The Inside Scoop on Idina Menzel Haircolor + Formula

by Maggie Mulhern | June 10, 2014

MODERN often hears from hairdressers or colorists taking credit for certain looks, but there is little to no way to verify. Trust and reputation become key. But sometimes we see the "money shot"; the proof with an in-action photo.

However, the photo does not always tell the whole story. That is why we love this behind-the-scenes story of Jason Backe and Idina Menzel. It is an honest account of what can (and sometimes does) happen in salons around the world.

We know Backe, master colorist and L'Oreal Professionnel ambassador, created Menzel's fresh color design. He's got the pictures, brush in hand, as exhibit one. However, there is more. There is drama--the kind of drama many colorists experience at least once in their professional careers.

MODERN asked Backe what makes this color special and what happened. "One of the biggest summer trends for brunettes is tone on tone variation," he says. "I love this trend because it is a much needed step away from ombre. For Idina, I wanted to create subtle dimension utilizing ammonia-free hair colors and lightener for rich highs and lows."

Menzel arrived to Backe's chair with "a faded level 6 that was starting to look a little too rusty. She told me she hated seeing red and wanted to be a deep brunette. She was drinking a cup of coffee with milk – I said 'If I could do whatever I want I would give you a deep brunette base with highlights the color of your coffee.' She LOVED the idea."

Backe got busy with his coffee-inspired color application. "First I did a partial highlight and used L’Oreal Professionnel Majimeches with 30 volume developer. I kept all of the highlights ½ inch away from her hairline and part. Doing so has all of the dimension coming from the interior which creates a softer look. While the foils were processing, I painted Dia Richesse on her new growth using equal parts of 5.13 and 4N with 15 volume developer. Next, starting in the nape, I took a bold 2-inch section and pulled that same formula through the ends. I skipped over two inches and then took another 2-inch section and pulled the formula through. I repeated this in a brick lay pattern throughout all of the hair not in foil. When the color had finished processing, I rinsed thoroughly and shampooed. To get the 'coffee with milk' shade, I glossed with Dia Light 8.1 with 15 volume developer. The gloss processed about 7 minutes, we rinsed, shampooed and dried it to see the result. She didn’t like it – and neither did I!"

Did you read that last sentence? Read it again. What happens to many colorists around the world also happens to celebrity colorists.

So Backe got busy again, explaining that he has come clean and is sharing because he wants all colorists to know it happens. "I tell you that because it’s real. Sometimes we have great ideas and solid formulas, but the end result is not what we had in mind. It happens. What’s important is knowing what to do next."

Although Menzel liked the color itself, she felt it was too light for HER. Backe handled it, calmly and cooly. "We went back to the shampoo bowl, I re-wet her hair and re-glossed. This time I used Dia Light 7N with 15 volume. I let that process until the highlights were a deep 7. The end result was gorgeous. She loved it!" say Backe, and equally important, "I loved it as well."

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