It’s been almost a full year since I evolved into my truest form/dyed my hair platinum and I can safely say that I’m not the same carefree, bleach-free girl I once was. My hair and I, well, we’ve really been through it. Over the past year, we’ve officially crossed over from friends with benefits into full-on committed relationship territory, and I’ve learned some important lessons along the way (such as: treat your hair how you’d like to be treated—like a queen).
This journey, as with all relationships, has had its ups and downs. There was the time I accidentally broke off all my hair after overdoing it with a keratin treatment. There was the time I cancelled on a date an hour before because my colorist was able to squeeze me in last minute (oops). There was the time my friend told me I should just give up on dating because I didn’t actually have time for a significant other, since my hair was too high-maintenance.
Through all of these highs and lows, I’ve come to understand what it takes to have a head of bright, shiny, platinum hair, and the immense responsibility and dedication it requires (as they say: with great platinum, comes great responsibility).
Meet the Expert
For anyone considering going platinum, or anyone in the throes of an unhealthy platinum relationship, I present to you my biggest learnings, along with some tips from the experts. Repeat after me: practice safe platinum.
Consult Your Colorist Often
Before going platinum, I went into the hair salon once, maybe twice a year to update my color. My upkeep schedule would be described as laissez-faire at best, straight-up lazy at worst. I often let my roots grow out to past the top of my ear lobes, because it looked (somewhat) acceptable and balayage was in. Heads up: this is not something you can do once you’re platinum, and not just because the top of your head will resemble a skunk. Once you’re platinum, you’ll need to go back to the salon every four to six weeks to touch-up your roots, depending on how fast your hair grows. "A professional hairstylist can assess the situation and give you the best advice and treatment needed," says colorist Richy Kandasamy.
Watch for Signs of Banding
Frequent visits to the salon aren't isnt just for aesthetic reasons, as I learned the hard way—it’s also to help avoid something called banding. “Your scalp generally produces heat at half an inch (each person varies) and if you go past that, it causes the hair to lift unevenly, which creates a band,” explains colorist Madison Garrett. “To fix the banding, you have to overlap already lightened hair, which can lead to damage and breaking.” This actually happened to me one time, and I ended up sitting in the chair for seven hours instead of the normal four hours for a root touch-up, and also experienced a lot more breakage around the crown of my head. After that, I was much more diligent with my root touch-up schedule, making sure to go into the salon once every month to ensure I didn’t experience banding ever again.
The first initial platinum appointment will often come with a hefty price tag, since it’s so time-consuming. “If a client has previously colored their hair or had any type of chemical service, going platinum will take time and can add up in cost,” says Garrett. “This is all something that should be discussed with your colorist during the consultation.” But it’s not just the first appointment that can give you sticker shock—you’ll need to factor in your monthly root touch-ups, too, which can range from upwards of a $100 each time, not including tip or any additional costs your salon might charge you for (like the post-touchup blowout). That can equal to thousands of dollars each year, so it’s definitely not a decision to take lightly. Plus, make sure to choose a salon you actually like since every root touch-up can take over three hours each time.
Someone once told me that bleached hair is like silk—you have to treat it with supreme care, or else you’ll ruin it. I thought that using a purple shampoo and deep conditioning mask would be enough to keep my hair looking silky and hydrated, but this was not the case. My hair felt perpetually dry and my ends were always scraggly, no matter how much Bumble and bumble Invisible Hairdresser’s Oil I loaded it up with. I learned through trial and error that adding an oil or deep conditioning treatment before shampooing and allowing it to sink in for a few hours, or even overnight, made the biggest difference. Also, I noticed a marked difference after switching over to a silk pillowcase—now, I try to bring one with me when I travel, or else I wake up looking like Kramer from Seinfeld.
Invest in Protective Products
As Garrett explains, sometimes protecting the hair in-between color sessions is all about choosing the proper products. “Use the right products recommended by your colorist, avoid tight ponytails, avoid putting your hair up when its wet, and use products made for keeping moisture and protein in the hair.” Below, see the products that have saved my platinum hair:
Christophe Robin Shade Variation Hair Mask - Baby Blonde ($53): This mask always brings my platinum hair back to stasis whenever it starts veering brassy or dull. Plus, it makes it feel so soft after using.
Leonor Greyl Paris Masque Quintessence – Deep Conditioning Hair Mask ($123): Whenever my hair is looking/feeling particularly parched, I treat it with this buttery mask from Leonor Greyl. It works better than any other mask I’ve tried in terms of making my hair feel soft and healthy without weighing it down.
Color Wow Color Security Shampoo ($24): I avoid using any shampoos with sulfates and this one from Color Wow is light and does the job in terms of leaving my hair feeling clean, but not squeaky clean. Plus, it doesn’t fade the color.
Prose Custom Hair Oil ($48): I’m pretty skeptical about personalized beauty products, but Prose’s custom hair oil really impressed me. I filled out a questionnaire and was sent a light, silky oil that I use as a pre-shampoo treatment. My hair is noticeably softer when I use this before shampooing.
Use the right products recommended by your colorist, avoid tight ponytails, avoid putting your hair up when its wet, and use products made for keeping moisture and protein in the hair.
Use Lots of Protein
One of the most traumatizing things that happened to me during my platinum journey was when a large chunk of my hair fell off in my hand while I was shampooing. Unbeknownst to me, this was likely because I had overdone it with an in-salon protein treatment a few days prior. Christine Thompson, the color director at Spoke & Weal and hair wizard who brought me from dark brown to platinum, explained to me that your hair needs moisture and protein, so it’s all about finding the right balance. If you overdo it on moisturizing products, your hair can feeling stringy and heavy. If you overdo it on protein, your hair can actually harden and break off—this is especially susceptible when your hair is platinum. And yes, keratin is a protein, so I try to avoid using too many products that claim to add keratin back to my hair—and if I do, I always follow with a hydrating hair mask or conditioning treatment.
Don't Try This at Home
One of the things I was most excited for after going platinum was the ability to try different pastel hues. I had this idea in my mind that all I had to do was use a colored conditioner, and I’d be left with a head of lavender, or pale pink, or silvery-gray hair. This was not the case. The first time I tried a silver at-home color conditioner, I used it on wet hair after shampooing. I saw zero difference. Then, I decided to comb it through dry hair, which supposedly would accentuate the color. This left me with uneven color and weird blotchy streaks. The situation could have been much more dire had I been using hair bleach.
"Unlike hair dyes, hair bleaching is a more permanent process, so the person doing it should really have some professional knowledge about hair and product usage," says Kandasamy. "As a stylist or colorist, you have to go to school to train, because you have to learn what to do if something goes wrong. At home, there is definitely room for error."
When I finally decided to go for the lavender plunge, I decided to let Madison do the honors—and I’m so glad I did. The color was even and the perfect shade of light purple—I got so many compliments from strangers right after. To prolong the purple between my appointments, I used Pravana’s ChromaSilk Pastels on dry hair and left it in for an hour before shampooing it out, which added a subtle tint, and then Maria Nila’s Colour Refresh Lavender conditioner in the shower, which added a brighter purple color. These at-home color tints are great for keeping your color bright, but save the initial color application for the salon—your color will look much better when it’s done by a professional, trust me.