Bleach-Free Hair Color Makeovers: Possible, And Gorgeous

    the prettiest way to change your look, sans damage

    by Gabrielle Korn · November 18, 2015

    Photographed by Marissa Jackson

    For women with darker locks, hair-color changes can be loaded: Lifting color inherently damages hair, and when you're starting off with a deep hue, it's hard to avoid using bleach in the process. But while summer hair makeovers tend to be bleach-heavy (beachy blonde highlights or pastel pink, anyone?), the moodier palettes of fall and winter mean that there's less pressure to go that much lighter. Instead, we're feeling excited about super-subtle dye jobs featuring shades like dark chocolate and burgundy, and the kind of barely-there highlights that look perfect in the fading light. That means less bleach and less damage.

    We grabbed three of our dark-haired editors and challenged celebrity colorist Christine Thompson of Spoke And Weal's Soho location to give them the perfect November hair makeovers, sans bleach. Click through to see what she created. 

    <p>"I was perplexed by the idea of my dark&nbsp;<span class="il">hair</span>&nbsp;being 'made over' free of bleach&mdash;but also excited, as my&nbsp;<span class="il">hair</span>&nbsp;is largely one of my best assets and you can't really risk frying one of your best assets, especially pre-winter. I assumed this meant all of us were getting unnatural, all-over color. Wrong. Obviously, I chose the color (Indian blue) of a strong Emmy's look that was on my desktop (Amy Schumer's dress). The&nbsp;<span class="il">hair</span>&nbsp;colorist told me blue may wash me out, since I didn't hit the beach as much as I'd have liked to this summer. My second choice was the color of a tertiary highlighter I got on the free table&mdash;a violet-leaning red violet.&nbsp;I didn't want my&nbsp;<span class="il">hair</span>&nbsp;to look flat, so Christine used two different dyes, one slightly lighter than the other in chunks around my face to give me dimension. What resulted was first an extremely shiny, healthy looking, and slightly darker look with a violet halo in incandescent light. Once I hit the sunlight or any fluorescents, I had the all-over unnatural color I had dreamed of.&nbsp;</p>
<div>"I don't know if it's residual fear of reliving my scene years or general adversity to ruining my precious&nbsp;<span class="il">hair</span>&nbsp;in technical adulthood, but this was a good first step to understanding I can take a calculated risk with the help of a professional and my world won't crumble around me.&nbsp;This was also perfect for my Jessie half of Team Rocket for Halloween, so I was okay with it. It wasn't long lasting or unhealthy, and I can't complain as they pretty much nailed what I asked for, even if it wasn't necessarily the best look for me in the end. I'd fux with my&nbsp;<span class="il">hair</span>&nbsp;again." &ndash;Payton Wang</div>

    Photographed by Marissa Jackson

    "I was perplexed by the idea of my dark hair being 'made over' free of bleach—but also excited, as my hair is largely one of my best assets and you can't really risk frying one of your best assets, especially pre-winter. I assumed this meant all of us were getting unnatural, all-over color. Wrong. Obviously, I chose the color (Indian blue) of a strong Emmy's look that was on my desktop (Amy Schumer's dress). The hair colorist told me blue may wash me out, since I didn't hit the beach as much as I'd have liked to this summer. My second choice was the color of a tertiary highlighter I got on the free table—a violet-leaning red violet. I didn't want my hair to look flat, so Christine used two different dyes, one slightly lighter than the other in chunks around my face to give me dimension. What resulted was first an extremely shiny, healthy looking, and slightly darker look with a violet halo in incandescent light. Once I hit the sunlight or any fluorescents, I had the all-over unnatural color I had dreamed of. 

    "I don't know if it's residual fear of reliving my scene years or general adversity to ruining my precious hair in technical adulthood, but this was a good first step to understanding I can take a calculated risk with the help of a professional and my world won't crumble around me. This was also perfect for my Jessie half of Team Rocket for Halloween, so I was okay with it. It wasn't long lasting or unhealthy, and I can't complain as they pretty much nailed what I asked for, even if it wasn't necessarily the best look for me in the end. I'd fux with my hair again." –Payton Wang
    <div>​"I swore off of bleach two years ago after my ombr&eacute; fried my hair, but I've been missing that extra pop that my formerly blonde ends gave to my curls. To channel that look, Christine Thompson gave me highlights with dye that, unlike bleach, could safely lift my hair color a couple of shades while depositing color.&nbsp;She drew inspiration from the colors in my glasses, alternating between different golden and caramel hues for what she calls "tortoise-shell hair." I love that I was able to get that added definition back without harmful bleach, and I'm honestly shocked at how light my hair got. And the best part: My curls are still poppin'." &ndash;Keryce Chelsi Henry</div>

    Photographed by Marissa Jackson

    ​"I swore off of bleach two years ago after my ombré fried my hair, but I've been missing that extra pop that my formerly blonde ends gave to my curls. To channel that look, Christine Thompson gave me highlights with dye that, unlike bleach, could safely lift my hair color a couple of shades while depositing color. She drew inspiration from the colors in my glasses, alternating between different golden and caramel hues for what she calls "tortoise-shell hair." I love that I was able to get that added definition back without harmful bleach, and I'm honestly shocked at how light my hair got. And the best part: My curls are still poppin'." –Keryce Chelsi Henry
    <div dir="ltr">"After getting a sleek, ultra-angled bob over the summer, I hadn't gotten my&nbsp;<span class="il">hair</span>&nbsp;cut for many months, so I was developing some serious shag. My&nbsp;<span class="il">hair</span>&nbsp;looked cool when it was short, but the shape had grown out to be a bit unruly. When I went to Spoke and Weal, I had my consultation with Christine and Jay. They decided to give me some warm highlights, especially around my face, and to cut off some length to give my&nbsp;<span class="il">hair</span>&nbsp;some much-needed soft movement and shape. Jay does dry cutting, so he cut a little bit of volume off before Christine painted some subtle highlights all over. Jay finished up the cut and gave me some great tips about how to deal with the texture of my&nbsp;<span class="il">hair</span>. My&nbsp;<span class="il">hair</span>&nbsp;is super-thick, straight, and slippery, so he used about 40 squirts of Aveda Pure Abundance style-prep spray all over my&nbsp;<span class="il">hair</span>, which felt like a texturizing spray. He blew out my&nbsp;<span class="il">hair</span>&nbsp;and had me run my hands through to feel the texture, which felt super-volumized and kind of beachy. The change is pretty subtle, but I love it!" &ndash;Michelle Lee</div>

    Photographed by Marissa Jackson

    "After getting a sleek, ultra-angled bob over the summer, I hadn't gotten my hair cut for many months, so I was developing some serious shag. My hair looked cool when it was short, but the shape had grown out to be a bit unruly. When I went to Spoke and Weal, I had my consultation with Christine and Jay. They decided to give me some warm highlights, especially around my face, and to cut off some length to give my hair some much-needed soft movement and shape. Jay does dry cutting, so he cut a little bit of volume off before Christine painted some subtle highlights all over. Jay finished up the cut and gave me some great tips about how to deal with the texture of my hair. My hair is super-thick, straight, and slippery, so he used about 40 squirts of Aveda Pure Abundance style-prep spray all over my hair, which felt like a texturizing spray. He blew out my hair and had me run my hands through to feel the texture, which felt super-volumized and kind of beachy. The change is pretty subtle, but I love it!" –Michelle Lee
    Tags: beauty, hair
    More By This Author
    Stories We Love