I Bleached My Natural Hair Blonde — & I’ve Never Felt More Beautiful

There are a few different ways to approach what Megan Thee Stallion has coined "Hot Girl Summer." For some, it might be finally booking the beach holiday that's been on hold for a year and a half. For others, it might be a more physical manifestation of change with a summer glow up.
For Kendra Austin, a New York City-based writer, content creator, model, and the star of this week's episode of Refinery29's YouTube makeover series Hair Me Out, hot-girl summer equates to hot-girl hair, which for her means bright, vibrant, bleached-blonde curls.
For her transformation, Austin books an appointment with colourist and co-founder of The Coily Collective, Jax Challenger, who encourages her clients with natural hair to try blonde. "People with coily or curly hair feel like there are limits on what they can do with their hair, but honestly, the sky's the limit," Challenger says, adding an important caveat: See a professional. "Do not go blonde at home," she warns. "I don't care what the box looks like on the wall; come into the salon and have it done."
The first step is applying a permanent dye all over Austin's hair, from roots to ends. "This will lift the hair about 2-4 levels, which will give us like a medium blonde or a light brown for the base," Challenger explains. After processing, Austin gets shampooed, conditioned, and blown dry before Challenger goes in with foil highlights.
Because Austin's hair is natural, Challenger is very delicate in her highlighting process. "You have to be really gentle when you're colouring curly or coily hair," she explains, mixing the lightener and painting it from the back of Austin's hair to the front. "A lot of people aren't versed in it and they feel like they have to do the most, throwing volume 40 or 50 on it. Actually, you have to do the opposite, go slow and gentle. Our hair is a lot more fragile."
After the highlights have processed, Austin's hair is rinsed, toned, and blown dry with a comb attachment. Finally, she's able to see the end result, and take on the summer. "I feel so beautiful — like, stunning," she exclaims, seeing her reflection in the mirror, commenting on the way the blonde matches her personality. "I feel like this is me, this is Kendra. It's vibrant, super effervescent. I, like, feel an energy right now, and that's how good hair should make you feel."

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