The Color That's Helping Me Grow Out My Roots Gracefully

All good things must come to an end. But sometimes--instead of seamlessly fading away like a ghost in a high budget film--a thing lingers until you do something about it.

I’m not talking about weirdly clingy lovers or party stragglers, I'm talking about roots. They're cool for a little while, but then they just start to overstay their welcome. Where to draw the line? Honestly, there's a mind-boggling amount of factors involved in that decision, but at two-and-a-half inches, my line is DRAWN.

Sure, I could just tap out and color my whole head back to black, but this whole platinum thing was a long time in the making--and I’m still having fun with it. I do, however, miss my hair's simpler times, when it didn't take 10 hours to dry or feel like it was going to break off during heat styling.

So transition, I must. But getting my hair touched up every three to four weeks (as one maintaining platinum hair always should) is one of those expenses I refer to as “trophy wife money.” Last I checked, the only ring on my finger is one I bought for myself. What to do? My mind naturally wandered to options of ombré or the now trending sombré, but that would render my short bob more muddled brown than blonde.

I asked fellow xoVain blonde crusader Anne-Marie for a suggestion and she immediately referred me to her colorist, Kim, at Frederic Fekkai. Anne-Marie described Kim as a blonde expert who's also into rocker-style hair colors--right up my alley.

I have a misconception that colorists and stylists who work at upscale salons like to turn their clients into Giselle clones, or someone equally renowned for tabloid-approved beauty. Meeting Kim was an excellent relief. She was totally down to earth, self-deprecatingly funny, and friendly without being overly “friendly,” if you know what I mean. (One time an esthetician complimented me on my skin texture right before telling me my eyebrows needed work. I was like, “Uh, I’ll keep that in mind.”)

I explained to Kim that I was trying to grow out my roots but wanted them to look less root-y (I'm so articulate).

I could see the gears turning behind her eyes before she enthusiastically proposed a mile-a-minute procedure that included lightening my base (aka my actual roots) and painting highlights around my face and crown.

I’ve never had highlights before and the mental images of frosted tips and Sun-In packaging that popped into my head made me balk. But Kim explained that the effect was one of subtlety, and that it mostly served to preserve the “edge” of having abundant dark roots against platinum while also softening the line, especially when hair is pulled back.

She started by painting about an inch-wide band of lightening goop where my roots ended and the blonde began. After that processed for about 15 minutes, she painted all of my roots with the color for my lightened base (which, naturally, was a dark brown). That marinated for about a half-hour and then she rinsed, dried, and painted some highlights around my face and crown.

"OK, I’m going to work kind of quietly for this one," said Kim as she grabbed a ping-pong paddle-shaped palette with a dollop of the lightening goop on it. With surgeon-like precision, she gauged her placement and began painting strands of my hair. "Phew, I just knew if we were talking I’d be painting away and things would get out of hand, so I wanted to get in the zone to get these highlights right,” she said as she finished. Considering the work she was doing, I had no objections.

Forty-five minutes passed and it was time to rinse and tone. I’m always baffled at salon toning, which in my experience always takes place at the sink with wet hair. The toner is lathered in the hair like shampoo (almost) and rinsed out within minutes, but the effect is so apparent. Once rinsed, what could’ve easily veered into caramel territory turned out to be nice medium ashy blonde streaks.

After being toweled off and seated in the blow-drying chair, I saw the results and was shocked. What was revealed was a non-intrusive boost to the dimension of my roots, which not only faded nicely (without ombré-ing) into the platinum, but even complimented it.

Though it crossed my mind for a millisecond, I'm so glad I didn't resort to ombré in a box. Having tried a spectrum of high-low hair treatments, going to a well-referred expert and plunking down some dough not only lessens the chance that you’ll walk out with buyer’s remorse, it also means you'll be in the hands of someone who actually cares (A LOT) about the integrity of their work and how their client wears it. And if you do hate their work, trust that your stylist will make sure it gets fixed to your liking.

Kim was kind enough to offer a quickie toning session if something like hard water turned my highlighted bits brassy. “Seriously, it’ll take like five minutes, just text me and I can squeeze you in whenever,” she told me. Perks!

Taking into account my lifestyle, job, and future hair plans, Kim was super specific in choosing her process, especially in terms of maintenance and how the color would "age." And here I was, assuming salon gab was just an outlet for gossip. There’s a reason your hairstylist probably asks you so many personal questions.

Where do you draw the line when it comes to your roots? Have you ever splurged on a fancy colorist? Was it worth it?