The Black Girl's Guide To Going Blonde

For the past 5 years, I’ve been wanting to bleach my hair blonde, but almost everyone tried to discourage me from taking the plunge. “It’ll break off" or "You should just do a weave” are some of the ignorant comments I've heard on more than one occasion. But after a lifetime of following other people’s advice, rather than abiding by my own intuition and desires, I decided to just go for it — and I've never regretted it since.
Prior to finding my hair guru, Courtney Nischan, I visited countless hairstylists, all of whom strongly pushed me against dyeing my hair. They’d give me the same excuses I’d heard my whole life, rather than admit to a lack of understanding of the intricacies of Black hair care. They made me feel like somehow I was the one at fault for not being able to go blonde, when it was actually their own limited ability.
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Going blonde shouldn’t be discouraging or trepidatious, but exciting and empowering — just as it is for our Caucasian peers. And ultimately, we need to change the narrative and fear around Black women dyeing their hair, which is not only wrong, but further perpetuates the feeling of “otherness” that’s pervasive among communities of color. I asked Nischan and hair colorist Marcia Hamilton, who works with Zoë Kravitz, to help me create an uplifting hair dyeing guide for Black women. Check out their five rules for going blonde — and follow my own journey to the light side — ahead.
1. Pick a colorist who values your hair.
It's critical to find a stylist who understands the value our hair plays in our lives. Not only does my colorist Courtney provide me with the scientific breakdown as to how I should treat my hair, but she also constantly affirms that my natural hair is beautiful, easy to work with, and capable of just about anything. She believes in her craft and perpetually furthers her education as a hair artist and it shows in the quality and health of my blonde hair.
2. Stop chemical processing.
If you’re going to go blonde, both Nischan and Hamilton suggest halting any relaxer use or any form of chemical processing several months prior. “I’ve educated my clients that it’s best to color natural hair,” says Hamilton. “I’m not saying that you can’t color relaxed hair — you can. But there’s only so far you can go to maintain the integrity of the hair.” She’s speaking from professional and personal experience. “I remember bleaching my hair out with a relaxer on it, and my hair literally just flew off my head that day,” says Hamilton. “I was driving with the windows down and my hair [was just] blowing off in the wind.”
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3. Find your light
There is not one way to go blonde, so give yourself time to find the shade that works for you. Is it a buttery hue, like Solange? A warm honey, like Beyoncé? White hot, like Kravitz? Build a Pinterest board, noting hair color and skin tone, until you find your desired look.
4. Be Patient With The Process
Don’t expect to get from level 1, which is jet black or super dark brown, to platinum in one day. (And if a hairstylist says they can, run.) Rushing to go platinum will blow out your hair shaft, which is damaging to any hair type — but especially dangerous for those with natural hair since it can affect your curl pattern. The key is to find a colorist who will start you off with a very low-volume developer and has enough integrity as an artist to want to do everything they can to keep the health of your hair intact. It took me several months, and multiple hours long sessions, to go from highlights to full-on blonde. (Check out my journey, above.)
5. Maintenance is key.
How you treat your hair between salon visits is key to maintaining healthy and resilient blonde hair. Both Hamilton and Nischan swear by Olaplex, a treatment that permanently strengthens and rebuilds damaged bonds in your hair that have been broken due to the chemical process of bleaching it. Smooth on the mask for 20 minutes and stand in your hot, steamy bathroom — which really helps it penetrate.
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Then, fill out the rest of your routine with hydrating products that work for your curl type. I am personally a devout user of Kevin Murphy’s SMOOTH.AGAIN Shampoo and Conditioner, Oribe Gold Lust Nourishing Hair Oil, and Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Hair Serum.
Welcome to MyIdentity. The road to owning your identity is rarely easy. In this yearlong program, we will celebrate that journey and explore how the choices we make on the outside reflect what we’re feeling on the inside — and the important role fashion and beauty play in helping people find and express who they are.
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