So I recently took it upon myself to go blonde without the help of a professional.
Reasons why I did this at home:
1. Salon’s are expensive.
Depending on where you live and the salon itself, you’re looking at $150-300 right off the bat. Aveda, for instance, charges $200+ for color and full highlights. Unfortunately, I just can’t afford to blow hundreds on my hair.
2. I’ve been dying my own hair for the past 12 years.
I followed in my mother’s footsteps and began dying my hair at home when I was still in high school. After you buy the essential tools – gloves, giant bottle of developer, mixing bowl, brush, etc. – you only have to purchase the dye itself, which is $4-6 a box. It’s also insanely easy to dye your hair at home.
3. Youtube made it seem easy.
During my research phase, I watched beauty vlogger after beauty vlogger make the transition without a hitch. Seemed simple enough.
4. No one would touch my hair.
Okay, that’s not 100% true, but nearly every colorist I spoke with had reservations to the point where I finally just gave up. I’m not going to beg a stylist to do something they’re against because I understand that their branding is their livelihood, I know that they’re trying to protect my hair, and, frankly, I appreciate their honesty. So I was on my own.
5. Curiosity and a strong lack of patience.
Impatient doesn’t quite describe me. Impulsive, perhaps? I mean I did wait about a month and half after the idea popped into my head so there’s that.
For the most part though, I’ve been consistently dying my hair dark red for the last several years. Before that I got highlights every couple of months. And before that, dark red for years. I’d been blonde for a time in college as well (also pink, teal, and purple), but it didn’t feel like the same level of risk back then when I had a pixie cut.
Still, I wanted it really really bad and nobody was going to stop me! (Noble last words.)
The Process: Color Stripping, 2 Rounds of Bleach, and Toning
All of these factors gave me the confidence to move forward (kind of), but with extreme caution.
I don’t know if you remember the earlier part of this post where I said I’d been dying my hair dark red for years? Yeah. That little detail became the bane of my existence throughout most of this process.
Having gone through so many different colors before, I already knew that red was the most difficult color to get rid of, let alone go blonde from. But what really freaked me out about the idea of bleaching was the process itself. Bleaching is completely different from regular dying, and it comes with a long list of possible adverse reactions I didn’t begin to know how to fix should something go wrong, which it did.
Mostly though, I was afraid of frying my precious locks off. With my traditional red dye, I could leave it on past the recommended time with zero consequences. Bleach was a new beast.
After watching about 12 tutorials on how to go from red to platinum, I decided to strip my hair first. Yes, I know this is bad. But, that’s exactly what my colorist did when I went blonde in undergrad. Frankly, I don’t know how anything would have changed without it though. Years of red dye, y’all.
After that, it was slightly orange, and not the cool pastel-unicorn-mermaid-cerberus-madeup-creature kind or orange. That was when I knew there was no turning back. Nightmares of my brassy undergrad hair, back before I knew what toner was, immediately surfaced. Blonde, I thought. You are going to be fucking blonde.
I was not blonde.
Knowing how harsh color strippers are, I did it once more and left it alone for a few days. I wanted to wait longer, but I still had to face myself in the mirror every morning, and go to work, and see my friends, and live life – as a carrot.
Thoughts at this point:
Bleaching your hair at home is like trying to eat cereal with a fork. You can do it, but you look really fucking stupid.
One benefit though is that you can do it at your own pace. When you go to the salon most of this is done in one go. I spread that process out over the course of a month and probably kept a good amount of my hair in tact because of this. Then again, salons have specialized products for this sort of thing so…who knows?
In any case, I chugged a beer and began mixing the chemicals together using L’oreal Quick Blue Extra Strength Powder Bleach and Salon Care 20 Volume Creme Developer. After another beer, I felt brave enough to start putting it on my head.
Even though I knew that you’re supposed to start from the bottom and save your roots for last, I had a hard time breaking the years of opposite application technique. I also had some thick-haired difficulties.
My hair was slathered in coconut oil from the night before to protect it during this process. Unfortunately, it caused my hair to become chunky. Every time I thought a tiny lock was slathered, I separated it again and again only to reveal more untouched hair – like babushka dolls but with fugly-colored follicles.
Due to the thickness of my hair, it took forever to go through all of it. I also had to stop and mix more bleach, not once, not twice, but three freaking times.
I realized during this ordeal that it would have been a two man job at the salon. I’m the kind of person they charge extra because it takes double the amount of product, time, and man power. And timing is everything with bleach.
Finally, I got through it and covered my roots. Not even 10 minutes later I noticed my hair was much lighter…maybe too light, and my roots? So much lighter than the rest of my hair. Unsure of what the hell was going on up top, I scrambled into the shower and washed it out.
When I emerged to look in the mirror, I couldn’t tell much besides the fact that my hair was wet and the roots were blonde. At least some part of me is blonde, I thought. Cut to dry(ish) hair an hour later: Still orange. OMG WHYYYYY.
Okay, it was less orange though, so I was making some progress. I was pleased to see that my hair wasn’t damaged either. A few days later I threw on some Wella Color Charm Permanent Liquid Hair Toner in T-18, which further counteracted the brassiness.
This is the part where I tell you that doing research for a month isn’t the same as being a licensed cosmetologist. Those motherfuckers are chemists. This. Is. Science. And I suck at science.
It was a week and half before the image of my own creamsicle hair disturbed me enough to bleach it again. I felt braver this time so I left it on slightly past the recommended time. As expected, it was less orange. But when I toned it a few days later, I finally looked like a blonde. Whoa.
What Happened Next:
After the second bleaching and toning, my hair was noticeably different in terms of texture, moisture, durability, elasticity, and overall health. Lesson: better to under-bleach than over-bleach.
2. Uneven coloring.
Because of the aformentioned thickness debacle, one side is darker than the other.
3. I stopped believing Youtube.
I don’t know if I ever actually believed any of those tutorials so much as I wanted them to be true. Something I noticed after all of this though, is that every single one of these successful vloggers has thin, fine hair.
Even though I haven’t bleached it since, my hair didn’t recover the way I thought it would. I became concerned recently after losing way above average amounts of hair over the last two months. Ended up spending around $80 on 3 products, but the difference is noticeable. My hair has stop shedding at an alarming rate. Luckily, I started out with about three people’s worth of hair.
1. Be real about your capabilities.
Most people can easily achieve their desired look at home if they have some experience already and if they’re going from a natural hair color to blonde. Again, red is the most difficult color to get rid of so don’t be rash. Frying most of your hair off isn’t worth it. Go to a pro if have any doubts.
2. Pay more for products that work.
In the end, I had to buy expensive products to save my hair from all of that damage, but they work really well. I went to Ulta and picked up two giant bottles of Redkin’s All Soft Shampoo and Conditioner. I also bought It’s a Ten Miracle Leave-In with keratin. Being cheap and all, I nearly had a heart attack at the register when the leave-in conditioner came out to $40! But I was desperate. And holy crap this stuff WORKS! I’ve only used it once and my hair has stopped breaking off, and it feels super soft.
3. Live life as a carrot if you can stand it.
The transition color is awkward, but the more you spread out the bleaching, the less damage your hair will receive.