Blond Ambition: Everything You Need to Know About Going Platinum for the First Time

Before and after going platinum blonde.

Before and after!

If there’s a questionable thing a human can do to their hair, I’ve probably done it, and probably to myself. Pixie cut? Bad electroclash mullet? Blue? Purple? Been there, done all of it. I’ve been doing terrible things to my hair since I was 12 years old, and old habits dye (sorry) hard. Among my recent mediocre decisions was bleaching my own hair two years ago, which, while technically possible, is not exactly a great idea. I wouldn’t call the color I achieved “platinum” (it was more like Kim Kardashian yellow) and at least a third of my hair broke off or fell out. It was frizzy and brittle when dry, and chewing-gum stretchy in a really unnatural way when wet. I got the whole mess chopped off into a bob and resolved to grow it out and not dye my hair with anything damaging for over a year. 

Lesson learned: Kids, there are some things you shouldn’t try at home. So when I started feeling the itch to go platinum blonde, I knew I’d have to turn to the pros. I entrusted my hair to the amazing Aura Friedman at Sally Hershberger, the colorist behind Soo Joo Park‘s and Sky Ferreira‘s career-changing blond hair and who also counts Lady Gaga and M.I.A. among her clients.

I showed up at the salon with dirty hair (always a good idea before a color process since that can really dry your scalp out) early on a Friday morning, ready for my big transformation. My hair was mid-back length, more than half “virgin” (read: undyed), but with the tips still bleached from my previous disasters. I’d also gotten a partial foil (highlights) about a year ago to blend the harsh bleach line a little bit. I’d been tinting the lighter parts with various shades of Manic Panic, a non-damaging vegetable dye, so much of my hair was still a bit pink. 

Aura explained that going platinum requires what’s called a double process. Hair is lifted (bleached) first and then a gloss or toner is added to neutralize yellow and/or add color back in. (Apparently back in the day, all hair color used to involve bleaching first — yikes! Now it’s only required for super-light tones.) She also explained that I’d be in for a pretty long day. Anyone who is thinking of going platinum should know that it’s a difficult, time-consuming process that requires frequent upkeep and special care. I said I was totally fine with that, and settled in while she mixed the products.

The process of going platinum blonde in a salon

Definitely a good look, right?

Aura had some concerns about breakage, so she had to carefully avoid my previously lightened hair since bleach over bleach is a big no-no. Apparently, the heat from your scalp makes bleach and hair dye process more quickly, so she started with the mid-shaft, protecting my scalp with cotton, before going in to finish the roots about 15 minutes later. I looked like a science experiment. My hair is naturally light brown and lifts easily, so this part didn’t take long, but this can be a more involved process if your hair is darker. She washed the bleach out in stages to make sure the color was even, and then slathered my head in Olaplex.

Olaplex is some sort of magical chemical that actually repairs the broken bonds in your hair — science, y’all! It’s a three-part process: An additive for the color, a salon treatment and a take-home hair perfector. I sat with the Olaplex in my hair for, like, two hours. At tFS, we have extolled its many virtues before, but let me jump ahead a few hours in my hair journey and tell you — that stuff WORKS. The texture of my formerly-virgin hair when I left the salon was nearly identical to when I walked in. Maybe a bit more dry, but it still felt smooth and strong.

The next step was a gloss — that’s the stuff you use to neutralize and color the now-bleached hair, remember? (The Olaplex also helps stabilize the porosity of the hair, so color deposits more evenly.) The ends of my hair were pretty stubbornly pink, so rather than damage them further by stripping that color, Aura adjusted the tone of the gloss she used, so that it would help blend them in. She used an ashy tone at the roots to cancel out any yellow, and included a peachy champagne tone to soften the pink, creating the faintest cotton candy ombre.  

Platinum Blonde Hair

What can I say? I was excited.

Even with Olaplex, platinum still requires a little extra care. I was sent home with strict instructions as to how to wash and condition my hair — more on that in a post to come! Aura styled my hair with Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Oil and Sally Hershberger’s Keratin Rx Spray, and sent me on my way.

After nearly five hours at the salon, I was in LOVE with my new hair. In the time it took me to hail a cab back to tFS HQ, two separate women stopped me in the street to compliment the color, and I couldn’t stop snapping selfies in the car. I still can’t believe how healthy my hair still feels, and how dimensional the color looks. Sure, it was a long process and will require a lot of maintenance, but SO worth it.  

The only downside? An immediate uptick in getting catcalled “Hey Blondie!” But getting called “Blondie” while walking down the Bowery is how Debbie Harry named her band, and if one has to get catcalled, it may as well remind me that I have something in common with one of my style icons.

Me at far right, and three friends. One of these things is not like the other...

Myself at far right, and three friends. One of these things is not like the other…