Going Up and Growing Out: How to go Blonde without Ruining your Length

I’ve always been something of a colour chameleon. From the moment I got my first whiff of peroxide, my hair has been red, blonde, black, and every shade in between. I was born with a mop of wild black hair and I grew up envying my more melanin-diverse classmates and relatives. As a kid, I dreamed of being a red-head. None of my friends had the exact shade of bright copper I coveted so I’m not quite sure where this dream was born, but it lasted until my parents allowed me some thick, 90’s-style copper striped highlights. I spent most of my teen and young-adult life in varying shades of red from copper to ruby to strawberry. In the years since I’ve written this blog alone, I’ve been different shades of blonde, violet, blue, lavender, red, and black. But I’ve been wearing my hair naturally for the better part of six months–needless to say, I’m getting bored!


My problem is, I’ve also been working on growing out a pixie. Keeping my hair colour-free is excellent for its strength and health while it gains some length, but I’ve never been a fan of my natural shade. I’ve also been dreaming (literally!) of going blonde again… so what’s a girl to do? Can you still colour your hair without growth-hindering damage?

From L'Oreal Professionnel's SS13 Collection

From L’Oreal Professionnel’s SS13 Collection

When you’re taking your hair to and from drastically different colours, there are some things you need to consider. First, think about what you have in mind. Is it darker than your current shade? When you go darker, you can use gentler formulas like ammonia-free demi-permanents that won’t cause as much trauma to the cuticle, the layer of your hair that keeps it soft and shiny. If you’re going lighter, is your hair previously coloured? Remember, colour won’t lift colour so you’ll have to bleach out your last shade before attempting your new, lighter one. I highly recommend you see a professional to bleach out old colour–there are too many variables to account for at home, such as the level of pigment your hair needs to retain for your new colour, the amount of damage the strand can take, and the pigments used to create your last shade: some contain compounds that cannot be bleached, and could injure you if attempt it.

Goldwell ColorZoom 2013

Goldwell ColorZoom 2013

If you’re working with your natural colour, think about how much lighter you’re aiming to go. Pros work on a level system, calculating the lightness of a shade on a scale of 1 to 10: 1 is the darkest, while 10 is a platinum blonde. It’s generally accepted that you can lift two to three levels with permanent haircolour, so if you’re only looking to up your shade by a little bit or just want to change the tone of your hair, permanent colour will probably do the trick. But in my case, I’m looking at a natural black around a level 2. The sandy blonde I’m coveting is probably a level 8 or 9, which means there are some six levels I need to lighten. This leaves me two choices.

The first choice I have is to bleach my entire head. Bleach is very harsh on hair, even if you’re using a cream or oil bleach formulated for use on the scalp. I’ve bleached from dark shades to platinum in the past, but unless you’re willing to get a “chemical haircut,” I don’t recommend it. It’s less traumatic to the hair to bleach up a few levels at a time, taking the time to condition and treat the hair in between.

The second choice is to highlight, highlight, highlight. If you’re not willing to subject your head to all-out bleaching, it can be easier to select a complimentary base and then add highlights of the desired colour. While you’re still using bleach to create the highlights, less hair is being exposed to the caustic chemicals it takes to see results. It’s also a more natural progression: going from dark to light overnight can be jarring. Regardless of how badly you want it, seeing that newly dyed hair in the mirror the next morning is a shocking and surreal experience. Lightening a few shades and foiling in highlights a little at a time will not only save you that morning-after shock, it can also save you some damage with proper treatment and care in between.  I recommend regular use of good quality conditioning products and hair masks to everyone, but it’s particularly important for chemical junkies and ladies growing length.

Wella TrendVision 2013, "Fusion"

Wella TrendVision 2013, “Fusion”

While I’d love to wake up tomorrow with a perfectly coloured, silky-smoothe blonde mane, but   that’s just a dream. If I want to continue growing out my cut, my best bet is to gradually colour up: select a workable base and gradually highlight towards my ultimate goal. Staying within my desired tonal range will keep me from getting discouraged, and keeping my hair in the best shape possible will keep me on track with my length. I’d still like to grow a few inches before putting dye-to-scalp, but at this rate that won’t be long at all!


Mind Your Mane: Bumble & Bumble’s Color Minded

As a beauty professional, I’m always amazed by the number of people who don’t know what they need. Hair and skin can change over our lifetimes, but for the most part the hair you have now is the hair you’ve worked with for years. I’ve met countless people with fine, straight hair who are heartbroken because they think they have thin hair, or women with gorgeous, thick curls who label themselves with coarse, unmanageable locks. Simply put, most people don’t know what they’re dealing with and therefore don’t know what kind of products they need to be using.

