Throughout my teens and twenties I didn’t once dye my hair. No going bright pink, no faux blonde for me. I have a thick mane of strong dark-brown hair with auburn tones which I’ve always worn long, apart from when I lived in Singapore and the heat and humidity made me scissor-happy. I was happy with my colour just the way it was.
Then when the greys started springing up I reached reluctantly for the bottle – specifically Organic Colour Systems by Herb UK. Originally I chose it because it’s a certified organic hair colour (as distinct from just containing a proportion of organic ingredients), doesn’t contain ammonia and is not tested on animals. But the main reason I’ve stuck with it is because I really love the colour, and even more I love the fact that people think it’s natural and perfect strangers regularly compliment me on it. A lady at a petrol station recently asked whether it’s true that redheads don’t go grey. *This redhead* doesn’t plan to.
I first discovered Organic Colour Systems at Hair Today, a small salon in Falmouth in Cornwall. Following the golden rule of going lighter as you get older – thus avoiding the not-so-flattering Morticia look – over time I ended up with a restrained take on Titian auburn (I like to think) which fades at the ends to a dark strawberry blonde. It’s pretty close to my natural colour as a child.
Few salons offer organic colour and it’s always surprised me that demand isn’t greater, given the potential health issues with what are really quite nasty chemicals, allergy issues, and the ever-growing demand for natural products in the beauty industry. When my mother moved away from Cornwall and I was no longer heading south most weekends, I struggled to find a new salon, even in London.
Things got off to a good start at Karine Jackson, but went badly wrong when I emerged from the salon one day looking like I’d stepped under a decorator’s ladder. They did undo the worst of the damage when I went back, but the colour just wasn’t taking properly any more and their constant enquiries into the state of my health and insistence that I must be on some kind of medication which was interfering with the chemicals didn’t help.
I tried closer to home at Peter Jones in Woking, but had even worse experiences (banding and increasingly crazy development times and reapplications to compensate for the fact it wasn’t being applied correctly). Not to mention a very dodgy haircut, executed in such an ad hoc way as to be the work of either a genius or a madman (it was not the former). I am thankful hairdressing is not plastic surgery.
After using the same product for years, I couldn’t understand why I was suddenly experiencing so many problems. Hair is so emotive and has always been so much a part of my sense of identity. Given how much I love my colour, I didn’t want to switch to a non-organic product simply to make life easier for my hairdresser.
Then I discovered Elements in Oxted, Kent. It’s an hour’s drive from me, but I’d happily travel twice the distance. Even before I set foot inside the door, they took time to listen to the problems I’d experienced and went all out to find a solution. On my first visit I had a porosity treatment to make sure the colour took evenly, the first time that had ever been applied (subsequently I’ve had a pre-colour conditioning treatment using Power Build Reconstructor and Revamp Reconstructor each visit, which has made a huge difference to its softness and shine).
Quite rightly Sally didn’t want to make changes to the formula I’d acquired from the previous salon until she’d seen how it turned out for herself. The colour took much better than before, but there still wasn’t sufficient lift. My natural colour being so much darker meant it needed to be adjusted. For my next visit – which was complimentary – she arranged for Chloe, a product expert from Organic Colour Systems, to oversee my treatment and make the necessary tweaks.
Chloe spent a lot of time with me asking exactly what I wanted from my colour, how I wanted it to wear, and explaining some of the technical differences between applying organic colour and mainstream colour – they are not the same animal. The contrast with my previous experiences could not have been starker. The problem was not the product, and it was not me. It was simply a matter of getting the formula right, applying it correctly, and reviewing it on a regular basis to take into account fade (which varies according to sun exposure) and tonal variations between the crown and longer lengths to ensure a natural, integrated look.
Now when I go back for a retouch, I don’t have that sense of dread. I know my colour is in safe hands, and if for any reason adjustments need to be made they’ll be made intelligently, with a full understanding of both the product and my needs, not as if contemplating some unfathomable mystery.
In the end it really wasn’t so difficult. It just took someone to care sufficiently. Thank you Elements – and especially Sally – for caring, and for giving me my colour back.
Elements Hair & Beauty Salon, 34 Station Road East, Oxted, Surrey, RH8 0PG Telephone: 01883 714072