Bangs, fringe, breakage — whatever you call it, it'll fit in some butterfly clips.
After months of hemming and hawing and hyping myself up, I
am now a blonde.
I know I’m, like, the last xoVainer to jump on the blondwagon
but believe you me, it’s not for lack of trying. After seeing photos of Soo Joo
Park a few months ago, rocking platinum hair that strangely looked magical
yet natural, I thought “I can do?” Annie even put me in touch with Soo
Joo’s colorist (who also blonded Annie), but ultimately, she was not the one to
do the job.
“It’ll take a few hours, “ she advised, booking me for a
A few was an understatement, perhaps. It took NINE HOURS, you
guys. If you want to go from “black as the night” to “white as a ghost” in one
session, you can pretty much clear your schedule. Also, bring painkillers. And
Now, I wasn’t all that afraid that the bleach would
disintegrate my hair and I’d leave the salon bald, considering I was in the
hands of professionals who have gilded the heads of famous people
(and famous people are generally way more finicky about their appearance than
me). I had come to terms with the fact that there would be some breakage. I
have a thick head of hair so I’ve got plenty of backups. I accepted the definitive likelihood of my ends (especially the bits that had some perm
left in them from about 15 months ago) would be unsalvageable.
I was casually
warned that the root-bleaching process would sting--oh so casually, like a
sunburn or a chemical peel. Since I was advised to not wash my hair for a few
days before my appointment and to put coconut oil in my hair and scalp to
protect from the chemicals, I came to class prepared, over-achieving to the
point that Zoe had her assistant “lightly” shampoo some of the oil out for fear
that the bleach wouldn’t be able to penetrate through it (I really doused it
on). Not my shield, noooooooo!
After blow-drying my freshly shampooed hair, Zoe wheeled her
cart of bleach behind me and sectioned off my hair.
“Well, here goes. No
turning back now,” she remarked as she dashed the first glop of bleach on my
hair. She systematically painted each section with bleach, separating them with
little cotton rolls and then wrapping plastic wrap over the whole thing.
“We do the roots last, since the heat from your scalp
processes the chemical quicker than the rest of your hair,” she told me. How
Since I have SUCH a full head of hair, I’d wager there were maybe three
dozen little cotton pillows on my head, buttressing the bleach-soaked strands,
making me feel like my head weighed 20 more pounds. It takes a deliberate will and
strength to hold up your own head, suddenly made heavy by the same substance
that is emitting fumes which, in turn, are making me doubly light-headed. Beauty
This first process took about four hours to complete. I
watched my cling-wrapped hair go from black, to copper, to orange, to yellow,
to yellow, to yellow, to flaxen, all under purple goop. Cool.
I was grateful
when I could be rinsed, regaining my normal levity. I sat back in the shampoo
seat, suddenly freaked out when Zoe’s assistant flopped a side section of my
hair over the lip of the sink next to my face and it was SO LIGHT. Like damn, I had no idea it was even possible. I took a finger and pet it. It had a strangely soft slug-like texture.
I felt a little
itchy sensation from the bleach that touched my earlobe, which was barely
bothersome. Such a faraway omen of what was to come next with the DOUBLE
You can bleach dark hair and get it light, but in order to
avoid that amateur yellow, brassy tinge, you’ve got to tone it. Hence, the
double process. Once my hair was twice again blow-dried (literally cringing at
all the abuse my hair is taking today--heat styling followed by chemical
treatment, followed by more heat), I could notice all the spots where my hair
didn’t take to the bleach as much; there were yellow spots in the mid-shaft,
presumably drier parts that absorbed and held onto the coconut oil more than
the other parts. Zoe made sure to point this out to me. Whoops.
“It’s fine, that’s why we go over it twice—to cover all the
areas that didn’t lift as well. Also to do the roots,” she told me, diving in
for round two.
OK, you guys, let me level with you. I like to think that
I’m a pretty pain-tolerant person and can suck it up like any 12-year-old kid
who gets bullied in front of the girl he likes (which, as The Wonder Years have
taught me, is the highest of stakes). I can take vaccinations like a champ. I
can stub my toe in front of a child and bite my tongue. But nobody told me that
bleach on scalp equals TOTAL BURNINATION.
It was fine at first, feeling
slightly warm and tingly. And then about 10 minutes in, the tingle became an
itching, and the itching became a searing, and I was pretty much chanting
“BEAUTY IS PAIN AND PAIN IS BEAUTY” not unlike that part in The Matrix when Neo
is all, “There is no spoon.” The spoon is my scalp on fire. THERE IS NO SCALP
It certainly didn’t help that I had forgotten to eat barely anything
before my appointment and had only a clementine in my purse for sustenance. Low
blood sugar levels plus new and unique sensations of extreme discomfort make for
just about the worst party ever.
“It only feels this bad the first time, “ Zoe offered,
trying to put me in perspective and back in the ring, so to speak. I have no
doubts she deals with wailing clients all the time who were not aware of what
they were getting themselves into when they asked her to make them platinum.
Oh, you wanna be BLONDE? Can you HANDLE GOING ALL THE WAY? It’s a feat I will
no longer underestimate. I'm currently rocking back and forth in fetal curl just
imagining going back in to get my roots touched up.
I pretty much lost track of time, but it probably took maybe
two hours to cover my head once more around. At this point, everyone had left
the salon. It was, like, 9pm and the cleaning crew was shuffling around us,
trying to do their job.
Zoe plopped me in one of the shampoo chairs, awaiting
the processing chemicals and my time to rinse and release. The massage-y chairs
were a relaxing respite and distraction from my head feels. At one point, I even
dozed off, dreaming of the time I would rise from the fire unscathed, naked, with three baby dragons on my shoulders.
