“You’re going to be here for a while, you know” the receptionist responded as soon as I said my name. I replied: “don’t worry, I have snacks in my bag”. She gave me a nod of approval. There’s not much that'll get me out of bed at 6am on a Saturday morning (under normal circumstances, I would have only just gotten into bed) but I was here to find my “true” hair colour, and that excitement gave me the adrenaline I needed to get out from under my cosy duvet.
You see, I was testing out TikTok’s viral #coloranalysis trend, which has over 655 million views as I’m writing this. If you haven’t heard of the trend before or are familiar and always been tempted to try it out, I’ve done the risky business for you and given myself over to the hair colour gods (AKA Aveda’s hair experts at their Lifestyle Salon & Spa). I went in at 8am for my hair appointment having absolutely no idea what colour I was going to be walking out with – yep, I thrive on the adrenaline.
Before we get into all that though, let's backtrack and delve deep into what this colour analysis trend actually is.
What is colour analysis?
While it’s not new, the trend has risen to fame on TikTok for helping to decipher your ‘it’ hair colour. By looking at skin tone, eye colour and natural hair colour, the process is supposed to be able to determine your ultimate shade, taking personalising your hair colour to the extreme.
I imagine the feeling people get on their wedding day is “have I chosen the right person? Is there a more suitable person out there for me?”. I have always felt this way about my hair colour.
Sure, it’s not a legal commitment but as a commitaphobe, I’m always itching to make a change and doubting the previous commitments I’ve made. I’ve been every colour under the sun, but I was keen to see if I could get the assurance I was after from sitting in a salon chair.
In order to get an accurate diagnosis, you’re told to look at pictures from your childhood, as well as your ‘natural hair colour’, or as close as you can get to it. As you can see from my (very cringe) timeline of hair colours, I really have tried out nearly every shade. I was born with bright blonde curls (cc baby pic with a cameo from my dad), I've also experimented with platinum blonde (forgive the very heavy filtering circa Instagram 2012), an almost ginger-y balayage, dark brunette, and then finally, my latest 'bronde' hue. Thanks for coming to my 'Life in Hair' TED talk.
Colour analysis then puts you into groups: summer, autumn, winter and spring, which then get their own sub categories. It sounds like a lot, but it does gradually begin to make sense. In total there are 12 categories you can fit into:
True Spring, Light Spring, Bright Spring
True Summer, Light Summer, Soft Summer
True Autumn, Soft Autumn, Dark Autumn
True Winter, Bright Winter, Dark Winter
Each season is determined by your hue (whether you're cool or warm), your value (which is either light or dark) and finally, your chroma (these can be soft/muted to bright/clear). Hair colour just got science-y, people.
It’s easier to see than to explain. I’ve spent hours viewing Colour Analysis Expert, Carol Brailey’s TikTok videos, where she explains why clients fit particular seasons.
Through self-diagnosis, I had determined I was surprisingly a Warm Spring. Considering I’m so pale, I always assumed I’d be cool toned, but then remembered that when shopping for foundations, yellow shades suited me better than the pink-toned options. According to Brailey, Warm Spring people best suit warm brown and golden-reds. Ashy colours, blonde or black are no-go areas for us.
Now, back to me sitting in the salon chair. When Susann Hohlfeld, technical education director at Aveda Lifestyle Salon & Spa, asked what I wanted and my exact words were “I'm up for anything”. I expected the analysis process to take a while, but in fact, my new colour was decided upon in just a few minutes.
“Both going too blonde or too dark will wash you out," she explained. "Although you’re pale, your hazel eyes could use a bit more warmth to get them to stand out. We could do a warmer brunette but a copper is really going to bring life back into your face." It was spot on with Brailey’s colour suggestions, so I immediately placed my trust in Susann’s colour mixologist skills.
Not only was this copper-tone bang on trend, but it made sense. I’ve been loving a warm orange blush and a burnt-brick lipstick as of late when it came to my makeup, so it’s not a coincidence that the two could be related.
Susann went on to explain that if I went raven black, it would wash me out because of the massive contrast (unless, of course, the extreme contrast is what you’re after). Again, too warm of a blonde and I’m told it would make my pale skin look even more lifeless, if that was even possible.
She actually classified my original hair colour as blonde, which was a surprise. I thought I was a brunette, but the subtle highlights I had in my hair from October meant I was now at least a ‘bronde’.
There were two colour parts to this transformation. The first involved sitting in a straightforward red dye for 20 minutes. A few chapters of my book later and a rinse with some shampoo and this was the result:
It gave me serious 90s Julia Roberts vibes and I was already in love.
The second stage involved using different copper tones to create dimension, so the colour wasn’t a flat red balloon. This had me sitting for 30 minutes. At this point, I was really starting to see how red my hair was going to be *cue mid-transformation panic*. It’s a similar feeling as when you decide to do a wardrobe clear out, put everything on your bed and then have a meltdown asking “good God, why have I done this to myself?”. But I tried to remain cool.
After this round of colour was washed out, the lovely people at Aveda treated me to a deep conditioning treatment with their Nutriplenish Leave-in Conditioner to revive my strands. Although I wasn’t using bleach, colouring your hair after a long break (six years, in my case) can make the scalp irritated and the strands looking fried, so this step was crucial to the final reveal.
A blow dry later and this was the final result:
It had taken a long and gruelling – for poor Susann, I on the other hand had been snacking – six hours, but I had been transformed into The Little Mermaid and was living my best under-the-sea life.
Susanne flagged that the colour will tone down after a few washes and become a more subtle copper shade, but I was actually enjoying its vibrancy. It looked completely different in every light I stepped into. Talk about multidimensional.
It wasn’t until I got home that I really appreciated what a difference it had made to my colouring. My skin somehow looked less washed out and Casper-the-Friendly-Ghost-like and my hazel eyes were so much greener than I had ever seen them. Proving that this colour analysis malarkey really does what it says on the tin – or in this case, video.
I couldn’t believe I had never been red before and that no other colourist had ever mentioned the burgundy shade in my presence. Before, I was picking my hair colour based on trends or, in my particular case, which Gossip Girl character I liked most at that particular time in the series. Spoiler: I’ve been both wannabe Blair and Serena.
After this experience, I’ve truly learnt it’s best to steer away from celebs and trends and work with what you were born with and to trust the experts. It will save you some serious hair faux pas (trust me, I’ve definitely learnt this the hard way).
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