As anyone who has watched any television reality makeover show knows, nothing transforms a person's appearance faster than a new hairstyle and colour. The big reveal can lead to delight or desolation.
Which just goes to show the wearer has to be comfortable with the result, and why women tend to stick with the same style, often because it works, but sometimes way past its use-by date.
I'm usually loath to go on too much about seasonal hair trends, because a successful style comes down to what best suits the individual's self-image and inclination for maintenance. But there's no point denying hair is a fashion commodity, thankfully with a trend turn-around time that doesn't seem quite so ferocious as with clothes. While you can't go past finding your own best style - and a hairdresser you're comfortable with - it never hurts to be armed with some background knowledge. It may even nudge you into the new.
For summer, subtly "dressed" hair is the go, with colours that are warm and soft and crafted to give the look of light and shade.
Boudoir hair is the term chosen by several hair companies to describe the season's dominant look which is a little mussed up, but still glamorous, rather than the messy bed head or lank natural look of old.
There's also a contrasting trend carrying over from winter which has androgynous appeal. Here textured bobs and undercutting lend movement to strongly coloured shapes. Expect to see more of these looks in the months ahead because they're in sync with fashion trends and figure strongly in the seasonal trend forecasts hairdressers draw inspiration from.
Celebrity styling is also a big influence on public preference, with Lady Gaga's punked-up glam a case in point.
Trend forecasts put out by the main hair companies are at their best when adapted to suit clients and at their most extreme when hairdressers reinterpret them for their annual award competitions. Industry advertising and new ranges of colouring products all reflect trend forecasting, so there's no doubt that these hair industry "looks" filter down into how you look walking out of a salon.
Styling products are tested on international runways before they sit on salon shelves, only to often end up in your bathroom cabinet. (The newer ones impart light control and matte finishes).
Here's an overview of those current "looks" for a little inspiration for the new season. Just like shopping, remember to pick and choose to fit, not follow.
Hair company Wella was first out of the blocks with its trend presentation to the industry for this summer, calling in leading stylists to speak. For dyed blondes the news is good. With companies putting extra effort into effective, but gentler colouring processes and paying more attention to hair condition, longer coloured hair is now more viable.
Shar Sutherland Todd of Sutherland Todd, Christchurch, said attention to better dye and hair health results for blondes made sense, with blonding being "the most requested colour out there". "Ninety per cent of clients would have experienced a lightening."
Gold, once a dirty word for blondes, was now a trend, she said, but not in brassy or yellow tones, rather soft biscuit-beige gold shades. She showed this sort of colour for Wella in a blonde look that mixed both cool and warm tones.
Auckland stylist Lauren Gunn said there was a definite continued move away from streaky lineal colours, with foils being replaced by global colour. Within this, though, there could be some shade variation, with a dip-dye effect accentuating natural colour at either end of the scale. Blondes were in softer, less white, tones, with more desaturated natural-looking dye jobs, evoking images of Brigitte Bardot at her best.
Goldwell Inspirational Director Adam Noble says the season's looks require plenty of styling, using lots of heat. "It's critical that you care for hair so it doesn't become brittle and lifeless." He recommends protein-based shampoos and conditioners that care for colour.
Golden and warmer hues are also part of L'Oreal's Professionel's spring/summer collection.
Pop culture references abound in trend forecasting. L'Oreal says the inspiration for its Travel Journal collection is the glamour and adventure of travel, from super yachts to safaris, yet it was two all-American Charlie's Angels stars who transported the company's international stylist. Beachy blonde Farrah Fawcett and sassy brunette Jaclyn Smith, were the actors who gave inspiration to looks dubbed Casablanca and Darjeeling. The updated Farrah do was a contemporary twist on the classic flirtatious flip styled in golden hues.
The tousled blonde and the slick, sporty brunette sum up two approaches seen strongly in collections elsewhere. At Goldwell that was expressed in what the company calls Boudoir and Cyber Surf looks, worn mussed up or slicked down. Noble cited Alexa Chung as a Boudoir girl, with tousled, wavy, romantic hair. The look includes loose plaits and braids and windswept waves on longer lengths and blunt bobs and undercut textured shapes on short hair. He favours faded blonde, muted rusty reds and browns. Products that enhance curl or give a dry fluffy finish are needed.
For Cyber Surf, a futuristic Blade Runner look that's strong, sporty and geometric, the style options range from short, glossy blunt bobs and angular fringes to longer looks, worn slicked back or straightened to dramatic effect. Colours are solid or blocked and include beige or slatey blondes, neutral or violet browns and bold black. Style to let hair hug the head and finish with a shine enhancer. Think Katie Holmes at her least mumsy, Victoria Beckham and Rihanna.
Schwarzkopf worked these themes, also coming up with Boudoir hair and Cyber Sport looks, joined in its Essential Looks Pure Collection by three other "visual moods" that draw inspiration from the major fashion weeks. They were Uniform (whereby military clothing influences slick unisex hair styles with clean lines and soft undercuts), New Rebel (a slouchy, casual rocker look, with textured lengths in cooler tones like sable blondes and light browns) and Punk Goddess (glam but wrecked, with layering and volume in strong shades).
Schwarzkopf Professional's global ambassador Tom Kroboth, says: "Hair plays such a strong part in the overall fashion directions, that it is an essential part of everyone's wardrobe. There is a high-energy vibe running through both fashion and hair, with quirky and sensual looks that translate across both haute couture and more wearable styles."
L'Oreal's travelogue also shopped around, bringing in a short choppy blonde style dubbed Sahara, before shifting to Cuba, where Le Havane was presented as a layered bob, then to the Kalahari for relaxed flowing colour and Alaska for a bold, wild look for long hair, with lightened ends. These are being used in salons to illustrate the variety of options that can be achieved with new generation colouring, including ammonia-free Inoa.
For Wella, Gunn said summer would bring contrast in hair textures and layers.
Directional hair would be worn very long or cropped short as sported by actor Carey Mulligan and model Agyness Deyn. Long hair wouldn't just hang straight or be pulled up into top-knots.
"Something you'll see a lot of this summer is volume," says Gunn. But the volume wouldn't always be in the traditional place. It might be low and puffy or through crimping, braiding and ponies to create shape and texture.
Danny Pato at D&M has taken the Schwarzkopf trends as a stepping off point and created his own take with three looks he calls the Undone Bride, She is He, and Punished Glam. These looks move from bedroom hair, through unisex style to what he calls "bondage glamour". The latter he attributes a lot to Lady Gaga. "Whether you understand her or not, she wears her art and her hair on her sleeve. A trend will be to be rebellious and break the classical bob by cutting it in shorter layers on one side, graduating to longer layers on the other, and finishing it off with glamour by adding soft curls.
"This hair will perfectly match your studded leather handbag and fierce heels."
Pato says boyish cuts on men and women alike are "totally in" and use internal layering, short contours and soft undercuts.
"Colouring-wise we'll be going for a black base with a blue or red tone." Rihanna rocks this look, which can be worn with military styled clothes or super feminine dresses for contrast.