Having my head finally doused with water was a unique and
all-encompassing happiness that I can’t remember feeling since I had to
harangue Time Warner all day to hook up my internet and it finally got taken
care of after three botched attempts. It’s the little things, you know?
Zoe painted a gloss onto my roots to give them a gritty
shadow, meant to make it appear more “natural,” but in my case, depth. I mean,
ain’t nobody buying “maybe she’s born with it” on me.
Grateful to be released into the wild as a blonde, I left
the salon at midnight and got home to scarf down whatever food was available in
my apartment. I took off my beanie and ran my fingers through my hair… which
were stopped abruptly by my strangely matted roots. I mean, I know my hair felt
a bit dryer and slightly rubbery, but this tangled mess was due to the chemical
casualty that was my red hot scalp. I thought I had pretty tough skin, but
apparently not--my scalp was covered in blisters.
Vigorous Googling lead
me to believe that this isn’t a totally uncommon reaction to bleaching your
hair (you’re dumping chemicals on your head skin, for Christ’s sake), but that
I definitely needed to nurse my head with Neosporin and olive or coconut oil.
While they weren’t painful and there wasn’t any pus (sorry), which would
indicate an infection, having a head of scabs is just an icky sensation. I KNOW
YOU’RE UP THERE, BEING GROSS AND STUFF.
The next day I returned to the salon, at the
behest of Zoe, for a deep-conditioning treatment and a haircut with one of
their stylists, Dante. She would’ve done the treatment after the bleaching, but
considering we ended at midnight, I think everyone just wanted to go home and
binge-eat snacks. I have no clue how Zoe pretty much flitted around to
bleaching my head for nine hours while simultaneously working with a team,
custom-coloring hair wefts for Herve
Leger’s NYFW show (for which the call time was 4am the next morning), but goddamn if that
woman don’t work. I don’t think I saw her even eat anything. Personally, I’d be
a monster without snack intervals, but she never dropped her smile for a
second. Olympic gold medal to Zoe for being the single most indefatigable
positive human I’ve ever crossed paths with.
I met Dante as I was back in the shampoo sink saddle, my
head tilted back, with conditioner globbed onto my hair.
“I would’ve liked to have seen it dry first,” Dante
commented with a slight furrowed brow, sipping an iced beverage through a black
straw. You can always ascertain the fanciness of an iced beverage’s origins is
by the black straw. So exclusive. All the other stylists and colorists who were
at the salon yesterday, saw my hair and ooh’d and ahh’d over the insanely
lifted color that Zoe was able achieve on me. They see this kind of stuff every
day but still remained genuinely impressed and supportive of each other’s work.
Sitting in Dante’s chair was basically a session of Real Talk with one of the realest
tell-it-like-it-is New Yorkers I’ve met in a while. He assessed my newly
bleached locks with the unflinching demeanor of a doctor who tells you “Welp,
you’re going to have to lose that.” He
was still pretty open to whatever I wanted to do, for which I offhandedly
suggested chopping off the bulk of the ends and making it into a messy bob.
“Alright, yeah, that’s the best way to go--like, no layers and
have the ends be really f***ed-up looking,” he said, sizing up my hair. Five to
six inches would be falling to the ground all around me. Any stylist who uses “f***ed up” to describe
what he’s about to do to your hair would normally be met with an enthusiastic
“Nope!” and a quick dash to the nearest exit, but I appreciate that he didn’t
sugarcoat the fact that I, in no small way, pretty much fried my hair to hell, but it was totally possible to work with its new texture rather than against
After some sectioning off, I noticed that Dante was gingerly touching my
“Um, so your scalp is pretty, uh… this is just everywhere,”
Dante remarked evenly, trying not to freak me out about the state of my dome.
But I was like, it’s cool dude, I KNOW. He avoided combing my scalp as he
daintily detangled my wet hairs. A quick chop-chop and I was now the
wearer of a blonde bob. A blob.
I’m all about the no-part, so while I normally air-dry my
hair with a middle part, as soon as it gets that two-day grease going, I really
like flipping it over to one side, so it looks all '80s like some Edward
Scissorhands version of Alicia Silverstone in Clueless or Drew Barrymoore in
It still hasn’t fully set in that I’m a blonde now, like I’m in some different signifier of people who
are referred to by the color of their hair. It’s weird, but in a good way. Honestly, what’s weirder is the missing
length of my hair that no longer drapes over my shoulders, but lightly grazes
them. The couple days after my blonde job, I’d catch my reflection and think,
“WHAT THE” before momentarily realizing oh yeah, Sable, you did this to you.
already picked up a bottle of Clairol Shimmer Lights as the gospel of blonde
preaches, as well as upped my coconut oil game. Seriously, NOTHING makes your
hair feel better than a coconut oil sleepover.
When I washed my hair maybe five
days post-coloring, I made sure to douse my head in coconut oil and shampoo
with this purple stuff that smells like the cheap Chinatown sidewalk version of
Chanel No.5. The darker the purple in the shampoo, the better for toning (don’t
worry, it foams white after some lathering, and rinses un-purple). My hair felt
and looked like it finally stopped being scared after that first wash.
Currently on another five-day shampoo strike.
Now that I’m a member of the blonde-high club, tell me,
fellow flaxen maidens, is this really going to be a bitch to maintain? Will I have more fun? Will I
ever suck it up and touch-up my roots? Will it hurt less than the first
time? What can I get away with now as a
blonde? Are there union fees, etc.?