Patrick McIvor's Short Hair Coloring Tips

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Hair has been long for an extensive period of time, and now that short hair is making a comeback, haircolor can't be the same. Coloring long hair is different, because the hair moves, and this movement of the hair means the color looks different…sometimes better, sometimes worse, let’s break down some differences.

The Root of a Problem
Let’s look at two scenarios, a double process blonde and highlights, and let’s look at a long haired sexy version of each and a shorthaired version. First, the double process guest that wants to be a hot sexy silvery blonde, let’s picture her with long flowing sexy hair and a quarter inch to an eighth of an inch new growth, and a center part, not sexy. The new growth on long hair makes what was once a glamorous blonde look less expensive. Why? Because the contrast and the fact that the long hair makes part lines even more obvious - what was once a quarter inch on one side of the part is now a half inch line on both side and distracts from the hair’s beauty. With short hair, a quarter to an eighth inch of growth creates a shadow that gives the hair an edginess. In fact, the new growth also creates a shadow at the base that gives the hair an appearance of thickness. Why? Because short hair tends to be styled up, out or messy and the new growth creates a shadow at the base mimicking what the eye would expect to see as light that naturally dissipates. It's fun too, because many guests will book their appointments to correspond with the look, like double processed guests scheduling a week or so before an event to ensure new growth that gives their look an edge. Where as long hair guests tend to make their appointments the day or two before a big event to prevent the appearance of regrowth.

Now Some Highlights
When highlighting long hair, placement is important, a weave or slice might even be a personal preference, but styling will really determine if the highlight looks great, bad or has just made the hair lighter. The thing about long hair is you can always highlight it (as long as it’s in good condition). On the other hand, short hair shouldn't always be highlighted. Why? Because some hair is just too short to highlight, the best you get is stripes or dots. So, how do you know if hair is too short to highlight? My personal test is combing it to the side or back and seeing if it moves or if it just pops straight back or straight out from the head. If the hair pops straight back - picture hair that you’re scissor over comb cutting, when the hair passes under the spine of the comb that was supporting the hair to cut, it pops down and into place like little soldiers - it’s too short to highlight. The best we could get would be lines, stripes and dots. But, if the hair moves, and maybe it’s just on top of the head, then placement becomes hugely important. For me, horizontal or vertical placement on short hair is out because one wrong styling direction and we have racing stripes or what looks like a shingled roof. For short hair, if foils are being used, I like opposing diagonals or crosscutting the hair, it's the same principle as a paper shredder. If you only work/slice in one direction the work is easy to read.

Free At Last
With long hair, working freehand or with your hands to actually create the color is usually not an option because the color or lightener can easily effect the hair around it unintentionally and cause bleeding or spots. With short hair though, standing it up and pinching some lightener or high lift blonde through the tips of the hair might be the perfect way to create a cool sun kissed look for your guest this summer.

The Bottom Line
With long hair, ultimately the biggest concern is condition, because no matter what the color looks like, if the hair has not been cared for, the color (and hair) could break off, even if it is the "right" color. So, always condition first and color second. With short hair, sometimes conditioning is second, because by the time condition becomes a problem, other conditioners (scissors), have fixed the issue.

Check out my Pinterest Board @ and check out some hot looks with short hair. -Patrick McIvor, Artistic & TechniCulture Director for Goldwell/KMS California

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