Hair styling today takes a more reasonable approach, with consumers more concerned about the health of their hair and developing a more individual visage.
"The biggest thing we're seeing right now is that there aren't that many trends," says Heidi Downum-Fisher, salon and color director at Paris Parker Salon and Spa (4900 Prytania St., 891-8874). "It's come full circle. It's finally gone back to doing whatever looks best on a person and what they have." What they have translates into face shape, skin coloring, hair texture and length, and even lifestyle considerations.
Hair coloring also has become more sophisticated, with colorists employing hues that match a personality rather than trying to achieve the color of blond or red considered vogue at the time. In addition, color specialists have developed techniques that combine several shades of a color to add depth and interest to the overall look.
"There are a lot of people who can wear red, but spicy copper doesn't look best on everybody," she says. "There are almost always three or more colors incorporated to give the color dimension and highlighting. Blondes and redheads especially can go with several various shades; they have the most options."
Although most colorists today practice the multi-hue theory of enhancing hair color, there are several ways to achieve the perfect mix.
"The technique depends on the haircut -- always," Downum-Fisher says. "It's the theory of painting the cut. That's what we do at Paris Parker. There's a technique for every length of hair. Once the cut's in place, you can strategically place the color."
There are common threads among the techniques, namely replacing the striped highlighting effect and solid color cover of decades past with more natural looking "block" coloring using different shades of the desired palate. Cuts again fuel the success of such techniques, with consumers moving toward perms and the "tousled" look.
"What's going on with haircuts is that they are going back to the more tousled hair," she says. "You can utilize more color on loose, tousled hair than on straight, blocked hair. That gives us more options."
Giant strides in the quality of hair care and styling products themselves also have worked in the favor of consumers, stylists and colorists, with more attention given to maintaining the health of the hair as opposed to torturing it into submission.
"Products have totally changed," Downum-Fisher says. "The perms we knew from yesterday are totally different than the perms of today. It's not fried, damaged hair anymore. We've reached the age where perms and coloring can work hand-in-hand."
Hair coloring isn't just an avenue for changing dishwater brown to blond or blond to red anymore either. Hair color also is used to enhance natural beauty, add sheen, depth and dimension within a person's natural color range.
"There's hair color for everyone," the salon manager and colorist says. "I don't think there's a head out there that can't benefit from hair color. Hair color products have totally changed."
Choosing the right hair color is as individual as a person's lifestyle. Much of it depends on how often a customer wants to return to a salon to renew the color and what styling routine they go through each day.
"There are techniques that definitely take more upkeep," she says. "That's why we do a very thorough consultation. One of the first questions I ask is: how often do you want to come back?"
One trend that is taking hold is "seasonal changing," freshening or changing colors and cuts as seasons of the year progress. "That's where we are right now," Downum-Fisher says. "We have an amazing influx of people right now. Summer is at an end, and they're ready for a new look. It's a great time to try new things."
Some things don't change, however. Blond is still universally the most popular choice of hair color, with shades moving to warmer tones as summer changes to fall.
"Blond is never out," the colorist says. "Blondes rule the world; it's something that never goes out, just the tones change."
The final decisions on cut and color should be guided by an individual's features and how much time and trouble they are willing to spend preparing their hair for the day.
"It depends on your face shape and your lifestyle -- how much you want to do to take care of it," she says. "It goes back to what makes you look best. What's 'in' doesn't always look best on everyone. People are more open to doing a variation of the trend so that it suits their lifestyle."