One fateful day last June, I woke up and made a decision that would forever change my life. I was going blonde.
I had been telling myself I’d go blonde for years now, but I was too broke and too nervous. Finally, I decided – fuck it. The worst-case scenario would be that I go broke, my hair falls out, and the world ends, but luckily none of those things happened. Instead, four processes later, I was left with the best beauty decision I’ve ever made, and lessons learned about myself and life along the way.
Stage 1: Popping my bleach cherry.
As a blonde first-timer, I was extremely nervous. Would the color clash with my skin complexion? Would the damage from the bleach be potentially unfixable? Would my roots look disastrous within a week? Also, I did NOT want to look like an Asian car import model, and that was a dangerously fine line. I relayed these fears to my hairstylist, who took my concerns to heart to come up with a good game plan.
We went with a double process. He dyed my hair light brown, then started highlighting with tons of bleach in extremely thin layers of my hair to get it as light as possible. As he finished and began to blow drying it out, I waited. This was the moment of truth, the moment I took my Nerdy Lainey glasses off and shook out my hair to be Hot Lainey a la “She’s All That.”
Well, it actually took another week for the color to cool down slightly and another set of highlights for that stubborn bottom half of my hair, but by God, he had done it. I was a golden, multidimensional, summer-ready beachy blonde, and I felt fantastic. Not only was my hair brighter and sunnier, so was my outlook on life.
Lesson learned: Take that risk you’ve been mulling on for far too long. If I had any regrets about going blonde, it’s only that I didn’t do it sooner.
Stage 2: The regrowth.
I had dreaded this moment, but it actually was not as terrible as I had feared. As my stylist predicted, the double process made my growth less harsh and more blended for a sort of extreme ombre look. By now I had grown confident as a blonde, felt a little bolder, and was ready to go just a little brighter. My hairstylist decided a double process wasn’t necessary, so this time we did a second round of all-over highlights – it would both cover up enough of the roots and brighten the rest of my hair. The result? Even better than the first time.
Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid of what’s to come. I feared the root growth so much, but I actually thought it gave my hair a bit of edge and fixing it was painless. Now I was growing increasingly obsessed, until…
Stage 3: The second round of regrowth.
Another three months had passed and this time my regrowth looked very bad. Skipping the double process was not ideal, because now that my roots were much longer, the contrast was way more obvious. I had no idea what to do, but my stylist suggested another set of highlights. I trusted this would work because I loved how my hair looked after my second appointment, but it didn’t eliminate enough of my dark roots, and consequently looked very streaky. I wrestled with just returning to my boring ol’ brown hair again but fortunately, after hearing my disappointments, my stylist agreed to do another round on my roots a week later. With no more dark hair peeking through it, I felt much better, though I was pretty sure my stylist hated me.
Lesson learned: Always ask for what you want. Do not give up and go back to brown. It’s not worth it. Life is not worth it if you are not blonde. Okay maybe not that last one, but also, maybe that last note is everything.
Stage 4: By this fourth visit, I had accepted that I would probably be blonde forever. Take all my money, salons!
Now I wanted to be a little ashier and a little less gold. But I tried a new salon and can only blame myself, because not only was this new stylist not familiar with my previous processes, but the formula they were using on my hair was different and henceforth my hair took the color in differently. After my first wash, I was left with white roots and bluish-grey streaks. That clearly didn’t work, so she put a different toner in that looked great in the salon, but then extremely brassy when I got home. Feeling guilty about going back, I researched toning it myself. I applied two parts of 20 developers with one part of ash blonde toner and left it in for 15 minutes. Now all the brassiness was gone, but my hair was left too dull and grey. I’ve been purple shampooing it out since, but I’m still in the process of getting it exactly how I want. The past few days have been tough – I’ve yearned for the days of my golden locks, but I know I can’t give up now. That ashy look is my new goal and I’m determined to accomplish it.
Lesson learned: Not every risk pays off, but the battle is what makes the reward that much sweeter.
So what’s my takeaway from these past nine months? Being blonde is a journey, not a destination. Don’t give up at the first sign of struggle, because you’ve worked too hard in your blonde life to stop short now. There are highs and lows, but accomplishing your hair goals is always worth it. I’m no expert, but there’s one thing I’m sure of: this was a good fucking choice. Hair is everything.
Makeup Expert & Manicurists, Contributing Editor
Jessica is a writer who feels it is a job requirement to own every shade of nail polish. She thinks any bad day can be improved by a trip to Sephora–provided there aren’t 10 people giving themselves makeovers, in front of the new lipsticks.