I was ready to make my pink-haired dreams a reality with The Color Bar
Like most kids who grew up around animé and K-Pop and in the influential circle of colorful-haired pop stars, I’ve long harbored the dream of crossing the hair color spectrum. Has there ever been a fan of Sailor Moon who didn’t want to go blonde or a shade of green, or an angsty pre-teen in their Paramore phase who didn’t want to mimic Hayley’s feisty orange mane? I’m not usually one to gravitate towards color, but a colored mane? That’s a statement I’m partial to.
On its own, my hair has never been anything for me to complain about. It’s healthy, thick and gets along with almost every shampoo brand I try––all good things, except it’s always been so black. Fast forward to 2018: after a few attempts to go brown and using boxed dye to call it quits and return to black (a huge no-no, as you’ll soon discover), I was itching for something drastic. I wanted to go pink. And as if the universe willed it, we caught wind of a new salon in the area specializing in hair lightening and coloring.
Introducing: The Color Bar by JOF.
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Whether it’s color, styling, or make-up, The Color Bar is your newest premiere destination salon. Hang back and enjoy a complete salon experience in a modern urban haven, just like your favorite bar. Let us color your world at Rizal Drive, Forbes Town, Taguig. For more info, visit our website at thecolorbarph.com #tcbhairtodyefor #thecolorbarph Videography by @ianfranciscoph ? With our muse @missearth.angelia @stylingbyjof @iam_darcy @prettyanagen @cathnessevardone @desiremaldita @bobbleeeeh @chorski69 @graceexplorer @khayerismal
Chief stylist Jof Fantone's passion project of sorts, The Color Bar started out as an appointment-only salon housed within a condominium unit. After coming home from the United States where he earned a degree at Paul Mitchell, Jof returned home to build from the ground up. He took his first-hand experience of dealing with both Asian and Western hair types to build a loyal clientele, after which The Color Bar found a home in the heart of Bonifacio Global City earlier this year.
This homey two-floor salon was where the magic would happen.
First Thing’s First
My deep-rooted dreams of flaunting a colored mane had bubbled up and ultimately peaked with a very specific peg: a dreamy, dark pink at the crown, fading to a rose quartz-tinted light brown. We discussed this peg prior to the appointment and kicked the salon session off with a face-to-face run-down of my hair history. Which proved to be… a bit of an issue, to say the least.
I have a long, winding history with boxed dyes. I used it back in 2013 to go for a reddish brown, which hardly showed given the ultra-dark canvas of my virgin locks at the time. After that, I had gone brown twice and covered it up with black when the job got brassy. With what, one might ask? You guessed it––with boxed dye.
As I gave Jof a play-by-play, he seemed a little uneasy. Even though it’s been the better part of a year since I last used boxed color, he warned me right from the get-go that my history with boxed dyes would likely make achieving my pink-maned dreams difficult. Despite this, we agreed to give it a shot. After all, they had previous customers who had also played around with boxed color in the past and still managed to help them achieve their hair pegs.
How bad could the effects of boxed dye be, right?
The Lightening Process
After assessing my hair strands under a bright light, Jof and the team got to work. He brought out a tin of Schwarzkopf BlondMe, a product he brings in from abroad for tough cases like mine. They mixed it in a glass bowl and began applying it on to my hair, wrapping small sections of my hair in pockets of foil as they went along.
At The Color Bar, low and slow is the way to go…Sure enough, simply coating my entire head in lightener and waiting for it to react took a few hours, but the use of low developers and protecting the condition of the hair is part of the salon’s philosophy––one they firmly stand in. “Yes, we could get it done in half the time if we used a high developer, but keeping the integrity of the hair is the most important thing,” shares Jof. They’re prepared to entertain customers for extended periods, too. They’ve got a board game corner, an entertainment area with a flat-screen TV and snack bar––pretty much anything they can provide to make the waiting game less of a chore for their guests.
Say hello to the nasty effects of by-the-box hair color. After hours of stripping the darkness of my locks away, what we were left with was a patchy, bright orange mess. A haunting from the hair dye grave.
“Boxed dye is one-size-fits-all. It’s not customized so the developer in there is really high in order for the color to lift,” explains Jof. “It has big molecules, so even when you put [custom or professional] dye over it, it will just eat up the color.”
At this point, this much was clear: we were going to have to lighten my hair further and hope that the dye would ease its grip on my strands.
Spoiler: no such luck.
Another few hours on the seat and we ended up with this result.
The line dividing the yellow blonde and orange ends wasn’t nearly as harsh anymore and if we’re being totally honest, I liked this look and have filed it away for future pursuit. I might even be as ambitious to say that it reminded me of a bootleg Joy of Red Velvet (hey, a girl can dream, alright).
Despite my positive feelings towards my new blonde mane, it was clear we couldn’t go any further with the lightening. Technically, we could have thrown in some powerful chemicals into the mix and jumped up to a platinum (the base we needed to achieve before going down the pink route), but this is where The Color Bar drew the line.
“Any more and we would sacrifice the health of your hair,” explains Jof, who made it clear as day that hair integrity is of utmost importance at The Color Bar.
It’s admirable, the restraint they practice when they know they can achieve something but choose not to––especially when you consider the number of “successful” dye jobs we see that sacrifice the condition of one’s locks for a split-second moment of color glory.
It was time to make a U-turn.
The Turning Point
“There are 10 levels on the hair color spectrum,”explains Jof, all ten fingers held up in front of me. “Most Filipinos are at level 9. What we need to achieve is a level 1 or 2 before we can color over it.” While my roots, which had never been exposed to boxed dye, had been lightened to the extreme we needed, the furthest we reached with the rest of my locks was a level 7––the hotspot for orange tones and brassiness.
We did the next best thing we could to address the yellow-orange situation atop my head: dial it back down to a darker color. Still itching for a change, I requested that we go for an ashy shade of dark brown, which they nailed right in the head.
I know what you're thinking: all those hours in the chair to get my hair a few shades lighter? Unfortunately, yes.
But apart from a healthy-looking, dark ash brown color I've come to fall in love with, I got a good story (read: a first-hand horror experience with boxed dyes) out of it!
I know that if I hadn't messed around and given in to the temptation of by-the-box color, I'd be sporting a head of scene-stealing rosy locks by now. The long-lasting grip of the high developer in that stuff might not show against dark hair––but if you happen to have light-haired ambitions waiting to happen, steer clear. Going for a color swap at a salon, under the trained eye of a professional who knows when to pursue a peg and when to take a step back and protect your locks, will always be your best bet.
A Present-Day Update: It's Not Impossible
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The good news in all this: the pink hair eventually did happen. A few months after the split-second yellow situation came the realization of my rose quartz dreams. Despite the roller coaster ride that was my initial bleach job, it thankfully wasn't in vain: the ash brown served as a crucial half-step in getting me to the color I wanted months later. I lived eight prosperous months dancing across the pink to blonde spectrum––something I wouldn't have been able to do without this little hiccup.
I wouldn't go as far as saying that no hair color is impossible. Reality check: being able to achieve and maintain an unnatural color is still heavily dependent on one's hair condition. No amount of Olaplex and bond-building magic can nurse damaged-to-death locks to perfect health. In some cases, hair can be too thin, too brittle or too damaged to handle any bleaching to begin with. Hair––like diets, skincare and damn near every other aspect of beauty––is ultimately a case-to-case thing, YouTube tutorials and guru-approved tricks and tips be damned.
One mishap and more successful hair colors than I can count later, take it from me: the best way to navigate the volatile world of bleach and dye is to consult a professional.
Art Alexandra Lara