We Tried the Bespoke Hair Colour Service That Hairdressers Swear By

When you work in fashion and beauty, there’s no better time than the beginning of a new season. New seasons mean new collections to wear, products to try, weather to dress for and often, a refreshed cycle of trends to discover. With more micro-trends emerging every day on social media, we’ve noticed a shift away from traditional beauty trends as people move towards feel-good beauty regimens that harness their personal styles and moods. This is also the case with hair—just ask any hairdresser in the know (or refer to our beauty editor, as I often do), and they’ll tell you that whether you’re after a lob or a bob, want to go blonder or try the copper colour of the moment, it’s all about making the trend work for your hair, not making your hair work for the trend. This is echoed by Larry King, the Redken ambassador who has over 20 years of styling experience. “Recently, I’ve noticed hair trends have shifted to more subtle seasonal themes, and now more than ever, people are looking to make trends work for them and not the other way around,” he says. “In the salon, clients are less concerned about the latest viral trend because everyone else is trying it. They want mood-enhancing, timeless hair colour and cuts bespoke to their personal style.” In line with this thinking, since the beginning of this new season, I’ve been looking for custom beauty services that are made to match my needs and enhance my style.

One service that’s all about tailoring trends to your personal style is Redken’s Shades EQ Liquid Color, an in-salon hair service that uses a huge range of gloss toners (including a clear glaze) to create a hair colour bespoke to you. It can be applied as a quick, stand-alone service to perfect your tone or during your regular colour appointment to create a made-to-measure dimensional shade. It sounds good, but what makes it different from other salon colours?

A lot of traditional hair colours used in the salon have cream formulas, but as the name suggests, Redken’s Liquid Color is fluid. The texture glides and melts into the hair so your hairdresser can create a seamless application with a super-dimensional, high-shine finish. But I’m most interested in the bespoke element. I heard some hype from friends in the industry who said the experience was very customised to their hair type and their colour inspiration, that the stylist can mix colours to create a completely tailored finish. The bottom line? It’s less about seasonal trends and more about seasonal “moods,” whether you’re a brunette wanting to give your hair a rich, copper appearance, a blonde wanting a brighter finish, or someone wanting to completely transform their tone and try something new. Plus, because the Shades EQ range is demi-permanent and has built-in bond protection, the colour service allows you to experiment with new hues whenever you feel like changing your look without any major risk. Win-win.

Despite its approval from industry insiders, influencers and A-list clients who swear by its ability to create glass-like shine in a matter of moments, I wanted the Who What Wear team to try it for ourselves. And so we did! I sent three women with completely different hair types into Larry King’s salon to try their own custom hair colours, and the verdict is in: Everyone is obsessed. But don’t take my word for it—see the results and read the reviews for yourself.

Who What Wear UK beauty editor Eleanor Vousden has the kind of hair people envy: long, naturally thick and brown. Never have I been on a video call with her when she’s having a bad hair day. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Kate Middleton showed her hairstylist a photo of Eleanor as inspiration. However, she hadn’t dyed her hair in over a year and wanted to create a new hair colour to cover up some greys that were beginning to peek through with a super-glossy, healthy-looking tone. She had a consultation with the salon’s colourist, Harriet Muldoon, and explained she wanted something low-maintenance that would grow out effortlessly and blend with any greys. Muldoon’s suggestion was to create a balayage and use a blend of two Liquid Color tones: one to glaze over her roots and greys and the second for an all-over rich caramel gloss.

To cover her greys at the roots, the stylist used the gloss on Eleanor’s dry hair—on wet hair, the colour is more diluted and sheer. Once the bleach and gloss had developed, it was shampooed out at the backwash, and the stylist mixed a caramel-coloured gloss with a clear one to achieve the warm brunette tones. Muldoon explains, “Because of Shades EQ’s demi-permanence, Liquid Color is great for blending through grey hairs to melt the tone seamlessly with dimensional highlights. When you completely cover grey hair with a permanent dye, the colour can look flat and require more maintenance to keep on top of root regrowth.”

To finish, King stepped in and worked his magic, blow-drying it into a ’90s-inspired blowout. “This ’90s-inspired blowout is a timeless look. It’s perfect for enhancing long layers and the multi-dimensional tones from the balayage. It’s all about volume at the roots with movement and lots of shine through the lengths,” he explains with hair dryer and brush in hand. It’s safe to say we’re sold.

When I asked Eleanor what immediately stood out to her from the finished result, she was quick to tell me about the vibrancy of her hair and how the blended colouring and gloss had made her hair appear fuller, richer and thicker without looking unnatural. She also added that she couldn’t believe how healthy it felt. “Expensive brunette’ hair colour has been huge this year, and I love that this gloss helps achieve that by adding depth, shine and dimension, without compromising the health of the hair. After previous colour treatments, my hair has felt dry and damaged from bleach. But with this service, as well as the Acidic Bonding Concentrate treatment used to help protect the strength of my hair, my hair was left soft, shiny and in really great condition.” As for what she learned from the experience, Eleanor had lots to say. “Harriet mentioned that she has clients who come in for the ‘diamond blow-dry,’ a process in which she uses the Shades EQ clear gloss on her clients’ hair before a blow-dry for mega shine,” she said. “It sounded very tempting for whenever my shine begins to dwindle.” But there was one thing that stood out to her most. “Aside from my new, rich colour, ultra-glossy hair and incredible blow-dry, the thing that stood out most for me was the salon playlist, which was mainly ’90s and ’00s vibes.”

