Over the last few months, you’ve probably spotted a hair trend creeping into your Instagram feed. Those cute little blonde streaks that complement a full head of balayage? The ones that perfectly frame your face and magically brighten your complexion? They’re starting to crop up everywhere. And while the style is by no means brand new – google its official term 'money pieces' and you’ll be bombarded with photos, tutorials and inspiration – the woman to draw new attention to the trend was none other than Beyoncé Knowles-Carter.
I’ve long been guilty of wanting to be Beyoncé (who hasn’t). But when she casually dropped the selfie of all selfies on Instagram ahead of her Lion King promotional tour, my adoration spiralled. How striking but also seamless. How fresh but also familiar. How Beyoncé of her to switch up her hair in such a low-key but high-key way, which I (so I assumed) could never replicate.
As for me, I’ve been on quite a hair journey. From braids to relaxers to clip-in extensions to a weave and back again. My poor 4C afro curls haven’t been in the best condition for a long time and the idea of colouring them filled my soul with enough fear to dismiss the thought before I could even pop "how to go from brown to blonde without all your hair falling out" into a search engine. But I decided this year would be different. This was the year that I’d come into my own and shed the skin of my uptight past. I embarked on a Sexy Summer that almost turned into a Hot Girl Summer and somewhere in the middle Beyoncé arrived, with those damn money pieces.
The fever started to spread across my timeline. Ray Blk, Munroe Bergdorf and more. So I plucked up the courage to work out how to join the best-coiffed woman I followed online. When you’re talking colour, there are few UK salons as reputable as cult brand BLEACH London. They were the first in the world to focus on colour rather than cuts and are known for their exciting experimentation with every shade of the rainbow. With my first foray into colourwork, and Instagram evidence of their own fringe bleaching dating to before naïve little me knew anything about it, I knew I was in safe hands.
"Basically I just need to look like Beyoncé," I told BLEACH stylist Bradley Cahill when I went for my first consultation at their Brixton salon. It’s the most assertive I’ve ever been on a visit to the hairdresser's (we all know how scary it is to communicate what you actually want when you sit in that chair) but Bradley didn’t bat an eyelid. Instead, he explained that the best way to do it with my hair in particular would be to use a wig. Understandable, considering my natural hair is a couple of centimetres above shoulder length when blow-dried and Queen Bey’s is not. Also, in its current state of mainly natural with relaxed ends clinging on for dear life, I likely wouldn’t be able to withstand the bleaching process in the healthiest of manners.
Even though it’ll be a more expensive option, the benefit of using a wig is that you don’t have to fully commit to the colour and the aftercare on your natural hair. You can quite literally just whip it off, but more on that later. BLEACH’s Brixton salon is particularly well known for its work with wigs and extensions, and they turned to A-List Lace Hair for my 20-inch natural brown unit.
The next step after my consultation (and some necessary reassurance that yes, there is a shade of blonde that’ll suit my skin tone, the trick is in the application) was to colour the wig. Once the hair had been ordered into salon, I went back for a fitting. We opted for a lace front wig, which gives you the most natural-looking hairline while also protecting your real edges. "That way all of your own hair will be tucked away and you don’t need to think about it until you come to wash it," Bradley told me as he put the wig on my head to check the fit.
My first thought: Wow, I look like my mother. My second thought: This feels much more secure than I thought it would, even without glueing it down. That’s because instead of a 360 frontal (which would mean the lace covers the entire circumference of the wig, allowing you to wear your hair up without being able to see your natural hairline), mine has a little elastic strap running from just behind each ear to keep the wig in place. Bradley explained that it’s a glueless wig should I want it to be, but if I planned to go out whipping my hair back and forth on the dance floor, or simply don’t plan to take it off before bed every night, then he definitely recommends sticking it down.
Once we were happy with the fit, Bradley gave me a middle parting à la Beyoncé and trimmed the excess lace around my face to be as close to my natural hairline as possible – close enough not to completely change my face shape but a couple of millimetres away from it so that when I do stick it down, it’s not going to pull against my edges. He then put the wig back on its stand and talked me through how we’d achieve Bey’s tone.
First, the money pieces. He sectioned out two chunks of hair either side of the parting and clipped the rest back. This was going to be the lightest shade of blonde and so the first layer of bleach was set to work in thin layers and then blended with fingers towards the root. This would mean the colour wouldn't leave a dramatic horizontal contrast against the hair’s original colour. The rest of the wig was then given a beautiful warm honey balayage and boom, the Beyoncé effect came to life.
Though I had no plans to go out dancing on this particular Monday night, we decided to glue the wig down. If you mean serious business and really don’t want the hair to budge for a couple of days, Bradley recommends using wig glue. But for a little extra security, we opted for Schwarzkopf got2b Glued Spiking Glue. He applied a couple of layers just in front of my hairline and gave the gel a quick blast with a hairdryer to help it become a little tacky. When you touch it and little strings of glue pull back from your finger, that’s the sweet spot to melt your lace into the skin gently, using a thin tail comb to stick the lace down between the hairs. The middle section should be done first followed by either side of the face to make sure you’re securing it in the right place. We then tied a silk wrap around the lace perimeter to help it set while Bradley styled the hair itself.
Bradley explained that my worries about the blonde not suiting my skin tone were largely helped by the fact that the roots were kept dark and despite the brightness at the bottom, the colour was expertly graduated down to the ends. That said, if there's anything that was going to nudge me towards an entirely blonde hairstyle, this is it. I'm thinking 2017 honey hues.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. For this iteration of Beyoncé, to get those signature waves I’d always dreamed of, a canister of L’Oréal Elnett Satin Hairspray is our best friend because it’s super light with great hold and can be brushed out to restyle. Sections of hair were separated into a couple of inches, spritzed with a little Elnett and then wrapped around a curling wand for a few seconds, pinned to keep the curl and left to cool. Once the whole head had been curled – directing the wand away from the face and curling anticlockwise on the right side, clockwise on the left each time – the hair was brushed through a couple of times and voilà: Hollywood waves fell down my shoulders like magic.
Here's where I got a little nervous, though. As excited as I was about my very own Next Top Model-style hair transformation, I was suddenly very aware of the upkeep. How would I make sure that I woke up like this (not sorry) from this day forward? Bradley gave me the advice I was expecting: be gentle, wear a silk headscarf to bed if you don't take it off, don't wash it too aggressively, and wash it just using conditioner every two weeks or so to get rid of product build-up. But then there was the advice I wasn't expecting: you don't actually need to do too much with it. I was told to braid a loose plait before bed to keep some of the shape and, per A-List Hair's suggestion, use serums like Argan Plus+ Luxury Oil Treatment to keep the hair nice and moisturised.
I'm a little over a week into my new look, have followed their advice and though I'm yet to master those salon-perfect waves, my post-transformation haircare has suited me nicely. Turns out, with expert advice and a killer colour styling team, I can be Beyoncé... Or at least look like her a bit if you squint.
Prices typically start from £160, excluding wig.