My journey to blonde began months ago with a dream I had one night – I was at my usual hair salon, about to get my hair colored and cut by a stylist I had never been to before and she had had a few glasses of wine and suggested I get my hair colored blonde. I have dark brown hair with bronzed highlights and warm medium skin. I was reluctant to let her color my hair, as she was drinking, and suggested she ask my regular stylist what she thought about me going blonde. She started crying, saying I didn’t trust her to do her job, and that is when I woke up.
I began by reading online about what to expect, maintenance and what shade of blonde would look best with my skin tone and then started to work on getting really healthy hair. I wanted to get my hair as hydrated as possible and used leave-in conditioners, hair masks and hot oil treatments, stopped using my flat iron and bought a UV protectant.
I’ve been going to Style Theory in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for the last year, and the owner, Celleste, created my color. If you are in the Calgary area, I highly recommend checking out the salon.
She started with the bleaching process while using Olaplex. Here’s a photo of about midway through:
My hair got a bit lighter than this, but with being so dark, didn’t lighten to the level she wanted and was pretty yellow, so I was worried how it would look when dried. No worries though, my hair was then toned to a pretty strawberry blonde color.
After this first stage of color, I continued hydrating with masks and oils and used Olaplex No 3, the at-home version, to repair and strengthen the hair. Olaplex strengthens and protects the hair by relinking broken disulfide bonds from chemical services, heat and mechanical damage. After giving my hair time to heal and hydrate for about 3 weeks, I was ready for the next session, this time using Malibu Color Prepare the day before the service. To use Color Prepare, shampoo and rinse, add water to the crystals, work through the hair, leave on for 5 minutes, then shampoo and rinse. Do not condition. This treatment prepares the hair for color by removing minerals to ensure color coverage and extends vibrancy of color.
For the second session, she bleached while using Olaplex, and then used a number of treatments and toners.
A few days after this session I went back to the salon to get the Ultra Bond and Seal treatment. The Bond treatment replenishes keratin, protein and amino acids after multiple color services such as I had. It also helps relink and strengthen broken disulfide bonds in the hair. The second treatment, Seal, fuses the repaired bonds into the cortex (middle layer) of the hair. The first and second treatments were left on wet hair for about 15 minutes each. After this treatment, my hair was bouncy, soft and shiny.
Maintenance and care of blonde hair is something I’m still working on, finding the right products that work for me. The first time I washed my hair after the first blonding session, I was shocked at my hair texture (while actual texture doesn’t change, porosity and elasticity does, and the hair feels very different). I read articles about dry, straw-like hair after a bleaching process, but that didn’t prepare me for the actual thing. I thought it was the new Schwarzkopf BlondMe shampoo I was using. After trying two other shampoos (Malibu Color Wellness and Balance from Josh Rosebrook), the BlondMe shampoo is more drying than those, but still as I was rinsing these shampoos off my hair, it seemed to become swollen with water (because the hair is now very porous), tangled, stiff and straw-like. After conditioning, my hair smoothed out and felt relatively normal after drying.
Blonde hair needs purple toned shampoo to prevent unwanted warmth; the yellow, brassy color on light blonde hair. As mentioned, I’m using the Schwarzkopf Professional BlondMe Tone Enhancing Bonding Shampoo for cool blondes. While neutralizing warm tones, this shampoo also creates new bonds in the hair fibers.
Blonde hair is dry and fragile; I need to prevent breakage and only use a wooden comb and have stopped using a flat iron. My hair stylist told me, when washing my hair, before shampooing, put conditioner on from about the mid-shaft area down to the ends, shampoo the roots, rinse and condition all the hair. This prevents dryness and breakage at the ends. Deep conditioners, hair masks, oils and Olaplex No 3 helps with damage, dryness and help protect the hair.
My makeup and jewelry had to change a bit as a result of the blonde hair. Instead of using the warm corals and bright pinks for blush, I now look better in a pale pink, and rather than my usual rose gold earrings and nose ring, I have switched to white gold.
The blonde hair seems to bring out the redness in my complexion, so I need a bit of concealer. My black eyebrows are more noticeable and they will have to be well maintained. I recently purchased the Fab Brows kit in slate/black and the slate color has a mattifying effect and helps the eyebrows blend a bit better with the ash blonde hair.
Of course, cost, number of sessions and time will depend on your hair; do you have old color, virgin hair, boxed color and/or damaged hair? The process can also be affected by the hair stylist’s experience. I am lucky that my hair stylist is a blonding specialist and a specialist in treating damaged hair. I’ve been to salons previously wanting to get my dark brown hair to a light brown, only to be left with burgundy hair.
This process can be listed as a color correction with charge by the hour. These two blonding sessions, for me, were about 9 hours total. Consultation is key. Roots need to be touched up every 4 to 6 weeks, depending on growth. While waiting a few months for touch ups may seem cost effective, the color service can take longer and cost more in the end.
Maintaining blonde hair:
- Wash your hair in room temperature or cool water.
- Wash your hair less often. The washing process is drying, as it washes away natural oils. While I have an oily scalp and would like to wash my every second day, I can get away with every 3 to 4 days.
- Use a purple shampoo to neutralize warm, brassy tones from mineral buildup and oxidation. Get an in-salon toning service.
- Protect your hair from the sun. Use a UV protectant and wear a hat.
- Protect your hair from chlorine. Saturate with conditioner then wear a swim cap.
- Hydrate your hair. Use oil treatments, deep conditioners, leave-in conditioners, hair masks, in-salon moisturizing treatments.
- Use sulfate-free, salt-free, color safe, moisturizing shampoo.
- Avoid styling products with sodium and drying alcohols.
- Protect your hair from heat. If you need to use heat, protect your hair with a heat protectant and low temperature setting.
- Protect your hair from mechanical damage. Avoid backcombing, use a wide tooth, wooden comb or brush, detangling from the ends of the hair up.