Let’s start with a flashback: It’s 2015, Los Angeles, and the Byrdie office is a sea of ashy blonde hair. Around this time in L.A. (and then on Instagram, and then all over America), the “lived-in” hair color trend—most famously associated with celebrity colorist Johnny Ramirez—was all any client wanted. Darker roots that faded super subtly into cool-blonde tones (think: beige, ash, faded lavender, and platinum) were all the rage and could be spotted on A-listers across the spectrum of skin tones, from Beyoncé to Kim KW to Gigi Hadid. Here at Byrdie, we began churning out article after article on the cool blonde trend—everything from silver-blonde hair inspo to the best products and tips for getting even the slightest hint of brassiness out of your hair.
I was not immune to the cool blonde mass hysteria. In 2016, my colorist Matt Rez (currently at Mèche Salon in Beverly Hills) gave me the ashy blonde highlights of my dreams, and I haven’t really strayed from that shade since. So a few months ago, when Matt begged me to let him take my hair from cool blonde to strawberry blonde, my jaw dropped to the floor. Warm blonde?
But celebrity colorists agree: the cool-toned blonde that has dominated L.A.’s hair color scene for years slowly making its way out, and by 2020, warmer tones will have taken its place.
According to our trustiest hair color sources, who are on the front lines of ever-changing trends, more and more stars are going from bright and platinum blondes to golden blondes and auburns. “J. Lo and Beyonce are shifting their color to warmer, caramelized tones, and they look amazing,” comments Nelson Chan, Founder and Celebrity Hairstylist of Nelson J Salon in Beverly Hills.
Jill Buck, a senior stylist at one of LA’s busiest salons, Nine Zero One, says that over the past year, she’s seen quite a few celebs enter their doors with cool blonde and leave with warmer shades, like Brittany Snow and Jessica Burciaga. Taylor Pappalardo, co-founder of The Hair Atelier LA, adds that even some of Hollywood’s most recognizable cool blonde icons are going golden. “I love how Gigi Hadid has toned down her highlights and has gone for something more natural for this season,” she says. “Margot Robbie also just recently went from bright blonde to this beautiful golden blonde and its stunning.”
So why exactly is cool blonde becoming dethroned after so many years of ruling L.A.? Colorists say there are a few main reasons: 1) it’s so hard to maintain, 2) we’re finally noticing that it doesn’t flatter everyone, and 3) it is ultimately just a trend, and after five or six years, we’re over it. “The reason why hair color trends are starting to go warmer with more red/auburn colors is because we have really overdone it with silver, chrome, ash, and cool tones,” says Chan. “There are a lot of people who don't look good in cool-toned, ash-colored hair but, because of the trend, they were requesting it.”
David Pierre Pappalardo, creative director and co-founder of The Hair Atelier LA, agrees that the cool blonde trend has overstayed its welcome. “Those colors don’t last and require lots of maintenance,” he says. “They often damage the hair and it can’t be a sustainable way of wearing your hair.”
An era of healthier, more realistic hair color is on the horizon—and the current change in season gives us a great opportunity to try going warmer. “It’s now time to step back and apply hair color that will accentuate and complement individual skin tone and eye color,” says Chan. “Fall is also the perfect time to update your look, and warmer colors like red are a great option to consider.” Not to mention, the '70s are having a major moment in fashion and beauty right now, and warm hair colors fit right in with that mustard and burnt orange palette.
L.A. salon owner and Joico brand ambassador Larisa Love adds that when executed well, golden and reddish hair colors are objectively more flattering to the hair and skin: “Having golden locks reflects the light, making the color appear brighter and healthier,” she says. My colorist Matt concurs, “By warming up our hair, a warmer glow of light will frame our faces and bounce onto our skin.”
So if you’re open to warming up your hair color, what should you do? For those nervous about going too red, colorists say it’s possible to warm up to the idea (pun intended) with subtle changes. “If a client wants to go warmer without fully committing to something with long-term maintenance, ask your colorist for a gloss,” says The Hair Atelier L.A. colorist Matthew Nolen. Matt Rez adds, “Ask your colorist to gloss your lightest highlight on the warmer side to ease into a warmer look and if you love it, you can always go even warmer on your next visit,” he says.”
Rez also suggests requesting that your colorist weave a “midlight” into your highlights. “A midlight is a warmer connecting color that is perfect for those who want just enough warmth without changing their base or gloss,” he explains. “It is lighter than your base but darker than your highlight and will create a blended, high-contrast result.”
Of course, old habits die hard. (Personally, I still haven’t let Matt take me from cool blonde to strawberry.) So we can expect to continue seeing cool-toned, “lived-in” hair color around L.A. for the next few years. But eventually, colorists say we’ll all figure out that the ashy blonde hair trend was exactly that—a trend—and we’ll welcome warmer dimensions back into our lives. “Think about it as a bright piece of clothing and how many times you wear it compared to a classic one,” says David Pierre Pappalardo. “Trends don’t last.”
Should I make the plunge and go strawberry blonde? DM me on Instagram and let me know what you think! @amanda_montell