Dye Happy

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Katie Puckrik on her hair’s long journey to fake-natural Nirvana


In my obligatory quirky teenage hair phase, I sought to broadcast my specialness by regularly marinating my head in Pillarbox Red semi-permanent dye. The DIY process was as follows: 1) bleach hair to an earwax orange, 2) coat orange hair in red goo for two hours.


The annoyance of constant dye transfer – I ended up with Pillarbox Red pillowcases, Pillarbox Red collars, Pillarbox Red sweat – was outweighed by the magic of gaily tossing about long neon tresses. I maintained my routine, before upgrading to the expertise of a salon, for a good ten years. Ironically, I became disenchanted with the whole rigmarole of living with “look at me!” hair once I scored a “look at me!” job: presenting Britain’s number one pop culture televisual Roman circus, The Word.


Released from its role as one of my creative outlets, my hair then took a circuitous route (via an unintentionally greenish dark brown, and then on to blond Mrs. Robinson stripes that were all the rage in the mid-90s) back towards its follicular peak: the golden sandy-brown glory that I possessed at age 13.


I craved natural, which it turns out, is a lot harder to achieve than Pillarbox Red. These days I’ve settled on a blondy blend of browns and caramels, but the onset of grey hair means that I’m spending more time than ever at salons trying to fake natural.


Fake natural hair colour is just as elusive as no-makeup makeup: the idea is that you want to appear effortlessly flawless, and if you do display a flaw, it’s one that only adds to your charm and character. In my quest for this holy grail of vanity, I turned to Britain’s leading hair colour whisperers, the Jo Hansford Salon in London.


Jo Hansford is a veteran in delivering luxury hair colour, having earned her stripes working at Vidal Sassoon back in the 60s. US Vogue has gushed, “Best tinter on the planet”, and her Mayfair salon is chock full o’ glossy mag clients: Gwyneth Paltrow, Yasmin Le Bon, Nigella Lawson, Georgia Jagger (not all at once, though, because Earth would tip over if too many celebs clumped together in one place).


The salon purrs with understated chic. Dove gray walls offset a fabulous 80s-style chandelier built from swirled curtains of crystals. The reception area is practically a petting zoo of perfect hair tones – clients with heads of caramelized walnut whip brown, moonlit ivory blonde, shiny ombre brunette.


All of Jo’s team of colorists are schooled in classy colour, and my lady Zenda is no exception. She’s got the easy manner of a can-do girlfriend who would love nothing better than for me to feel great about myself. As we both study my reflection in the mirror, I realize that waiting too long between tintings means that my hair’s become faded, brassy, and bushy. I look like a yak who’s spent too much time on the sunny Mongolian tundra.


Undeterred, Zenda cheerfully offers to camouflage my “natural sparkle” (uh, grey), and to “richen up” the colour. After perusing the in-house catering menu (I order egg soldiers and a beet, carrot and celery smoothie), I settle in for my hair revival.


Zenda retunes my base colour from yellowy, oxidized whatever to a youthful honey brown. Then she meticulously picks out strands for sun-kissed toddler blonde highlights via foils.


The result is a shimmery sandy brown with the subtlest of golden twinkle – not painted stripes, heaven forfend! As my 13-year-old self would approvingly say, “Decent!”


Zenda’s pleased with the “after” Katie. “The colour you came in with wasn’t ‘you’. When you have the right hair colour, it brings out your eyes and skin.” She’s right. My brassy yak look was working against me.


Haircutter Sophie puts the frame around the picture with a sweet, face-framing choppy cut. As I leave the cosseting elegance of the salon, I’m feeling very “gamine French actress circa 1979”. It sure beats Mongolian yak – and even Pillarbox Red.


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