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Jess' Hair Color Process

red, curly haired woman in green dress standing in front of a brick wall smiling at the camera

Finding (and applying) the perfect hair color can be a tricky process.


“Which color am I trying to achieve? Does the color I picked work with the hair that I have? Once done, am I happy with the results?”


As these questions and so many more arise, it can be easy to compare your hair to other people’s and wonder why it is so easy for everyone else. Not realizing, we are ALL asking ourselves the same things.


For years our founder, Jess McGuinty, was asked what her secrets were to “achieving such perfect hair color”. The process is more than we ever imagined & yes, it does make us feel better too:


Fair warning, this is going to be a long post. So go grab some tea or a glass of champagne or a bowl of cherries or whatever your thing is.


Ok, ready? Cool. Me too. The reason why this post is long is because the process I’m about to describe is long. :)


People always ask me “What hair color do you use” as if it’s … just that easy. People, people, people, it’s NOT just that easy. :) Not for ME anyway. But I understand that you want to know what I do, so I’m going to tell you, in probably far too great of detail, just what my process is.


Some of you might be like, “Woah woah woah wait, WHAT?! You dye your hair?! But it looks so natural!” Well, first of all, thank you! :) And it looks natural partly because I’m super carful and partly because I have a lot of red in my natural color, and WAS a redhead for a while when I was a baby. :) My natural color is dark blonde with reddish highlights, so going full-on red wasn’t a huge stretch. Here's my high school graduation picture that shows my natural color.

 strawberry blonde curly haired woman in a black sweater slightly smiling at the camera

Now, I know, ok? I know that EVERYBODY says that color is the one thing you should leave to the pros. But you know what? I had some “pros” REALLY mess up my color one time. So after that, I don’t let anyone else do it. I did have one successful experience at Imago in Richmond, VA last year, where Jessica did my color and it turned out great. If I lived there, I’d for sure just let her do it. But until I can afford to fly her out to do my hair, I’m on my own. :)

Here's a picture of me and Jess the day after she did my color. :) See? She did great. :)

two curly haired woman with one arm around each other and the others raised up 

The thing about my hair is that it is EXTREMELY porous. Not sure what the heck that word means? Well, you can read more here & even learn what porosity your hair is in a few easy steps :)


In a nutshell, what it means is that my hair SOAKS stuff UP. (It also lets stuff out, like, say, moisture.) I need to use lots of conditioner and my hair just sucks it right up. Same goes for hair color. Except, in the case of hair color, it means it will turn out WAY darker than what it says on the box or whatever I’m looking at to determine what shade to use. Basically, if something says “Medium copper blonde” I can expect it to turn out really dark and close to brown on me. Yeah. It’s like that. It never even ends up close to what it says on the swatch. SO frustrating!


The other downside of having porous hair is that color has a tendency not to go on evenly. This is largely because the ends have been around for a while and the roots are more “virgin”, so the ends are way more porous. As such, they suck up a ton more color and can end up darker than the roots if you’re not careful.


Add in the fact that coloring is drying, thus making hair even MORE porous, and this whole process is just a very long and involved one. :) But I love having my red hair, so I deal with it.


Anyway, on to specifics.

I actually start the process the day before I do the actual color. I wash twice through with Gentle Lather Shampoo to get it really clean, then condition with Deep Conditioning Treatment. After the shower, I comb through about a half-teaspoon of Oil Blend and leave that in overnight. You’re supposed to dye your hair when there is no product in it, but not FRESHLY washed, so that’s why I start the day before. I don’t consider that little bit of oil to be “product”.  Since I apply it to damp hair, it just soaks right in and I see it as a nice little defense against the harsh dye that will come the next day.


Now you might be thinking, “But Jess! Don’t you only use the gentlest color made from crushed up berries and twigs?!” Well, no. I don’t. I did used to use Robert Craig, which IS very gentle, but over time I found that my hair was just getting darker and darker (ie: more brown than red) and that was getting annoying. So I switched back to “regular” hair color. Yep, the drying kind that has ammonia. Good thing my products are so gentle and moisturizing, eh? :-)


I use about 75% Light Copper Blonde and 25% Intense Red. That combo gives me the exact shade I want. I’m so picky. I HAVE tried so many brands.


Ok, remember, like, 37 hours ago how I was saying that if not done carefully, I can end up with two-tone hair due to the porosity? Well, the way around that is to use protein filler. It, quite literally, fills in the gaps/porosity in the hair and allows the hair color to soak in evenly. I cannot overstate HOW MUCH this trick works. In the beginning of my hair color journey I didn't know about it and am embarrassed to say, I do have some old pictures where the ends of my hair were darker than the roots. So yeah. It works.


So, the next day, after doing the wash/condition/oil situation, I wet down my hair, per the instructions on the protein filler, wring it out, and apply about an ounce or two to my damp hair. I comb that through and let it sit for 20 minutes. Then I blow dry my hair so that I can apply my color to dry hair. This makes for more vibrant results, since there’s no remaining liquid in the hair diluting the color.


THEN it’s time to apply the color. JEEZ, right? It’s been forever and a day since the process got started! (So take note, people. Now you know, if I ever say I can’t go do something with you because I have to stay in and dye my hair? YOU KNOW I MEAN IT! :) )


I use a 20% developer and mix it half and half with the hair dye. Usually it’s about 3oz hair dye and 3oz developer, since I have a lot of hair.


I know you’re supposed to apply it at the roots first, let that sit, then do the rest, but meh, I don’t really do that. I do start at the roots, but I have so much hair and it takes so long to get it all evenly distributed, I just apply it all over my head every time. I make sure to comb it through really well, then leave it on for 40 minutes or so.


I wash it out with Hair Cleansing Cream then do a deep treatment with my Deep Conditioning Treatment and the Hot Head Deep Conditioning Flaxseed Cap.


The heat of the cap opens the cuticle of the hair to let the conditioner in. Some schools of thought would say that doing this would also let the color OUT, but for me personally, that has never been a problem. I decided I needed the added moisture. Your mileage may vary.


I leave that on for as long as I have patience for, ideally an hour, but no less than 30 minutes. I rinse that out and finally, FINALLY am done with the whole situation. If I can help it, I do this when I don’t have plans that night so that once I rinse out the Deep Conditioning Treatment I can just put some more Oil Blend in there and leave it overnight to rest. In an ideal world, I could just leave it all in a bun or braid the whole next day too. Sometimes I have that kind of flexibility in my schedule and sometimes I don’t.


OMG you guys, now that I’ve typed that all out, it’s a wonder I ever get around to dying my hair at all, eh? :) Yeesh! :) But skipping any of those steps can result in less than stellar results, and I need my hair to be stellar, so I deal with it. :)