Blonde Rule No. 1: Watch Your Tone
Blonde hair is not a one-shade-fits-all deal. Even if you don't think you could pull off blonde tresses, you probably can—it's just about finding the hue for you, "Generally, if you have pale eyes that are blue or green, you'll be better suited to cooler tones, and if you have a warmer complexion with hazel or brown eyes, you're suited to a warmer, buttery blonde," says Gion Vincent, hair care brand Joico's expert colorist.
"Knowing the distinct tone you want can be helpful for your colorist."
If you want your blonde to look natural, go with the temperature that complements your eye color. But if you want to pull off a more dramatic effect, don't be afraid to take things in the opposite direction—an icy platinum can look striking with dark eyes, and a caramel blonde can add some warmth to green eyes.
Blonde Rule No. 2: Get Realistic About Processing Time
Going blonde is an event, so go into your hair salon knowing that you will be there for several hours. "The farther away your natural color is from the color you want to go and the more coarse your hair is, the longer the processing time will be," says Vincent. If you're diving into the realm of bleach for the first time, consult with your colorist to see how much time you'll need to make your hair transformation. If you've dyed your hair in the past, do a strand test beforehand to see exactly how your color lifts to avoid anything unexpected.
New technology can help speed up the process while maintaining the integrity of your hair.
If your hair is dark brown or black, it might take a few bleach sessions to get your hair to a light enough level to go platinum, but new technology can help speed up the process while maintaining the integrity of your hair. "Joico's Blond Life Lightener, available at select salons, contains monoi and tamanu oil in it, which keep your hair soft and strong, while also speeding up the lightening process," says Vincent.
Blonde Rule No. 3: Be *Overly* Descriptive
It might be easiest to share a photo with your colorist to indicate exactly how you want your blonde to look, but a little extra communication will also help ensure you get the look you're chasing after. "It's important to think of lighting in a photo, which can change the color," says Vincent. "So, knowing the distinct tone you want can be helpful for your colorist. You can also explain how bright you want your blonde to be and how much dimension you want it to have—an all-over, double process blonde is more dramatic, and a highlighted blonde looks more natural."
Blonde Rule No. 4: Condition Before You Bleach
Bleach weakens the keratin bonds in your hair, making it more prone to breakage and thinning, so after going blonde, it's crucial to keep your hair nourished with the help of a weekly hair mask. But strengthening your hair before going blonde is also critical. "Conditioning your hair before lightening it is very important," says Vincent. "The stronger your hair is leading up to the appointment, the more you can do with it." Dream of getting the perfect highlights before summer? Start deep conditioning now.
Nourishing Mask by Amika, $28, sephora.com.
Strand Strengthening Reconstructive Moisture Mask by Kristin Ess, $14, target.com.
Blonde Life Brightening Masque by Joico, $16, loxabeauty.com.
Blonde Rule No. 5: Never Underestimate a Haircut
When changing your hair, it's important to not just focus on its color—a cut can also take blonde hair to the next level. "The right haircut will help maximize the impact of a major color change," says Vincent. Opt for a blunt cut instead of wispy layers for a subtle change that doesn't require you to sacrifice many inches—or finally take the plunge and get that pixie cut you've dreamed of for years. If you're being bold, why not be really bold?
Blonde Rule No. 6: Try Something Different
A basic ash blonde or honey blonde will always be classic, but Vincent points to nuanced platinums as the latest development in blondes. "The trend is moving towards bright blonde with cool tones: violet, ash, and taupe," he says. "Blush blonde is becoming really popular, too, and we'll see a lot more blondes with tints in the future."