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August 20 2014

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L’Oréal Professionnel’s INOA: We Try It

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When I was a kid, I had blond hair—flaxen, almost. Then, one day when I was seven years old, I realized it wasn’t blond anymore. I think I hadn’t had blond hair for a long time, but it had taken a while for reality to catch up with self-perception. Up to that day, I’d thought of myself as a boisterous, cherubic, blond-haired child, but apparently, none of that was true. Ten years later, I experienced the same jolt in reverse: After my family moved to Orlando, abundant sunshine (and chlorine) had bleached my coffee-colored hair back to flaxen. At that point, however, I saw myself as a dark character—the type of brooding beauty who wore turtlenecks and read Sartre and smoked Gitanes. Imagine my surprise, then, when on a visit to my future college, I overheard my pre-frosh host describe me as “tan and blond; very Florida.” What?

This history is all a lot of preface to a simple observation: Hair color is a state of mind. And for the majority of my adult life, my state of mind has been redhead. Not ginger, not fire engine red, but the auburn toastiness of Katharine Hepburn and Charlotte Rampling—that’s me, I figure. It is very, very hard to achieve this color via a dye job. The one time in my twenties I attempted to go red, I wound up with hair the color of a lollipop. Soon, the color washed down to something like a Nacho Dorito™, and I haven’t attempted red since. Until now: L’Oréal Professionnel has just introduced its new, ammonia-free INOA color system, which will roll out to salons nationwide next month. With it comes the promise of both subtle, hyper-pigmented, non-toxic color and the chance to have the job handled by a choice list of master colorists—which is what convinced me to give the process a preview. Auburn or bust…

I told Joel Warren, co-founder of Warren-Tricomi, that I wanted to err on the side of conservatism. He mixed up a shade just a little off my natural color and got to work. I barely noticed: When you have your hair dyed with INOA, there’s no smell and virtually no sting. There’s another big benefit, too. INOA uses MEA (monoethanolamine), an ammonia alternative that gently pries apart the hair cuticle, rather than busting it wide open like cops on a manhunt, which helps minimize damage. And among the 13 patents pending on INOA are technologies that deliver boosted lipid protection; I’ll skip the rest of the jargon here and simply attest that after the process, my hair felt strong and smooth, maybe even better than it had before. But what about the color? INOA delivered. Like all reds, there’s some fade after the first wash, and it’s possible my conservatism bit me in the ass, because I was having trouble seeing the color after a couple of weeks. But then, one day, I caught sight of my hair in a shop mirror, by chance, and it struck me that I’d gotten exactly what I’d always wanted: a warm, subtle red that you pick out in the right light. For once, I felt precisely like myself.

Photo: Courtesy of L’Oréal Professionnel

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