You know those hair memes that talk about if a girl changes her hair, she is about to change her life? Or how about the meme where the hairstylist is stressing over the client who wants to change her hair after she’s been box-dying it black for years? Well, both of those were entirely too relatable to me about three weeks ago. I had just celebrated my 27th birthday and was experiencing some major life changes. I had been shamelessly dying my hair black for years and was ready for a hair color transformation to keep up with the other parts of my life. And as the hair gods would have it, just as I was scrolling through the hair section of Pinterest for some manespiration, I received an e-mail from one of the loveliest publicists letting me know how excited she was to be working with Gemini 14 Salon and the wonderful Kathy Benghanem. With just a few e-mails and approval from my editor, my appointment with Kathy was confirmed for Wednesday of the following week to write a story about taking my box-dyed black hair to a lighter balayage in one appointment.
Before the appointment:
Having grown up in my mother’s salon and making a career of writing about all things hair, I knew a thing or two about the color process and that taking my hair lighter wasn’t going to be an easy feat and thus, a little harsh on my hair. So in the days leading up to my appointment I turned to two of my favorite hair masks; Christophe Robin’s Regenerating Mask with Rare Prickly Pear Seed Oil and Matrix’s Biolage 3 Butter Control System Overnight Mask, to prepare, nourish and moisturize my hair and to keep it from getting dry and brittle post-appointment. I used the Christophe Robin mask twice before my appointment by washing, applying the mask for five minutes in the shower and then rinsing and conditioning. I used the Biolage overnight mask once prior to the appointment by washing, conditioning and brushing my hair and applying the mask overnight and rinsing in the morning. In addition to prepping my hair with nourishing hair masks, I also tried to lay off the hot tools so as to add as little damage as possible prior to the color sesh.
During the appointment:
Upon meeting Kathy, owner of Gemini 14 Salon and colorist to some of New York’s best-tressed women, I knew we were going to be bff. She quickly made me feel right at home, we bonded over the fact that we both have mothers who do hair, exchanged some of the best kind of salon girl talk and she sealed the stylist/client new friendship deal by asking ‘are you an aquarius by any chance?’ (I am.)
I learned that Gemini 14 originally opened it’s doors in 1983 in Soho and then relocated to it’s current home on bustling 14th street just a few blocks west of Union Square about eight years ago. The salon, which started with just three chairs now employs over a dozen stylists, colorists and assistants and has a celebrity client roster that includes the likes of Vanessa Hudgens, Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez.
On to the hair: Kathy was honest with me about how important it was to her to keep the integrity of my hair but that she wanted to lighten the ends and frame the face to brighten up my look. I let Kathy know I was in total agreement and that my number one priority was to keep my hair healthy and while I want lighter locks, I didn’t want to compromise my hair. So my strand’s fate were now in her hands and we began the hair color transformation process.
The technique and products used:
Kathy mixed up Oligo Professionnel Balayage Clay Blacklight to balayage my hair. She explained she would need to part my hair horizontally and take bigger sections with less hair. “I like to tease, especially with dark hair it just gives you a better blend. If I just paint, you’ll see a stripe but when I tease and paint, when the (teased) hair drops down it diffuses it. It’ll be noticeable but not overpowering.” So in horizontal partings, Kathy separated my hair, teased to the root and then painted the hair. After about 30ish minutes, Kathy added more Oligo Balayage Clay and let my hair sit for 20ish more minutes. We then rinsed, washed and conditioned then went on to touch my roots with black color using Goldwell color and a volume 10 developer and then sat for 30 minutes and toned the blonde using Goldwell Level 8 Toner, rinsed and styled. Kathy told me that since we used an ash blonde toner to cut the brass out of the blonde (which is normal when bleaching black hair) my hair would initially appear a little ashier but after two washes I would be able to see my new caramel balayaged mane.
Obsessed is probably the best word to describe my feelings towards my entire color transformation process: obsessed with my hair color, obsessed with how healthy my hair is – even after double bleaching and toning, and obsessed with Kathy and my experience at Gemini 14. As Kathy advised, I was able to get the full feel for the color after two washes and I was extremely pleased. The end color can be described best as a dark caramel balayage that is subtle yet still a major change from my harsh, all black hair color.
The Mane Master told me that we could’ve probably gotten my hair a little lighter but since my hair still felt so healthy, she didn’t want to risk making my hair feel brittle if it wasn’t necessary. The takeaway? Patience is key – especially when you are lightening up dark hair and it is way more important to make sure your strands are healthy when doing any color process than to speed up the process and ultimately damage your hair.
For those in the NYC area looking for a colorist to transform their locks in a way that is totally safe and healthy for their hair, Kathy should be your go-to. You can see all of Kathy’s work as well as her wonderful staff’s work on their Instagram page @gemini14salon and book your own hair color transformation appointment here.