This "Hot Mess" Hairstylist Posts The Best Transformations

Stripe-y highlights, extreme ombré, box dye disasters — most of us have experienced some sort of hair color nightmare, whether in the chair or at home. And in Los Angeles, hair colorist Lema Ahmad has made a career out of them.

Ahmad, whose Instagram bio says that she "specializes in hot messes," says it all started with a botched color job four years ago. "I had a client sit in my chair and say, 'My hair is a mess and I don't care what you do, just fix this,'" Lema told Refinery29. Five hours later, and her client was flipping her hair with joy. "She said, 'I was such a hot mess, you should tell people [that's what you] you specialize in.'"

The tagline stuck, and now people come from all over L.A. for a spot in Ahmad's chair in Agencé Salon in San Dimas. Of course, color correction is something many stylists do — not just Ahmad — but her fun approach and growing Instagram following makes her before-and-afters especially addictive. "Being a hot mess myself," she jokes, "I felt like people wouldn't get offended if I started specializing in 'hot messes.' They keep me on my toes, and I wouldn't have it any other way."

Ahead, Ahmad breaks down a few of her biggest transformations, and spills her secrets, too.

Photo: Courtesy of Lema Ahmad.
The Issue: Ombré so grown out, it's barely-recognizable

"She had about 10 inches of roots," Lema explains. "Some pieces were brassy and orange, and then she had this huge random chunk of blond — almost platinum. She just wanted me to fix it, so she was pretty open to anything." But there's a catch: "Her ends were a little fragile from the blond, but she wanted to keep her length, so I knew not to go crazy."
Photo: Courtesy of Lema Ahmad.
The Fix: Lema added babylights all over her client's head, leaving "paper thin" sections of hair between each foil packet except the front, which she kept lighter. "Weave three foils back to back for that soft pop of color up front," she says. Once lightened, she added natural-looking contrast by running a little extra lightener over her client's ends at the shampoo bowl, shadowed her roots, and toned her entire head.
Photo: Courtesy of Lema Ahmad.
The Issue: Boxed hair color gone flat

Some DIY hair color comes out looking gorg, while some falls flat — or worse. Black is known to be one of the hardest colors to remove, but Lema was more than up for the challenge. "Removing black box color is my favorite, as long as they're open to anything," she says. "This client came in with an open mind and no expectations, so she let me do me, and that's exactly what I did!"
Photo: Courtesy of Lema Ahmad.
The Fix: The secret lies in a mixture of techniques: Lema added dimension through her client's crown with a round of babylights (the same technique as the previous slide), teased and Balayaged the back in "small chunks," then added thinner pieces of Balayage throughout.

"You don't want to do a full babylights on [black hair] because it will look weird and highlight-y once it's all done," she told us. "Do a mixture of babylights, chunky pieces, and thin balayage. Get creative to try to remove all the black from the ends while still making it look fabulous."
Photo: Courtesy of Lema Ahmad.
The Issue: Uneven color with major damage

"I'm not going to lie, this one had me stumped when I first saw and touched her hair," Lema told us. "[It] felt terrible and the color was so uneven. The only thing I could do was to be honest and recommend my favorite products for dry and damaged hair: Oribe's Gold Lust Shampoo, Conditioner, and Masque. Getting to her 'after' picture took me about seven months, with the four sessions being every eight to 12 weeks, but she understood what the process [would take]."
Photo: Courtesy of Lema Ahmad.
The Fix: The first session included a round of lowlights and melting the color into her ends with conditioner added into the foil — plus a shadowed root and toner. The second session was conservative to prevent breakage: just some highlights on her tips, root touch-ups, and toner. The last two sessions included babylights that were easy on her fragile ends, a front pop, plus more toner. Et voila!
Photo: Courtesy of Lema Ahmad.
The Issue: A hard line of demarcation and unwanted tone

Roots and light ends can look rad, but when you get sick of them they require more than just a touch-up, especially if they've grown long and there is a strong line between the previous color and your natural hue. "We wanted the same thing: She walked in with a shade of blond that was too bright and too golden for her gorgeous complexion," Lema says. "Our goal for her was to be lighter overall, but more ashy, and muted, rather than loud and out there."
Photo: Courtesy of Lema Ahmad.
The Fix: The goal was to blend the harsh line of color and bring a cooler tone to the hair. Lema gave her client babylights all over (yep, same tried-and-true "paper thin" strategy you just read), then she Balayaged the rest, and toned, and rooted the hair, pulling the root color through for a melted effect that made everything blend together.
Photo: Courtesy of Lema Ahmad.
The Issue: Harsh roots and blond buildup

"This was a fun, long process," Lema says. "Matching dark roots to blond, ashy ends is no joke — and can not be rushed, no matter what. Her ends were in pretty good condition so I wasn't too worried."
Photo: Courtesy of Lema Ahmad.
The Fix: Lema started with a hefty serving of babylights throughout her client's hair for dimension and evenness, then finished with a bright, face-framing section. A shadowed root left everything blended, then Lema smudged her roots, bringing the color down half an inch, for a seamless finish.

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