I thought I knew my own hair: it’s on the finer side, but its significant wave pattern can make it look puffy and fizzy at times. But rather than buy products for fine or wavy hair, I often find myself trying to combat the damage I’ve done through years and years of bleaching. Trying to take my naturally near-black hair to a state as close to white as possible has wreaked absolute havoc on its integrity, so I moisturize and reinforce as much as possible. Now that I’ve stopped bleaching, my hair has bounced back almost completely, but I still use my products for fragile, damaged hair daily.

When Klout offered to send me Bumble & Bumble‘s new colour care line, I considered my hair carefully: would stepping away from my protein-infused, deep-moisturizing products spell disaster? I had been curious about Bumble & Bumble for a while–as a prestigious professional brand not sold in my salon supplier, I always wondered about the quality of the line. When the KloutPerks box showed up on my doorstep, I was incredibly glad I took the chance.

I was expecting little foil packets with maybe two good applications of product, but Klout and Bumble & Bumble sent full sizes of not only the new Color Minded shampoo, but also the UV Protective Styling Balm and Polish. The line also has a corresponding conditioner, which was not part of the Klout Perk, but can be purchased at Sephora, Bloomingdale’s, or Bumble & Bumble salons.

The Color Minded Shampoo boasts a sulfate-free formula and gentle-cleansing action, both buzzwords in the current haircare market. According to the bottle itself, it promises clean hair without colour washout or fading while preserving shine. If I had a dime for every shampoo I’ve used that made the same claims, well, I’d probably have enough dimes to buy this product at retail value (that’s 290 dimes, by the way). The ingredients all checked out: aside from the sulfate-free cleansers, it has components to adjust hair’s pH and seal in colour during the washing process. The texture is pleasant and lathers nicely, both chief complaints I hear from people switching to sulfate-free formulas, and the scent is light and clean. When used in my hair, it did not tangle, pull, or leave my hair feeling “squeaky”–all things I’m particularly conscious of before conditioning. I began testing this product after coloring my hair with a demipermanent formula to start with a fresh slate: I noticed that the lather initially took on the orange-pink cast of my colour, but after that first wash the lather remained clear.

I followed the shampoo with conditioners I had on hand since I did not have the corresponding conditioner to test, but used the Color Minded UV Protective Styling Balm as a leave-in conditioner in my clean, damp hair. Formulated with proteins, humectants, and even a few hair-stimulating ingredients, this is a very thick preparation with a texture like sour cream or greek yogurt. A dollop about the side of a nickel is enough to work into my not-quite-bob-length hair.

After blow-drying, I used a pump of the Color Minded UV Protective Polish to seal out environmental damage to my colour and keep my hair shiny. I was taken off-guard by how light this polish was compared to most other silicone-based shine serums: rather than the super-viscous goop that many brands produce, this polish is almost runny by comparison and applied correctly (rubbed between the palms and dispersed into the hair beginning at the ends), it will not weigh down fine strands or look greasy.

The following shows my freshly-coloured hair alongside my hair after about five shampoos (four weeks) using the Color Minded system, first in direct natural light, then indirect.

As you can see, the fading is minimal. Previously, my colour would fade to a shade more pink than red just days after coloring between washing, styling, and simple environmental factors. Even friends and colleagues have noted the difference (and trust me, hairstylists notice every little change in a person’s hair). Honestly, I really wanted to hate these products–since Bumble and Bumble appears to be privately distributed, my only hope of getting them wholesale would be working a Bumble salon–but I can’t. They’re wonderful, well-formulated, and do exactly what they say. I might be able to get professional grade shampoo for less than $7, but I would definitely consider spending the $29 retail for more Color Minded shampoo when I run out. The Styling Balm and Polish each retail at $28, and great for summer styling when the sun noticeably leaches colour.


Aesthetics, Cosmetics, Reviews

Metamorphosis 109.0 – Fear Itself, a look at Cocoa Pink’s Halloween Phobias

There are scents for all season, but in my opinion Autumn is in an olfactory league of its own. Gone are the powdery florals of Spring, the sparkling fruits of Summer. Autumn brings a much-needed warmth and comfort before we’re hit with the barren ozone and frosty evergreens of Winter. Fall is the season that drains the contents of my wallet into bottles of perfume.

The first of my scented indulgences this year comes from Cocoa Pink. In addition to their new fall scent catalogue, they released a collection of Halloween fragrances inspired by phobias.

I picked out some of my favourite formulas to try out these new scents. I’ve posted about Cocoa Pink’s hair products before, but I need to say it again: if you’re looking for a great Indie company to make your hair look and smell amazing, Cocoa Pink has a formula for you.

