This Is How I Went Blonde Without Damaging My Hair

Updated 07/03/19

I spent my university years dying my hair every colour under the sun. Black, red, burnt-orange… You name it, I've done it. And by the end of my three years studying (read: drinking and sleeping), my hair needed a break. Which is why I spent the next six years embracing my natural (what some may call "mousy") brown colour. Don't get me wrong; I've dabbled in subtle highlights, but I never fully committed—I was afraid I'd ruin my now-virgin strands.

Last summer, I spent a solid six months talking about dying my hair blonde. I wanted to be blonde blonde but still look natural (read: not peroxide blonde). And, of course, I wanted my hair to be healthy. In short: I wanted a lot. I decided to head to my new favourite salon, Buller and Rice (which is conveniently 15 minutes from my flat), and after two swift visits to see salon co-owner Anita Rice, I'm now blonde (and loving it).

Buller and Rice's focus on sustainable haircare and eco-friendly practices are what really sets them apart from other salons. For me, going blonde as ethically as possible was an important factor, as was maintaining healthy hair with eco-friendly products, so I knew I'd be in good hands there. Keep reading to hear how I went blonde while still managing to have healthy hair, plus shop the products I'm using to maintain my health post-visit…

how to maintain healthy blonde hair: Alyss Bowen
@alyssbowen

Before

how to maintain healthy blonde hair: Alyss Bowen
@alyssbowen

After

BEFORE THE COLOUR

We started off the entire process having a big chat about the type of blonde I wanted to be. The thing with going blonde is that it's a process (one I've now committed to, so it's safe to say I'm going to have to go back to the hairdresser's every six to eight weeks for top-ups, trims and toning treatments). You have to really want to commit, but trust me—it's worth it.

This is exactly why it's crucial to consult with your hairdresser first. Blonde hair falls into multiple categories, including icy-white blonde and balayage, so it's important you and your stylist are on the same page. Rice and I both agreed I needed to stay away from brassy tones, but because my hair has a slight golden tone to it, I'd need regular toning treatments to whiten it up a little. We also agreed we wouldn't take the color right up to the root. Instead, we'd smudge it in to make it look more natural.

HOW TO MAINTAIN HAIR HEALTH DURING BLEACHING

Going blonde puts so much stress on your hair, so it's important to invest in the products you put on your hair both during the bleaching process and after. Rice added a new treatment by Davines to the bleach before we applied it to my hair. This helped to repair the bonds from bleaching but also restructured any that were already broken. You're probably wondering why she didn't use Olaplex, right? Well, Olaplex is great, but it doesn't repair existing broken bonds, and as I had leftover subtle caramel highlights in my hair, it was slightly damaged. Rice did give my hair an added dose of protection with Olaplex, too, though.

HOW TO MAINTAIN HEALTHY BLONDE HAIR POST–SALON VISIT

One thing I've learned about being a blonde is that aftercare is essential. I'll admit that before I dyed my hair, I didn't use any products. In fact, I washed it with any shampoo and never ever used a conditioning treatment. That changed the evening I left the salon with nurturing drops in my hand, but more on that later. Aftercare is fundamentally vital, as when you dye your hair, the bleach breaks the hair's inner shaft and can leave it feeling brittle.

Rice told me the most important thing you can do post–salon visit is get a great shampoo and conditioner like the O Way Hydrating Hair Bath (£20) and Smoothing Conditioner (£25). All O Way products are bio-dynamically farmed, which means they use the highest quality natural oils for the best results, and I can confirm they leave your hair super soft and super shiny (even two days post-wash can leave treated blonde hair looking a little dull).

But aftercare doesn't stop with shampoo and conditioner. I've been using the O Way Nurturing Drops (£32) since I dyed my hair, and they've now become my most-used product. After showering, I run a small amount of the drops through my ends to ensure they don't look brittle or dry. I even use it when my hair is feeling dry, and I can honestly say they leave it looking as shiny and feeling as soft as it did when my hair was in its natural state.

Next up is a heat protector, which Rice credits as one of the most crucial things you should use if you like to bleach your hair. If you use heat on your hair and don't use a heat protector, you're only doing more damage so ensure you use one whenever you curl, straighten or blow-dry your hair. Rice also recommends sleeping with silk pillowcases, as these can be more gentle and cause less stress on over bleached, broken hair.

Shop the products I've been loving below…

O Way Moisturising Hair Bath
O Way Moisturising Hair Bath $20
Shop
O Way Smoothing Conditioner
O Way Smoothing Conditioner $25
Shop
O Way Nurturing Drops
O Way Nurturing Drops $32
Shop
Melu Hair Shield
Melu Hair Shield $26
Shop
Slip Queen Pure Silk Standard Pillowcase
Slip Queen Pure Silk Standard Pillowcase $79
Shop

Tempted? Here's more blonde inspiration in case you're thinking of taking the plunge.

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