction or optical illusions, the results can be very unattractive.

Blue or purple shadows may appear beneath the eyes which may seem smaller, droppey or more deeply set than normal. The incorrect hair color can also make the face appear drawn, tired, older, unhappy or even angry.

Hair color can create spectacular results unless the wrong hue is chosen. Then the results can be considered a hair color misfire.

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