Princess Poo is an SLS and Paraben Free gentle cleansing shampoo. If you’ve never used an SLS-free shampoo, you probably equate lather with clean. This couldn’t be further from the truth. This low-lather cleanser cleans away dirt and product residue without stripping colour or healthy oils from hair, giving bounce and shine without feeling “squeaky clean.” When your hair is as dry and damaged as mine, this is important. If you’re worried that this will leave your hair too greasy, fear not: my teenage sister uses this same formula as a daily cleanser on her oily, colour-treated hair with the same fabulous results.

Shine + is protein and silicone free to moisturize hair without weighing it down. I learned long ago that silicones are not my friends: my skin hates them, my hair hates them, and as a result, I hate them. Sure they help detangle hair and create that luxurious slippery feeling in all water types, but it keeps my skin from breathing and weighs down my fine hair. The butters and oils used in this conditioner leave my hair silky and bouncy like nothing else ever has. For those who like shiny hair, this is for you–despite my high-lift colour, this still imparts a healthy shine to my mane.

But the real beauty here is in the scent: Cocoa Pink will scent their products with any fragrance from their current catalogue. This season, I chose Fear of Cemeteries from their Halloween Phobia collection. I’ll admit, it was the description that sold me:

Cool damp graveyard dirt with a single white carnation placed cautiously against an old granite headstone, covered by dying crimson and yellow autumn leaves with a soft whisper of wood smoke carried in a crisp breeze. 

This is the perfect Fall incarnation of the grassy green scents I loved all Summer: this is rich, loamy earth beneath piles of wet leaves and cut flowers. There’s a note of ozone to the background and just a hint of bonfire as well as minerals. It’s rainy and wet and chilly and green, which is exactly what I wanted this to be. I have a sneaking suspicion that a large size of this will be making its way to my doorstep before the season is over.

If you’re really worried about product buildup or have an excess of oils in your hair, Squeaky might be the s’poo for you. This clarifying shampoo is still gentle enough for use on coloured hair while getting the job done. I’ll alternate this into my routine once every couple weeks to get rid of any styling products that might be hiding in my hair. I do feel like it’s a little much for me, but anyone who has a bit of extra oil or loves their hairspray will definitely go for the formula–it definitely delivers a “Squeaky” clean!

This was a sample included in my order, scented with Fear of Witches:

Warm baked bread fresh from the oven, gentle wisps of bonfire smoke drifting through the frigid autumn air and smooth buttery caramel sprinkled with coarse black sea salt is your best bet in keeping them at bay.

I had no idea how to imagine this scent in my head. Anyone who has ever baked bread knows the scent: yeasty, warm, a little dusty… I think the “bread” in the formula here is more of a sweet. While there is a crustiness, this gives the distinct impression of baked goods, pastries, sweet things in ovens. The combination of salt and caramel is distinct, and it’s all rounded off with woody smoke.

I really don’t buy scrubs often, but not because I don’t like them. I simply don’t go through them as quickly as other bath products. This was another sample with my order, and the first time I’ve tried the Soft Bubbles Foaming Sugar Scrubs. I’ve used CP scrubs in the past, but not since the grand reopening under the new owner–the old formulas were often thick, rich, and full of moisturizing ingredients with a texture like cookie dough. The Soft Bubbles formula claims to be a light and fluffy lathering scrub, textured like buttercream. It does foam softly with water, but I find the texture a bit harder–maybe like buttercream that’s sat in the fridge for a while.

This was scented in Fear of Ghosts:

Glowing marshmallow orbs and smoky vanilla spectral mists swirl aimlessly around an old bonfire in the Crisp October night air – Fresh vanilla puffed marshmallows, toasted marshmallows, hints of bonfire smoke among scattered sharp grains of white rice to ward unwelcome spirits away

I love this scent. If you’ve never smelled a Cocoa Pink fragrance before, start with their marshmallows. This is a perfect toasted-marshmallow scent, rich with wood smoke and sweet vanilla. It’s a toasty Autumn version of Vanilla Bean Noel, with a healthy dose of marshmallow on top. I definitely need to order this scent before the collection is retired–I just need to figure out which way to wear it!

Cocoa Pink’s linen spray is a fairly new addition to the line, so I was excited to try it. Because of the gentle formula, it has a variety of uses: not only can it be used to scent bed linens and clothes, it’s also safe for use on the hair and body as well as a general atmospheric spray. I’ve been using this on my clothes, spritzing it into my dresser drawers to keep my things smelling beautiful. I ordered in Fear of Spiders:

Dragon’s blood resin, the memorable scent of fine pipe tobacco, chopped bundles of firewood, fragrant sprigs of wormwood and bright scarlet apples.

