The Salon Solved it – lighter in a lunch hour?

Late last year, at the age of 30, I lost my hair colour virginity. After a childhood spent watching my mum endure a barbaric-looking highlighting cap every couple of weeks (honestly, salons in the ’80s and ’90s were a WHOLE other world), I finally succumbed to the peroxide posse and haven’t looked back since. I immediately fell in love with how a few subtle pieces lifted my natural colour and gave my style more depth. What I DIDN’T love was the processing…er, process.

As my roots grew out, I began to panic at the thought of having to spend hours upon hours in the salon bringing them back to blonde. By nature, I’m quite an impatient person – my mind is always running at 100 mph and so I fidget, I get frustrated and I get anxious. Plus, as a digital and social editor, devoting a huge chunk of the day to sitting bedecked in foils while I wait for colour to develop (instead of beavering away on my next social posts and responses, online articles and live event coverage) just didn’t seem feasible. Until I read about a new technique and service Redken was launching, which promised to deliver highlights in half an hour or less…

I got in touch with Emily Sweetman, top colour technician at Radio Hair Kings Cross, a gorgeous gallery-slash-hairdressers that is just a few minutes-walk away from the central London station (and conveniently, on my route home). She confirmed that they offered the ‘Express Blonde’ treatment and that my sprinkling of highlights in need of a top-up made me the perfect candidate. Result! All that was left to do was to drop by for a quick patch test and consultation a few days prior to my appointment.

After displaying zero reaction, I headed to Radio on a chilly Thursday, one week after my allergy test. I had a quick catch up with Emily, where we confirmed plans to slightly shade my roots and then add Express Blonde highlights to lift and add dimension to my fine hair.

Emily began by painting my root area with a gloss colour to add depth and tone. She then softly lightened strands around my face using a mix infused with Redken’s pH Bonder, and utilised Radio’s signature ‘lift and frame’ technique. The 15 or so pieces were placed around my face to contour, highlight and add texture, and were carefully diffused from the root area to give the illusion of subtle, sun-bleached streaks.
Once the lightener had been applied and flat, unfolded foils placed either side of the strands, the unique Express Blonde process began. Emily used Redken’s specially adapted Express Blonde iron – a temperature-controlled straightener-like contraption, which doesn’t clamp but gently glides above the foils on either side of the hair sections – to speed up the development process.

After just 15 minutes (two passes of the iron on each foil segment) the colour was ready. I was slightly worried that the heat and its proximity to my hair could have caused extra damage, but Emily reassured me that the temperature-controlled iron simply acted as a mini, more efficient rollerball heater similar to those used during other colouring services. She even showed me how little the foils were heated during each pass by letting me check the temperature immediately after the wand was used (they were only slightly warm to the touch!)

My hair was then rinsed and a finishing toner was used on the lightened pieces, followed by the second part of the pH Bonder treatment to protect and strengthen the hair. After a quick trim, Emily blow dried and tonged my hair so I could see the shade shift. I was amazed – the lift was natural-looking, even and my hair felt super-soft!

Am I an Express Blonde convert?

Abso-flipping-lutely. This treatment was made for time-poor clients like me, who only require lift across a maximum of 15 sections, and it works brilliantly. The only problem will be if I’m tempted to up the blonding ante for the summer…