You've heard the old adage that gentlemen prefer blondes. As famous stylist Rita Hazan once said in the pages of Marie Claire, "Blondes are sexy, brunettes are sophisticated, and redheads are born attention-getters."
I tend to disagree. I think blonde hair can be sexy, sophisticated AND attention-getting (and I know plenty of guys who prefer brunettes, but maybe that's just New York for you).
What I do know for sure about blonde hair, is that it's expensive to upkeep. But as someone who has always gotten highlights to lighten my natural blonde, my hair is worth every penny. Below you'll find everything I know about blonde hair.
Would You Make a Good Blonde?
The rule of thumb to follow when it comes to blonde hair is this one: If you had blonde hair as a kid, you'll likely look good with blonde hair as an adult.
Find out 5 other things to consider before you take the blonde plunge in my article, How to Tell If You'd Make a Good Blonde.
Get the Right Hue
Contrast between your face and hair is important when going blonde. If you have fair skin, the biggest hair color mistake you can make is to go too light. I'm pale and have had my hair too lightened so that my face and my hair looked like one big wash of the same color. The best hair color allows for contrast and shows off the face.
Should You Get All-over Color or Highlights?When going blonder, you have three options:
- Single-process color
- Single-process color to lighten your base over which your stylist adds highlights
Single-process color is cheaper than highlights. But be warned: All-over blonde color can appear monochromatic and looks the least natural of the three coloring options.
If you have a great hair color base, you can skip the all-over color and get highlights instead (more on highlights in a bit). A great base for highlights is "dishwater" or "dirty" blonde hair. Always ask your stylist to pay special attention to the hair around your face. Lighter highlights can make your face "pop."
If your hair is dark all-over, your stylist can first lighten your base to a blonde using single-process color, then add highlights to create depth and texture. Highlights make hair look more natural and sun-kissed. You don't want to go this route if you've had your hair chemically straightened or permed. You should never subject hair to more than 2 chemical processes.
Make Sure You Can Make This Commitment to Blonde HairJust as short hair is high maintenance because you have to get your hair cut every 6 weeks, blonde can be a very high-maintenance hair color. You have to commit to regular touch-ups and proper products to keep it looking natural and fresh.
Due to root growth, all-over coloring will need to be touched up every four to eight weeks, while highlights can last up to two or three months, depending on what kind you get. Ask your stylist about a gloss treatment following your color. Gloss boosts color and makes hair shinier.
If you are busy at work or at home and know you won't make regular trips to your salon, consider frace-framing blonde highlights and lowlights instead of all-over color. When it grows out, it will look more natural.
Should You Do Your Own Color?DIY hair color has come a long way and even some of the top beauty editors admit they color their own hair. You can do your own single-process, give yourself highlights and even touch up roots on your own. The main rule of thumb with at-home hair coloring is to never go more than 2 shades lighter than your natural shade. "One bad color job will take a professional colorist two or three salon visits to correct," says New York City colorist Sharon Dorram in Harper's Bazaar.
Learn more about DIY-coloring in How to Color Your Hair at Home.
So You Wanna Go Platinum?
Not all skin tones look good in super blonde hair. Plus, not all hair can handle the harsh processing it involves to get that amazing shade of ultra-white. Find out if platinum hair suits you in Can You Get Away With Platinum Hair?. Then peruse photos of amazing platinum hair color.
Consider Your Haircut When Getting Color
When going for dramatic change, I always suggest getting your haircut BEFORE you get color because the color should compliment your cut. Rita Hazan said in Marie Claire that hair color should be inversely proportional to hair length. Shorter hair can go lighter, while longer hair should be warmer and deeper. (Tell that to Hollywood, Rita).
Dark Hair? Take Your Time Going Blonde
Hazan warns brunettes going blonde should not rush in. "Even at the salon your hair will only lighten so much at one time -- push it too far and it turns orangey," says Hazan in Allure Magazine. "Do a little every month, so you can control brassiness."
You're Going for Highlights, But Which Kind?
There are basically 4 types of highlights: basic foil highlights, balayage or "hair painting," chunking or "piecing" and lowlighting.
Foil highlights add strands of color to hair. You can get up to 5 different shades in hair to make it look more natural and less monochromatic.
Balayage, or "hair painting," allows the stylist to add natural stripes of color to hair in large or smaller swaths. This is best for women with a great base color who want to go just a couple shades lighter. You won't need to get roots touched up as much with baliage as you do foils.
Lowlighting allows the stylist to add darker shades to hair giving color more contrast.
Protect Your InvestmentBlonde hair is susceptible to chlorine and the sun. I've included 8 of my best tips to protect your blonde hair color. Also see my list of the Best Products for Hair Color.
How to Prep Hair for the Salon Visit or At-Home Dye JobThe healthier your hair, the longer it will keep its color. To prepare hair for coloring, slather on a deep conditioning treatment like Kérastase Paris Réflection Chroma Reflect Radiance-Enhancing Masque 4-5 days before. The strands will be less porous and will lock in dye better.
It is less damaging to go from light to dark then from dark to light, so if your hair is brittle or super dry, reconsider getting your hair colored until your hair becomes healthier.
Blonde Hair and the Older WomanThe common assumption is that hair should get lighter with age. This is why you see so many older blonde women -- blonde hair tends to cover gray very well. But not all women look good with blonde hair. If your complexion isn't suited to blonde, consider a multi-tonal color instead. You can dye your hair dark with caramel or auburn highlights, for example.
Cover gray with a permanant cream color or ask your stylist to add in some lowlights (these don't require much upkeep).
Consider Your Brows
I love the contrast of my naturally dark brows with my lighter highlights, but women who have super dark brows may consider lightening them up a bit. Don't do this yourself, however. Ask your stylist to lighten your brows. Remember never to match your brows to your new hair color, the best bet is to match the color to your darkest highlight or the base color underneath.
Hot Trends in Hair Color
Colorists at the hottest salons have all sorts of amazing tricks up their sleeves. Colorist Harry Josh of the John Frieda Salon in NYC gives clients model-sexy hair via "detailing." He applies several shades of wisp-thin highlights throughout hair, never getting too close to the scalp. He also lightens hair more at the bottom, where hair naturally oxidizes first. The result is a low-maintenance color that looks fresh and amazingly natural.
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