I Went Blonde For A Year: Here’s Why I Embraced My Roots Again

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Written by Emma Clarke

Updated: March 11, 2024

Like many brunettes, I had grown up idolizing blonde hair, dreaming about the day that I would eventually have golden, luscious locks.

This dream was in no small part thanks to contemporary cinema and teen magazines. From Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days to Serena van der Woodsen in Gossip Girl and pretty much every edition of Cosmo ever; there was a perceived notion that blondes had more fun – and their bubbly personalities were just an extension of their glowing tresses. Men would fall at their feet while women looked up to them in awe.

Brunettes, meanwhile, were often The Friend; a footnote to the fun.

And while I came to terms with my natural color over time, there was always a desire to go blonde at least once. So that’s what I did in 2022. 

We had just been released from yet another lockdown, and I was keen for change – a drastic makeover to make me feel more in control and less like a lump confined to one walk a day.

Going Blonde
Emma Clarke / Timeless Hairstyles

I took a picture to Alice Bardgett, master colorist at Aitch SE24, and she not only talked me through my (realistic) options, she warned me of how long the journey back to brown would be if I ever changed my mind.

Equipped with all the knowledge, I took the plunge a week later after my initial patch test. I sat in the chair for about four hours – face mask and all – as she painstakingly parted my hair into small sections and started applying the dye and foils. 

I will never forget the moment I saw my new hair for the first time. Of course, I still had a face mask on and didn’t get the full picture, but I could see enough. My hair had been transformed from a mousey and, frankly, boring brown color, to a glorious honey blonde. I was in love.

Over the months that followed, I stuck to Alice’s advice to the T, purchasing a purple shampoo and avoiding too much heat. I did notice a fair few breakages initially, but they became few and far between once I got used to the maintenance regime and stopped putting my hair in a ponytail. And the more I visited, the lighter my hair got – so much so, I forgot what my natural color was.

It was also thanks to the lengthy salon visits and need for upkeep that I got to know Alice and the salon staff more. I had never been one for chit-chat at the hairdressers, but when you’re in the hot seat for so long, there’s no choice but to overcome that fear.

She told me about her life and I told her about mine; I gave her a gift on her 30th birthday and she gave me a sweet Christmas present relating to one of our many chats. All the women now know me by name, and they honestly make me feel like royalty when I go in – and not just because it’s their job to. 

It’s why my decision to go back to my roots (quite literally) was so hard; I knew my visits would be less frequent and I wouldn’t see them as much.

But I also felt after a year and a half, I was ready to give up being blonde. It was wonderful and I loved the look, but the reality is it’s expensive and hard work – and I’m far too lazy for it to have ever been a permanent fixture.

But should you desire to go blonde, I spoke to Alice for more advice.

alice 1

Meet The Expert

Alice Bardgett is a master colorist at Aitch SE24 salon in London.

Q: How many visits to the hairdresser will your typical brunette need before they are ‘blonde’?

This is not a simple one, as a ‘typical brunette’ is hard to define. Results of lightening services vary greatly depending on your base color, hair thickness and density, as well as the natural undertones in your hair. 

Colored brunette hair is much harder to lift depending on what colors have been used previously and how many times a color has been pulled through. There’s a plethora of techniques and products we can use to help you achieve your goals, but it also all depends on your budget and time constraints, and the blonde you’re looking to achieve. 

I would recommend booking a consultation with your hairdresser to talk through all your options and come up with a plan. The most important thing is to be honest; a good colorist won’t ever judge you for having used box dyes or not having the budget to come back every 6 weeks. The more we know, the more we can come up with a solution to blend your budget, expectations and lifestyle with your blonde dreams! 

Q: Do blonde dyes have peroxide or bleach in them?

Yes. In fact, all permanent and demi-permanent hair colors contain peroxide. It’s a myth that peroxide is just a blonde thing – it’s an oxidizing agent that hair color needs to do its job. We vary the strength depending on whether we are lightening, darkening or covering white hair. This is one of the reasons box dyes have a bad rep and may not work for you – the peroxide in them is a ‘one size fits all’ and may be too strong or not strong enough for your hair.

