Let’s be real, an “Instagram versus reality” dichotomy exists. Take that rainbow latte all over your feed that actually tastes like sugary spit, for example, or that couple who looks all lovey dove-y in romantic vacation photos even though they’re constantly fighting. The same applies to the rainbow hair trends we see popping up on Instagram on the daily. From our phone screens, all the hues look incredibly vibrant and are completed in seconds, thanks to hyper-lapse videos. If you ask Sophia Hilton, the owner of Not Another Salon in London, everything is not what it seems, and that seriously needs to change.
In a recent Instagram post, Hilton wrote an open letter to her clients about what the “colour pandemic” she believes is happening. She started it off by saying, “Have you felt frustrated after seeing hundreds of images flooding your social media of beautiful immaculate colours, yet somehow your hairdresser can’t achieve it? Maybe you have seen celebrity transformations or hairdressers online performing ‘miracle’ dark to light colour changes? You’re looking for the same results, and rightly so. After all, the results of other people’s hair is everywhere, why can’t it be you?”
Hilton went on to explain that these images are often edited and lead to unrealistic expectations. That’s right: All those bold hues don’t seem like they would exist in nature because they truly don’t. Many pictures are retouched and have the saturation levels adjusted. This concern has come up in the past with the viral jellyfish hair. Witchita, Kansas–based hairstylist Amber Unruh was accused of photoshopping her hair color posts. In reality, she just used a blacklight to make the neon pink hair glow brighter.
Another problem Hilton brought up is the sped-up hair transformation videos all over Instagram. They often discount the fact that coloring appointments can take up a whole day. Some times clients even need to come in for multiple sessions. However, you can’t tell that in a less-than-minute video. As a result, Hilton says the “colour pandemic” is causing pro colorists to lose confidence in themselves because they can’t deliver.
In a second post, Hilton explained that many of the bright hair trends on Instagram are not actually created with the client’s best interest in mind either. Instead, some colorists are only thinking about the likes they’re going to get. “Countless amounts of these colors are completely unmaintainable, have no future options for change, or cause damage,” she explained.
One specific event didn’t inspire Hilton to post her open letter. There wasn’t a straw that broke the camel’s back. Instead, she was just tired of the struggles she has been facing on a daily basis. Hilton says that up to 50 percent of clients she sees on any given day come in with doctored hair inspiration pictures from Instagram, and she has to tell them the truth behind them. “A client will bring in a picture of ice blonde hair when they have a strong dark color build up on their hair,” Hilton tells Allure. “The realities are that it would take months to a year to get what they are looking for, but they believe it’s possible because they have seen it on social media.”
Hilton believes she’s not the only one who feels this way. “Not only am I coming up against those challenges every day, myself within the salon, but I also run a color academy across the U.K. and five countries across the world,” she explains. “Everywhere I see the same issues: hairdressers struggling to keep their heads above water.” She’s not wrong. Her Instagram posts have been re-grammed by countless stylists. Seattle-based stylist Kylie Butler is one of them.
“I reposted Not Another Salon’s message because I feel like many clients don’t always understand the amount of time and the effort, even the science behind such a large transformation, and it’s our job as stylists to inform them and to educate them about the process,” Butler tells Allure. She agrees with Hilton that social media has driven her clients’ desire for impractical dye jobs, too.
Another issue that Butler points out is her clients come in requesting that she use specific bond builders touted by other stylists on Instagram. “They see these images online thinking that they can be taken to platinum in one session, and in their mind, it is this magical product that is going to get them there,” Butler explains. “That, unfortunately, isn’t always possible.”
Los Angeles hair stylist Guy Tang brought this problem up in a past interview with Allure, as well. “Oftentimes people rush to get these colors,” he said, “Clients are impatient and hurry their stylist.” He went on to compare coloring hair bold shades to cooking. “If you want a roast beef sandwich, you have to slow roast that beef first. You can’t just put it in the microwave.”
The most unexpected part of Hilton’s open letter is its source. If you scroll through Not Another Salon’s Instagram, you can see that it’s filled with pictures of hair of every color of the rainbow. These posts seem no different than the next salon that offers colorful hair services. Regarding these looks, Hilton says, “We won’t create looks that won’t wash well or do any service we believe is going to damage the hair long term.” Plus, you’ll notice that the caption list the story behind each elaborate look. They talk about just how long it took to achieve the vibrant tones, rather than positioning it as being super simple.
By speaking out, Hilton says she hopes more stylists will feel empowered to raise their voices on the subject, too. “I’d like to see more salons educating their clients as often as possible across social media,” she says. “I believe we have the power to create enough content to change this and teach clients about the realities of what is going on.” As one of the most followed salons in the U.K., Hilton believes Not Another Salon has the power to influence others in the industry and start a conversation.
“We have promised to keep educating our clients at every opportunity and encourage other to do the same,” Hilton says. “We can change this, one image at a time.”
Now, watch a mother of pearl transformation (that probably skips a few steps, TBH):