“Going Blonde” for Spring

“Going Blonde”
That’s a LOADED phrase…

As a stylist, this means anyone with hair that is between the levels 1 and 5. (6 is already considered a light brown/dark blonde and is much easier to shift)

Spring is all about new beginnings and change. I love taking the onset of a new season to reinvent myself a bit. I’ve even been known to make a drastic change to dark brown from time to time. Now naturally my hair is a bit darker I’m more of a light brown/dark blonde tone. But with the help of the most amazing stylist Rachael Renzi, I was able to achieve a beautiful. So today I asked about the magic from taking a brunette to a blonde without damaging your hair and now she’s spilling the secrets.

Well, this rundown is specifically loaded up with info for anyone with dark/medium brown hair who wants to “ go blonde!”

To understand the process your hair may have to go through to achieve that beautiful bright blonde you’re dreaming of, you’ll need to know some basics…


So, you may be thinking, “what does she mean by levels 1-5?”
Hair Level is taking about the shades from dark to light.

In painting, we would be talking about how much black is added to make a color darker.
With hair, we are more talking about how much melanin is present in the hair.
Level 1 represents (black hair), and level 9/10 would be the lightest blonde (pale yellow/white).

When looking at a level chart, you will be working with all neutral shades.
This means an equal amount of the primary pigments Blue, Yellow, and Red.


Hue is more about the color itself.
The primary or underlying color of the hair in its current or desired state.
It is important to know if you are working with a neutral starting point or something with more or less warmth.

Your stylist will use their level chart to find your level of darkness as well as if your hair is warmer or cooler than neutral

Would you like to be a cool blonde or a warm blonde?
Do you want blue, purple, or gold undertones?
(We will touch more on this later)

Okay, so those are the BASIC basics.
There is plenty more to color theory, but we don’t want to be here all day.

Now.. before we get too deep into the options and processing, we have to talk about something VERY important…


Yep, that includes not only the box color that you bought on a whim during your last trip to Wegmans (or insert your local grocer here),
BUT it also includes that time you went to your cousin’s hairdresser that she has been raving about for years and they talked you into “going darker for the season” and “how amazing it would look with your complexion”.
PEOPLE. This stuff is easily accessible and I have seen it cause A LOT of problems in the blonding world.

Don’t get me wrong Permanent color is wonderful and has MANY great uses, but when it comes time to remove that color.. that where issues can arise.

That being said….

THERE ARE OPTIONS for those of you who like to have dark hair but also have dreams of those blonde beauty waves!


Now I know this is a post about going blonde, but trust me, this will come back around in a blonde way.
Demi is a deposit only color, meaning that unlike permanent color which destroys your natural pigment and then replaces it with artificial, Demi simply only adds color to your current color.
This means if you are a level 4/5/6 (dark brown to light brown) and you want to try having black hair, but think you might also want to go blonde for the summer, a Demi or even a semi-permanent color would be your best choice!
(Permanent color can cause banding within the hair and make it much harder to create and even bright blonde.. see: color correction)

Now for where Demi comes in with blondes.
You may have heard the terms “toner” or “gloss”, or maybe you haven’t…


These can both be interchangeable or completely different depending on who you’re talking to.
They both have to do with creating the correct hue when lifting hair.
(We will get into lifting soon)
Toners can be sheer or opaque and will be used for correcting unwanted tones, creating new tones, or adding a clear top coat over the current color for added shine and longevity.
These colors are Demi Permanent and will only last about 10-15 washes.


yikes… that word scares me… and I know better…


ahh… that’s much nicer.

You may have already guessed that these two words mean the same thing in the salon.. one is just much less harsh than the other.
I spend a lot of time explaining the process of “bleaching” to clients who panic at the sound of it.

Bleaching hair isn’t what it used to be.
We have bond building additives to help fortify your hair before, during, and after your lightening processes.
Bond building and keratin shampoos and conditioners for at home maintenance.
AND Protein and bonding treatments for in-salon use between processing.

To lighten hair is to remove/breakdown melanin.
However, while melanin is being oxidized, so are other portions of the hair…

Disulfide bonds (side bonds within polypeptide chains) are broken by chemical processing such as lightening or perms
Salt bonds (physical bonds) are affected by acidic or alkaline changes and attribute to 1/3 of the hairs strength
Hydrogen bonds are also 1/3 responsible for the strength within hair, but these bonds can be broken with water or heat. (Curling/straightening irons, wet sets)

When we are talking about a level 1-5 client, we are talking about quite a bit of melanin, and that means longer processing times to reach levels 9 and 10
NOW if you add artificial pigment to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a real challenge!


I’m sure you have all seen these on Instagram.
A client comes in with splotchy color or “hot roots” but wants to be an all over platinum white blonde.. then 30-60 seconds later BOOM you see the after…
So what happened in the salon to make this magic happen?

HOURS of work, that’s what!

To even out the tone of someone’s hair who has spots or banding is a very delicate process and can be handled in a number of ways.
A color correction will take precision placement of lightener, and sometimes several applications are necessary.
Formulating toners to create a seamless blend between virgin hair and previously colored banding is no walk in the park.
If you are someone who has old color in your hair, I hate to break it to you, but you are a color correction just waiting to happen.
TRUST your stylist,
Have REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS.. and by that I mean expect to leave some level of medium brown to dark blonde within your first session.


