Extreme Hair Makeover: Are You Ready for It?

You’re itching to get out of your hair rut -- same color, same cut for years -- and into a dramatic new do. Before committing to an extreme hair makeover, most experts agree you should start with small, well-considered steps rather than all at once, and leave yourself open to some unexpected discoveries.

“I love when women are open to experimenting,” says Jon Patrick, a Beverly Hills colorist and stylist, “but I want the risks to be well-calculated.”

Here’s advice from the pros on how to achieve a hair makeover that will turn heads without leaving your own head spinning.

Growing out Hair
If you’ve decided to go from chin length to shoulder grazing, don’t kiss your stylist goodbye for the next year. Remember, hair grows from the scalp -- not the ends -- says Michael Shaun Corby, a hair guru who primps runway models for New York’s Fashion Week. “Left on its own, short hair will grow into something resembling a mullet in the back and unwieldy feathers in the front,” he says. 

The most graceful way to grow your hair out is to establish what Corby calls “a clean perimeter,” with a one-length bob that falls somewhere between the jawline and the middle of the neck. See your stylist every six weeks to trim and maintain that line while the underneath layers catch up. If you’re growing out bangs, keep one quarter as fringe, while your stylist begins incorporating the remaining bangs into the bob.

Cutting Hair
Ask yourself what look you’re really going for. “Sometimes women don’t really want short hair,” says Patrick. “What they want is the appearance, at least now and then, of short hair. If you think that may be the case, have your stylist show you how to put your hair up in a chignon or into a looped bun.” If you’re going short for the sake of convenience, keep in mind that a short do might actually require more upkeep since you won’t have the option of pulling your hair back into a ponytail or bun. You’ll also need trims every four to six weeks to maintain the shape. 

Bring photos to show your stylist what you mean by “short-ish” or “a few inches.” And before you commit to a new style, “ask your hairdresser what it’s going to take for you to duplicate the salon results on your own,” say Damien Miano of the Miano Viel Salon in New York City. If you have thick, wavy hair, for example, you’ll need to log a long session with your hair dryer and flatiron to get it to bend into a Victoria Beckham bob.

Transform Your Color With No Regrets

Remember when Cameron Diaz, Reese Witherspoon and Gwyneth Paltrow all became brunettes a few years ago? “Suddenly I had all these blondes who said they wanted to go dark,” says colorist Andrea Sher of Anagen Salon in New York City. “I’d say, ‘No, what you really want is a change.’”

An all-at-once change doesn’t allow for incremental and dazzling shifts. A blonde who thought she wanted to go mink brown may feel reinvented with a few caramel streaks, while a brunette dreaming of Gwen Stefani platinum may discover she looks fabulous in Debra Messing auburn. “When women say they want a dramatic color change, it’s usually because they want to brighten their look,” explains Viel. “Sometimes the solution can be as simple as adding lowlights to hair that has been over-highlighted.”

Schedule a consultation with your colorist to discuss flattering shades for your skin tone. If you want to go lighter, ask how many shades your hair can be lifted or bleached without causing damage and how many visits it will take. Finally, be sure to talk about upkeep. “Any change that takes you more than two or three shades lighter or darker is going to require a lot of maintenance,” warns Viel. “And straight hair will need more frequent touchups than curly hair because when roots grow in, the line of demarcation is much more obvious.”