One thing you should know about our social media manager, Joy Ejaria, is that when it comes to hairstyling, she’s done it all. Between braids, waves, wigs and weaves (not to mention a pixie cut and having completely shaved it all off three times), this girl likes to change it up. Having previously worked at Blackhair Magazine, she credits her open-minded attitude to the stylists she spoke to daily during that tenure, who gave her an appetite for experimentation. She confesses that her friends say her mood is directly attached to her hair, and if it’s not done, she won’t leave the house. “Even if it’s my natural hair, it has to be styled differently each time. Otherwise, I feel dull,” she tells me.

So it came as a complete surprise to me when she said she had never dyed her hair. Naturally, I couldn’t wait to see what she was going to do with Redken’s Liquid Colour. After talking through her hair inspiration with Muldoon, her motive was clear: “I want something new for autumn, something noticeable but not loud, and a complete shift from what I’m used to.” Joy has natural 4C afro hair, and together, she and her stylist decided on a balayage that would frame her face and allow a pop of colour. They agreed to mix three glosses to enhance the highlight with a warm, red tinge.

Joy had a texture-release treatment in April, which usually lasts about three months, so she was aware that her hair needed a little refresh. After she had her hair subtly lightened, Muldoon applied the gloss, and Joy was impressed by how it immediately boosted the colour despite it being demi-permanent. “Not only does Liquid Color allow you to quickly inject shine and vitality back into your hair, but it lets you play with colour without too much commitment or time,” she tells me. When it came to styling, Joy wanted an effortless loose wave, so Larry created a soft style that added extra dimension and shine to her new warm highlights.

Joy is quite literally the most photogenic person I know, so I knew the resulting photos would be good. But they’re even better than I expected. Joy’s initial concerns were that the bleach would dry out her hair or disturb the curl pattern, but she was surprised at how healthy her hair looked and felt, plus the new colour created a rich, lustrous tone. If you’re also concerned about how healthy your hair will feel after bleach or colour, take this as your reason to look to Redken’s range. “Shades EQ Liquid Colors are formulated to work with the natural pH in the hair, which is really important to help protect the condition and create a healthy shine,” explains Muldoon. And when it comes to styling, King also mentions the importance of the brand’s treatments: “We use the Redken Acidic Concentrate to treat the hair. The built-in bonding technology helps protect the hair from chemical damage during the colour service, and the Leave-In Perfecting Treatment is essential to prep the hair with moisture and heat protection before styling.” So when it comes to Redken, we learnt that there’s always science behind the style.

Joy was so impressed by her first hair colour experience that she already had thoughts about going lighter the next time around. “Next time, I’m planning for lighter highlights! I love the richness, the warmth and how subtle the colour is for my first time—next time, I want the same super-glossy results but even brighter.” And like Eleanor, she was impressed by the salon’s vibes. “Going forward, I only want to go to Larry King to have my hair done. The atmosphere, the décor, the gloss—everything was a 10 out of 10.”

Dyeing your hair blonde takes commitment. There’s the time dedicated to the chair, potential damage if the right bonding treatments aren’t used, and making sure your blonde tone is perfect for your complexion and style, be it ash, honey, golden, strawberry—the options are limitless. Beauty journalist Chloe Burcham has the kind of blonde hair many strive for—that creamy, bright blonde that makes you wonder if it’s from a top-tier colourist or a Swedish heritage. Wanting to refresh her roots, which she hadn’t done for a few months, Chloe opted for a half head of highlights with extra-fine ribbons of blonde around the hairline and through the ends to make her overall colour appear brighter and more refreshed. Chloe admitted she wasn’t a huge fan of traditional and at-home toners because they tend to neutralise too much of the colour and make her hair feel mousey and dull, so Muldoon explained she would create a sheer, golden gloss with Liquid Color to create a sun-drenched, ultra-bright blonde with lots of shine.

Chloe opted for a signature smooth blow-out with a natural wave and a side part. King’s styling made it easy to see how Chloe’s new bright tone frames her face and how the soft gold shine continues through the lengths of her hair. “I was most impressed by how the process brightened and refreshed my overall colour—not just my roots—which can be difficult when you’re not adding more bleach to the lengths,” Chloe says. Muldoon made two Liquid Color blends for Chloe’s blonde and explained the first was for a root smudge: “You ask for this technique if you want to create natural depth at the root that melts into the mid lengths. It helps create subtler root regrowth with no harsh lines,” something that Chloe immediately noticed and loved about the treatment.

The overall brightness of Chloe’s hair wasn’t the only winning result. Its smooth, high-shine appearance from the clear gloss has since kept, even after swimming. “I was so nervous to swim in the days after (fresh bleach and chlorine do not mix), so I put on the Redken Acidic Perfecting Leave-In Treatment and washed it out after I went swimming,” she says. “My hair didn’t dry out at all, and the colour still looks ultra glossy.”

Shine is the most difficult to achieve with blonde hair, so getting this glass-like effect after several washes is a major win. But Chloe learned some important details from King to take note of: I recommend blonde clients use purple shampoos sparingly between salon visits. Over-toning can cause ashy pigment to build up, which makes your salon colour look darker and grey. If your blonde looks dull rather than brassy, try Redken’s High Bright system to refresh the colour instead. It’s an at-home brightening treatment that helps remove impurities like hard water, chlorine and metals that build up and make blondes appear darker.” But overall, Chloe was thrilled with the results. “The service is great for blondes who, like me, want a more natural tone to match their complexion—nothing too warm or too ashy,” she tells me. “Harriet created the perfect tone for me. I love the brighter pieces she hand-painted through my hair, and Larry’s styling took it to the next level. The shape around my face frame added so much dimension. Hairdressers truly are artists!”

Interested in creating your own custom hair colour with a Redken stylist? Book in for a Redken Liquid Color service here.