There is no better way to prepare for the party season than by dying your hair. Not only is it a great morale booster, but it's more cost efficient than buying a new outfit, and will update your look instantly. After a quick flick through the pages of Black Hair & Beauty magazine for inspiration, it's clear that colour is big news - from subtle browns to full-on pillar-box reds. And yet colour is a relatively new phenomenon, says Black Hair & Beauty's editor, Irene Shelly. "There aren't really any expert colourists for black hair yet, because it's not been pushed that much by the industry. If hair was already processed and straightened, it meant it had had a lot of chemical treatments, so it was felt it would be too much for the hair to then add colour on top. Colour has only become popular over the last few years as the other products have become more gentle."
Afro hair is the most porous of the three types (Caucasian and Oriental are the other two, Oriental being the least porous, which is why it's so flat and shiny) which means it takes colour very quickly. "We use colour like a make-up artist uses make-up; to accentuate your features," says Daniel Galvin, arguably the nation's top colourist. "Just going one or two shades lighter brings out the tone of the skin and makes the eyes look strong and bright."
But because the hair is so dark, for most colours to show up the hair needs to be bleached, and this can be a problem. "I'd never recommend bleaching Afro hair, unless it is very short," says Galvin. "The roots need to be done every month, and you can't help but reach the line where you bleached before. This dries the hair out even more, and can lead to breakage. It's fine if the hair is very short, because you just shave it off and start again." On styles longer than an inch, go for what Galvin calls the shoeshine effect: "Just colour the tips, so that when the light shines through the hair, you get a wonderful sunburst effect - that's a great look for the party season." And remember one thing, adds Galvin, no matter how great the colour, if your hair is in poor condition it will never look good: "Your hair is your ultimate beauty asset - treat it like a fine cashmere sweater."