As Meghan Markle spent this week making stylish appearances around New York City with Prince Harry, it was a reminder that the Duchess has perennially coveted hair for good reason. This is due in no small part to the handiwork of her hair colorist Kadi Lee, who’s also the pro behind Julia Roberts’s famous flame red and Elle Fanning’s buttery blonde lengths. Alongside her business partner and longtime friend Myka Harris, Lee is the co-founder of Highbrow Hippie, a holistic beauty and wellness studio in Venice, California that’s become an insider destination for sun-kissed balayage.
The secret behind Lee’s signature, just-back-from-the-beach color treatments? “I leave lots of natural color in the interior of the hair, sometimes breaking it up with gently smudged sweeps of color, and other times with a more distinct connection to the root,” says Lee. “The result is a dimensional color that will provide a seamless grow out and last throughout the summer months.” The way the pro sees it, less is more with this gentle, low-maintenance approach. “Summer is meant to be spent relaxing and reconnecting with family, friends, and oneself!” she says. “It most definitely should not be spent in a salon obtaining any sort of hair color that will require a lot of upkeep.”
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As the summer crests, here Lee breaks down how to tweak each hair color for that ever-elusive, SoCal sun-kissed look.
Blonde © Photo: Getty Images
Bright, dimensional blondes are often a slow burn. “ I only add highlights every few appointments, allowing for the natural or created base color to really get established as the background and canvas,” she explains. “When highlights are finally added, they really pop, and add an incredible amount of movement to the hair.” And it’s not just about placement; certain tones of blonde live their best life in the warmer months. “Beige, buttery, and golden tones will keep your hair looking healthy all season,” says Lee.
Brunette © Photo: Getty Images
Beautiful brunettes are achieved through a lighter, gentler hand, making for a seamless shift into September. “In the summer, many of my brunette clients are also already thinking ahead about their hair color transitions from summer to fall,” she explains. “Warm, rich golden tones are the perfect solution for both sun-kissed summer locks, as well as [warming up] the paler complexion that inevitably awaits all of us ahead.” For Lee, they key is never to over-highlight. Accordingly, most of her brunette clients only get a scattering of strategically placed highlights once or twice a year. “To maintain consistent color year round, I instead prefer to keep the dimension by lowlighting every other appointment, or as needed, and always finishing with an allover gloss,” says Lee. “Darker, warmer hair reflects light and will give hair amazing shine throughout the colder months, achieving an effect of the hair being lit-from-within.”
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Raven © Photo: Getty Images
It’s a similar story for raven-hued hair, but when creating dimension, complementary tones are a must. “Deep brunettes should focus on brown-on-brown highlights, keeping the shade variance to three shades at most,” says Lee of the secret behind those famous Meghan Markle lengths. “Honey, chestnut, coppery and rich chocolate browns give a wide array of choices to keep brunettes interesting and versatile. Even for my deepest, richest, brunettes, I formulate lighter and process longer to guarantee a natural result and reflective shine.”
Redhead © Photo: Getty Images
Sun-kissed red hair is one of Lee’s favorite color challenges—and she promises it can even be done without bleaching or highlighting. What’s essential is creating movement. “I achieve this both by lowlighting and ‘saving’ strategic pieces of faded color in areas I would normally place a highlight, coated in heavy conditioner in a foil—the ONLY time I ever use foils, as I am a balayage purist—so that even if the color slips in accidentally, the saved hair won’t be penetrated,” she explains. “After processing color on roots and ends, I rinse everything, with the foils still intact, and once all the color is out I remove the foils and rinse the conditioner thoroughly. I then mix a vibrant gloss that is one to two shades lighter than the base color and apply that all over for 10 minutes to give the saved pieces an intentional tone, and the rest of the hair tons of shine.” What you’re left with is healthy, naturally sun-kissed auburn lengths—and time saved to boot.
‘Foilayage’ Is the Coolest Way to Wear Balayage Highlights
The perfect hair color for summer."Traditional highlights will almost always use foils and color is applied to the root of the hair whereas balayage is a visual hand-painted technique working with pieces of hair," explains HARI’s Creative Colorist, Francesca Dixon. "The results are very different as balayage gives hair a blended and overall softer subtle finish, whereas highlights (because they are added from the root) can often look stripy.