I have to say, in gratitude, with the rise of stylists on social media, it’s not often I have a client in my chair that thinks they are going to go from box black to platinum in one sitting.

Regardless, I know you sweet sweet ignorant angels are out there..
So, for you, I introduce the 12-hour session.
YEP, they exist.
So, If you want to spend an entire half day at the salon, and your stylist wants to do the same, I recommend bringing a book, snacks, movies, and a TON of money.
Oh, and you still might not make it to platinum.
If your stylist says its time to call it quits for the day, TRUST ME, you’re going to want to listen to them, because they are listening to your hair, and your hair is saying “I’m done”.

For the rest of you, you’re probably looking at somewhere between 2 and 5 sessions.
If you have permanent color in your hair, your looking at more sessions than someone with virgin hair.

Each session’s length will depend on the amount of work being applied.
A full highlight can range from 3-5 hours depending on foil pattern, full processing times, and if there is a cut and style involved.

Now is where we get to what kind of blonde you want to be!


All over blonde
That is to say totally blonde from root to end with no low lighting.
This would be a platinum card technique.
Every hair will be bleached and placed in back to back foils.
The lightener will be applied .25-.5” from the scalp to prevent over processing at the root.
Once all of the foils are laid and the hair is nearly to its desired level the stylist will apply lightener to the root.

This is a HIGH maintenance look and will require you to be back in the chair every 4-5 weeks for a retouch.
The first session will be the longest, up to 5 hours, while the retouches will be less than 2.

Should you want a more low maintenance look, ask for a shadow root to blend your regrowth.


This is the most common technique used when going blonde.
There are many different patterns to be used to give you more or less of an effect.
Placement of foils, number of foils, size of sections and internal patterning (weave/slice) will all change your outcome

You can choose to shadow root this technique as well to avoid harsh lines of grow out
Backcombing and feathering the product will also give you a softer blend at the root


Everyone always wants to know how this one works.
Well, it’s not exactly simple, and it’s not exactly complicated.
Balayage is a technique of hand painting hair and it traditionally done with no foils and applied in a sweeping motion along the surface of sections to build in lowlights and create a soft gradient and dimensional result.

Now, this technique can be applied in many ways and patterns, but I would not recommend using it in the traditional sense for darker brown hair UNLESS you want it to take extra long to get you to blonde, and unless you’re excited about dealing with red/orange tones in your hair.
Balayage will always result in a WARM finish.. (red/orange/gold/yellow)

Now I touched on this earlier… warm vs cool

Should you want to be an icy blonde (blue/violet/green undertones) foiling techniques such as those mentioned above, or…


No, I didn’t just make that word up. It’s an actual thing!
In fact, it’s one of my personal favorite techniques.
Using a mixture of foiling techniques and precise placement can give you a balayage outcome but with much brighter results in one session

Sometimes a cling film can also be used to trap heat and moisture for a better lift,


Sometimes this one gets confused with balayage because depending on the patterning used, they can look somewhat similar.
An ombre is a tonal shift from dark at the roots to light at the ends.
This shift should be gradual and seamless unless you want a hard line in the middle of your hair going from dark to blonde.. most people don’t.
In an ombre, all of your ends will be lightened, whereas a balayage can have lowlights reaching to the ends of the hair, and highlights reaching to the scalp.

High lift color

This option will not be suitable for everyone.
If you have old permanent color in your hair, this WILL NOT WORK
This stuff is a nightmare for some.
This is the ultimate maker of “hot roots”
I know I’ve mentioned this hot roots thing a couple times now.
This is when the root or virgin hair closer to the scalp lifts higher or warmer than the rest of the hair.
This can happen when there is dark permanent color still in the hair and a lighter permanent color or a high lift is applied over it.
High lift color is best suited for someone around a level 5 who wants to get to a 9/10 and has completely virgin hair
This is where I would start talking about developer levels and what to use and why, but this isn’t that kind of post.


Finally, I’ll leave you with this…
If you are thinking about going blonde, you need to know that it will require changes to your hair habits.
You will want to invest in PROFESSIONAL shampoo and conditioner.
This DOES NOT mean buying Paul Mitchell from Marshalls, that stuff is not the same as what is sold in a salon.
The “professional” products on the shelves at drug and grocery stores are either expired or not the proper formula.

My go-to preference for blondes is Olaplex 3, 4 & 5. These are a bond building mask, shampoo, and conditioner.
Use heat protector EVERY TIME you apply heat to your hair. (Rusk thermal spray, Redken iron shape11)
If you can find a leave-in conditioner (polyplex 6) with heat protection, use it before blow-drying.
Don’t tie your hair up tight if you can help it.
Invest in high-quality pillowcases to reduce friction.
Brush/comb gently, especially when wet.
And last but not least
WASH LESS – this will allow your natural oils to protect your hair and keep your toner longer!

I hope this helps in your journey to blonde!

So make sure if you’re in the Syracuse area go see Rachael at Inspire Studios and follow her on Instagram @breakthechainbeauty!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Looking for Something?