Choosing to go blonde, why or why not?

One of the many blonding services that I provide at the Queen Shop Hair Salon in West Toronto. Getting hair lighter is my thing!

There are so many hair colours out there in the world, but as a hairstylist, I know what the most common natural hair colours out there are. Most people are naturally dark haired….black or brown. A small percentage of the population is red haired, and dirty blonde…but even fewer are are the light blonde. So let’s talk about the idea of being “blonde”. What does that mean and what does that entail?

Blonde hair in western culture has been the conventional beauty standard for decades, mostly for females. While dark hair has it’s beauty moments, such as it’s mainstream normalcy in Asian culture, or in alternative goth emo sub culture; in general though, very light hair has been most unquestionably desirable. Which goes to explain why highlights and balayage are my bread and butter service. But I digress. What does being “blonde” exude? I’d say it’s a feeling of freedom, passion, carefreeness, poise, softness and uber femininity that other hair colours are not as readily associated with; it’s not to say that dark hair doesn’t convey beauty,. But it’s a more cerebral beauty. It’s more mysterious and fleeting. In terms blatant obvious beauty, blonde hair does it in one go.

Famous Blondes:

Elle Woods from “legally Blonde” is a prime example in how her appearance changed the way people treated her. Elle had to fight to be taken seriously in law school, to been seen as “smart”. She had a depth of knowledge in the area of fashion and make-up, but it was not deemed as a strength that was worthy of respect. Marilyn Monroe, an icon of blondeness was mostly revered for her sex appeal, and countless interpretations of her life story shows how she had been, in a way, a victim of her fame. Having started out as a pin up model, Marilyn was often overly sexualized. Madonna, Gwen Stefani…represent the other side of blonde beauty. They took to it as a way to express and embody ambition. They are strong and determined and have a voice, a direction. They were artists.

Image from Legally Blonde, 20th Century Fox, 2001.
This image released by Netflix shows Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe in “Blonde.” (Netflix via AP)
“I’m just as girl” a song lyric made famous by the Singer of No Doubt, Gwen Stefani.

Things to consider before going blonde

  1. Different hair gets different degrees of damage when going blonde. Very fine hair breaks easily when lightened, and dark coarse hair can also break easily because of the amount of lightning strength needed to lift it so many levels. It’s important to proceed with caution.
  2. Blonde hair requires more maintenance to keep it looking good. But ironically, once hair has been lightened, any additional chemical services on it also makes hair risk breakage. Lightened hair needs more moisture as it’s lost some of it’s ability to retain it. And it needs time to recover from being lightened.
  3. Going blonde as a way to cover grey hair is one of the best reasons in my opinion to go blonde. Instead of monthly visits to the salon, blonde foils make the greys look like highlights, or at least less noticeable. And the visits to the salon for colour can be stretched to 4 to 6 months.
  4. Going blonde just for “fun” is not fun, in my opinion. Because of the commitment needed to upkeep it and the potential damage it causes to healthy hair, it’s just not worth it for a temporary kick from having a change of colour. It’s also expensive and time consuming to do, and not everyone looks better with lighter hair.
  5. There is the danger of blonde addiction. After a while of being blonde, the colour sometimes looks dull for some reason and there is an urge to add more highlights, to keep going blonder. It happens because we get used to being blonde and don’t see how light we actually are. And the down side of that can be an over processed and unbalanced platinum mess. So beware of that!

What are the joys and pitfalls of any hair colour? I’m sure its all very personal to each of us. And as long as we wear the colour we feel the most “us” in, nothing can go wrong. But let’s be nice to our hair, even if we are not planning to grow it past our shoulders, hair should always be encouraged to let it do it’s own thing.

Different blonde “me’s” I always have fun being blonde and will keep this colour for a while. It suits me, no?

To be or not to be…(blonde, that is)

Over the years I’ve sported many hair colours. As a naturally dark haired Asian woman, I’ve always been fascinated by any hair colour other than black since anything other color was always tricky to acquire. It required chemicals like ammonia and peroxide to lift my dark hair so that other colours could be seen. And even then, black hair generally lifts to a horrendous reddish orange; not an easy colour to cover up. Black hair is beautiful, shiny and deep, but for the me, the desire of having a colour of something else less ordinary was constantly in my mind.

