So here’s the thing. Sure, I may have been a beauty editor for the past eight years but I’ve always resisted having my hair coloured. Oh, it’s been treated before, sure, but not since I was in college, when I was fond of bleaching out sections and dyeing them back in pink or purple.

To me, permanent colour equals damage, and I’ve been resistant to change my colour because of that, plucking out greys as they appear and pretending the whole ageing process wasn’t happening to my hair.

But I couldn’t fight it forever and eventually had to concede that yup, my tresses needed sorting, and STAT. A meeting with Wella where its new Freelights service was unveiled was the catalyst for change, so it was into Aviary Lane on Dublin’s South Anne Street for me. 

Turns out that mostly my fears about damage were unfounded – while I already knew about permanent colour developments like Wella Illumina and L’Oreal’s Inoa, and that they’re kinder than permanents of old, the knowledge hadn’t really connected yet. 

So, owner Elaine Sullivan explained that because I was just a bit grey, I could have a semi applied and that would hardly cause hair any stress at all. Bingo.

Then, cos I’ve been thinking of going lighter on the ends for a while, she took me through the options. I was totally keen to avoid the harsh dip-dye finish that’s given Ombre such a bad name, so we settled on a freehand balayage finish that combines use of Wella High Lift and Freelights. Both lighten hair, but Elaine says, “High Lift gives a softer smudge,” and it’s used with foils. The difference with Freelights is that it’s painted on freehand, and left – it doesn’t dry out like bleach, so the colourist can readjust as needed.

hair after visit one

Because my natural hair colour is almost black, it wasn’t going to be possible to lift the lot in one go, so the whole affair took about six hours in total over two separate visits. That’s how it looked after the first visit; hair had obviously lifted a lot in the sections treated, but it was still quite orangey, despite toner. So I knew I had to go back and have the lot finished, and I dutifully did, the next week.

The top pic was taken right after the second visit, when more High Lift was used to bring up the sections treated the week before – and Elaine did a bit more around my face as well. She toned the lot, and here’s how it turned out:

The finish is a caramel-hued effect that blends really well up to my very dark-brown roots – plus all my greys are covered. And, if I’m not mistaken, I think it brightens up my face quite a bit too. I’ve had a few comments to that effect since, and hey, they can’t all be lying, right?

wella freelights

There’s a lot more in the back of my hair than the front, so it looks great up or down and as you can see, my worry about bad condition is pretty much unfounded. Because I had the colour lifted over two successive visits, that was kinder on its own anyway, and my ends don’t feel any different than they used to, which was a concern because my awful barnet is so prone to frizz.

So, what does all this cost? I had mine done for free but typically it’ll cost about €95 to €130 to have a similar effect applied. If you just want some soft pieces placed in hair, it’ll be from about €75. Maintenance-wise, I probably won’t need much done to it for a few months, but my roots – which were de-greyed, will need attention sooner.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Aviary Lane, 24 South Anne Street, Dublin 2;