Dark-Haired Girlies, Here's What To Know About Going Barbie Blonde

I think I really *am* having more fun.

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Dyeing your dark hair blonde for 'Barbie'? Same — here's what to expect.
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It’s a rite of passage for every dark-haired woman to bleach the life out of their hair at least once. Short of a few highlights from years past, that moment came for me in the months leading up to the Barbie movie. I’ve had naturally jet-black hair since birth, and while I’ve experimented with lighter colors (largely via lowlights and balayage), I’ve never done a full-color process… until now.

My friend, celebrity hairstylist (whose clients include Hailey Bieber, Jenna Dewan, and Kendall Jenner), and freelance colorist, Cherilyn Farris and I have been talking about this day since we met a decade ago. But seeing Barbie-mania sweep the country reignited my deep desire to go blonde — and not just regular blonde, but as light as science would allow. So I pulled the trigger in June after consulting with Farris on expectations and process. She would be the first to tell you that going blonde is a big commitment — both in upkeep and cost.

Ahead, read everything there is to know about going Barbie blonde as a dark-haired girly, from how long you’ll be in the salon to how to maintain that dye job well past the movie premiere.

Before The Bleach

My natural hair color.

First things first: As Farris notes, you should consult a colorist before doing anything else. “Most will do complimentary consultations to make sure your goals are achievable, what the best kind of blonde may be for you, and what the process to get there may be,” she says. They’ll take into account your hair color history and hair health, as previous bleach or color can have a significant effect on the outcome of going blonde, she explains. You’ll also want to go over your budget and how quickly you want to reach your goal, as well as what you want your upkeep or grow-out appearance to be like. Also key? You’ll have to be open to changing your hair care routine.

During my consultation with Farris, we talked about my hair history (I had dyed it copper red eight months ago, but it had faded pretty well) and the unique challenges that naturally dark-haired people will face going blonde. My hair was able to sustain going fairly light in one session, so I opted for a single salon visit versus multiple. However, if you’re looking for something more budget-friendly, spreading it out is definitely the safest bet for both your wallet and your hair health.

Also worth noting? According to Farris, there are things that can help prep naturally dark hair to go blonde. There are professional services that clarify and remove minerals, metals, or buildup from the hair to have a cleaner canvas and help your strands process easier. She recommends asking your colorist for options and how to prep your hair before coming in. “If you’re worried about how your hair will process, ask for a test strand. Many stylists do this before a big change anyway but you can see for yourself how the result might look,” she says, which is exactly what she did with mine prior to our appointment.

As Farris explains, professionals have access to a number of pretreat services that can strip or gently lift previous color to see what’s underlying. This gives your colorist a more accurate picture of what the lightener will be lifting through. “A pretreatment could be a chelating or deep clarifying shampoo to essentially power wash away any residue or buildup in the hair,” she says.

Going Blonde: 14 Hours, Two Erewhon Runs, One Bill

My appointment took 14 hours total (we started around 10 a.m. and finished a little past midnight) and cost $1800. (Note that this price is due to a friends and family discount and being smack-dab in the middle of LA; the average color job will range somewhere between $150-$300.) Since we were going from fairly dark hair to an ashy blonde, it was definitely time-intensive to lift the hair with bleach, color the roots, and then tone. If my hair had been any more colored, we might have taken a longer approach than dying it all at once.

“I find the biggest challenges to usually be hair color history or the health of someone’s hair,” says Farris. “If someone’s hair has been damaged from heat or color already, this can cause breakage and further damage. Someone with naturally dark hair might also face the challenge of achieving their goal shade of blonde. Reaching a platinum or ashy/cool tone blonde can take longer because of the levels of lift needed to move out of the orange/brassy/yellow range.”

During my session with Farris, she spent the first few hours sectioning my hair so she could lift (ie. use bleach) it. Fortunately, we only needed to do one round to get the color I was hoping for — but that may not always be the case.

“If you have a lot of dimension in your hair currently and are working towards a full bleach-out, multiple appointments may be best to work on bringing the color to a more uniform place before going fully blonde,” says Farris. “But if you have virgin hair, it’s likely best and very achievable to go for it all at once.”

The Aftercare: Maintaining Peak Blondeness

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t the actual blonde that was the biggest adjustment for me. It was the intensive aftercare and adding more time (and money) to my hair care routine. Prior to going blonde, I could get away with using any clean shampoo and conditioning duo and a hair mask every now and then. But Farris recommended that I use a number of products to help undo the effects of an intense coloring session. At the bare minimum, she suggests using a hydrating shampoo and conditioner, plus a deep conditioning mask for shower care.

Purple or toning shampoos can be helpful, but I recommend not using them until six to eight weeks after your hair appointment(s) because they can have clarifying or alkaline properties that open the cuticle layer of the hair, which can temporarily tone but can also cause your professional toner to fade quicker,” says Farris, noting that she prefers toning conditioners and masks over shampoos.

The purple shampoo and conditioner that I’ve found to really work for me is FEKKAI’s Blonde Rx Line. Every other day, I’ll use Briogeo’s Don’t Despair, Repair Deep Conditioning Mask, and I try to use Oribe’s Moisture & Control Deep Treatment Mask (great for thick hair) overnight a couple of times a month.

Since many dark-haired folks also have naturally thick hair (guilty as charged), I also wanted to invest in post-shower products like OUAI’s Leave-In Conditioner. I rarely put heat on my hair — and when I do, it’s usually without any protection, oops — but with the new dye job, I’ll use Dae Hair’s Dry Heat Protectant. Oils and finishing creams are also a must to lock in moisture; I personally recommend Unite’s Blonda Oil or Original & Mineral’s Style Guru cream.

While the new hair care routine can seem like an inconvenience, it’s also necessary to ensure that the blonde stays — and you don’t wreck your hair in the meantime. Going blonde is going to take extra work, particularly for dark-haired girlies, so if you’re uncertain about putting in the extra time or maintenance, I would think twice about going blonde. But take it from someone who’s finally done it: It’s so worth it.

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