I’ve been a happy blonde for almost two years, now. It took a while for me to achieve blonde, in the first place. I eventually gave up on the salons after five attempts that barely produced blonde highlights. Realizing I’d risk losing my hair ~ along with the fact that my hair grows quickly, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Overall, I’m glad I did. But, come to find out, achieving blonde is one thing. Mastering how to maintain blonde hair, is quite another.
How to Maintain Blonde Hair
Prior to bleaching my hair, myself, I had watched about 100 hours of YouTube videos. Turns out, there are quite a few expert colorists that are giving a minor education in hair color, for free. My favorite, by far, is Elle Bangs. I learned so much from her videos.
The first time, I had Scott do the balayage on my head. (I know. Big risk.) I believe it was two weeks prior to Christmas, last year. (Bigger risk.) Thankfully, it turned out fine and I was officially a “blonde”. Mind you, I did all the research, prepping, mixing, etc. and told him exactly what to do. (Also, I prefer keeping darker roots, like you see below, which is why I wasn’t worried in using bleach, further away from my scalp.)
I felt quite overjoyed with our success. BUT. Little did I know, the real challenge occurred once my roots started to come in. I have some greys. Not a lot, but enough for me to notice. Grey hairs are very difficult to cover and blende in with blonde hair! I didn’t know how to continue my blonde balayage while concealing the grey, because grey hair does better with a deposit of color. (The opposite of bleaching and stripping color.)
This is when I began a lot of trial and error.
First, I attempted doing highlight foils on my virgin roots. At the salon, the pros can do highlights and darken your roots in one sitting. But, this was way beyond my abilities. Especially because I am working on my own hair and it’s hard to see and reach all the right angles.
Once, I ended up with hot roots. So, I had to go back in with dark hair dye and basically color the roots to my original color. This solved the grey hair issue, but I had removed pigmentation on my entire regrowth, for no reason.
(Have I mentioned that it’s crazy to do all of this yourself, at home? YES. It’s crazy. But, my intention is to help the relentless rebels, like myself, that are going to do it, anyway!)
Eventually, I let my roots grow in longer, and just used a semi-permanent dye to keep the greys at bay. Semi permanent color is not really bad for your hair because you are depositing color rather than stripping pigmentation with bleach. But, once they grew past a few inches, I knew it was time to use bleach again, in some form or fashion.
Recently, I tried a technique that is working well for me. It’s a lot easier, and looks more natural.
Basically, I decided to concentrate on three different horizontal sections of my hair color. They each require a different process and formula. My goal is to maintain darker roots, closest to the scalp, but with no greys. Like a level 5/6. Followed by a transition of dark blonde hair/auburn. Like a level 7. Then, a platinum, level 10 blonde, on the ends.
As you check see, my hair goes from dark brown (level 3) to a platinum blonde (level 10). That’s 7 levels of lift.
Section One – Regrowth/Roots.
My natural regrowth is a level 3 with some grays. For my roots, I’ve found that box color in a semi-permanent color, has just enough strength to cover the grey hairs that I have. I realize that the phrase, hair dye from the box, makes the pros cringe. But, I’d been using it for years, before I went blonde and never had an issue with hair damage. Some are made better than others, and I never use permanent color box dye. I like Garnier, Nutrisse Color Creme, semi-permanent colors. I can typically go a shade or two lighter than my virgin hair, because while I have a LOT of hair, each strand is thin. (The thinner your hair, the less color pigment you need.) So, I’ll use a level 5 or 6. (The higher the number the less color pigment.) Because it is a semi-permanent color, it will start to fade in about 2 months. So, by the time it grows into my next section of hair, it is typically ready to highlight. Does this make sense?
If I’m in a more professional mood, to cover the grays, I’ll use a combination of Redken color and level 20 developer (1:1 ratio) and a few drops of Gray Magic. Sometimes, I’ll mix two colors, together. (Like half level 5 and half level 6.) The goal being a nice medium brown with no grays showing.
Section Two – Level 7 highlights
For the section in the middle, I’ll start to use bleach. The method I feel most comfortable with is balayage. I basically paint on the highlights, with a brush, in vertical streaks, in order to blend it in with the rest of my hair.
I’ve used a high lift, before. That just lightened my hair, entirely. I prefer a little more dimension than that. So, now I like to paint on the lightener, vertically. My favorite formula is Schwarzkopf Professional Blond Me Powder. (I use this with the with developer, a 1:2 ratio.) I process for about 30 minutes, and this typically leaves my highlights a much lighter auburn color. Like a level 7/8. I can leave them this way, or go over them with ashy-toner. (Here is a great article about hair colors and toners.)
Section Three – My Ends
Currently, the majority of my hair is platinum blonde. A level 10. Once I achieved this color, there was no need for me to continue applying bleach. Rather, my hair requires an ash-based toner to help control the brassy undertones. (Some like brassy blonde, but I prefer that buttery ivory colored blonde.) So, every two months, I’ll use a toner with 20 developer, and brush it onto my dry hair. (Just on the ends.) After about 20 minutes, the brassy will turn to a more platinum color. My favorite products to use for toning are Redken Shades EQ Gloss I like 9V, Platinum Ice, the best. Sometimes, I’ll add in a little 9N, and/or 9T. I combine this with the Shades EQ Processing Solution. This is a 1:1 ratio.
As you can see, there is a lot involved in maintaining blonde hair. Especially if you have gray hairs coming in. If I were not a stay-at-home mommy, with free time during baby naps, I wouldn’t be doing all of this. I typically do nothing with color or bleach for at least eight weeks. So, you figure every other month, I need to do maintenance work on one or more sections of my hair. The good news is, the balayage technique is easy and quick. Not to mention, I enjoy playing hairdresser, once in a while. It breaks up the monotony of my day!
So, what about you? Do you do your own hair color? Do you use bleach? What products and techniques work best for you?