It doesn't take someone with natural blonde hair to know that there are endless shades of blonde out there. We're talking strawberry blonde, dirty blonde, bronde, platinum blonde, a subtle natural blonde, honey blonde, and even brown hair with blonde highlights. If you're thinking about going blonde or brightening up your natural color but are stressed about what shade to go for and how high maintenance it can be, we're here to lay it all out on the line. We turned to celebrity colorists Jafra Bryant and Aleksey Bishop to answer all of your questions. Below, find inspiration for all the various shades of blonde hair along with tips for ensuring a beautiful, healthy outcome.
Meet the Expert
- Aleksey Bishop is a celebrity colorist at LA's Nine Zero One salon. He has garnered a clientele list including big names like Miley Cyrus, Noah Cyrus, Greta Gerwig, and Shay Mitchell.
- Jafra Bryant is a freelance celebrity and editorial colorist. With over 10 years in the industry, she has worked with A-listers including Julia Garner, HAIM, and more.
Choosing a Shade: Talk to your stylist. "A professional can help you chose a shade of blonde that will best suit you and your skin tone," says Bishop. "A good way to find out what color would suit you best is to find a picture of a celebrity with a similar skin tone that has the color you want to achieve."
Maintenance Level: Medium to high. The upkeep of blonde hair can be a lot, but it will vary depending on your natural hair color, shade of blonde, and the coloring technique used. Just make sure you communicate with your stylist about your level of commitment to the maintenance.
Price: There are a number of factors that will determine how much your blonde will cost. Depending on your starting color, hair length, what you have done, and where you go, you can expect to pay anywhere between $75 and $700.
When deciding on a shade, Bryant suggests thinking about the amount of work and finances you're willing to put into the process beforehand to narrow your options. Those looking for a low-maintenance blonde can opt for warm shades or beachy highlights, "versus someone who has more time to put into keeping a cooler shade and having a more overall bleach and tone look," says Bryant.
Proper maintenance means choosing quality products to uphold the color and integrity of your hair. "If you want beautiful, long-lasting, healthy hair, you want to spend the money not only on the color but the products to maintain it," says Bishop.
When choosing a shade, consider your natural color. "If your natural color is already a dark or light blonde, you would be able to achieve an allover bright blonde color," says Bishop. "If your hair is more of a dark brown to black, it’s best to have dimension by coloring bright pieces throughout the ends and around the face. It’s best to keep your natural base color at the roots to prevent a harsh line of demarcation as it grows out."
If you know you won't be able to make regular trips to the salon, consider these face-framing blonde highlights and lowlights instead of all-over color. When it grows out it'll look more natural, making it easier to maintain.
Black and Icy Blonde
We love the contrast between the black roots and the bright, icy blonde ends. "All hair has the ability to change colors, all types of hair have the ability to do a lot if not anything with the correct care, colorist, and maintenance," says Bryant. There's no rule for going blonde with different types and colors of hair, "it really depends on where you're starting from or how much color you currently have." The best shade of blonde will depend on the fragility of the hair and how much lightening it can take.
Ash Blonde Balayage
Consider the balayage technique, which is painted in color, versus foiling which requires actively sectioning off the hair and strategically placing color. We love how this method looks with an ashy tone. Just be sure to be transparent with your colorist about any previous dye jobs. "It's important to share every little detail of what you have done to your hair so that your colorist is aware and can color your hair with the proper products," says Bishop. "This will help prevent your hair from having a very uneven result and from being overly dry which leads to unwanted breakage."
Blonde Root Melt
A root melt or color melt technique is a commitment-free way to try out a lighter shade. Your root color seemingly "melts" into the lighter hues, so when you grow out your blonde, it still looks natural and blended.
Blonde Highlights and Lowlights
Hair that is just one color can be too monochromatic for those craving more dimension. Make like Emily Ratajkowski and mix in lowlights and highlights for natural-looking definition.
