the path to platinum

March 18, 2016 in she's a beauty, the 101 by Stacey Appel


My long and winding road to healthy, happy white blonde hair.

I’ve been cutting my hair short for as long as I can remember and the photos I took to my hair stylist for inspiration were usually of cute blonde women — Goldie Hawn, Twiggy, Edie Sedgwick. But as much as I wanted to go blonde myself (I was a fair-headed kid and stayed that way naturally through college) the maintenance and expense seemed like too much. So I settled on highlights for my medium, mousey brown hair, hoping blond’ish was better than non-blonde. Meh.

But about two years ago, I fell in love with Michelle Williams’ hair in those AW13 Louis Vuitton ads. I got the cut, but all I kept thinking was how much better it would be in blonde. But not just any shade of blonde. I’m talking icy, pastel, not a smidgen of yellow, WHITE. I mulled it over for a couple months, but what finally sealed the deal for me was a beauty editorial in Teen Vogue (above) which featured five young models gone platinum by colorist Aura Friedman. YES! I love that this blonde is so fantastically fake-looking, so you’re not trying to convince anyone it’s natural. Plus, the color just gets better when the roots grew in — I wouldn’t need to go full Gwen Stefani to maintain it (Gwen gets her roots done every 10 days. But what’s good for the Gwen is not good for the rest of us).


I would lie if I said plunging into the deep end of the blonding pool wasn’t the best beauty-related thing I’ve done ever. It looks cool and weird (which fits me… I just don’t do pretty). It really changed the way I dress — I’m more minimalist, with lots of black and white and grey and bits of primary colors. Hell, I’ve even dabbled with pastels, something I’ve never done before — but it has to be certain 80s ‘Miami Vice’ pinks and aquas, no preppy looks or pearls, please.

But! I will admit, it’s taken a long to figure out how best to care for my new hair. Going this light strips it just about everything and is really harsh. So you need to baby your locks so that they don’t break off or turn into slime. No really! The first time I washed my hair after going blonde, the texture felt very rubbery and mushy, which was jarring. My head hours and hours to air dry because platinum hair is so porous and absorbs so much more water. When dry, it had the texture of straw. A few months later, I noticed I had a short antennae sticking up on the back of my crown because the hair had broken off (which I kinda loved, actually). But today, my hair’s health is pretty much back to normal since, through trial-and-error and, I’ve learned how to properly care for it. No more stretchy strands or antennae for me (unless I cut it that way, which is not outside the realm of possibility).


1. Wash — I only do this once a week. Washing can dry out normal hair (it strips your locks of natural oils), so imagine how harsh it can be on chemically-treated heads. Shimmer Lights is a purple shampoo made especially for blondes. It cleans and also works like a light toner, adding a slight purple hue to cancel out brassy hints of yellow. If you really must wash your hair more than once a week, only use shampoo one day and co-wash the second time.

2. Protein — You must add protein back to your hair because peroxide will remove it (what did I say about bleach removing everything???). The best treatment around is Joico’s K-Pac Reconstructor. It’s a little pricey for $20 for a 5.1 ounce tube but your hair will thank you for it. Beware of too-good-to-be-true prices, though. They’re either counterfeit or old product. The cream should be thick and smell like bananas.

3. Condition — Follow up your protein with some heavy moisturizing. Choose a conditioner that is specially formulated for chemically-treated or weak/ damaged hair. I use ION’s Repair Solutions Effective Care and leave it on for 5 minutes.

4. Smooth — I don’t put any anti-frizz serums or other sticky styling products intp just-washed hair. The only thing I use is Proclaim Coconut Oil. If I don’t, my hair is a frizzy mess! Coconut oil seals in moisture and smooths down the follicles. I use about a quarter size all over and comb it through. I then go back and put extra on the ends to tame flyaways. Make sure your hair is very damp when you use it (one thing I learned from ‘Queer Eye‘ all those years ago is that oils and pomades work best while your hair is fresh-from-the-shower-wet). Too much coconut oil can make your hair heavy and greasy, so don’t overdo it. I personally don’t sweat it though — I don’t mind my hair looking a little bed-heady.

5. Protect — I let my hair air dry as much as possible (which, even though it’s short, can take hours because of those pesky porous strands). Sometimes if I can’t wait, I’ll use the light setting on the dryer to finish it off. And yes, I DO use a flat iron, but the bleach has pretty much killed off all of my natural waves so I only have to use it for awkward bends and strays. Nevertheless, if you plan on using heat tools, it’s pretty smart to also use a thermal protector, like this very affordable Pantene Pro-V Heat Protection Spray.

6. Whiten — Sometimes, even with the purple shampoo, I’ll find my hair needs some extra toning between root touch-ups. That’s when I break out the Manic Panic in Virgin Snow. It’s the perfect shade of pastel white and since it’s ammonia-free and doesn’t require developer, it’s as gentle to your hair as conditioner. I wouldn’t use this in lieu of a proper toner since it doesn’t last long, but it’s great for removing yellow tint that might be creeping in.

Final Tip — I know this won’t work for everyone, but keeping your hair short (above the shoulders or shorter) with regular trims will really help your cause with white hair. It’s much more expensive and a lot more work to keep up with long platinum hair (and it’s harder to do your own color if that’s what you choose to do). Long locks are also more prone to dryness and breakage, and it’s also more difficult to go a whole week without washing it. But in the end, just do you.

Images from top: ‘Blonde 3.0’ by Christian MacDonald for Teen Vogue | Michelle Williams by Peter Lindbergh for Louis Vuitton