The unifying theme in this collection is definitely smoke. The wood smoke is definitely present here, but there is also pipe smoke and incense. This is a rich, resinous scent polished off with tart apples and bitter herbs. It’s incredibly sophisticated and mysterious and I will definitely be ordering a larger size of the linen spray so my clothes can smell like this year round.

I am incredibly pleased with the Autumn offerings from Cocoa Pink, and I know I need to try the rest of the Phobias collection before they disappear. Whether you’re looking for sweet, confectionary fragrances or deep, mysterious perfumes, Cocoa Pink has something for you this season in products your hair and body will love.

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine

Aesthetics, Reviews

Metamorphosis 77.0 – Untouchably Delicious: a review of CocoaPink’s Black Chocolate

I’ve been a very bad blogger this week. My camera died and I had myself convinced I couldn’t post anything without swatch photos or FotD shots. It’s still dead, but I realize now there are other things I can post on without requiring pictures. Like scent reviews!

Every once in a while, I come across a scent I’ve had in my collection forever and simply forgot about. In this case, it’s been a very long time… Cocoa Pink was one of the first indie brands I ever purchased from, and definitely the first indie brand I trusted with my hair. Owner Ilona was making SLS-free shampoos and bath products long before the sulfate-free trend hit drugstore hair care brands, and I loved the idea of feeding my hair with nutrients it craved rather than stripping oils out of it and leaving it “squeaky clean” and damaged. I really credit Cocoa Pink for turning the kinky, frizzy waves of my adolescence into living silk. And I was devastated when she closed the shop.

Luckily for me and countless other hopeless devotees, a fan bought the brand, learned the formulas, and reopened the website. Bev has really gone above and beyond when it comes to delivering the service and quality we’ve come to associate with Cocoa Pink and even improving the formulas and the amazing customer service.

But as great as the products are, it’s the scents that really keep me coming back. Bev has kept a lot of Cocoa Pink classics (like CP White and Harajuku Bananas) and also formulated new and beautiful blends of her own (like English Cathedral). But one scent that kept me buying year after year was Black Chocolate.


I first sniffed this delicious blend years ago when Ilona first produced her Lolita Giftsets. There were four different varieties: Gothic Lolita with dusty musks and dark fruits, Eastern Lolita with bright citruses and green teas, Classic Lolita with white florals and elegant greenery, and Sweet Lolita with sugary cakes and deep, rich chocolate. The girls on the forum went crazy over the re-release of one of their longtime favourites, Black Chocolate.

Naturally, I had to figure out what all the fuss was about. I generally like gourmand scents, and chocolate is no exception. But the interesting thing about Black Chocolate is that it’s mixed with healthy doses of amber. Cocoa Pink’s signature “Black” scents are all paired with a blend of different ambers. Normally, I despise amber in my perfumes. It’s dusty, too perfumey, and an instant headache. But at the time I first ordered Black Chocolate, I did not know this.

Upon first sniff, Black Chocolate is a dark, bittersweet chocolate bar. It’s pure, rich, designer chocolate, a perfect blend of bitter cocoa liquor and heavy cocoa butters, sweetened ever-so-slightly with true, exotic vanilla and pure cane sugar. But there’s something else to it, more and more noticeable as it wears. It’s earthy, organic, and it keeps the chocolate from smelling too young–like real gold leafing on an elegantly moulded chocolate, it makes it too beautiful to touch.

But even better, this scent can last for hours–an entire day–without morphing into something dusty or sour, as many chocolate and amber perfumes do on my skin. Perhaps it has to do with the way Cocoa Pink blends their scents: up until fairly recently, EDPs were not offered. Scents were blended into a variety of body creams and hair products–I honestly did not wear perfume for a year or two. The creams absorb easily into my dry skin and my hair eats up the conditioning spray, Ends with Benefits. Any time the air got humid or my hair got wet, I would get a new burst of fragrance even if I hadn’t washed my hair in a week.


I do have to admit, Black Chocolate was a little too much for me to handle as a shampoo or conditioner scent. With the humidity of the shower amplifying the perfume, the ambers really came out and did their usual number on my poor resin-sensitive brain. It’s a long-time favourite of mine in lotion and leave-in form, but I just can’t do it in the shower.

Black Chocolate is always available at Cocoa Pink in hair-care, body lotions, and EDP form. In fact, I’ve got a bottle of EDP queued up in my cart as we speak!

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine