I was never one of those girls who envied my blond friends. Growing up, all my favorite characters were brunette, from Jaclyn Smith on Charlie’s Angels to Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island to Veronica on Archie. But ever since Korean American model Soo Joo Park walked down the catwalk a few years ago, with a blond mane rivaling that of Rita Ora, I’ve been enlightened. After dipping my toe into the ombré trend this past summer, I was ready to get a bit more adventurous. So I went to see Korean American colorist extraordinaire Cherin Choi of Ramirez Tran Salon in Beverly Hills, California, who took my brash and brassy ombré to a more sophisticated tortoiseshell blond, perfect for the cooler months.
Choi used a mix of ecaille (“tortoiseshell” in French — “a fancy word for babylights in different tones of brunette,” she says) and balayage, which is the act of painting the bleach or color on the hair. She started with a base color using Pravana ChromaSilk 4n/5n, 20 vol, which she likes for “how matte and cool the natural tones are.” She then balayaged the ends using Pravana’s new Pure Enlightenment Balayage Kit, developed by Vietnamese-Chinese American balayage expert Guy Tang for extended open-air processing and healthier hair, and painted baby highlights on top of the head. Finally, Choi toned the highlights, making sure to keep the shades cool to counteract any brassiness, which she says is important because “Asian hair always pulls warmer and can go brassy if not lifted to the right levels.”
After six painstaking hours (and a fabulous cut from stylist Candice Nicolle), I ended up with fine highlights ranging from caramel to honey, with cool blond highlights framing the face. And this look is low maintenance: Since the highlights are so fine, as my hair grows and the color turns warmer (an inevitability with my Asian hair, says Choi), I’ll end up with a more ombré look — just in time for next summer!
Written by me, originally published in Audrey Magazine.