Hair Color Forum: Let’s Talk About Going Blond

Blonde may be a state of mind, but let’s be honest—it’s mostly a hair color, one that usually requires stuff like bleach, foil, and strange purple shampoo. Have you been (or are you currently) on Team Flaxen? Do you wish you were? We want to hear about it.

Add your contribution in the comments—questions, photos, advice, whatever. We’re all lifting and toning together, people.

To get this party started, we went ahead and assembled tips from a few of our favorite blondes:

Kirsty Hume: “I color my hair myself, out of a box. I use a very light blond color just at the roots, and let it grow out. For maintenance, I wash my hair with Philip B Shampoo and Wen Cleansing Conditioner.”

Sharmadean Reid: “I like being blonde… right now I feel like a cross between T-Boz, Nastassja Kinski from Paris, Texas, and a bit of a Japanese school girl.”

Kristina O’Neill: “Reyad at Frédéric Fekkai does my color—he keeps it beach-y looking. I always say, ‘Just make it look like Gisele’s.'”

Emily Weiss: “I was told not to wash my hair for several days before [the bleaching], as the natural oils would help protect my scalp. I wonder if I would have wussed out/fainted/had a full-blown panic attack had I not done that.”

Kate Young: “I get single process color every six weeks. They just put bleach on the roots, and I sit there for two hours.”

Angel Haze: “I just went blond. When I was getting it done at Salon Sims recently, I was like, ‘You know what? I want to bleach it grey.’ And they were like, ‘Nooo, you can’t. You’ll strip it, and it will be really ugly, and blah, blah, blah…’ So I just went for the lightest blond I could possibly get.”

Soo Joo Park: “My hair doesn’t really make me feel very different, but I know that I get perceived as a different person. People think I’m more more eccentric, open, or adventurous—but it’s really just the hair.”

Elin Kling: “Mirjam Bayoumi on the Upper East Side does all of the Swedes. She does the Princess of Sweden’s hair. She said that 95% of her clients are blond Swedish girls. [Laughs] It’s not super fancy, she just knows how to do blondes.”

Olivia Kim: “Obviously I’m not a blonde, but I’ve been wanting to go blond since I was 18… And then last year I said, ‘I’m just going to do it.’ I asked Jimmy Paul and he said, ‘You have to go to Maya at Bumble & Bumble, she’s an amazing Japanese colorist and she used to do her hair white.'”

Sarah Rutson: “Another thing that I’ve found through getting older is that blonder hair is less harsh for me. My hair is naturally black, but I dyed it seven years ago to give me a softer look.”

Amanda Lepore: “My hair has been bleach blond since I was fourteen. I get it done every four or five weeks by Harlequin at Dramatics on 5th avenue. I use a lot of Shu Uemura Conditioner and Essence Absolue to keep it hydrated. Bleaching gives you high-maintenance hair.”

Nathalie Love: “I heard, for the color, that apple cider vinegar helps. You just pour it on your head and then smell bad for a few days.”

2014 Marks The Return Of The Flat Iron

I remember the first time I flat ironed my hair the way some people remember their first drink—it was that whole I-know-this-is-wrong-but-it-feels-so-right thing. It was 2001, I was 13, and the era of Britney, Jennifer Lopez, and Tara Reid’s flat, shiny, overworked and impossibly cool hair was reaching its apex.

So it’s the last day of sixth grade. I’m at a friend’s house getting ready for the first party of the summer, and watching Save The Last Dance, as one does. It’s a house party, my crush is going to be there, and I’m wearing a turquoise halter top. It all feels very adult. My friend offers to straighten my hair.

Up until this moment, I had simply dealt with my indecisive collective of waves and curls by binding them aggressively with a hair tie or occasionally mustering the courage to tame my frizz with the blow dryer/round brush method. But straightening was a different animal entirely. The straightener (a metal, Hot Tools appliance) promised to deliver not just less wavy, but stick straight hair. My friend pulls the iron from roots to ends, and I watch in awe as I am transformed into a real life teenager. I had literally never felt cooler.

Fast-forward to the present, and I would definitely refer to myself as a bonafide flat iron expert; a veteran, if you will. Don’t mistake this as bragging, because I am not proud. I did untold damage to my hair (not to mention my psyche) for over a decade. I spent most of that period convinced that, unlike all other humans, my hair just didn’t grow. And that it had nothing to do with my straightener’s 428° plates.

If I’m doing the math, and I am, that’s nearly half of my life spent under a parched sheet of permanent split ends. Straightening had become a habit, that, thanks to the “Embrace Your Natural Texture!” movement of the past few years, I nearly kicked. But just when I thought I would never look back, Spring 2014 came rolling in with its cadre of sleek-haired editors, actresses, and models, and not an ounce of blowout body or bounce—the kind of flat that only an iron can produce. Elizabeth Olsen’s boasting curve-less silken lengths for the Miu Miu campaign and for life in general, Kate Moss the Younger (a.k.a. Lottie) made her modeling debut with stick-straight plates of hair, and Eva Chen’s tenure at Lucky has been rife with an iron-leveled, chin-swinging coif that gives her penchant for girly skirts the air of a woman in leather pants. That, my friends, is the flat iron effect. And it’s everywhere.

If you’re eager to follow suit, take a moment and heed my words. The first being ceramic. I don’t even know if metal-plated irons are sold anymore, but they should be illegal. Avoid anything that is labeled “wet-to-dry.” Let common sense be your guide, i.e.: lowest possible temperature setting. I realize it’s tempting to crank that baby up and watch the magic happen, but taking it low and slow prevents you from burning off the ends of your hair. Small sections, low heat, happy camper.