You can get a blonde without the bleach, but only on virgin hair. Ask your stylist about high lift tints for natural less damaging blondes. 

To lighten colored hair or get a light result on darker hair, you will need bleach. Bleach is purely a lightening powder, and we mix it with different strengths of peroxides to get the desired level of lift.

Your colorist will choose the appropriate product depending on your canvas and desired look. Bleach only lightens hair to whatever undercoat is there – it isn’t a color. That’s why we need to use a toner after your bleaching service to add the final coat and desired tone. 

Q: What color techniques would you recommend for brunettes wanting to go blonde?

Going Blonde 2
Emma Clarke / Timeless Hairstyles

If you’re a low maintenance person or new to being blonde, I’d probably recommend a balayage. On natural hair you can get a beautiful golden blonde without even using bleach. It’s a great low commitment option for dipping your toe into blonde life. 

If you’re committed and want root to tip blonde, I’d say classic highlights will never go out of style. They have also changed so much from the stripes of the 90s and 2000s; every set of highlights I do is bespoke to my client. They can even be a great option for a first time grey blending service. Again, bring in inspiration pictures, talk about your lifestyle, budget and goals, and your colorist will pick the best technique for you. 

Q: Which shades of blonde suit different skin tones?

There are so many rules to this, but I honestly think everyone is different and a good colorist will help you pick a bespoke tone that’s unique to you and your features. I think there is a shade of blonde for everyone.

Q: How often will they need to get their roots done/new highlights?

For traditional highlights, we would usually say every 6-8 weeks. Balayage varies between 3 and 12 months, but you may want to pop back for a quick service in between like a toner, or a few highlights around your face to keep it fresh. You don’t always need a full or even half head. Again, don’t be afraid to book a consultation with your colorist and ask everything you need. 

An all over scalp bleach gets the best results with a regrowth application no later than 6 weeks, and sometimes a toner in between that. If you’ve left it longer, it can still be done, it’s just a longer service. 

Q: What are the best products to use when you go blonde?

I love Davines’ Heart of Glass range for a subtle hint of violet to banish brass and keep hair healthy and super shiny. Their Alchemic silver conditioner is also one of the best purple conditioners I’ve used.

Violet tones away yellow brass and blue banishes orange tones, this is because they are opposite on the color wheel. If you want to keep up a warm blonde and don’t need to tone, I’d say Davines’ Minu range for colored hair is amazing.

My favorite product for all blondes and any color really is the Unite 7 Seconds leave-in conditioner spray. It’s a heat protector, leave-in conditioner, and detangler that also protects your hair from harmful UV rays. I’d never be without it! 

Q: Is there a way to prevent breakages with blonde hair?

Avoid overlapping lightener with already lightened hair – wanting to brighten those ends every time can take its toll. A good colorist will know how far to push or not push your hair and will take a strand test if needs be. 

At home, make sure to use salon quality shampoo and conditioner – preferably sulfate and paraben-free. And always, always use heat protection, even just in the sun. 

Use a detangler spray when brushing wet hair and a dedicated detangling brush like a wet brush or tangle teaser. Hair is more elastic when wet, which can cause breakages if you are not gentle. 

Avoid extremely tight buns and ponytails, and instead opt for loose plaits or silk scrunchies, especially when sleeping. Make sure your hair is thoroughly bone dry – including any product – before using straighteners or curling tongs. Rough dry hair to 80 per cent before going in with a round brush or hot brush for a blow dry. 

Q: What should you do if you want to grow blonde dye out?

There are loads of options. A lot of balayages that are more natural are created for an easy grow-out. Talk to your colorist about adding a root drag or tap (adding in an artificial dark root to blend your blonde into your natural) and/or lowlights. You can also experiment with darker blonde toners on your grow-out journey.

Going totally back brunette is a long process that involves pre-coloring the hair with a warm copper red or gold tone before putting on the final brown shade. This helps give the brown a good undercoat to cling onto. Skipping this step can turn it greenish.

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