My time-honored hack for living with straggly hair and grown-out highlights after putting off the salon for weeks and sometimes months at a time? Continue rushing out the door and keep it moving to the point where I hardly have time to look in the mirror. For the longest time, this avoidance strategy worked—until stay-at-home orders went into effect. Nowadays I can’t escape this house of mirrors and the grown-out highlights and split ends that stare back at me in neglect. Ponytails have become a thing, because no matter how jilted my hair, I’m under no illusion that I can make it look better by cutting it myself. Until a week ago, I thought the same for color—until I was introduced to Cassondra Kaeding’s Color Kits.
The LA-based celebrity colorist usually splits her time between salon appointments at West Hollywood’s 454 North Salon and taking the likes of Kylie Jenner between gradients of brunette and blonde. But after state mandates shuttered salons, she pivoted to creating at-home custom color kits for those who don’t want to wait months to cover greys or boost highlights.
For $120, Kaeding analyses pictures of your hair, then custom mixes single-process color or a gloss and shine kit, depending on your needs: Those looking to cover greys, touch up roots or refresh a base shade are sent color and developer. Others, who are looking to cut brassiness, unify outgrown highlights, add shine and brighten hair are provided a gloss and shine treatment. Gloves, a plastic smock, Framar Kolor Killer wipes, a brush applicator, and a personalized instruction card are also included.
Why drop more than a hundred bucks on a color kit for an acute color change when box dyes and gloss treatments are available at a fraction of the price at drugstores? As Kaeding points out, there’s a stark difference between a custom-made kit and traditional boxed color.
“The toner you buy in box color is going to have peroxide (which may lighten your natural base color and cause it to go warmer than you’d like) and ammonia (which opens up cuticles to deposit the color so it will stay, but also dries up the hair),” Kaeding says. “There is no ammonia or bleach in my kits. Instead, the shine and gloss treatments use a conditioning wheat protein to seal in the gloss and hold on to shine as long as possible.”
Kaeding has already fielded frantic client calls made after their hair was unwittingly dyed shades of orange and green with box color gone wrong. Considering corrective color in a salon can run between $500-$1500, according to Kaeding, the $120 price tag for guided color at home suddenly doesn’t seem so pricey. “I’m personally formulating and choosing the color that’s right for the client. I measure out exactly to make sure it’s foolproof,” she says.
After emailing pictures of my dirty blonde, balayage hair to Kaeding and her assistant, the colorist suggested a duo of treatments: gloss and shine. “I won’t ship out bleach for you to do your own highlights — it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” she says.
“Instead, I looked at your photos and decided ‘let’s give her a little boost a little refresh.’ Sometimes blondes can tend to go flat, so when you add or cancel a tone it actually makes hair look brighter. My goal for you was to refresh the color with gloss, which will give a little gold tone, fill in the color, and add shine.”
I received my kit the following day (typical shipping time for those outside of LA is about two-to-three days) and gloved up. After combining the gloss and developer into a clean plastic take-out container, I applied the mixture to my hair with the provided brush. I worked slowly: for one, it was tough to know how I was handling the back of my head without a three-way mirror. I also wanted to spare my bathroom an excessive mess. After about 20 minutes, I managed to apply the whole batch to my head — and despite my best efforts, land spatters of goop on the pedestal sink, my phone, the shoulder of my shirt, and my bedspread (don’t ask).
I left the gloss treatment on as directed—a quick four minutes—and rinsed. Was it a problem that the intended four-minute cook time was supplemented by an extra five, 10, 15 minutes at varying places on my dome? Kaeding says she knows untrained hands like mine will take longer to gloss up and factors that into the mix when creating her formulas.
Next up, I tackled the shine treatment by blending the contents of two bottles (processing solution and clear shine solution) and brushing it onto my hair. This round took me a chill 15 minutes to execute (am I getting better at this?) and after the instructed 20 minutes, I rinsed my hair and let it air dry before inspecting the finished look.
Kaeding was right: the results are subtle. Would my quarantine buddy notice my hair’s uptick in shine or brighter streaks of blonde? Probably not. But every time I catch a glance, I can see — and more importantly, feel — the boost.
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