Highlighting my Hair

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Let me preface this by stating I did my research before attempting this AND have taken the precautions to strengthen my hair beforehand.

Spoiler alert: the results are not at all what was expected and I have finally been able to stop crying long enough to get dressed, go to work, and have some semblance of reality again. Boy oh boy was this a learning experience.

A quick reminder of what I went in with before this experiment:

This photo is from a month ago.

Last week, I made an appointment to get my hair partially highlighted at my local Ulta salon. The balayage that I did over a year ago was starting to grow out and look less balayage and more just neglected. So I wanted to get some caramel/honey highlights to blend with the remaining balayage and add some dimension to my naturally dark hair. I had prepped my hair and clarified to ensure the highlighting would be safe and had a bottle of Olaplex waiting for me at home for afterward to repair the hair follicles from the color lift. I had seen some YouTubers and friends go to their local Ulta salon and had some great results, so I decided it was a risk worth taking – I mean you can’t go that wrong with highlights, right?

My appointment was at 2:30 pm. I didn’t get home till 6 pm. Almost 4 hours for partial highlights – no cut, no styling, just highlights. This is almost the same amount of time it took to get balayage done for my whole head…

For starters, the stylist didn’t utter any of the variations of the dreaded “wow…look at all that hair” so I thought that was a really good sign! Once I sat down and explained what I was looking for (caramel/honey highlights to blend with my balayage…I am sorry for the repetition but it is key to what is to come), she got started on splitting my hair up into sections and brushing it out (meh, okay).

Here we go!

As we got to talking and she mentioned her sister had curly hair so another sigh of relief as I thought ‘hey, she must have some curly hair know-how’. And then the process began! I was so excited to start the process and was thrilled that this was so convenient – I was able to book my appointment online and for a Sunday! And even though Ulta is a Redken salon, I know that they have curly products (that’s where I bought some new products I will be reviewing for you soon) and thought hey…worst case they’ll pull them (yes, they can and do this). But even so, I’d give Redken a go and then style it my way once I got home.

Brushed out curls and lots of foil

Then came the rinse time. Before she rinsed it out, I got to take a quick peek and I was so happy with the results – yes, a little light but overall not bad! She even said she was so happy that I wasn’t brassy or over-processed. But then she grabbed the toner. The toner, y’all. So okay, maybe it was a translucent toner or something just a tinge darker than the highlights to tone down the blonde a smidge. I thought ‘hey, it’s okay if it is a bit warmer because it is fall.’ After 20 minutes sitting at the rinse station, she came back and rinsed it out, applied a deep conditioning masque and rinsed that out after a few minutes.

After chatting about how I usually don’t apply heat, how she wanted to showcase the highlights on her IG and how diffusing would take me about 45 minutes at home, I opted to have her diffuse it – gotta help promote each other, right? Mind you, at this point, my hair was wet so I didn’t see any highlights but thought once it dried, they’ll pop out.

She applied some serum to my hair (think FrizzEase from the 90s) by Redken – I honestly have no idea what it was. And then she pulled out the diffuser attachment and went to town – physically lift chunks of my hair while seated upright and holding it to my scalp with the diffuser. What is happening right now? At that point, I was too shocked to say anything and I kept thinking, alright, at least I’ll be able to see the highlights. Five minutes later she was done. DONE?! My hair was still wet and I looked as frizzy as a poodle, in Florida, that air-dried after a rainstorm. Can’t picture it? Well, here is an example:

So okay, she can’t style curly hair – totally okay because I can fix it when I get home. But here’s the thing…where are my highlights? Where is the blonde from my balayage? I saw the foils in there y’all. The proof exists above! I even IG’d it. So where are they? Am I being punked? Where are the highlights?!

I then panicked. I wanted to get out of there and to my shower as quickly as possible. I even paid, though I wholeheartedly am not sure why, and ran home in tears. TEARS! My poor husband tried to coax me into thinking it looks alright but even he was shocked.

Home in 5 minutes and I was in the shower with a clarifying shampoo then chelating my hair like crazy! I needed to remove some of this toner and revive my curls. Now if you don’t know what chelating hair is, it is a very extensive process of stripping your hair to remove any build-up and often times temporary color which toner essentially is. If you’re interested, I will do a post about it.

The result? Let’s put it like this – my curls are safe but I am not necessarily looking in the mirror too long once the bonnet or scarf comes off. I am already gearing up for the next wash day and mentally preparing for a lot of deep conditioning. Here’s the final product:

Still can rock it!

Overall, it is an improvement from what I walked out of the salon with but it is still not what I asked for or anticipated. I am shocked. I am dumbfounded. And overall, I am NOT going back. I am going to let the toner run its course and hope that the blonde will end up seeping through with time and look okay. Ultimately, it isn’t that bad and is aligned with the season change but it is not what I expected, asked for, paid for…

This was a failed experiment overall and a reminder that you cannot go to just anyone when you have curly hair. Highlighting may be more universal, but if they do not understand the structure of your hair, the end result may not be what you expected. So perhaps it is slightly my fault… Maybe my assumption of your run-of-the-mill caramel/honey highlights is not so common and I should have had examples ready.

So inquiring minds want to know… Have you had a poor experience with coloring or highlights and if so, how did you respond? How have you revived a coloring mishap?

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