Forget Highlights, Add a Splash of Color

is a huge trend in 2011, whether you dye your own or opt for extensions. Professional coloring is not for everyone: The upkeep is expensive and hard to maintain, and the chemicals can damage the cuticle. To jazz up your hairstyle without the long-term commitment, step out of the box with easy-to-achieve trends like colorful Pocahontas-style feather extensions, wisps of punky color, tiny accent braids or pieces of colored ribbon braided into your strands. Opting out of permanent color opens the door for creative — and easy — ways to add some fun to your life.

Feather extensions have exploded in popularity, thanks to Steven Tyler’s adornment of the colorful rooster feathers on “American Idol.”

Stephanie Alfaro, a stylist for the past three years at Salon Zinnia in San Clemente, California, saw the feathers on the Facebook page of another stylist about a year ago and immediately bought some for her clients.

“I came home for spring break [from college] and my sister had them,” said one of Alfaro’s clients, Amelia Fletcher of Newport Beach, California. “I didn’t even speak to her. I just wanted to know what the feathers were.”

Initially, you might think feather extensions are too rocker-ish for your style or unprofessional in your daily life, but you can start small. The Hills star Lauren Conrad dyed the tips of her long blond hair in hues of purple, blue and pink. Dyeing only the tips or minuscule strands lets you experiment with the style. It’s then very easy to just get a trim to remove the color or dye the tiny strands back to your natural hue.

“It really depends on where you put the extension,” says Alli Webb, founder of salon chain Drybar. “Some people put them underneath, and others like them front and center in the middle of their head. It’s nice when the feathers have a peek-a-boo effect.”

Rooster feathers, which range in length from 8 to 14 inches, come in all colors, from the more natural browns and whites to vibrant pink, turquoise or orange. The feathers may be strategically positioned so they blend into your hair or to give you control of their visibility. To hide them, add them underneath your hair closer to your neck or in the middle of your hair so that they blend in better. Adding the extensions closer to the edges or crown of your head will make them harder to hide and more visible on a day-to-day basis. It’s something you have to play with, so if you find it difficult to get the look you’re after, see a hairstylist. Then mimic the technique on your own whether you’re going daring or conservative.

“I teach, so I can’t have crazy hair,” said Holly Fletcher, another of Alfaro’s clients. “Feathers are simple and fun, and I can get away with it at work,” Fletcher said of the feather extensions she acquired in February 2011.

About that “simple” part: It’s really true. Just thread the top of the feather extension through a tiny bead or tubing and then secure it around your hair at the root with a set of pliers. They last roughly three months, depending on how fast your hair grows, even through washing, conditioning, blow-drying, flat-ironing and curling. You may buy the feathers and the attachment kit online.

For those looking for even less of a commitment, salons like Drybar and Salon Zinnia have started giving their clients colored hair extensions. Webb has a bright pink extension in her blond hair now. Alfaro raised over $6,000 during breast cancer awareness month by adding pink extensions in her clients’ hair.

Braids are also back on the scene — not a full head of individual braids as in the 1990s, but fishtails, accent braids, French braids with messy bun,s and loose, messy braids. To add a little something to a braid, work in a ribbon, a piece of tinsel, rope or anything that will hold. One of the stylists at Salon Zinnia, where Alfaro works, braided tinsel in her hair for a little sparkle.

“Overall, people are having more fun with hair,” said Webb, “which I’m really happy about.”

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