You know that feeling you get just as the stylist turns you towards the mirror after a big hair change — maybe a new hair color or a drastic cut? Your stomach drops for just a moment, and then... you either love it or you hate it. Well, when I decided to color my weave to get over my winter hair boredom, that initial feeling was one of regret, and that's how my journey to a total hair rehab began.
For the last year, I've worn a sewn-in weave with a lace closure. The low-maintenance style protects my delicate natural hair underneath, but it can also be limiting — I can't wear my hair in updos, like a high bun or ponytail, without revealing the tracks underneath. So, I pretty much have the same style every day. That's why, when I got an itch to change up my look, I decided a fresh dye-job was the cure.
Or, so I thought.
I wanted to brighten up my dark brown weave with some highlights. But I ended up with a chunky, streaky, early aughts look — not cool. And the dye job left my weave frizzy and fried. So, I had to do some damage control. In an attempt to not look like Nichole Richie on The Simple Life, I asked the stylist dye me back to my original dark brown color. (Can you see where this is going?) I left the salon with raven, almost jet-black hair. I thought I was going to have to throw the whole weave away (and let me tell you, I didn't relish the idea of having to trash $300 worth of brand-new hair).
The lesson: Human-hair weaves and wigs can get damaged from heat and coloring just like the hair growing from your scalp. Desperate to save my weave and get the color I desired, I went to Spoke & Weal salon in SoHo and met with master colorist Madison Rae Garrett. Ahead, five things I wish I'd known before I dyed my weave, plus pro tips on how to color your bundles while preserving the quality.
1. Your weave may be 100% human hair, but it still went through some sort of processing.
If you want to color your weave, first make sure you purchase 100% human hair. Synthetic hair will essentially fall apart if bleached or exposed to high heat. Also, even though your hair may be labeled "human," it doesn't necessarily mean it's "virgin." The hair still goes through a level of processing before it's wefted to the track. (This could include a chemical cleaning process or imprinting a curl pattern.) Any processing can affect how the hair reacts to color.
2. Always ask for a consultation and strand test.
Garrett also cautions to "temper your expectations" of what your color can look like. Your bundles aren't the same as the hair growing out of your scalp, so they may take color differently. You should always go into a salon for a consultation first, and bring pictures so your stylist knows exactly what you want.
Your stylist should also do a strand test to see how the hair reacts to bleach. After the first bad dye job, the parts of my weave that were bleached were stringy and dry. My weave also began to shed and tangle excessively — a result of the over-processing. But after a strand test, Garrett said I was cleared to get more color.
3. The process for color correcting your weave is going to be different than if it was your real hair.
If my dye-job-gone-wrong had been on my real hair, Garrett would have used a color extractor, which pulls out oxidized color and doesn't damage the hair. But because the weave is sewn onto my scalp, it would make washing the extractor out difficult, and it's hard to know how any chemicals left on my scalp would react.
So, instead of trying to take all of the dark color out, Garrett applied the bleach for about 35 minutes in a face-framing, balayage pattern to give me some much needed depth and dimension.
4. Moisture is going to be the key to maintaining your color and the quality of the hair.
The beauty of weave is that you can use it again and again. But just like real hair, bleached extensions need to be properly moisturized, so the color doesn't get dull and the hair doesn't get frizzy. Garrett used Aveda Blue Malva shampoo and conditioner on my hair and recommended that I continue to use the line after leaving the salon. She also recommended coming in for a gloss once a month to keep the color vibrant.
5. Weaves are a great way to experiment with color — but don't skimp on it!
After Garrett worked her magic and master stylist Peter Corvington added some soft, beachy waves, I walked out of the salon with the original ash-blonde highlights I wanted. After four days of wearing a hat to hide my jet-black hair, I finally felt like a million bucks.
If you want to color your hair — weave or natural — make sure you're using high-quality human hair, and spending the extra cash for a professional colorist is worth it (trust me). I now realize coloring your hair is a huge commitment — and not one that shouldn't be taken lightly. A bad dye job can seriously destroy your strands, but a good one can give you a major confidence boost.