As I left Los Angeles's Mêche salon on a Sunday evening in early March, I said a silent prayer that I wouldn't have to darken its doorstep for a very substantial amount of time. That's not because I wasn't happy with the result—to the contrary, the buttery blond color was everything I had hoped for and more—but solely due to the fact that I had spent upward of 10 hours in the salon chair getting it done.
In truth, I hadn't expected any less of an ordeal. I've gone blond before, and my ridiculously thick (and dark) hair consistently calls for excessively long hair appointments—even blowouts. That's exactly why I tend to avoid making these appointments if I can help it, which is exactly what I told my (brilliant) stylist, Matt Rez, when I arrived at Mêche that morning. He assured me that after he was done, I wouldn't need to return for many, many weeks—months, even.
And he was right. Nearly four months later, I'm still riding out this perfectly sun-kissed blond. The other day, when I mused to a co-worker that I needed to make a hair appointment, she looked at me like I had lost my mind. "It looks even better than when you first got it done," she said. "Why bother?"
To be clear, it's not as if the golden hue hasn't grown out—the point is that Rez colored it in a way that allows for a darker root to show without looking stark or obvious. But in truth, I think that's only part (however crucial) of the puzzle. When I went blond two years ago, my hair became so damaged so quickly that I had no choice but to cut off several inches and start from scratch.
So this time, I didn't mess around: I've committed myself to a routine that keeps my hair as hydrated and healthy as possible. And in turn, my color has stayed sharp and glossy as well. Best of all, it's all decidedly low-maintenance. (This from the girl who uses a hairbrush maybe once a month.)
But what does that regimen look like? Keep reading for five essential steps to maintaining your hair color for as long as possible. (Your bank account will thank you.)
1. Ask for a "smoky" root
The most crucial element of maintaining blond hair for an extended period of time is asking for a color that will grow out gracefully—and if you have naturally brown hair like mine, that means embracing dark roots from the get-go. Rez gave my roots a subtle ombré that he promised would hold up for months—and it did. Even as my hair has grown out, the dark still fades seamlessly into the light.
And beyond it being low-maintenance, this approach is also typically more flattering. "People with the darkest natural bases can have all the light they want around their face, but [it's best to] keep an element of their dark natural base that complements their skin and eye color," explains Rez.
2. Invest in a color-saving shampoo (and conditioner)
The way I see it, you can either spend a decent amount of money on excellent color-saving products at home or spend a lot of money touching up that color at the salon. I'd advise opting for the former. FWIW, my Grown Alchemist Color Protect Shampoo and Conditioner ($49) have lasted more than two months at a time—and I have a lot of hair. (A "quarter-size amount" is more like two handfuls for me.)
When things are looking a little brassy, I opt for Sachajuan's Silver Conditioner ($33), which never fails to restore my color to its initial vibrancy with a single use. Those are the formulas I personally swear by, and I'm not sure it's a coincidence that they're extremely clean, plant-based formulas—in my experience, harsh chemicals tend to wear on color-treated hair much more quickly.
3. (And maybe cut down on shampooing in general)
I wash my hair once a week maximum. That's been the case for a few years now, with and without color—but it's a habit that bodes especially well for my blond locks. According to experts, scrubbing your color too regularly can make it fade faster. (It's kind of common sense, right?)
In all fairness, my hair is very thick and prone to dryness, so this regimen has always worked for me. But if you have finer hair that tends to get oily, don't blanch at the prospect of cutting back on your shampoo time—you can actually train your hair to be less greasy.
4. Repeat after me: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Not a day goes by that I don't smooth a few drops of oil into my ends, and I coat my hair in a moisturizing mask at least once a week. (I like to put in the mask an entire 24 hours before shampooing, and I'll just pull my hair back into a sleek chignon for an office-appropriate 'do.) Every time I'm feeling lazy or unmotivated, I think back to the days when my straw-like hair would literally break off in my hands. Never again—these days, my strands are glossy and strong. (Oh, and they smell good too. Those oils are heavenly.)
5. Use protection*
*Sun protection. If going outside is an inevitability—which it tends to be this time of year—spritz on some SPF spray. Wear your dad-iest dad hat. If all else fails, scoop your hair up into a topknot (less exposure!) and make a beeline for some shade.
And don't skimp on any of the above. Here's a cautionary tale: A couple of weeks ago, I went to a music festival and basically spent five days straight out in the sun with little coverage. I wore plenty of SPF, but I skipped out on protecting my strands. By day three, I reached up to run my fingers through my hair and recoiled at the suddenly straw-like texture. The color definitely faded too—and that's why, nearly four months since my original appointment, I've been thinking about paying Rez a visit again. That being said, a weeklong regimen of intensive masks has made a marked improvement on the texture. Perhaps I can still squeeze in another month?