During summer of 2017, I started experimenting with hair color in a major way. I kissed my natural jet black hue goodbye in favorite of experimental shades like rosé, violet, navy and my all-time favorite, platinum blonde. Those of you who are familiar with process of hair dyeing are aware that taking your hair from dark to light—think almost white—is no joke and best left to professionals.
“Almost everyone can go platinum, but keep in mind the darker and thicker the hair, the more difficult it is to lighten,” explains Clairol Color director and owner of James Corbett Studio in NYC, James Corbett, who has dyed my hair in the past, along with Debbie Gibson, Christina Hendricks, Lindsey Vonn. “Bleaching means transitioning the hair out of its natural acid status and pushing it all the way to the alkaline scale to open the cuticle. This allows the bleach to remove pigment and thus lighten hair to get to platinum.” File under, not that gentle.
Beyond the challenges of lifting the color, there are also a few hard-fast key points to keep in mind before you take the plunge. Here’s a cheat sheet of seven things to remember when it comes to making your white-blonde hair last and stay “relatively” healthy.
Set Realistic Expectations
Colorists determine hair color on a numerical scale from 1 to 10, with “level” 1 representing black and “level” 10 representing the lightest blonde. In theory, all these hair colors can achieve platinum blonde. However, according to Vice President of Technical Design and Education at Madison Reed, David Stanko, the more drastic your transformation the longer it takes, the more money it costs, the greater the damage to the hair and the faster your roots will become obvious.
“You’ll notice that even with all her money and access to professionals, even Kim Kardashian did not keep her hair long and blonde for very long.” In general, going from black or dark brown or medium brown (levels 1 to 4), to white blonde is doable but very tricky. “Going from level 5 to platinum blonde is much easier,” he adds.
Bleaching Will Alter Your Texture
By design, hair bleach opens the hair cuticle which protects the hair shaft and “swells” the shaft to lighten or remove the color (aka melanin) that lies inside. “This causes the hair to swell (puff up) dry out, become brittle, porous more susceptible to damage and lose elasticity,” explains Corbett.
Curly girls should be even more cautious, according to Redken Brand Ambassador and celebrity colorist at Mare Salon, Cassondra Kaeding (who works with Rita Ora, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Olivia Munn and Olivia Culpo). if you have very curly hair, bleach can affect the curl pattern. “You could potentially lose up to 50% of your curl,” she warns.
Take It Easy On Your Scalp Pre-Appointment
As it the case with most chemical treatments, bleaching can cause severe scalp irritation. Corbett advises clients to come in with “dirty hair” and avoid washing or brushing the hair three days prior to their appointment.
According to Stanko, limiting cleansing allows the natural oils to accumulate on your scalp and create a barrier or protective layer that can help minimize irritation from bleach. “Also, don’t work out before your appointment—perspiring can also stimulate the scalp,” he adds.
Plan On Spending Hours at The Salon
Unlike traditional hair color, which is “set it and forget it,” lightening hair with bleach has no exact timing—so you can’t just set a timer. “The most important aspect of bleaching is to follow the manufacturer’s directions precisely – in particular, note the recommended processing time,” adds Stanko. “It’s not unusual for a bleaching session to take 7 to 8 hours over a two-day period.”
While everyone’s hair is different Kaeding reminds us that the darker the starting level of hair, the more time is needed to lift. “I usually give clients a range from 3-6 hours for their first appointment but always recommend returning for a second appointment to fine tune the color,” she explains.“This also helps preserve the hair integrity—also make sure your colorist is using a bonder in the bleach formula.
”While some stylists like to add head to speed up the process, Corbett is a believer in a “slow and steady method” since it can accelerate the development process putting both the hair and scalp at risk.
Space Out Touch-Ups
Even with shorter strands like mine, you can’t over process your hair without excessive damage, according to Corbett, touch-ups should only be every month or month-and-a-half. “The hair needs to be close to the root so the heat from the scalp helps assist in the lightening process and get the color past the unwanted brassy and yellow stages,” he explains.
On the other hand, don’t wait too long in between appointments, according to Stanko if you wait any longer than a month “the regrowth forces the bleach to work too hard. The results could be platinum at the roots with gold banding at the line of demarcation.” File that under #notcute.
Get Ready To Shampoo And Style Less
Platinum locks’ number one need is moisture. So, go as long as you can between shampooing to allow natural oils to generate—especially after a fresh bleach job when the scalp needs time to calm down. Don’t forget to deep condition your hair once a week (my favorites include Joico Blonde Life Brightening Masque, PHYTOELIXIR Intense Nutrition Mask and DevaCurl Melt Into Moisture Matcha Butter Conditioning Mask.
Another caveat? Overstyling with hear tools. “The lightning has already caused some dryness to the hair, and excessive heat exposure can cause more dryness or damage,” add Kaeding. “I’d recommend at least a day in between heat tool use.”
One Shade Does Not Fit All
The magical thing about platinum blonde is that it is a very strong look, ranging from fun, funky fashion to old Hollywood glamour. However, you should use your skin tone as a guide for what will look best. “[For example] if your complexion has yellow or orange in it, you should stay with a sandy blond,” explains Stanko. “It’s what you pick and where you put it, meaning that if you have a yellow/orange complexion and have brassy or orange highlights against your face, it won’t look good.”