beauty and wellness

To dye for! What to know before coloring your hair at the salon for the first time

Steph Arnaldo

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To dye for! What to know before coloring your hair at the salon for the first time
I put my full trust and tresses in the hands of Azta's assistant creative director Lyn, who held my hand – and hair – throughout my first bleaching journey

MANILA, Philippines – As a 29-year-old who’s only gotten highlights or gone a shade lighter than dark brown, I was initially hesitant to get my hair bleached for the first time. But since life is short and blondes reportedly have more fun, I asked myself: why not?

All I knew about going blonde was that bleaching was painful, damaging, and required high-maintenance after-care; plus the fear of it not “looking right” was always in the back of my head. However, I decided that there was no day like today, and instead of attempting a DIY hair dye at home like many do, I decided to leave it to the professionals of Azta Urban Salon at their newest branch in Arcovia City, Pasig.

AZTA ARCOVIA. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Hearing good reviews about Azta’s coloring skills, I put my full trust and tresses in the hands of Azta’s assistant creative director Lyn and her assistant, who held my hand (and hair) throughout my first bleaching journey. Here’s what I learned on the chair, about hair, and its pre and post-care – and what to expect if it’s your first time on the hair chair!

Hair we go

Prior to my appointment, I was informed that the process would take around six hours or more, depending on the rounds of bleach needed for my hair. With this in mind, I came prepared with my laptop, cellphone, earphones, power bank, water jug, a book, and other anti-boredom essentials. I also came in with hair color pegs, but I wasn’t so set on any; I was very open to Lyn’s professional recommendations. Lyn showed me some hair swatches and suggested a mocha shade, which she explained would fade into a lighter shade in a few weeks. I agreed and moved on to the sink for a rinse.

Note that taking the bleach plunge is not a spontaneous decision. Lyn requires a thorough hair and scalp check on clients beforehand, to ensure that your hair is healthy enough for bleaching. If your hair is too damaged, weak, or dry, she usually refuses, for your safety. However, if you’re still dead-set on going for it, she will make you sign a waiver form.

Lyn also assessed the condition of my scalp for any open wounds, bites, or marks. I had a few, so she just warned me that it might sting more during the bleaching. Azta’s senior creative director Jo also said that an allergy test pre-appointment is recommended for clients who are prone to skin allergies and have sensitive skin. He also advised to not wash your hair two days prior to bleaching or use any styling products.

HAIR ASSESSMENT. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

Remember that the process will take most of your day, so don’t forget to bring food, snacks, or have your food delivery app ready. To maximize your “pamper day” salon experience, you can also enjoy a foot spa or pedicure during your treatment to make yourself as comfortable as possible.

To bleach his own

The bleaching process took up most of the afternoon. One round of bleach can go for about 45 minutes to an hour – including the rinse – and most clients usually require five to six rounds to get a full bleach. However, the amount depends on the texture of your hair. Since my hair is very thin and fine, I only needed two rounds, but for coarse and thick hair, more rounds are needed.

ROUNDS OF BLEACH. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

FYI: Yes, it does sting at some points, but it’s not that bad, especially if you’re distracted. I got used to the hapdi pain eventually, and I just kept telling myself: tiis-ganda nalang!

The purpose of bleaching, Lyn said, is to provide your hair a “clean slate” for lighter shades to stick. It’s like starting from scratch; bleach will eradicate your natural hair color and any other color deposits left behind from previous dyes. Because the effect is so powerful, note that the chemicals in hair dye and bleach are very damaging to one’s hair, and can cause it to get frizzy, dry, brittle, and broken. “This is why you should only bleach your hair once a year, Lyn and Jo said.

“If you want to change your hair color within a year – for example, to lilac – skip the bleach. You can also just tone down the part that’s still bleached,” Lyn said. She advises not to retouch and re-bleach your roots as they grow out, and just color them brown. It’s better and safer to wait it out.

THE BLEACH CONTINUES. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

After my bleach was done, the mocha shade was then applied, which took another hour. After a rinse and blow-dry, the final color was revealed, and I was honestly a bit underwhelmed – it came out a nice light brown, but I was expecting something lighter and more blonde. Lyn applied another shade to lighten it to a light mocha, and when I saw the final look – a light blonde that looked almost like an ashy rose gold – I was very happy!

LIGHT MOCHA SHADE. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler
Salon, farewell

Getting your hair colored at a salon is definitely a splurge. It’s not cheap – according to Lyn, the rates for short hair length can go for P5,000; medium can go up to P8,000, and long can go up to P10,000 and more. So why opt for the salon when many just DIY it at home, because it’s cheaper, more accessible, and more comfortable?

