Platinum blonde hair is immensely popular, and for good reason: it possesses a glowing sheen and beautiful brightness rare to find in other hair colors. Spotted on stars from Ariana Grande to Solange Knowles, its soft, silvery hue is subtle yet simultaneously statement-making.
But beneath all its lustre exists some oft-overlooked things that must be taken into account when scheduling that appointment or picking up that box of dye. Check out our list of ten things to consider before taking the plunge and going blonde (and, along the way, read about my journey to becoming platinum blonde—all the way from jet black.)
1. There is a difference between a salon visit and an at-home attempt. It is strongly, strongly recommended that you visit a salon whose stylists are well-versed in the process of going blonde. The low cost of a tub of bleach from your local beauty shop may be tempting. But the pricier salon—and the trained professional with access to high-quality products—is worth it. The chemicals present in hair products are nothing to play around with at home, and when it comes to having hydrogen peroxide on your scalp, it really is best to have a certified stylist handling the situation.
My Side of the Story: I bleached my jet-black hair at home in March, enticed by the idea of white hair for less than $20. The mistake left me with bright orange hair, which I was able to tame to yellow with shampoo—but the majority of the damage had already been done. I was left with a limp mess of hair that, when wet, was gummy and stretchy, and, when dry, was brittle enough to liken to uncooked noodles. I ended up going to a local salon to fix my hair, a trip that, because of necessary corrections, was much costlier than it would have been to just go to the professional from the beginning.
Repeat after me: No matter how cheap the at-home bleach is, there’s a very high price to pay—literally—for irreversibly damaged hair. Color corrections are not cheap.
2. The process is quite complex. Don’t let simple WikiHow tutorials and YouTube videos deceive you! There is so much more to this than quickly slathering your scalp in dye.
Typically, the process entails lifting color from the hair using a mixture of bleach and developer. The developer will be of a certain volume—the higher the volume, the faster the chemical penetrates the hair. Different types of hair will require different volumes; what brings a light brunette to blonde will barely cause black hair to budge, for instance. The bleach will be left to sit on your hair for a certain period of time. After it’s been sufficiently lightened, the hair is washed, dried, and readied for the toner.
Toner works on the principles of color wheel opposites. For example, newly-bleached yellow hair is often treated with a purple toner because purple, being yellow’s opposite on the color wheel, effectively cancels the brassy hue.
My Side of the Story: I didn’t even use a toner when I bleached my hair at home; I just left it in an orangey state and added a box dye on top of it. Bad idea.
When I visited the salon around May, they re-bleached all of my hair to bring it back to a ‘clean slate.’ They then added a toner to counteract my naturally orange shade, and this brought me up to a nice white.
3. The current health and strength of your hair is extremely important. Will it withstand the harshness of bleaching? When dealing with hair that has been damaged through excessive heat or product use, or hair that was recently bleached, caution must be taken. The ‘blonding’ routine is a grueling one, and weak hair will not survive it.
Damage aside, however, your natural hair strength must also be taken into account. Some hair types are sturdier or thicker than others, making them less susceptible to bleach damage. This sounds like a blessing, but it can also just make it more difficult to lift hair to the desired color.
My Side of the Story: I had very healthy hair before I bleached it at home, having never been a frequent user of heat or anything of the like. After I bleached it, it became fragile and unhealthy—but even at its worst (as described in #1), it was still more healthy than many other people’s. It didn’t fall out much, and, despite the gumminess, there was less breakage than expected. This is mostly due to the fact that I have thick, strong Asian hair. When I went to the salon, the stylists told me that the only reason I was able to mess around with bleach and experience little consequence was because my hair was naturally very hardy.
4. The current natural color of your hair will determine how long it takes you to reach your desired shade. Lightening dark hair to white in one sitting can cause irreparable damage to your hair, since you are putting it under extreme stress in a short amount of time. Such stress can be minimized through multiple visits—very dark hair usually needs to be lightened through a series of trips (up to five!) to the salon. Each trip, your hair will be lightened in ‘baby step’ installments. Fairer-haired individuals may not require so many visits, but it is still advised that you make multiple trips to avoid damage. Better safe than sorry!
My Side of the Story: The self-coloring was already a huge mistake, but to make matters worse, I did it all in one sitting. As previously mentioned, I only got away with this because my hair is naturally strong.
At my correction appointment, my hair was bleached and toned all in one sitting. Again, this is a rare case that is totally not recommended.
5. Even if you do everything right, your hair is still going to feel unhealthy… Even if you spread your visits out, the damaging properties of bleach are still there—at the end of the day, it’s a pretty harmful thing.
Your hair may feel dry and stringy. It’ll be in its most fragile state when it’s wet—DO NOT handle your newly-platinum hair after showers! Wet bleached hair is mushy and will feel tangled. DO NOT try to brush through these ‘tangles’—you’ll end up pulling out clumps of hair.
My Side of the Story: Everything I just said comes from personal experience. After showers, I’d try to brush my hair and would get frustrated that it felt impossible to de-knot—but when I forced the brush through my locks, I pulled back huge masses of my hair. Don’t brush after showers. Just don’t.
6. ...but there are protective treatment options. Olaplex is a hair treatment offered by many salons that repairs damage. It reattaches the disulfide bonds present in hair to mend breakage, and results in shinier, healthier tresses. Although an upcharge, it is said to be very worth the cost.
My Side of the Story: Though it has been recommended to me many, many times, I have never used Olaplex. If I had, it would have saved me from literally every hair-related problem I have at the moment.
7. Platinum is not cheap. You’ve definitely concluded this by now, but YEAH.
Prices vary from place to place, but bringing virgin hair up to blonde will usually cost upwards of $120. However, this hefty amount can be split up across several sessions.
My Side of the Story: I spent $20 to do my hair at home, then close to $180 to get it corrected. Yikes.
8. Upkeep is not cheap, either. This is, I think, one of the most important things to remember: platinum blonde is a commitment. Depending on how fast your roots grow out, you will need root touch-ups every four to eight weeks to cover regrowth with new bleach. One monthly root retouch can run from $40-80. So, make sure to ask yourself: Am I ready to have to get this redone every month?
My Side of the Story: I got sick of upkeep. I just scheduled an appointment to transition out of blonde because the monthly root touch-up is harsh on 1. My bank account and 2. My scalp.
9. And it demands a free schedule. Platinum blonde requires a good chunk of time to attain—the initial appointments will take a long time, and spreading the bleach process out over a series of visits promises many days in the salon chair.
If you’re planning on repeat touch-ups to maintain your color, you can plan on spending plenty of afternoons with your hairstylist.
My Side of the Story: My transition from botched and brassy to platinum took five hours. Like, went in at four and left at nine.
10. Think about how you will transition out. All good things must come to an end! When you want to go back to a darker color, though, keep in mind that you can’t simply put a color on top of the blonde. Bleach-treated hair takes and reacts to dye in a different way than non-bleached hair. For this reason, darker color may sometimes not ‘stick’ to bleached blonde hair, and it could take several tries to transition.
My Side of the Story: I’m so excited to get my balayage done—I’m getting my blonde dyed down to caramel brown and then blending my black roots so they can grow out nicely. We’ll see how it holds up!
Platinum blonde is trendy and beautiful, but there’s a wealth of things to consider before making the change. Have you gone blonde in the past? Are you thinking about switching it up? Tell us below!
Alyson Zetta Williams