A Love Story: How I Came to Love My Hair Color After Decades of Loathing It

Nine Hour Highlights - Kim Peiffer
Photo: Sarah Balch for InStyle.com

These past few years, I have been involved in a long-term mediocre relationship—with my hair. I like it some days, I loathe it most days, and it has definitely never been a love-at-first-sight situation.

That is, until I devoted some serious time to revamping it from root to tip. It’s important to note that my hair is more Katie Holmes-brown than Karlie Kloss-blonde, so attempting to get it that perfect brass-free shade of blonde is simply no picnic. I’ve been dying it for decades, but even as someone who has spent years working in the beauty industry, I had never been able to perfect that perfect baby blonde. You know the kind I’m talking about: It’s blonde but not platinum, with a depth of coloring that strays far from solid blah, and doesn’t have a hint of brassiness throughout. Until this year, I thought my naturally brown Holmes hair was simply not capable of becoming Kloss blonde, but I was wrong. Ohhh, was I wrong.

By the sheer power of fate, I was introduced to master colorist Johnny Ramirez, co-founder of Ramirez-Tran salon in Los Angeles.

I had heard rave reviews (after all, he's colored the heads of Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Victoria Beckham) and I had also heard it’s definitely no wham-bam-thank-you-mam quickie appointment. “Plan to be here around 8 hours for your first appointment,” said a receptionist on the phone as I called to confirm my appointment this past summer. Hmm. Co-workers confirmed. “You definitely need to block off a large chunk of time in your schedule.” So I’ll need to bring several magazines, no problem, right?

I arrived at 6:30 am on a Saturday morning, piping hot Starbucks in hand, eager to transform my color. I left at 2:30 pm with baby blonde highlights and a serious hunger pan (never go for a color transformation with snacks. Lesson, learned).

Although I couldn’t believe it took an entire workday to accomplish what I used to achieve in 2 hours flat, I was hooked. Instantly. That was a year ago this month, and I still have that puppy love feeling for Ramirez and his banana peel baby lights. So why, as a commitment-phobe, am I addicted and eternally devoted to sitting in a salon all day every 8-12 weeks?

Below, a step-by-step look at what happened inside my first appointment and why it’s worth every single minute:

6:30 am: Arrive at the salon, venti soy latte in hand. I. Am. Pumped. “In between banana peel and baby blonde,” Ramirez says softly to a team of whip-smart color consultants that are buzzing around the salon, after spending some time finding out exactly what I wanted to achieve. “I want it to have that baby blonde pop.” After my consultation, the work began.

7:00 am: Highlighting begins. First, Ramirez and his team went to work on my whole head, highlighting from root to tip, then letting the color set under a dryer.

8:30 am: I am being rinsed under the shampoo bowl. Eureka, I must be done already! Oh joyous day.

9:00 am: False alarm. I am being dried with a hairdryer, but only on the front. Hmm, I must not be done.

9:15 am: Round two of highlighting begins. This time, Ramirez’s focus is in applying color to break up the roots and refresh the bottom ends, continuing towards the goal of giving me that nice baby blonde pop.

10:30 am: It’s back to the shampoo bowl for another wash. This time, I am surely done, so I imagine.

10:50 am: Wrong again. I am taken to another chair to be dried again, but meanwhile I am getting so excited about this new brass-free life of mine it almost feels like I just got there.

11:10 am: Round three begins. At this point, the foils they are adding make my entire head look like it belongs in outer space, and I start to question my logic. “We’re getting there, hang in there,” says an assistant, with a beaming smile on her face. I immediately realize I am fortunate to even be there in the first place, and I return my focus to Ramirez’s Instagram page, with is full of color #inspo.

12:00 pm: I’m starving, and I am starting to panic that I didn’t bring snacks. Serious note for the future.

12:15 pm: I’m at the shampoo bowl for what I pray is the last time, but I am far from sure about that. But then I realize they are applying toner, and the highlight portion must be over.

12:45 pm: Toner is being washed out, and after a seriously enjoyable scalp massage and a full suds-sess of my entire head, a deep conditioning treatment is applied, and I hang out for a little longer.

1:15 pm: Hair is squeaky clean, and I’m ready for a haircut. But first, I need a full blow dry. I take a seat in Buddy Porter’s chair, and melt into a state of total relaxation as he blasts warm air over my strands. With hair completely dry, he begins dusting away at my locks like Edward Scissorhands, slicing off a bare minimum (per my request) of damaged strands while still managing to make it look like I hadn’t just asphyxiated my strands for 7 hours with dye. And it worked like a charm.

“You are one of the lucky ones,” Porter says as he informs me that I’m almost finished. “You’re getting out of here early. Lucky ones? I’ve been here since before sunrise. But I bite my lip and watch as he dries my strands, giving me a first look at my new color.

2:30 pm: As Porter finishes and grabs a large-barreled iron to curl each strand to tousled perfection, I take a glance at my new lived in hair color that has made Ramirez an international sensation, as he walks over to approve the final result. “It’s good,” he says. Good? It’s great. It’s epic. It’s head-over-heels perfection. I haven’t felt this way since my high school boyfriend whittled a silver ring out of metal during his senior art class.

Nine Hour Highlights - Kim Peiffer - embed

That was a year ago (my first appointment with Johnny that is, not since my high school boyfriend), and I still have the feelings of a newlywed towards my color. It’s the blonde I’ve been trying to achieve my whole life—baby blonde, brass-free locks that make me want to run through the streets with my arms in the air and sing Taylor Swift. And now that I already have a brass-free base, it doesn't take as long at each appointment.

So in honor of Valentine’s Day, I am professing my love to my brand new blonde. Because after close to two decades of dying it, I have finally fallen in love with it. Sure, it’s no easy ride and it takes commitment, but that’s how you know it’s true love.

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