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Diary of a Beauty Editor: My Cut and ‘Reverse’ Balayage…At a Tradeshow?

Jamie Newman | April 8, 2016 | 10:36 AM
Chris Venesky (left) and April Godwin (right) with MODERN editor Jamie Newman.

Tradeshow weekends are exciting, educational and, to be honest, a bit overwhelming. Amplify all those adjectives if it is your first one, with an added dose of the unexpected. For me, America’s Beauty Show at McCormick Place in Chicago March 12-14, 2016 was my “first”.

In the midst of interviews with stylists, meetings with brands and reporting on the show floor, I was able to reconnect with those in the industry I had worked with before. Like saying hello to an old friend, being able to see familiar faces in the storm of the organized chaos that is ABS alleviates some of the pressure of “work”. Yes, Scruples team, I’m looking at you.

Flashback two months ago to when I was sent on my first “business trip”: reporting on Scruples Symposium in Riviera Maya, Mexico (not too shabby of a venue for a first gig, huh?). The five-day educational and networking event introduced me to the brand, its products and its passionate team. Dinner on the event’s final night sat me at a table with Scruples Design Team Member Chris Venesky of Vski Salon in Charleston, South Carolina. Dinner and drinks turned into a cut and color consultation for me from Chris, as you hairdressers do.

Chris must have been able to see right through me, that I wasn’t totally comfortable with my hair. My ombre was grown out, and my cut fell flat and lacked volume. My haircolor had more blonde than I ever had in it before, and I wasn’t feeling like myself. He told me exactly what he would do to break up with blonde, add dimension and make my hair “dance”. I left Mexico with Chris’s business card and the bittersweet notion that my dream hair was in reach.

In between January and March, I got a haircut and my balayage highlights were refreshed to a cooler blonde. But my hair still didn’t “dance” and the color still wasn’t the brown-with-sunkissed-bayalage-highlights that was my ideal.

A day into ABS, I got a text from Chris: “Did you still want me to play with your hair?” Without any hesitation, I texted him back a more professional version of “UM. YES!!!!!!” The next day, I was being led by Chris from the Scruples booth into its modeling room. I took a seat among models being prepped or relaxing after finishing up their time slot--talk about a behind-the-scenes look into the arteries of a tradeshow.

Photo via @modernsalon on Snapchat. 

It all happened so fast, pulling sections of hair above my head, cutting from “the inside”, remnants of dry hair flying everywhere. The cutting techniques Chris used are what he calls “post-modern education”, something he has been developing for six years, teaching stylists how to create their own haircuts.

“This is a way for stylists, not to change the way they cut, but to ‘create’ when they cut,” Chris says.

In a nutshell, he explains, it is a combination of internal and external weight distribution using techniques, shears and sections that are specific to clients’ hair type. He is currently working on putting this curriculum into print.

You could imagine my anticipation; there was no mirror, so that shows how big of an impact Chris’ convincing had on me as the client. When he was finished, he took a picture of the back on my iPhone to see how much more movement my hair had now. This was my reaction when I saw the picture:

Photo via @modernsalon on Snapchat

Before you get worried why I’m making that face and think Chris did something wrong, he didn’t. He did an amazing job and I have never loved a haircut so much immediately. My reaction was to the color that was happening where my reflection looking at myself in the mirror had never touched. My hair was ombre in the front, my ends a very solid blonde, with enough of my natural base color quite visible, but that was not the case in back. The back of my head was almost entirely blonde, no base color to be seen.

This is the image I saw when Chris showed me the back of my head. So. Much. Blonde.

As if she was an angel sent from above, April Godwin was a bystander to the shock. A Scruples Artist and working alongside Chris for seven years in Charleston as a stylist, educator and manager, April was preparing for a cut and color presentation on the show floor with Chris, but needed a model. Being in the right place at the right time is so very real.

Already in all-black garbs, as the models required, I was readied to make my 5’2” modeling debut.

A shameless selfie wearing part of the "model uniforms". 

In front of a crowd on the show floor, April used a lowlight color that matched my base shade, the Hypnotic Creme Color System in Cool Minx-7NA with 10 Volume, to paint lowlights into my solid blonde ombre. Balayage is so frequently talked about as a lightening method, but April told me that this “reverse balayage” is actually a common service in the salon.

“Most of us know by now how to balayage hair when it's already one base shade, but to be able to turn a full on ombre into a softer painted look can puzzle us,” April says. “Sometimes our go-to thinking tells us that we need to ‘start over’ by balancing out our canvas first, and then try to balayage in a second step. Instead we should use the blonde or lighter shade that's already there to our advantage to save time for our clients (and ourselves). Not everyone has three or four hours to sit in our chairs!”

Yes, that's me on stage. 

To achieve this look, April started by working in diagonals in a typical ‘full foil’ placement in order to keep everything soft and natural looking. Working in 1/4” to 1/2” partings, she wove out hair in a random manner. “The less perfect the weave is, the more natural I find it looks in the end,” she says.

April started on the mid-shaft and saturated the color down to the ends of my hair with a color paper or foil. She says this helps to be able to let go of the hair to then pain and smudge the color up the top of the mid-shaft.

“The painting aspect is important so that you still get that soft blend you get when you go in and lighten hair in your typical balayage technique,” she says. “Doing this results in a seamless break up of all the previous ombre or solid color in the hair. Sometimes for an added touch of unity in the hair, I will randomly take a skinny slice of hair and lowlight as we normally would from root to ends.”

After an hour on the show floor stage, and a few more color papers, the color processed for 20 minutes before April shampooed and conditioned with Scruples White Tea line and rinsed. She prepped my hair, then blowdried it with a round brush, added some waves with a flat iron, sprayed with some finishing spray and then came the big reveal (again, no mirror in the model area!):

That color! That shine! That movement! That dimension! I felt like a better version of myself, rather than a blonde imposter.

Thank you again Scruples team for helping me in my mission to soften the color I had walked into the tradeshow with that day and achieving the cut and color that we discussed two months before in Mexico.  

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