It’s the quality treatment you’re getting at the salon, Lyn said, as well as the assurance that your hair will come out the exact way you want it to. Boxed dyes have metallics in them, which Lyn said are harder to remove. When you eventually change hair colors, the metallic pigments left behind may ruin your desired effect, and leave patches of unwanted shades on your hair.

“Boxed dyes like Manic Panic and direct dyes are different. Salons use the latter, because the formula is different. It’s hard to remove boxed dyes, so sayang lang din if you’re going to have bleach everything again anyway. If you want to change colors, with direct dyes, you can change it right away. If you start off with metallic dyes, it’s harder,” Lyn said.

Also remember that there is a learning curve for DIY dyes. Reading the instructions on a box may seem simple, but dying your hair at home – especially bleaching on your own – takes a lot of caution and practice. There is a reason why hair professionals spend years in training!

“You should also consider your hair’s texture and quality. For example, your hair is very fine. If you unknowingly use a dye that is high in peroxide, you will damage your hair. In salons, they will take everything into consideration first,” Lyn said. Jo also said that home dye may be easy to apply, but it can give you “an uneven result.”

COMFORTABLE SPACE. Photo by Steph Arnaldo/Rappler

“Due to lack of knowledge in color application, it may create color build-ups. Yes, it is very affordable but it can also be a waste of money if not used properly. Plus, once the products are mixed, you have to consume it immediately,” Jo said. You also won’t get a proper assessment or that “professional touch.”

“We have color techniques and expert applications to get an even result. It is more expensive because you’re paying for the talent, service, knowledge, and experience. We also use premium, tried-and-tested quality products (Loreal, Davines, Matrix) used for decades.

What’s next?

It’s fun to bask in the “new hair, hu dis” glory, but one must remember that the after-care is probably the most demanding thing about going blonde. Bleaching will kill your hair’s natural oils, so I had to go through a literal rough patch with my hair, because it got dry and frizzy afterwards. I was only allowed to wet my hair after two days and not apply any products.

“The hair should rest first to regain its natural PH balance. This will allow your scalp to build moisture through the secretion of sebum that will help to condition the hair,” Jo explained.

I normally shampoo and conditioner twice or thrice a week, which Lyn said I should keep doing, since daily shampooing will strip the scalp of its natural oils. It is also a must to use sulfate-free and paraben-free products from now on, which will help prolong my hair color. I use Human Nature and Babe Formula, but you can use any as long as the ingredients list doesn’t contain anything with sulfate in it.

Don’t forget purple shampoo and conditioner, too! Purple products will help prevent any yellowing of the hair and keep it from becoming brassy. However, Lyn advised to only use them after a month, to allow your hair color to lighten some more before neutralizing and maintaining its hue, which purple products help to do. Some brands I like are BEACHBORN, Monea, and L’oreal.

It is also recommended to get a hair treatment at the salon every week to keep your hair healthy and strong. However, it can get expensive, so monthly treatments will do. You can also get a sulfate-free, deep conditioning hair mask that you can apply at home once a week after shampooing. Just leave it on for 10-15 minutes and rinse. You can also apply a hair serum that’s rich in moisturizing oils. If you’re styling your hair, use only thermal sprays.

Lyn doesn’t recommend bleaching your hair if you have an active outdoor lifestyle, as chlorinated and sea salt water aren’t good for the hair, as well as harsh sun and winds. “Avoid going to the beach or places with high humidity,” Jo said.

Overall, my first bleaching experience went better than I expected; it was comfortable, relaxed, and not intimidating, thanks to the staff of Azta Urban Salon, the quality of the treatment, and of course, the end result. Even though hair maintenance can get a bit taxing, I am getting used to it! If you’ve been thinking of sporting your dream hair color for a while now – whether that’s blonde, pink, purple, or blue – go for it! You only live once, and I for one don’t regret it. –

Azta Urban Salon’s newest branch is located at Phase 1 Arco Parade, Arcovia City, Eulogio Rodriguez Jr. Avenue, Pasig City. It’s open from 11 am to 9 pm daily. Azta Urban Salon is also located in Ayala Malls Vertis North, SM North EDSA, Eastwood Citywalk, Ayala Feliz, Robinsons Antipolo, SM Jazz Mall, Ayala Circuit, Venice Grand Canal, Alabang Town Center, and Ayala Malls Bacolod.

For more information, you can check out Azta on Instagram.

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Steph Arnaldo

If she’s not writing about food, she’s probably thinking about it. From advertising copywriter to freelance feature writer, Steph Arnaldo finally turned her part-time passion into a full-time career. She’s written about food, lifestyle, and wellness for Rappler since 2018.