Blonde Fireworks

How blonde can you go? Well, let’s talk about it.

I have had a shocking wakeup to the world outside of hair school. I did go to what is often nicknamed “the Harvard of hair,” consequently setting my expectations unreasonably high for what I would discover outside the cocoon of Sassoon Academy. But still, I had no idea that I would enter a world of exploding cuticles like it’s the Fourth of July. It seems hairdressers in Los Angeles don’t mind blowing up hair to make someone blonde in one day, regardless of whether the hair resembles something horses eat in a barn afterwards. There is a simple answer to why bleach bombs happen everyday and in some of the most notable salons; clients pay a lot to be blonde.

Like most students, I couldn’t wait to get out of hair school and hit the salon world. I felt towards the end of my education, like I was clocking into Azkaban every morning; dementors, black clothing, and rules roamed the halls of the academy. As an artist, being boxed into rules and structure for ten months really starts to get to you. Artists have a notorious habit for breaking rules, conventions, and even ideology. But here’s the thing, rules cannot be broken without learning them first.

I didn’t realize that what I was studying, was information many hairdressers never learn. I did not realize that formulating color with consideration for multiple variables including underlying pigment, porosity, natural depth, and previous services wouldn’t be the norm once I got out of school. I have a newfound appreciation for the sacred rules Sassoon taught me; rules that maintain the integrity of my client’s hair and allow me to say a magical word that most hairdressers are scared to say – “NO.”

The skinny on bleach:

Hair that undergoes lightener, AKA bleach, will always end up more damaged. Always. It’s not a mystery to why lightened hair tends to be dryer, less shiny, and prone to breakage. Bleach does one thing; it eats pigment. Actually, it does two things; it eats pigment and texture. Have you ever had highlights and noticed that your hair doesn’t have the same natural wave or curl pattern to it? That’s because it was lunch. This doesn’t mean that bleach should never be used. It isn’t necessarily the devil if used properly, responsibly, and with patience. Bleach can add beautiful effects to brighten up a look, but slow and steady wins the race.

A few recommendations to go by:

  1. The slower the processing time the better. Blowing up your cuticle like it’s World War III might get you to the lightness you want, but you’ll get a free haircut in the process. Chemical cuts really don’t look great on anyone.
  2. Low-volume peroxides. This goes with the same idea of patience. The lower the volume, the more likely you can coax the cuticle open gently. It will then be less damaged, enabling it to close back up. This way, a toner or gloss will actually last longer.
  3. Do it in steps. Taking more than one visit to your hairdresser may be the best plan of action, especially if you are going from a much darker base. Make a plan of how to get there instead of trying to do it all in one sitting. Your hair will thank you…and not break.
  4. Use color when possible. You can actually lighten hair using color with the appropriate peroxide and formula. Some of the most beautiful highlights I have ever created have been with color. However, if a colorist is inexperienced, bleaching out the pigment so that a blank canvas can be worked on to deposit the color they want is much easier than formulating based on the pigments living in the present hair color. Sometimes bleach is the answer, but other times it’s just an easy shortcut.
  5. Find a good hairdresser. Make sure you are on the same page and that your priority, regardless of the look you want, is the health and integrity of your hair. Ask your hairdresser to be honest with you. They will probably love that you are patient in seeing the results you want, while still keeping your hair happy. If they claim that you can go from dark brown to a light blonde in one day, either run for the hills or be ready to pay a lot of money for toners that refuse to stay in your damaged hair.

If you are reading this thinking, “my hair has already been blown to smithereens so now what do I do?”, stay tuned for my next post. Help is on the way!



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