Going Platinum

Up until a year ago, bleach and I maintained a very distant relationship for two (purely stupid) reasons: it reeked — like, oh-my-God-my-eyes-are-burning-and-my-nose-is-running-and-wait-my-mouth-tastes-funny-make-it-stop-GOD-please – and it splashed and splotched all over everything, seemingly destined to make my blacks a dusty brown mess and my whites questionably tinted, no matter how much care I took.

Then, one dreary February photoshoot, Phil Salmon picked up a strand of my very fine, very curly, very brown hair and asked a question that would turn my little world upside down: “Have you ever considered going blonde?”

Blonde. Me? Ha!

I’m fair to the point of being translucent in the winter months, with a cutesy smattering of freckles during the summer ones. Even on the cloudiest of days, I’m slathered up in at least SPF 15 and usually 30, unless it’s really sunny and I can’t find a hat, in which case, it’s SPF 70 for me!

So blonde? Nope. Never even considered it.

I’m not one to change up my hair color. I’ve done bangs, bobs, long layers, sidebangs, asymmetrical lengths, and more, but until now, I’ve only dyed my hair twice: right after that blonde conversation, I went about two shades of brunette darker (daring, I know), and then for about six months in high school, I tried out a black-brown with a punky shot of blonde in my sideswept bang. I forgot how much I loved that peek of blonde until I looked back at some old photos, which, after trolling Pinterest for some white-blonde hair inspiration (because, duh), pretty much sealed my fate: I was going to be a blonde.

Thinking back, this may not be as radical a change as I first thought. I’ve always admired Gwen Stefani‘s style, perfectly set off by her platinum coif and red, red lips (and red lips are my go-to). Ever since high school, I’ve been a little bit obsessed with Kristin Reiter, who has the sickest white hair around and pretty much embodies my definition of everything cool. And more recently, I’ve been fascinated by Erika Bearman, aka OscarPRGirl, whose journey to blonde was captured by Vogue a year ago. So, if the strong, style-savvy, successful women I looked up to in this industry were willing to test the limits of modern chemicals and go blonde, why couldn’t I?

I knew the odds going in: it could go terribly wrong, it could look awful, everyone could hate it, yada yada yada. But I’m a little stubborn and mildly obsessive once I make up my mind, so that was that. I warned friends and family very casually beforehand, but I’m ninety-nice percent sure they though I was joking. Ha!

So, a few months later, on July 1, in the midst of factory days for PATTERN’s fourth issue, I slid into a chair at the Blue House and crossed my fingers as Phil started applying some form of magical goo to my head. The double process (bleaching to strip the color, toning to achieve the desired shade) had begun. I’m not going to go into the details, because to be honest, I’ll probably get them wrong and Googling ‘bleaching hair platinum’ will tell you what you need to know. But three hours and several applications, rinses, and inches (because why not change everything else, too?) later, I finally looked in the mirror. Hello, blondie.platinum maria image

Since that first bleaching, Phil and I have played with the tone. At first, it reflected a little grey. Next, more pearly white. Currently (and thus far, my favorite), I have a slightly darker  base color at the roots, with varied degrees of platinum highlights.

I’m not going to lie: going platinum’s been more of an adjustment than I anticipated. I’ve gone from getting my hair cut three times a year to needing touchups at least every two months. I used to use whatever shampoo was handy and skip the conditioner altogether (bad, I know), but post-blonde, I started maintaining the tone with a purple shampoo, although I’m not fully convinced it’s made all that much of a difference. I do deep conditioning treatments at-home weekly, and have spray bottles filled with leave-in conditioner and heat protectors, all of which are big changes for someone used to a low-maintenance, wash-and-go beauty routine. The plus side? I’m now a devout fan of Wen’s cleansing conditioner, which Phil recommended, and my hair’s in better health than before, even after some minor initial breakage.

Despite the changes to my routine, I find that going platinum has been a refreshing change. I’ve found myself playing more with color in my makeup and wardrobe, which the blonde sets off nicely. My number one compliment has been about my eyebrows, which are in the best shape they’ve ever been in. And I actually take the time to do my hair now, whereas before I was always a big fan of the sloppy-but-quick pin-up. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay a blonde – the constant touch-ups are starting to take their toll – but I’m glad the risk paid off. More than anything else, I wanted to prove that I could be a blonde. Mission accomplished.

P.S. Did you know that bleach may be good for your skin?

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