The foolproof guide to going blonde

09 Nov 2008 10:09 AM | Posted by Editor
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Fancy a fresh, glossy blonde for summer? Read the hairdressers' tips on technique and which of the hot new hues is perfect for you…

Trends come and fashions go, but vibrant, head-turning blonde is the classic signature of summer. However, the key colour of the season can also be the trickiest to pull off and because any lightening attempt has a permanent result, it’s important that you’ve got a plan.

Blonde ambition

A gorgeous blonde begins with expert advice, so drop by the salon and speak with a colourist. Not only can their professional eye help identify the perfect hue for you, they can also outline the effects achieved by different techniques and the level of maintenance required for your new look. Most salons will offer a quick consultation for free.

Once you’re ready to commit to a colour, you should make sure you and your hairdresser are on the same page. Imagine: you call the colour you covet ‘honey’ but your colourist thinks you mean 'amber' – it just tempts colour catastrophe. It’s safer to spell it out by taking a picture of the blonde you like to the salon or asking to look at colour swatches with your colourist first.

Salon techniques

Blanket, uniform lightening is dramatic, but trend-watchers suggest you opt out of singular shades and lighten up with blended blondes instead.

Ballyage is all the buzz according to celebrity hairdresser Brad Ngata. "This hand-painting application mimics the sun’s effect on natural hair – darker at the roots, gradually getting lighter toward the ends – and creates a natural shimmer. A few highlights can also be added around the face to add lift and lightness. It gives a high maintenance look on a low budget and minimal salon time is needed as the colour process is very quick. Plus there is no harsh line of regrowth.”

Fading also results in a natural, sun-kissed colour. Best on blonde or light brown hair, this technique lightens the tips, smudging colour up to the mid-lengths of your hair to create a subtle, sun-bleached effect.

A fusion of foils
in creamy, warm and cool colours creates the season’s trendy, textured look. “This gives you a shimmering variation throughout your hair,” details colourist Nastassja Fotiadis from Glow salon in Sydney. “And for something slightly more outrageous, you can opt for [wider] panels and a bolder effect.”

DIY blonding

When you’re time-poor or on a budget, lightening up at home can seem an attractive option – but one wrong move and you’ve got a dyeing disaster to deal with. If you really want to do it yourself, you’ve got to follow the rules.

Hayley Benson, senior colourist at Brad Ngata Hair Direction in Sydney, offers this advice:

Familiarise yourself with the stages of development

“If your hair is underdeveloped you’ll have a brassy yellow blonde. If overdeveloped, serious damage will occur, which can lead to the hair snapping off.

 “And don’t freak out at the orange stage of development. The hair changes through different tones and this is just a part of the lightening process.”

Use a quality product

“Cheap bleaches [may be] bulked up with chalk and talc and this makes them less effective.” Go for a brand you know or one that has been recommended by a hairdresser.

Bh product picks
L’Oreal Paris Perfect Blonde Intense, $15.95
Clairol Nice’n Easy Blondes, $12.99

Read up

“Always follow the instruction and note that each manufacturer may have different instructions. This is the key to a successful colour.”

Plot your course

“It is imperative that colour is applied evenly. If parts of your hair have layers of old colour, be aware that when lightening solutions are applied, these bands will also be enhanced, leading to an uneven result.”

Take special care

“When lightening agents are used incorrectly, damage or even burns can be suffered by the hair and skin.” That’s why it’s crucial you follow the instructions and consult a professional first.

Nastassja Fotiadis adds that dark locks need an actual bleaching agent but a semi-permanent is a good option for going blonde on blonde. “These give you a beautiful, glossy look and can vary almost any shade, taking warm, buttery blondes to cooler beige or even strawberry. However, you can’t go lighter with a semi – you can only go darker or achieve same-level enhancement.”

What if it all goes wrong?

“If your hair looks too silver or grey, try a dandruff or clarifying shampoo,” suggests Benson. “If it’s too yellow, use a violet-coloured shampoo and toner to help remove the brassiness.” But if you’ve really made a mess of it, don’t make matters worse – see a professional colourist.

Bh product picks 
Head & Shoulders Clean & Balanced Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, from $5.99
Rusk Sensories Bright Chamomile + Lavender Colour Brightening Shampoo and Conditioner, $20.95 each

Being a bottle blonde

“Going blonde is high maintenance,” warns Caterina DiBiase, reigning Australian Hairdresser of the Year. “You need to maintain your roots and cut it regularly. But most important is a colour maintenance programme. To keep your hair nice and bright, use salon-quality products blended to the exact tone of your blonde.

“You must also use a treatment at least one or two times a week – religiously. And choose a strengthening or moisturising shampoo, depending on whether your hair is thin or thick.”

Bh product picks
Matrix Shine Memory Sparkling Blonde care formulas, $23.25
Shampoos, conditioners and colour boosters tailored to warm and cool blondes
Redken Blonde Glam products, $23.95- $25
Shampoos and colour-depositing conditioners for pearly, pale, multi-tone and warm blondes
L’Oreal Professionnel Serie Expert Power Shine Blonde, $15.95
Use between colours to neutralise brassy tones
Kerastase Paris Masquintense, $50
An intense moisture infusion availabe for both fine and thick hair [colourist’s pick]
Andrew Collinge Blonde Highlight Enhancing Salon Conditioning Treatment, $3.45 (sachet)
With UV filters, lavender and moisture to keep blondes glossy and fresh

– Tracey Withers