A few years ago I watched a TED talk with Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert about the concept of the “future self.” The phenomenon, and the research behind it, suggests that we think of ourselves in the future as a stranger, someone whose needs and desires get overshadowed by the whims of the present you, which is why we do things like choose the fleeting excitement of a night out over the lasting benefits of a less pleasurable run. On another level, that’s also why we do things like cut our own bangs or bleach our own hair—because even though we don’t know how to cut our own bangs or how to do ombré hair, we can’t really grasp how those not-always-great decisions will affect us in the long-term.
That’s exactly how one ends up in the bathroom with a bottle of peroxide powder and some activator, wondering what could possibly go wrong. (Everything. Everything could go wrong.) The downside of bleaching your own hair is that, if you don’t know what you’re doing, the result will more than likely disappoint your future self, with damage, brassiness, and breakage galore. But if going the DIY-ombré-hair route still appeals to you, at least heed some much-needed advice from the pros.
Here, L’Oréal Paris celebrity colorist Kari Hill passes on her three top tips to ensure that the D in DIY doesn’t end up standing for disaster.
“Keep in mind your starting level,” says Hill. If you’re beginning with super-dark hair, it’s just not going to lift to the pale, beachy shade a natural blonde would get. “Take advantage of what you have,” she says, rather than trying to create a dramatic change that will look totally unnatural.
Read the Directions
“The side of the box doesn’t lie, and there are teams dedicated to writing and perfecting the directions and before-and-after pictures,” Hill says. “Have realistic expectations and take the process slow—and be prepared and lay out all your supplies in advance. You’ll need a timer, dark towels, and section clips.”
Follow Through on Maintenance
The process doesn’t end at just achieving the color—you’ve got to keep it well-maintained, too. “Make sure to use conditioner post-color,” Hill says, “because lightening hair can dry it out a little.” Always keep purple shampoo on hand to fight brassiness: Hill loves L’Oréal EverPure Blonde Brass Banisher Shampoo ($6.99; at Ulta), a sulfate-free formula that tones hair while hydrating, too.
And if your future self needs a little inspiration for keeping the look fresh and well-maintained, look to these 15 cool-girl-approved ways to keep ombré hair on the up and up.