For a little background, what drew you to becoming a colorist?
My grandmother was a hairdresser. She worked in a salon in the San Francisco Bay Area and we lived in Southern California so my first exposure at a very young age was her doing my families hair in the home environment not a salon environment. She would come to visit us and whenever you’re a hairdresser and you go to visit people there’s like, “Oh my gosh, can you bring your stuff?”. There was a lot of connecting and bonding around my mom and me having my grandmother work on our hair. I was drawn to fashion, beauty, and makeup when I was a kid, anything with a spectrum of color… yarn, thread, paint, makeup. I was coloring my friends’ hair at a young age and the science and chemistry aspect was really fascinating to me.
Can you explain what happens to hair when it is colored?
Basically, what it does is it starts to break down the hair structure and weakens it— and it also makes it dry so it can make hair a little brittle and rough feeling.
Does that same thing happen with keratin treatments and straightening?
There are several different ways to straighten your hair, there’s keratin treatments, I’d call them semi-permanent, that wear off over a period of time. Then there’s more the traditional types of straightening treatments like Japanese ionic straighteners which is a thio-based straightener and then you have your sodium hydroxide relaxers. Sodium hydroxide relaxers are one of the most damaging to the hair of any chemical service. Your thio-based treatments are similar to a perm, it’s the same ingredient if you’re making your hair curly or trying to make your hair straight in a more permanent manner. That also breaks down the hair a little bit, so it weakens the hair making it more fragile and susceptible to damage and making it feel rough and dry. Keratin treatments have become popular because they are semi-permanent and wear off over a 3-4 month period depending on how much someone washes their hair. Keratin treats more of the outer surface of the hair so it’s less susceptible to humidity, as that keratin coating sort of wears off the hair, it starts to revert back to how it was originally.
What would you consider to be the main types of hair damage?
There’s basically 3 types of damage: Chemical, mechanical, and thermal damage. Mechanical damage can occur from a bad brush or an ok brush, pinning your hair back, or using a hair tie. Another type of mechanical damage is sleeping, I recommend a silk pillowcase. A curling iron can create both mechanical and thermal damage because it’s clamping on to the hair. Most people have a triple threat because they have all three types happening at once.
What do you use to care for treated hair?
I use K18 and anything I can to protect hair from water. Since I’m a hair colorist, all of my clients have chemically processed hair, so the AQUIS towel really helps protect their hair from the damage that occurs when hair is wet.
What do you recommend for adding moisture to hair?
Use K18. Hair is basically made up of moisture and protein. The cuticle layer is made of 75% protein and 25% fatty acids. There’s a lipid layer in your cuticle, so when you think of wanting to seal in moisture that’s that lipid layer. When you start chemically processing hair, and also normal wear and tear, shampooing, conditioning, you want to be able to still protect the moisture that is left in the hair and add moisture and protein into the hair to strengthen it, that’s where the K18 treatment comes in, creating more strength and resilience.
What is a common problem you see with your clients? And how do you fix it?
Damage, trying to minimize it, I do a lot of blondes. Shampooing, the sun, and contaminants in the water affect the color and I’m always toning hair to get the color I want and then water takes away that tone so maintaining the right tone is a constant. Tonality is really important in hair, for someone’s skin, and eye color and also if it looks healthy or not. That’s why I’ve become pretty obsessed with K18 just because it supports some of the things I have to troubleshoot around.
What are steps to keep hair at its healthiest while still being able to express your identity?
Go to a professional who can give you a regime that is best for what you’re trying to achieve. Your hair can only take so much processing, I want my color to look expensive and the hair to look really beautiful and healthy, if you do too much back and forth you may have a nice looking color, but the integrity of the hair may be affected. You can do big changes, but you want to go to someone who specializes in correction or color change.
What’s the most common myth about haircare?
Some products get a bad rap around certain ingredients. Like if silicone is in a product it’s bad. I think the beauty industry gets hyped out on certain words and certain things to avoid, and it’s not that simple. Like alcohol being in something, it’s in most hair products. They pick on different ingredients, and there’s a lot of understanding and knowledge that goes into understanding and choosing those ingredients on a scientific level.
Hair is powerful. What does hair and beauty mean to you?
Beauty is being able to make someone feel better about themselves. Back when I first started in LA, the industry was looked at as a very superficial one. I’ve always loved what I do. I love people and love being able to help them feel good from the inside out. Sometimes it’s just styling their hair, it really affects the way people feel. How they look affects how they feel. It gives people confidence. When I think of beauty, that’s what I think of, the beauty of making someone feel good.
To find out more about Christine Thompson and Spoke & Weal visit their website. Follow Christine Thompson on Instagram @christinethompsonhairand Spoke & Weal @spokeandweal.