"Color Melting" Is a Temporary Way for Commitment-Phobes to Try Pastel Hair

Updated 05/04/17

What is it about a drastic hair transformation that feels so cathartic? There's a reason the "breakup haircut" is a real thing—as someone who promptly chopped six inches of my hair off after my first breakup, I can attest to its liberating and healing powers. You sit there and watch your hair fall to the floor with a sense of detached wonder; it feels like you're shedding your heartbreak along with your hair. But here's the thing about extreme haircuts: The grow-out process can be excruciatingly long.

Nothing is worse than when you've finally moved on from your ex, but your hair is still stuck in the awkward mullet-like transition between a bob and lob—and there are receipts (aka Facebook albums from summer 2010). Enter Matrix's new "color melting" technique, which is perfect for the heartbroken, commitment-phobic, and indecisive. A temporary, semipermanent dye job that only lasts 10 to 20 shampoos, it's an easy way to experiment with your hair and/or express your inner angst over your former relationship without the commitment of a super-short haircut.

Keep scrolling to find out how it works.

Color melting is exactly what it sounds like: a gradual "melt effect" of one color to the next. In other words, a subtler version of ombré that can involve every shade of the rainbow. But how do you achieve this effect? "If your hair is already pre-lightened or highlighted or a naturally lighter level, then you can do the color-melt technique over the existing hair," explains celebrity hairstylist and Matrix ambassador George Papanikolas (he colors the strands of everyone from Madonna to Hailey Baldwin).

In other words, if you're naturally a light blonde, you're good to go, and all the colorist needs to do is paint on the color-melt shade of your choice. But if you're brunette like me, you'll need to lighten your strands first.

When I arrived at the salon, I had a vision of gray-blue ends in mind and showed George some inspiration photos. He then proceeded to tell me that in order to achieve the silvery-blue color of my dreams, I'd basically need to bleach the majority of my strands and subsequently damage them—dreams dashed. But that's where color melting comes in: Instead of taking me platinum then adding permanent pastel dye over my bleached hair, George suggested taking some of my faded highlights brighter, then adding semipermanent pastel dye over them. Sure, the final effect would be way subtler than what I had initially hoped for, but it would still appease my fervent desire for blue-tinged hair.

Plus, there's another benefit: "My preferred technique is to add balayage highlights, then apply the color melt over it," explains George. "That way, once the color fades, you end with a beautiful balayage until your next appointment." In other words, there's no need for additional touch-ups after your color melt has faded, because you'll be left with a sun-kissed, natural-looking balayage.

The whole process took about three hours, and afterward, I was left with darker roots that "melted" into silvery-blue in the sunlight. You can color melt with pretty much every color of the rainbow—blondes can even color melt with darker shades, which are essentially temporary lowlights. It's the perfect option when you want to experiment with color for an event (cough, Coachella) or are just itching for a temporary change that won't permanently damage your hair. If you love your color-melted hair so much and want to prolong it past the 10 to 20 shampoos it promises, Papanikolas says you can use gentle, pH-balanced shampoo and conditioner like Matrix's Biolage Color Last.

 Or ask your colorist to go a little more intense or brighter with the color, knowing it will gradually fade. "The more pastel the tones, the more quickly they will fade," he explains. Though the final effect will be subtler than a full-on pastel dye job, I can attest that it's just enough for you to leave the salon feeling like a new woman—exes be damned. 

Click here to find the nearest Matrix salon near you.

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