Balayage and the Science of Hair with April Baxter

Balayage and the Science of Hair with April Baxter

The Science of Hair

“I wish I were a magician and I could do whatever you wanted me to do with color. But I have to work within the laws of chemistry to get the look you want – and we might not get there in one appointment.”

Not only does the owner of ‘The Square’ Hair Salon, April Baxter know her stuff when it comes to hair – she can talk about it, too. Big on the science of hair, she does everything for a reason, not just with the hope that it will turn out right.

An American Board Certified Colorist and a Redken Certified Colorist, she approaches hair through chemistry. With a ton of further education, she understands WHY she’s does what she does to get a desired look, not just what to do.

You’re So Wonderful

People are shocked. They are literally shocked.

“OMG, you did exactly what I asked. No one else does that.”

That’s my job, why wouldn’t I?

Oh, the stories I hear about people getting something completely different from what they expected! Either the stylist didn’t listen or they didn’t understand the science of hair and how to get the desired look without damaging the hair.

The reason I do hair is because I want my guests to feel beautiful. I want them to see what I see when they walk in the door. I’m not right for everybody, let’s face it – if I can’t do what my client wants, I will help her find a stylist who can. My goal is to make sure my guest is happy.

It‘s never about me; it’s always about my clients.

Privacy Builds Trust

Five years ago, I left a big, traditional salon to open my private studio with Salon Plaza. At first I had a big surprise coming… because I thought I knew my clients. But really, I didn’t. I felt selfish for not knowing what was going on in their lives. They told me personal things that they would never have told me without the privacy of my studio.

Inside my studio, we are woman to woman. In my safe comfortable space, we shoot the breeze or talk about deep personal issues. They feel safe to be who they are, and don’t have to worry if someone is listening to our conversation.

Everyone is just beautiful inside and out.

We laugh a lot. It’s super fun. I love what I do. I get excited talking about their kids, vacations and what’s going on in their lives. Nothing’s off limits. I include them my life. I get to know about their family, marriage, work… and wish them the best wholeheartedly.

Hair Color is Hair Chemistry

My passion is to educate my clients so they give me their trust. It’s like when you find a good doctor who takes the time to educate you and earns your trust. Not every doctor can be trusted.

Similarly, hair color is what I’ve been trained to do. My clients don’t understand the science of hair because they haven’t gone to school to learn it. I take this as an opportunity to build a relationship based on trust.

Bleach or Highlights?

For instance, a client with dark hair may expect to get to an all-over ash blond with permanent hair color. This doesn’t happen. A double-process bleach is necessary. If you try to go blonde with permanent color, your hair will just turn orange. This is because of the melanin in hair – color can only lift hair so much. Bleach can do more.

However, getting highlights is a different story. Solid bleach and heavy highlights are very different processes. Google Jennifer Aniston who has very heavy highlights and Gwen Stephani with her all-over bleach. Different processes are used to achieve each look.

Science of Hair - April Baxter Salon Plaza

To understand what you want, I encourage you to bring me pictures. It’s vital that I gain your trust. How much time it will take to give you the look you desire depends on a lot of factors, such as the color and condition of your hair.

That’s why before the first appointment, I offer a free 15-minute consultation. We use this time to find out the look you want, and what I will need to do to achieve it. That way, we can book appropriately… IF you feel comfortable letting me do your hair.

That’s the bottom line. My clients choose me because they trust me.

Not Magic… It’s Science!

I’m not a magician. To get a particular look, you have to make a plan and stick with it. That’s how it works. There are natural laws that stylists must follow. This is the science of hair.

Let me use myself as an example. I’ve been going to the same stylist for 10 years. I trust her. My hair always looks great. For my platinum look, she bleached my hair to level 10 without breaking. To get this done, I had to grow out all my color and start with natural virgin hair. I’m a Level 4 – medium brown. Level 1 is black and level 10 is lightest pale blonde.

To get there from a natural level 4, I had to wait a week with yellow hair. Later, I added a glaze to make my hair platinum.

Why Balayage is the Hottest Trend

Science of Hair April Baxter The Square Hair SalonA few years ago, the newest trend in color was Ombre – dark on top, with a marked transition to lighter on the bottom. Later, this style softened to Sombre, with more gradual fading.

Now the hottest trend is Balayage. A French word meaning, “to sweep”, the technique is like sweeping color over your hair to create a natural look. Think of a child with sun-bleached hair. The roots and under layer tend darker, with a natural blend of highlights on the outer layer.

The advantage? Besides looking stunningly beautiful, you won’t have to come in every 6 weeks for a full foil application. This saves you money.

3 Considerations Before Applying Color

Based on the science of hair, there’s a lot to consider before diving in. If you have never colored your hair before, or if you’re changing your look, your hair will react differently to color application.

1. What will it cost to get the desired look?

Ever see a celebrity go from dark to platinum? What you don’t see is how many hours and treatments she went through with her stylist to get that look. So the first question is, can you get to the new look today or will it take several steps?

Also, there are a variety of techniques to get a similar effect – and some processes cost more than others. We’ll discuss all of your options when you come in for your consultation.

2. What is the health of your hair?

When you color the hair, you are permanently breaking a certain percent of your protein bonds. If it’s already too damaged, you might have to cut it off and let it grow out.

We have to know where we’re starting – the reality of where your hair is at now. When hair is too damaged, more color isn’t possible. If we do that today, it’s only going to make your hair worse. You hair could be breaking off when you leave me today, and that is not something that I would have a good conscience about.

We might have to discuss other options until your hair can be repaired.

3. What will be your upkeep costs?

My clients have families and their money is stretched – with kids in gymnastics, etc. That’s why I discuss with them upfront what the upkeep costs will be like. Certain techniques, like Balayage, cost more in the beginning, but grow out better. Otherwise, with a solid color after a month you’ll have to come in to touch up the roots.

Recently, Redken came out with a new product to help with root touchups that perfectly matches the Redken line. When you apply it to your part to hide the roots, it blends in beautifully. I like that I can offer this to my clients now as a service to keep looking beautiful between appointments.

Now we can start formulating color. That’s a whole other discussion! Look for my next post on how to get the color and highlights you want.


All the education in the world about the science of hair won’t help you build one-to-one relationships with your clients – unless you can create the chemistry of TRUST. The best way that I’ve found to do this is in the privacy of my own studio salon at Salon Plaza.

If you live in Virginia or Maryland, why not come in for a tour and see for yourself…

Science of Hair Studio Salon Tour