Which brings me to heat protectants—you need them. My go-to spray is Bumble & bumble Styling Lotion. It provides volume, hold, and a thin coat of heat armor, and has a non-aggressive, clean smell. And when my exhausted lengths are really feeling the heat, I reach for Kérastase Nutritive Nectar Thermique. It leaves my hair unbelievably soft, making it feel and look healthy despite the fiery flat iron hell it’s living in.

Whatever heat guard you use, be judicious and disperse evenly—if you put too much product in your hair while it’s wet, all your ironing efforts will be for naught. My guilt surrounding the use of heated tools makes it impossible for me to employ them in tandem and feel OK about it. As such, I always let my hair air dry before I straighten. If you need to blow dry first (places to be, etc.), spray or rub a bit more protectant into your hair just before ironing.

To finish off your newfound sleekness, oils are a worthwhile investment, as you essentially just cooked the naturally-occurring ones out of your hair. Shu Uemura Essence Absolue is my favorite hair product of all time. I’ve run the oil gamut, from earth-grown coconut to manufactured Moroccan, and Shu always wins. A little goes a long way (a bonus since it’s relatively pricey), but you can also apply enough for Cousin It onto just your ends and it will absorb completely without weighing them down.

Now prolong the final product by skipping the shower (less washing, less ironing, less damage). Psssssst! Dry Shampoo has yet to disappoint me; I always get excited about no-frills products that actually work. It’s super cheap, smells like baby powder, and has been successfully feigning hygiene for the Van Paris women for generations.

Admittedly, the resurgence of ironed maidens has tempted me to reignite my old flat iron flame. We were, after all, in the longest committed relationship of my life; it’s only natural to crave the familiarity. I love my iron, but I have to remind myself that I love me more. I’m going to continue to get to know my awkward waves—though sometimes clumsy, embarrassing, and not always cool, they’re mine. It’s the healthy, responsible choice. But I certainly won’t be slut-shaming you for having any trysts with the ol’ straightener. Just try to iron responsibly.

—Calin Van Paris

Calin Van Paris is a writer and product junkie based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Amirah Kassem, Founder, Flour Shop

“My mom is Mexican and my dad is Arab. So I’m from Mexico, but I have an Arabic name— it means ‘princess.’ In Mexico, you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home every day. We’re always cooking. It’s not like in the US where people are like, ‘Oh my God, you can cook?’ [Laughs] I didn’t think of it as such a big deal or a rare skill; it was just something I grew up doing.

I moved to the US to study and work in fashion. I was assisting all of these great, creative people—which I found very exciting—but I never felt like, ‘This is the job I want.’ It just wasn’t for me, I guess. I moved around a lot, and every time I left a job I would bake something for my boss. People would be like, ‘Where did you buy this?’ and I would say, ‘Wait, you think I bought that?’

So when my friend César Vega opened a coffee shop in SoHo, I started selling these really delicious cake ball truffles there under the name Flour Shop. Very quickly I got a lot of demand out of this little thing, and realized that maybe this was something I should try full-time. It felt strange and really scary, because it was the first job that I was creating on my own—it was a huge risk. But it felt right. I reached out to all of the people I knew from my old fashion jobs to find out who had a birthday coming up and what events were happening. And I baked these made-to-order cakes that looked like anything a client wanted—flamingos, dinosaurs, cheeseburgers, lo mein… Word got around really quickly because the industry is so small. I just became the cake girl! [Laughs] I didn’t invent cakes or anything, but I just had the right network and was ready to make a lot of fun things. I love to play with sprinkles, colors, and decoration, but everything’s always edible—I never use fondant.

As much as I love color in my cakes, I don’t really ever wear makeup. My friends all make fun of me, but I don’t even own concealer! And the only thing that I carry around with me is Chapstick. Sometimes if I’m feeling extremely crazy I will wear lipstick. I have a bright pink one that I bought one time for a Mad Hatter costume. I don’t even know what the brand is, I got it at a Halloween store. [Laughs] Even when I do shoots for magazines, I just end up putting sprinkles on my face instead of actual makeup.

My everyday routine is pretty simple—just face lotion and perfume. I wash my face with Kiehl’s, then moisturize with their Ultra Facial Moisturizer. And then it’s Jo Malone Nectarine Blossom and Honey Cologne. I’m really loyal to those two brands. But if I’m feeling sexy, I like to wear Tom Ford Musk Pure Perfume. It kind of smells like you’re naked.

For my hair I use Bumble and bumble BB Curl Conscious Shampoo and Conditioner. I have such curly hair; the more I brush it, the bigger it gets, so I just let it air dry.

I love Essie. I’ve been working with them for quite a bit, making these little cakes that look like nail polish bottles. My favorite is Sugar Daddy because it’s clean and simple enough to wear every day.

For me, shoes are where the color comes in. My shoe shelf is more colorful than my sprinkle shelf and has every texture from hairy to shiny, rhinestones to stripes. I love Chloé, Céline, Church’s, Vans, and Adidas collaborations with brands like Opening Ceremony and Jeremy Scott. Then there are the heels—ACNE, Fendi, YSL, Gucci, Dior. I can’t talk makeup, but I could talk shoes all day.”

—as told to ITG

Amirah Kassem photographed by Frances Denny on August 10, 2013 in New York. See Frances’ other work here.

There's a certain insouciance to 'French Girl Hair'; wavy, somehow slightly fuzzy but polished at the same time. Sported by the likes of Lou Doillon and Josephine de La Baume, I've seen this 'un-style' attributed to everything from never brushing your hair (warning – this can result in baby dreadlocks…) to the ostensibly unique properties of French tap water. Unfortunately, just like 'no makeup, makeup', the reality does involve a little work, but I've finally stumbled across the perfect duo for creating foolproof Clémence Poésy waves.

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