Service Scout: Super-Subtle Pastel Haircolor with Aura Friedman Tuesday 08 January, 2013

After two and a half years of saying I’d experience the masterful dye jobs of Wella color ambassador Aura Friedman, I finally sit in her chair for “My Little Pony” highlights. The results: sheer beauty.

I met Wella Professionals color ambassador Aura Friedman several years ago. We were both judging a Wella haircolor competition in Canada, and I struck up a conversation with her as we waited for our luggage. (I didn’t know her, but sometimes you can just spot a hair person a mile away.) While Aura breezed through customs, I apparently looked suspicious. Was it the fact that I made a joke and laughed nervously when my joke wasn’t well-received? Possibly. I was forced to undergo some more pointed questioning by a much more scary customs officer. Meanwhile, Aura waited—because she’s nice like that.

From that day forward, every time I see Aura at events or backstage at Fashion Week (she does the amazing haircolor for Peter Som’s shows), I swear to her that I’ll come in for a visit at the salon—but then I never do. She always humors me; when I say something to the tune of, “I really want to experience your handiwork,” she nods and says, “You’re always welcome to come on by!” But she knows I won’t—because I’m silly like that. (And because I’ve seriously been saying this for over two and half years.)


(My subtle pastel streaks, painted by Aura Friedman #paintedbyme.)

And then I did go. You see, when I attended the Peter Som Spring 2013 show, I was struck by how amazing the flicks of unusual hues—a muted metallic green here, a silvery lavender there—peeking through the models’ natural haircolor looked. I wanted those slightly-off rainbow strands to be mine. And, because Wella recently launched Illumina, a good-for-your-mane, shine-enhancing permanent line of hair dyes, and because I let my grays basically invade my roots, I finally reached out to Aura for that much-talked-about, yet-never-realized haircolor appointment.

So into Sally Hershberger Downtown New York I go. And into Aura’s chair I plop. “I’m here!” I exclaim. “Finally,” she replies. Then the haircolor dissection begins. I’m seeking Wella Illumina for my roots to mid-lengths, I say; I have grays gone wild, I lament. “Illumina is perfect for grays; it covers them, but because the dyes are translucent, you won’t have that obvious line of demarcation as your hair grows out,” Aura tells me. In fact, she says, “even though you want 100% coverage of grays, you don’t want opaque coverage. Illumina’s translucence is perfect.”


Another Illumina perk: “The shine and how your hair feels after using Illumina is amazing,” Aura says. (Full disclosure: After she colors my hair with Illumina, her assistant washes my hair with shampoo only—no conditioner. A quick blow-dry with no products—still only that shampoo—follows, and my hair shockingly feels silky smooth and boasts incredibly shine. True story.) She calls this “good texture.” “Honestly, Illumina makes the hair feel stronger after you use it,” she tells me.

So now that we have my roots figured out, we dive into what Aura is well-known for: ombré. I came in with a soft fade from dark brown to coppery blonde, but I’m seeking something more. “My Little Pony highlights,” I say (because this is the technical term for what I want). My vision: On the lightened lower half of my hair, I imagine a blend of peach, lavender and palest pink. Could it be done? “Of course!” Aura says. And off she goes to create my hues.

After bleaching my hair a bit more using Wella Blondor Extra Cool (“This is my fave in the world. It never lifts too orange or too brassy. I hate brassy undertones, and they’re hard to fight. Blondor fights past brass.”), Aura hand-paints the different hues into my hair, telling me that placement is key. But, back to that ombré. I share with her the disappointment many of my friends experience when they visit a salon with ombré on their mind and exit with frosted streaks in their hair. “Yeah—that shouldn’t happen,” Aura says wearily. “Ombré is about painting. It should look natural. When I first did it, I based my designs off of surfers—the way their hair is lightened naturally by the sun and surf. Ombré will never go out of style because it’s a look that’s based in nature.” Aura warns me that if my friends find their stylists pulling out foils for their ombré, to tell them to run! Hand-painting only, she stresses.




So back to my “My Little Pony” hues. Though I can’t quite disclose the process, Aura paints sections of my hair, sometimes combining two hues (maybe a peach on the tip and lavender above it) on one strip, and then alternating to one strip as one full color. She captivates me with her stories of color: “I love mauves and taupes—colors you find in fabrics but that you don’t often see on hair. When you do see it on hair, it’s special.” One of her most dedicated clients, model Soo Joo, is undergoing a double-process to silver (or “sophisticated gray,” as Aura may call it) at the same time as me, and when she finishes before I do, I peek at the results: sparkling silvery blonde with a swatch of near-black underneath. In a word: special.

As is my hair once the dye’s been rinsed from my strands. A super-subtle rainbow of pastels spills from my head. After all this time, the results are just as beautiful and—yes—special as I’d imagined. As I depart, I tell her I’ll surely be back in. And this time, we both know there won’t be a two-and-a-half year delay between.

Visit Aura Friedman at Sally Hershberger Downtown New  York for a Wella Illumina service (or any number of wonderful haircolor to-dos) at

Karie L. Frost Signature


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  • Jenna says:

    I’m not one to keep quiet when I see something I think is wrong. However, there are so many misinformed clients out there. Partly because of things people tell them like the one in your post. I am a hairstylist and have done my fair share of ombre haircolor for what seems like years. To tell a client that if you see someone using foils to run just builds a wall of distrust. Who cares how you do the service as long as the result saves the integrity of the hair and the client is happy. I use foils all the time for ombre…for no other reason then to keep my robes clean and my work space clean. There really is no point in posting this…but I couldn’t keep my opinion to myself. Our industry is all about creativity and reinvention….YES, YOU CAN USE FOILS! Do hair however you like…if you have asses in your chair, and your clients are happy….who are you to tell someone how to do their job? #offended

    • admin says:

      I’m sorry you’re offended, but I feel I should respond and say: This is the opinion of a top colorist who I interviewed—not my personal opinion. I do not seek to tell people how to do their job; I was just reporting what I was told. In any event, I do agree with you: Get clients in your chair and make them happy!

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