What Going Blond Really Does to Your Hair
Photo: Laurent Darmon/Trunk Archive
One could argue that every summer is the summer of blond, but this summer’s particularly bright, thanks to a slew of women, from Maggie Gyllenhaal to Lauren Conrad, going platinum. Gone are beachy highlights and faded ombré in favor of white-blond hair that looks cool—and causes serious damage. But exactly how much damage is what I wanted to know. The scoop, below.
“Going blond is always going to take time and it is something you never want to rush,” says Ian Michael Black, Aveda’s global artistic director for hair color. “Clients who have dark hair will receive a process known as ‘double process blond.’” An initial bleaching product removes the hair’s natural pigment to slowly lighten the hair and once the desired level of lightness is achieved, a toner is applied to refine the color and create the desired tone of blond.
Obviously, going platinum is easier if you’re already blond; there’s a good chance you can get by with a one-step process. “A high-lift color is applied to the hair that creates lift and tone in one application,” says Black. But what about a medium-to-dark brunette? For starters, don’t try this at home. L’Oreal Professionnel Color Ambassador Jason Backe says, “Even going to a novice hairdresser when it comes to a process like this can be a bit dangerous, because it takes a very deliberate application and a conscious eye to know when to stop the processing.” You’ll also want someone to be honest with you. “It’s up to the hairdresser to advise alternatives, especially if your hair won’t actually do what you want without risk of severe damage,” cautions Backe. “Sometimes, people have really unrealistic expectations of what their hair can do, and you don’t want to give the client something that’s going to totally wreck their hair.” Wherever you go, ask if they have an ammonia-free version, which causes less damage while still getting the job done.
Right. So, damage…let’s talk about what that really means. When you color your hair, use too many hot tools, or wear it up all the time, you’re actually damaging its structure, which results in dry, brittle hair. Think of how powerful bleach is around the house or in your laundry now imagine that on your hair. It’s why women with platinum locks invest in super hydrating masks and specialty shampoos—and still have dry hair (which, to be honest, can sometimes result in awesome texture). Going to a qualified colorist can help minimize that damage. “Hair that’s overlightened has the texture of wet spaghetti,” says Backe. “It’s really mushy, and it starts to stretch and stretch and then it snaps off. A colorist with less experience won’t know what to look for.”
Another smart way to fend off damage? Go into the process with healthy hair. Work a product like Aveda’s Damage Remedy Intensive Restructuring Treatment ($35) into your weekly routine, and stay away from styling tools in the month leading up to your appointment.
Before you book that appointment, consider the price tag and time commitment. Coloring your hair is never an inexpensive endeavor, but when you add on double-or triple-process color, and monthly root touchups (because you’ll need to go to the hairdresser every three to four weeks), you’re talking a lot of time and money. Once you commit to that, you need the right products to support your newly traumatized hair. “A shampoo and deep conditioner for damaged hair are advised,” says Black. “Use products that are protein-based versus simply moisture-based; the protein will help restore condition and strength to the hair.” Black advocates using Aveda Damage Remedy Restructuring Shampoo ($9) and Damage Remedy Restructuring Conditioner ($28), as well as a good leave-in conditioner, to prevent putting less stress on the hair during combing. Backe is a fan of Kerastase Fusio-Dose in-salon treatments for treating and replenishing color-treated hair. The good news? You can get away with shampooing about once a week, so that makes up for some of that time and money.