I did it! I finally did it. After a month of contemplating WTF to do to my hair, deciding to go blonde, preparing myself for the transition to light hair, and once again asking for advice on which blonde to do, it actually happened! Sam Escobar is officially a blonde lady–but not in a way even I had anticipated.
Yesterday after work, I showed up at Hairroin Salon for my appointment with Artistic Director Luis Payne. The salon is a beautiful space with vertical black and white stripes on the walls, funky decor, and a mix of industrial and vintage decor elements. I was initially intimidated by how cool everyone on the staff looks–people with really nice hair are intimidating, what can I say?–but within less than 30 seconds, I was welcomed by the owner Janine Jarman (who started the salon when she was 24, which is amazing) and felt totally at ease.
First came the consultation. Rather than doing a quick “so what do you want?” spiel and then just going for it, Luis examined my hair at length. He asked me which products I use, what I have done to it over the past several years, what looks I liked, which ones I felt would work best for me. After I showed him the pale, neutral blonde I really loved, he made a few things very clear:
- There will be lots of upkeep. Since my hair grows rather quickly, I will likely need to get my roots touched up every four weeks.
- I will live in products. I’ll need to do a deep conditioning masque at least once per week, protect my hair, and replenish moisture that has been removed so it won’t look sad or stringy. If I want it to be a pretty, healthy blonde, I need to make sure I’m actually taking care of it properly.
- My makeup and wardrobe will change. When you alter your hair, it changes your whole look and therefore pushes you to switch up the shades of lipstick you typically wear, the colors you look good in, and what styles you wear.
While he knew I was doing this partially for a story and had dedicated my mind to the idea of a big change, he also explained that it’s important for stylists to discuss transformations like these at length with their clients in order to ensure it’s not just a spontaneous (and potentially regrettable) reaction to a major life event. You should want the change for yourself, not for somebody who didn’t like your last hairstyle.
A little over two years ago, after graduating college, I went to a salon and had my blue hair turned into brown. It took several hours and lots of cringing (I really, really liked having blue hair but wanted to “get a real job”), but when it was done, I actually enjoyed having brown hair again! I wound up letting it grow out, so since then, my natural hair color had grown down to approximately my chin. As a result, it was possible for Luis to lift my naturally light/medium brown hair to a pale blonde.
However, the parts that had been bleached, dyed and basically torn apart by years and years of coloring were less inclined to change, which Luis informed me right off the bat. Here are a few “before” photos as references.
It was so long! But so many inches of that long hair were just wrecked by the bleach I had inflicted upon it when I was still DIYing my blue hair without fully understanding how to bleach my own hair.
He asked me how short I was willing to go; I said somewhere between my chin and my shoulders, which would make the whole look I was going for much more possible. He picked up his shears and a few minutes later, I had short hair!
Luis did a test strip on my hair to see how much the color could be lifted from root to tip. As he had guessed, the bottom portion wouldn’t budge past a brassy blonde, so he started consulting me on a new idea that I hadn’t even thought of: going pale blonde with violet ends. It solved a number of issues: I didn’t want a golden blonde shade, I didn’t want to cut my hair shorter, and it made the whole thing more multidimensional.
Note: This is exactly why you should go to a truly experienced professional when making a big change. First of all, Luis spent a ton of time determining the best style for my hair that would also allow the integrity to remain intact (whereas some stylists might have just made me a pale blonde without questioning how it would affect my strands in the long run). Second, he brought concepts to the table that I hadn’t thought of, but wound up loving. Just as with a makeup artist, musician, or writer, when you do something all day every day, you simply have a wider breadth of knowledge to work with in formulating new ideas. Long story short: find a pro for this kind o’ stuff.
After we decided on blonde and violet, Hairroin’s wonderful assistant Dutch Foy applied a protective cream to my hairline, ears, and neck (that smelled surprisingly good). Luis sectioned my hair and began applying a powder bleach to my hair.
Click to the next page to see the rest of the bleaching process and the end result!
Luis meticulously applied bleach to the majority of my hair, being certain to keep it even and cover every strand, but left approximately 1/8″ at my roots. He explained that this is because your head gives off a considerable amount of heat which reacts to the bleach, making it develop more quickly. (He also told me that the reason so many people have horror stories of getting chemical burns from stylists turning them blonde is because if you rush the process or apply a ton of bleach then pop a client under the hot drier for 30 minutes, it can be absolutely awful for their hair and skin.)
After about 15 minutes, he applied a cream bleach to my roots. Another 15 minutes later and even with the plastic cap on, I could tell my hair was getting super blonde.
Luis and Dutch walked me over to the sinks. My hair was rinsed out and then washed with a moisturizing shampoo–something Luis told me I will have to use from now on. They then applied toner to my head, which felt the way I imagine pouring menthol through somebody’s hair feels. It was very, very tingly (Luis asked me if I “felt alive,” which is a pretty good description considering I was suddenly so awake despite it being 9:30 PM at that point).
The toner was rinsed out, then Dutch applied a pH balancer in order to fortify my hair and help rebuild its strength after all the processes had taken quite a bit out of it. That was rinsed, then another toner was applied and again rinsed out.
Luis applied some beautiful violet shades to my ends that wouldn’t lift as well as the top portion of my hair. After that, Dutch applied a conditioner to my hair (which smelled delightful) and rinsed it out. I have never had my hair rinsed out so many times, and as somebody who enjoys other people playing with her hair, it was actually pretty rad.
We went back to Luis’ station, where he added a nice oil into my hair. He dried it, then cut a little bit more hair off to make sure everything was just the way I liked it. And voila!
GUYS LOOK. IT IS SO SHORT AND LIGHT AND VIOLET AND I LOVE IT. And one of the best parts is that my hair actually still feels totally soft and manageable, even more so than it was brown. I’ll have to be very careful with it and maintain it properly, but it is still my hair–just lighter. I love it.
Here’s a photo I just took that lets you see it a little better in the sun.
My favorite thing about it is that it was slightly out of my comfort zone, but still totally within the boundaries of what I wanted to do with my hair. I wanted blonde, which is what I got, but I also did something completely different and new for myself that made me wake up this morning and feel really stoked to see it again.
BUT! Just a note: We’re still actually working on this! I am going into the salon on Monday to do a little bit more tweaking with Luis because he is a perfectionist (but it was like 10:30 PM by the time we finished last night, so we couldn’t keep going). So while this is definitely the big transformation, there may be a few more photos to come…
If you’re interested in checking out Hairroin Salon, visit its website!