The Rules of Navigating Blonde Highlights on Brown Hair
Eager to unleash those blonde ambitions?
When you're starting with a brunette base, the process can be slightly more involved, but usually results in a stunning Jessica Alba-esque effect. They're a great way to add dimension to a rich tone, and depending on how warm you choose to go, can almost give your skin a sun-kissed filter. Blonde highlights are certainly not the type you should be winging at home, however, and can require more upkeep, so we've put together a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know before booking your salon appointment.
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Consult Your Stylist
Taking a naturally dark hue lighter requires skill, so even if you're experienced in the at-home hair color realm, you'll want to see your stylist to ensure all goes according to plan. Some at-home systems don't lift hair color quite as well as in-salon formulas, resulting in a dry, brassy appearance, and techniques like balayage can be tricky to work with in the privacy of your own bathroom mirror. Bring in a photo of your desired effect, and have an honest conversation with your stylist on whether this can be achieved in one appointment, or will require multiple visits. If you have a pretty dark base and are looking to add a lot of blonde highlights, lifting the color the right amount may require two or more appointments, or one ultra-long session in the salon chair, as the process must be done slowly to impart minimal damage. Additionally, your stylist will be able to determine whether warm or cool-toned highlights are best for your complexion. Caramel highlights are a nice baby-step into the category, for those who don't want to veer too far from their natural hue, whereas cool, ash-toned highlights provide a more distinct graduation in color.
Invest in Proper After-Care
Though the highlights may seem perfect immediately after leaving the salon, you'll need to switch up your routine slightly in order to keep them from shifting toward the orange end of the spectrum. Naturally dark hair can take on a red or orange tint when it gets lifted, which gets removed and toned in the process done by your stylist, but factors like sun and water could cause the shade to oxidize back toward that unwanted tone. Think back to your days in art class—blue and purple are on the opposite end of the color wheel from orange and yellow, and will neutralize the tones. Invest in a purple or blue-tinted shampoo like Joico's Color Balance ($16; ulta.com), and incorporate a once-weekly color-reviving gloss into your lineup. We love Rita Hazan's Breaking Brass Ultimate Shine Gloss ($26; sephora.com).
Rethink Your Styling Approach
Got any amber-tinted hair oils in your arsenal? Colorist Heather Cie advises tossing them for a clear formula. "Any orange oils that you put on your hair will turn your hair orange, for both blondes and brunettes," she tells us. "Clear and translucent oils are the way to go. Since it comes out clear, you know it won't alter your hair color." Additionally, you may want to consider heat styling a little less than you normally do, as excess heat can cause your hair shaft to open, and in turn, fade the color faster. You'll also want to invest in a product that shields your highlights against UV rays to avoid bleaching them out, like Rita Hazan's Lock + Block Protective Spray ($26; ritahazan.com). In addition to blocking out the sun, the mist can also double as a medium-hold hairspray.