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How to Go Blonde: Tips From an Expert

Going blonde can be a long, expensive, damaging and potentially traumatizing process. It is not something you want to walk into without doing your homework first, otherwise an Aunt Jemima-style head wrap will become your signature accessory. So, for expert advice, I spoke with Kyle White, the lead colorist at Oscar Blandi Salon, who has created golden styles for Mariah Carey and Megan Hilty.

Whether you want highlights or a whole head of blonde, read on for everything you need to know, and then click through to shop Kyle's recommended products.

Lucky:  What steps do you take in order to transform a client from a brunette to a platinum blonde? How can a client avoid serious damage to her hair?

Kyle White: Transforming a client from brunette to platinum blonde is not just tough on the hair, but it can be tough psychologically as well. In order to keep hair healthy and avoid shocking your friends and neighbors, I always advise doing a gradual change.

To keep hair healthiest, I would advise going no more than two or three shades lighter at each sitting and do deep conditioning treatment between appointments. At most, I would say that it will require about three appointments and not only will the hair be in great shape, but you'll have time to adjust emotionally.

The strength of the product needed will depend on how dark the brunette shade is. Single process high lift blondes are capable of achieving five levels of lift. If more lift is needed, an on-the-scalp oil bleach will need to be used. Regardless of which option I'm going for, these are strong chemicals and there are a few key preparations that I advise my clients to do.

Do not wash your hair for at least 48 hours before the color application. This will allow for the scalp's natural oils to protect the hair from damage, and your head from stinging, burning and in extreme cases possible scalp lesions. Do a deep conditioning treatment during your last washing to help with moisture lost during the bleaching process. Take a Benadryl thirty minutes before the appointment to help with possible reactions to the chemicals.

Lucky: What are your recommendations for someone with dark hair who wants subtle blonde highlights?

KW: The key factors to successful subtle blonde highlights on dark hair include the size of the highlights, the lightness of the highlights and the placement of the highlights. The thickest and brightest pieces should be on the hairline around the frame of the face, and then they should gradually regress out in size and level of lightness toward the crown. This is exactly how hair would highlight naturally in the sun, with lightness just on the top of the head and not solid blonde. The shade of blonde you choose should be determined by the darkness of your natural color.

Lucky: How does one know what shade of blonde is right for her?

KW: Your blonde hair should never be the same color as your skin. You always want contrast between your hair color and your skin, otherwise you'll look washed out. The most important factor to consider when choosing any hair color is skin tone, following by eye color, and finally time of year and lifestyle.

The most beautiful blondes are multi-tonal. To achieve a blonde hue that other women lust over, add dimension with highlights and lowlights. This will also create depth and contrast between your hair color and skin tone, to ensure that you don't look washed out. Light skinned, light eyed girls will look more natural with lighter shades of blonde. At the same time, women with dark skin and eyes look best with darker blonde shades.

If you have a lot of pink in your skin, you should avoid warmth in your blonde. It will make you look flushed in the same way that wearing a red shirt would. You should opt for cool tones like sandy blondes, and beige blondes.

If you have an olive skin tone you want to opt for golden blonde tones that will bring warmth to your face, and make your skin appear less green. Try buttery blondes, honey and strawberry.

If your skin tone is neutral and has no pink or green, you can go for either warm or cool blonde hues.

Lucky: Once blonde, what are the best products to use for maintaining the color?

KW: Maintenance is key. Below are a few tips to help maintain blonde hair color.

  • The foundation for every hair care routine is a good shampoo and conditioner that is specially formulated for color treated hair, with low sulfates and high moisturizing elements. Be sure to use one! I love the Oscar Blandi Jasmine shampoo and conditioner.
  • If using heat styling tools, be sure to use a thermal protector like Infusium 23 that is also a leave-in treatment with protein and vitamins.
  • The sun fades paint jobs on cars and the cushions on patio furniture, and it does the same to hair color. You should use a sunblock for your hair like Kerastase Soleil Voile Protecteur every time you wash, even in the winter. If you're going to be in direct sunlight, like at the beach for example, add extra protection by covering your head with a hat or scarf.
  • Salt water and chlorine will not only fry your hair, but will also turn blonde locks into orange straw. Fill the cuticle of your hair with an oil that contains SPF like Phytoplage so that the chlorinated water isn¹t absorbed. Rinse your hair with fresh water from a hose or shower as soonas you get out of the water, and then reapply the oil and put your hat back on.
  • Healthy hair holds color better, so do a deep conditioning treatment once a week such as the Oribe Hair Care Masque for Beautiful Color.
  • Cut back on frequent shampooing. Your scalp's natural oils are Mother Nature¹s deep conditioner. Try using a dry shampoo like the Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Shampoo. Dry shampoos not only work, but will save your color, your blowout and the health of your hair.
  • As with everything else, healthy hair starts from the inside out. Try taking a hair vitamin like Biotin, or a supplement like Viviscal which has a whole system that you can follow. Phyto also makes a supplement called Phytophanere which is a complex containing biotin, fish oil and more!
  • Color enhancing shampoos, conditioners and at-home glosses, like the L¹Oreal Artec line, are great products when used properly. They can be used to add warmth, remove brassy tones, and much more. Be sure to get direction from your colorist beforehand. I've seen scary things happen when a blonde plays with color enhancing products on her own. Don't self medicate, ask the expert first.

Lucky: Can you recommend any at-home blonde hair color?

KW: L'Oreal makes the best at-home blonde hair color. The Garnier blondes are great when covering grey. For bold results in one step, nothing beats L'Oreal's Feria Bleach Blonding.

"Healthy hair holds color better, so do a deep conditioning treatment once a week such as the Oribe Hair Care Masque for Beautiful Color."

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