Cool Blonde Curls
Anyone can rock a cool blonde tone. Bryant suggests those with yellow undertones stick with warmer tones up top and cool ends to accentuate. For pink undertones, "stay with cooler tones or mix it up with the warmer blonde ends to balance." Olive tones look amazing with a neutral blonde, "but depending on how olivey, your blonde color could swing either cooler or warmer to bring out or subdue the slight green olive undertones can have."
Light shades like Karrueche Tran's single-process blonde color looks best when properly cared for. Over-washing is damaging for any hair, but this is especially true when it comes to maintaining blonde. "Blonde hair is like your favorite white t-shirt," says Bishop. "You would never wash your favorite white t-shirt every single day. It becomes worn out and dull and the same goes for your hair. You want to constantly apply oil to the ends of your hair as the natural oils from your scalp don’t reach them before you shampoo." He reaches for the dpHUE Color Fresh Oil Therapy ($35) for its lightness and tint-free clear color.
Black and Blonde
Feeling edgy? Keri Hilson's charcoal black underneath a honey blonde 'do makes for a strikingly gorgeous contrast. Anyone can go blonde, but your natural color may determine how quickly you can safely lighten your hair. "My best tip for someone who wants to go blonde or simply lighten their current color is to trust their colorist’s opinion on how light your hair can go without damaging it," says Bishop. Several appointments may be required if you're going from a dark natural color to a lighter blonde. Patience is key!
Platinum A-Line Bob
Platinum blonde is a statement in itself. But paired with a chic A-line bob cut? Excuse us while we call our colorists ASAP. Bright blonde colors like this require extra maintenance, so be sure you ask your colorist how to best care for it between sessions.
Be careful not to overuse blue/purple shampoos, Bryant warns. "As much as they really can help, they can also build up, making your blonde look darker," she says, adding that about once a week is fine, depending on how often the hair is rinsed or washed.
Sometimes an all-over color can lack in dimension, but when paired with spiral curls, the light blonde pops with interest and highlights unique curl patterns. To keep this light shade looking its best, Bryant's biggest piece of advice is to make sure you take care of your hair, "Blonde requires a lot of maintenance when you're not a natural blonde and maintenance is one thing everyone looks past when it comes to hair." This means good products, being gentle on the hair, and keeping heat styling to a minimum.
Elizabeth Olsen shows off blending at its finest. Her blonde transitions from a natural brunette hue at the roots, to a sandy blonde, to a warm copper at the ends.
Due to root growth, all-over coloring will need to be touched up every four to eight weeks. Highlights, on the other hand, can last up to two or three months, depending on what kind you get.
The Beauty of Bronde
Blending varied shades of blonde through naturally brown or black hair adds a bit of dimension to darker hair colors. A term coined bronde (which means a hair color somewhere in between blonde and brunette) is the ideal option for light brown hair craving some brightness.
Ombré Blonde and Brown
An ombré hair color is a go-to for brunettes who want to go lighter without going all-over blonde, like Whitney Port. Coined from the French word meaning "shaded like a gradient," ombre involves keeping the roots dark while the rest of the hair becomes lighter mid-shaft.
Strawberry Honey Blonde
Emma Roberts proves strawberry honey hues do not equate to brassiness.
Multiply the depth in your curls with some all-over highlights on darker hair. If your natural color is on the lighter side, have your colorist work in some lowlights to create the same multidimensional effect.
As blonde hair is more susceptible to damage caused by chlorine and the sun, it's imperative that you protect your blonde hair color to keep it from fading and getting brassy. Use a blonde-specific shampoo, keep it covered when in the sun, and be wary of heat styling.
While some lament that winter is reserved for dark hair, Sammy Winward proves that an icy, silver blonde 'do can be a striking surprise. Consult with your stylist on which shade of icy blonde would complement your skin tone. Then, pop on a red lipstick and prepare for the outpour of compliments.
Shoulder-Length Blonde Ombré
Ombré is not just for long hair. This super subtle transition from dark to light on Jennifer Lopez proves it works wonders with shoulder-length styles too.