Like the length and style of your hair but tired of your look? Colouring is an option, and the choices available have never been so wide.

The trends

According to one international stylist passing through Bangkok recently, from the mid-90s onwards, styling was "extremely boring, especially colouring. But now you can do absolutely anything. Hair is getting longer, so colouring is more important this season than before. The trend is more definite than it has been for a long time."

In New York and Paris, this stylist says, it’s pretty much anything goes, but there are several notable directions. "Blondes are golden, browns are very light and have some ash in them, and highlights are golden, whiskey or honey." But for Asian hair, the trend is browns: "three to four shades of brown, and the look is now more solid. Full colour is becoming popular."

Director of the Attitude hair salon John Moy says that the trend in Bangkok is for vibrant looking hair. "Strong colour is in, especially for working ladies in Bangkok, even if they don’t have any grey. It’s fashionable, and it fits in with a Bangkok lifestyle."

And Moy says that Thai women are becoming more daring. "They’re choosing some stunning colours now, such as purple-red – they call it Coke colour – and radish reds. But if you overdo the colour, they’re not so comfortable. The Thai market is also now blending dark blonde with a lightening of the base colour, or adding a few streaks of light blonde."

But blonde is one of the most difficult colours to maintain. "For black or quite dark hair, a contrast colour such as light blonde can be stunning for the first couple of weeks. But then in Bangkok, the polluted air, the sun, the hard water – it’s not good for blonde hair. The chemicals fight the blonde."

Your options

So what’s what? A permanent colour, tint or dye are all the same thing: targetted colours containing ammonia, which prepares the hair to take the colour, and peroxide, which lightens the pigment. If you’re trying to cover grey hair, or you’re lightening your hair colour considerably, you’ll need to use such a colour, which won’t go away until cut off. The downside is that when used over many years, permanents cause the hair to thicken and eventually give it a straw-like appearance. This is because the peroxide causes the colour pigment to swell up to 400 times its normal size. However, used occasionally to change your hair colour by only one or two shades, it may dry the hair slightly but will not cause it to become unmanageable.

Highlights blend in with the hair’s main colour. Chemically, they are the same as permanents, but are applied using different techniques, including:

· traditional foils, which are labour intensive and usually the most expensive;

· cap highlights, where the hair is pulled through holes in a skull cap

· freehand foils, which are currently the most in vogue. Freehand foils allow the stylist to place or "weave" colour randomly through the hair, making regrowth less obvious.

Then there are semi-permanents, which gradually wash out after around a dozen washes. These are gentler on the hair, and can improve shine and manageability. If you’re not changing your colour too drastically, this could be an option. However, semi-permanents usually cost the same as a permanent.

Temporary colours lasts until you next wash your hair.

Before and after

Don’t wash your hair for at least 24 hours before you head to the salon, as having oil over your hair shaft will help to protect it.

After the colour, use a colour rinse shampoo once a week, a shampoo for coloured hair the rest of the time, and get regular protein treatments. Before being exposed to the sun and/or before swimming, protect your hair by rubbing an oily substance such as a leave-in conditioner or some baby oil through its top layer.

Return for a touchup around five weeks after your colour, or when around 1cm of regrowth is visible. However, stylist Moy advises that if there’s not so much of a contrast between the regrowth and the colour, you could wait for eight weeks.

/ Health & beauty