In highschool, it was boxed dyes and over the counter concoctions of brown hair that I aimed for. But the results from boxed dye were barely noticeable, yet rendered my black hair a little bit more fried and red looking,. It wasn’t until much later on in my life that I dared to play with bleach lightener on my hair and take a dabble in “toning”, a part of being blonde. But I felt I always had to go back to black. It was hard to constantly be a different colour. I did have a phase where I sported more fantasy colors like a purple, by lifting my black hair and then adding a sheer purple color on. Over the years I have written many articles about changing hair colours, but it wasn’t until I went to hair college and learned professionally how to lighten hair, that I really dared to go all blonde and stay this way. I now am pretty much permanently sporting a light blonde all over hair colour and touching up my roots every couple of months or so.

Some links to past posts I did about hair colour (I really did like to play around a lot)

I do like being blonde. The saying blondes have more fun may be true…but aesthetically speaking, I feel it suits my pale skin tone and compliments my small eyes, and small face by not being too striking in darkness to compete for attention. Blonde hair has a way of fading away into the background and letting face make-up have a say. Also, I love the way lighter hair can support more delicate shades of colour that on darker hair would be unnoticed. For example silver blonde looks much different than sunny blonde but it is just a few tones clicks away on the scale. Also being blonde and Asian is very unique and lets me escape the mundanity of standard black hair that I was born into. Despite blonde hair being an uber sexualized hair colour in culture, there is power in embracing this beauty ideal when in an attempt to break the negative stereo types that come with it. Blondes are not dumb. I actually feel very smart and accomplished when light haired. It gives me a reason to speak up and project the way I wish to be perceived. I want to express that women are more than the sum of their parts; i.e. the colour of their hair or skin. We should be defined by our character and actions, much more so than our physical appearance. Having control over how one is physically perceived is very powerful because of the freedom of choice it presents.

This is how I maintain a blonde colour at home (I went to hair college, so I don’t actually recommend others to play with lightener):

My roots have grown in. Bleeck. I don’t mind this look, but any longer than an inch of dark hair looks too unkept for me!!! Time to touch up my base.
I don’t recommend doing this at home, but I’m a professional, so it’s ok! It is tricky not overlapping previously lightened hair, especially at the back, which is why I experience breakage from time to time. I have to carefully apply lightener on my base twice to lift it to yellow.
Not done yet. My roots are lifted to my max level, but it’s the wrong tone. Don’t that shade of banana! My next step is toning. I like to wait a few days to let my hair rest. Then I apply a demi permanent hair colour in an ash base to get rid of the warmth. I boost the toning power by adding a violet dye to the forumula! It’s complicated to colour correct properly, so again, leave this to the professionals.
Tada! All done. This photo is actually taken a few shampoos after toning, so some of the excess color has washed off. I like to over tone my blonde hair so that as it washes out, the colour stays even…I think my blonde colour is like a silvery beige. I really like how soft and natural it is. Like maybe I was born with it!

What is brassiness in hair?

Okay so in the hair coloring world, this term is thrown around a lot, and it is often seen as a villain in hair color. Yes, we want rich brunettes, cool blondes, and vibrant reds, but brassiness? No, we avoid the color like the plague. But what is brassiness? How do we identify it? How do we get rid of it? These are all questions that used to boggle my mind until I went to hair school and got a deeper education in hair color. Brassiness is not really a color in my opinion.

To me, brassiness is actually the tones that are left behind when hair is absent of it’s cool pigments. It is the leftover color of hair that lightener doesn’t lift. For darker hair, that leftover is red/orange (unless more than 4 levels of lift is achieved), and for lighter hair the leftover pigment is orange/yellow. That leftover color (true “brassiness”) looks bad because it’s not an actual hair color, but a hair color under construction. The right color must be placed on top of it.

Brassiness often appears in hair that not lifted enough to support a lighter color, and too much warmth shows through the color. Another scenario is when toner (a hair color tint) used to correct yellowish blonde hair doesn’t take or washes out. And as a general rule even permanent hair dyes eventually wash out exposing brassy color in the hair

In the end, I don’t think brassiness is the enemy of hair color, but it’s the con of chemically lightning and coloring hair. Artificial colors will eventually fade and change due to the daily environment (sun, wind, shampoo, chlorine)…and fighting this change in hair color has become unfortunately routineĀ  It’s with re-coloring faded color as a solution. It’s what hair colorists are here for and why as a business, there will always be repeat customers…I think it’s fine price to pay for our preferred hair color, as long as we give our hair a rest between color treatments.

I lightened myself to a level eight to try and support a pinky color… But even at a light level the leftover warmth shows through a bit making the color more of a peach. But I still like it! (not brassy because it’s wanted)