Blast From the Past

Use your childhood photos as inspiration for a new look

Those who have been coloring their hair for years may not remember their original shade while those who are color virgins lament their darkening, duller tresses. If only you could capture the sun-kissed locks or that gorgeous shade of your youth. Are you a former baby blonde that has turned into a mousey brown? Or a dark brunette that once had tones of auburn? Or how about a former radiant redhead who now is a dull strawberry blonde?

Many people experience the three D’s as they age: Darker, Duller and Damaged hair.

“As you age hormones affect your hair—puberty, pregnancy, menopause,” says Joey Humphrey, Owner of Sky Parlour Salon. “I’ve seen hair get thicker, change colors, and texture usually changes with age too.”

But perhaps you can capture your hues of yesteryear. The next time you go to the hair salon, (or if you decide to color your hair for this first time) come armed with a baby photo that shows the exact shade and look you’re trying to capture. Not only will it give you and your colorist a common language so there are no surprises, but it offers insight in the best shades for your complexion.

We put this idea to the test, asking two colorists from local salons to transform our models (including myself) to embrace the past and make us look even better.

Radical Transformation

Oriana Yost has been coloring her hair since high school, she says. She’s always loved experimenting with color and though born a blonde she embraces darker shades in her hair.

“I haven’t been a blonde in years,” says Yost. “It’s nice to go lighter, especially for summer.”

Removing pigment from darker hair to regain Yost’s original shade was an arduous process (taking roughly six hours) but colorist Colesha Hagans of Oak City Salon in Five Points was up for the challenge.

“She had different levels of blonde as a child, a natural ombré,” says Hagans, after studying Yost’s baby photo. In Yost’s case ombré meant lighter on top and gradually darkening through the ends. The stylist first cut Yost’s hair to remove some of the damage at the ends then set to work to recapture the 27-year-old’s cooler pearly blonde shade.

After removing most of the pigment from Yost’s hair through bleaching, Hagans mixed a tonal color and applied it. She then balyaged (or handpainted) strips of hair in varying blonde tones to break up the color at the front and give the shade a natural dimension.

When Yost headed home with her finished look, she was anxious to share it with her boyfriend who had never seen her as a blond: “It should be interesting!”

Yost’s Final Word: It was so different but I liked it—it was pretty close to my natural shade. My boyfriend had a similar reaction; he was shocked at first but then he said he really liked it.

Sun-kissed and Subtle

Over the years my hair has darkened into a deep brown shade not quite black. It also has grown duller and spending more time indoors has robbed me of the natural highlights that once gave my tresses a sun-kissed look. I shared one of my childhood photos with Joey Humphrey of Sky Parlour Salon.


After examining it, he stared intently at my hair trying to visualize my new “old” look. “No one’s hair is one shade or two shades,” says Humprey. He determined he would need to create several formulations to highlight my hair at varying levels in order to get a more natural look. He started by mixing about five different formulas and painting them onto my hair.

In some cases, he painted two different formulations (lighter and medium shades) onto one panel of hair, concentrating one at the roots and another at the ends “to give it a natural variation,” he said. Then he hand-painted the ends with a free form lightener. “Ends are exposed to more sun and are often lighter than the rest of the hair,” he says.

After lightening my hair, Humphrey applied a caramel toner to balance the color and give it added shine.

My Final Word: Though probably more subtle to others, to my eye, my hair looks significantly lighter with those gorgeous caramel highlights I was trying to capture. I feel like me only better. Mission accomplished!

Alexandra Drosu
Alexandra Drosu

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