I am so excited to share my blonde hair story with you today. What a journey it has been! I have gained so much knowledge and experience over the past 4 years of being blonde and I have been eager to share. But it’s daunting, because there is so.much. I am not a professional colorist, but I bet you I could be certified after all of the experience and hours upon hours of research on hair color, specifically blonde color.
The above photo is what my hair looks like now. I am finally HAPPY with my hair color. If you’ve been reading my blog or following me on social media for awhile, you may know that I have considered going back to the dark side after being incredibly frustrated with my hair color as a blonde. Hair is something that certainly impacts our confidence, and mine was seriously suffering for a long time as stupid as that might sound.
I hope to save some of you unhappiness with your color (I wouldn’t wish YEARS of unhappiness with your color on anyone), and some tips to going blonde and maintaining your color. Let’s start with the ugliest my hair has probably EVER looked. I didn’t want to go outside, I felt so unattractive.
Breaking the base: DON’T DO IT! Just take this photo as a lesson, especially if you have naturally dark hair.
First things first, what is base breaking? Here is a handy diagram of exactly what base breaking is and what it can look like.
When I first started to go blonde, it was a slow process. I had caramel colored highlights woven in to my natural medium brown hair. I wanted more, more, more, so my colorist at the time said it would be best to break my base to lift my hair to achieve a brighter look. You’d think that I’d learned my lesson after having this done once, but no. The first couple of times my base was broken (it’s a color treatment that removes color from your hair to reveal its underlying shade, which is orange for brunettes and yellow for blondes). The first time, my hair was orange with platinum highlights running through. The second time, it lifted to yellow. The above photo of me was after the second base break. My colorist assured me that we’d get my hair to my desired shade of platinum (which is what I wanted at the time), but I have come to discover that if you want platinum hair, you need to go SLOW. No base breaking. Just simply adding highlights upon highlights upon highlights each time. You have to be patient.
I was mortified to go anywhere with the yellow hair. My hair has always been an important part of my identity. I have naturally thick, curly hair that is not easy to manage, but I love that I can style it in so many ways. With the banana yellow color, I was just uninspired to do anything with my hair styling wise and wore it in a bun almost everyday until I went to a new colorist.
I have been to 7 colorists over the course of 4 years. Part of this is due to the fact that I have very high expectations, even in the in-between stages, and because technique, style, and knowledge is important to me in a colorist. I would always say that I do not want any hint of orange or yellow in my hair. I knew that getting rid of all of that yellow and orange from the base breaking would take time, but I wanted it gone as soon and as quickly as possible.
And so I had lowlights added to my hair to counteract the yellow and add some dimension.
What happens when lowlights fade? They warm up and turn orange. I did not know this before experiencing it.
The next plan of action was to continue to eliminate that yellow and orange, but not add any more lowlights. At this time, glosses and smudging/color melting was just starting to become super popular. I liked the look, and wanted to abandon the idea of going all-over platinum. All I wanted was a cool blonde with no warmth. Why was it so hard to achieve this?!
I had darker/ashy glosses applied to my roots to “smudge”/darken the root and to melt the blonde highlights in seamlessly, so that the color didn’t look stripe-y. Think balayage, but in reverse. I loved the way this looked for the first few days.
My hair after getting blonde highlights and then a gloss to melt and add depth:
Glosses are designed to fade and completely go away, but on me, they fade from a beautiful ash brown to orange after a few washes. I’d had glosses applied to my hair for almost two years between a few different colorists who all thought this was the best route for me.
After the gloss fades:
Almost everytime I’d had my hair done and hated it or wasn’t as happy, or after the gloss faded time and time again, I flirted with the possibility of going back to brown. I was so tempted. My family thought (and still thinks) that I am crazy and wasted so much time, emotional energy, and money on hair that I hated. But I knew that I could have the blonde hair that I wanted.
I perused Pinterest and identified exactly what I wanted: cool blonde hair with a bit of my natural color showing through, mostly at the root. I wanted baby-lights (very thin highlights) around my root/face, with full on blonde at the ends. This way, there is no artificial darkness via permanent or semi permanent lowlights, and no glosses that claim to just completely go away. Just old school bleach-blonde color, toner, and my natural color showing through. But it is ALL about the technique.
I had lost faith in going to a colorist as I discovered what I wanted. The blonde journey had been so exhausting (OMG, how dramatic do I sound?!) and I was fearful of not being understood by another colorist. I did hours upon hours of research on so many techniques, trying to figure out if there were brands of glosses that did not fade, what toner would be best, and so on. I seriously considered coloring my hair myself, because I found the exact technique and formula that I wanted. However, I am still scarred from completely wrecking my hair with color when I was a teenager that I had the better sense not too touch my hair even with my gained knowledge and experience.
I have been going to the same person for about 6 months now, and I can finally say that I am happy. I totally micro-managed her the first time, but we are on the same page regarding the plan for my hair. What I get now is very closely packed in baby-lights in foils, and balayge foiled blonde pieces in the mid to end sections of my hair to cover the brassy bits left over from the years of base breaking, lowlights, and glosses that are growing out. I like working with my natural color instead of against it, and having it show through, especially at the roots. Yes, there are baby-lights at the roots, but those give a blended, seamless look to the rest of my hair.
My biggest tips for those who are blonde and unhappy or who want to go blonde:
+ Do not have your base broken if you have naturally dark hair. Even if the colorist suggests and recommends it – this has happened to me, and I’ve let it happen, trusting the colorist, only to be disappointed each and every time. It is a fast-track route to going blonde if you have darker hair.
+ Enter at your own risk with glosses. Glosses can be seen ALL over Pinterest and Instagram if you read the most popular colorists’ ‘recipes’. Redken Shades EQ is one of the most popular, but they are all the same when it comes to the chemical breakdown as they fade in dark hair.
+ Work with your natural hair color. Even if you have dark hair, you can have very light blonde hair. It just takes time with repeated, packed-in highlights and good technique.
My hair color is still a work in progress, but I hope that with this post, I can help inspire and save some hair drama for at least one person!
What a fantastic post. I am just as ‘dramatic’ about my hair. You are very kind to write this and try and save others from all this blond highlight heartache! Your colour looks absolutely STUNNING now. What a beautiful shade of blonde 😍☺
All Gussied Up says
Thank you so much for reading! I completely forgot about this post until I saw your comment! But this is all still so true. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who is just dramatic when it comes to color. I now have darker hair but I’m slowly going a little lighter 😉
I’ve been struggling for years with my hair! I’ve spent so much time and money and my hair looks brassy!!! I just spent $200 and was told we can go lighter each time. I’m 45 so I also need root touch ups for grays (ugh) I have well water but recently bought a new water conditioner system and a shower filter…no help! I’m so upset!
Thanks for sharing. I can relate to everything you said. I’ve had a similar experience with a colorist breaking the base. It’s terrible and turns warm every time. Currently experiencing warm low lights as well. Ughhh.