If you’ve been following along on my hair saga, you may already know that right before Christmas this past December, I went blonde. Here’s a time lapse video that takes you from before to after. It was filmed on the first day I went lighter — an eight hour process that is condensed in this video to less than 2 minutes.
I had been wanting to try something totally new with my hair for months but had kind of stalled out, and when I found out my friend, the amazing hair stylist Rubi Jones, was coming to San Francisco, I jumped on the opportunity to make the change happen. Rubi knows the owner of the luxe Barrow Salon here in San Francisco, so she connected me with the salon and we set the whole thing up. In the video, you’ll see Barbara, the genius colorist, her lovely assistant Brigid, and hair guru Rubi Jones who cut and styled my hair at the end of the day.
Something else you’ll see in the video: me talking NON-STOP for a full 8 hours. Literally non-stop. They don’t call me Gabby for nothing. : )
I’ve been getting lots of questions about the blonde from neighbors, relatives and readers, so I thought it would be fun to answer some FAQs here.
WHAT WAS THE PROCESS LIKE? IS YOUR HAIR SUPER DAMAGED?
In the video, you can see the first appointment. As I mentioned, it was long, like 8 hours. The bleach was applied on small sections, and foiled, and then my roots were bleached separately. And there were several toner sessions. My hair was remarkably undamaged at the end of it and Rubi only trimmed an inch or two.
Since this video was made, I’ve had two more color days, each with same colorist. At the second one, I was hoping for an all-over bleach that would take me platinum, but Barb’s expertise is focused on preserving hair quality as much as possible, and she really wanted to go more slowly to prevent damage, so she did highlights instead.
After trying out the highlights for several weeks, I decided they were definitely too subtle for me, so when I talked to Barb about the next appointment, I asked for no highlights, no foils, just all over bleach. And I wanted to let the bleach sit until I was platinum, even if that meant damage, and even if the damage required a big chop of my hair. So the third time I went in we got much closer to my goal. In fact, I would definitely describe my current color as platinum, though it’s still not quite the white-silver-blonde I’m aiming for. I think my roots are at the goal color, but my ends are still yellow gold. Those darn ends. They were filled with years of dark color and they are quite stubbornly holding on to the remains of it.
After the third appointment, my hair was definitely more damaged, (no surprise) and we cut off another few inches. But the hair quality still doesn’t feel bad, and after a blow-out looks much healthier and happier than I expected.
I think for the next appointment, I’ll do one of two things: 1) just get my roots done, add an all-over toner, and continue to enjoy this current color for awhile. Or 2) cut my hair closer to chin length, and do another all over bleaching session that hopefully takes me to the goal color of white-silver-blonde. We’ll see what happens!
HAS IT CHANGED YOUR LIFE? DO BLONDES REALLY HAVE MORE FUN?
As you know if you’ve been reading about my hair changes over the last year, I’ve never been obsessed with being blonde or even trying blonde. I’ve always been very happy as a brunette. So this color change was more of an intentional experiment. To see what it felt like trying on a physical identity that looked markedly different than what I’d normally tried before. I also like the idea of taking my hair to a color that acts as a blank slate. Meaning, once my hair is white, it’s easy to try other colors — maybe pink? lavender?
Boringly, I don’t feel like I behave differently at all. In fact I generally forget that I’m blonde. It’s not something I think about at all during an average day. And several months later, I’m still sometimes surprised when I see blonde in the mirror. Except for morning and evening routines, I really don’t see my reflection throughout the day, so perhaps I’m still just not used to it. But it also might be that I just don’t identify as blonde.
My mother-in-law was always a brunette until she let her hair go naturally white-grey with age. She’s been white-grey for many years now and still isn’t used to the new hair color. In her head, she still pictures herself as a brunette. I totally get that. I still totally picture myself as a brunette as well.
I can also say that as I’ve tried dramatic hair length changes over my lifetime, I have felt different. So maybe I’m someone that feels different with a new hair length, instead of hair color.
DO YOU DRESS DIFFERENTLY? HAS YOUR MAKEUP CHANGED?
I wondered if I would dress differently, and mostly I don’t. Though for photos or videos, I notice I’m now drawn to lighter colors. My makeup colors haven’t changed as much as I expected.
But this is new: Once I reached platinum, one of the biggest changes for me, is that I suddenly feel comfortable going out with no eye makeup. That is really unusual for me. I’ve never worn a ton of eye make up on a daily basis, but when I had dark hair, and even the dark blonde hair, eyeliner and mascara were a given. But now, when my hair is platinum, I like how I look without eye makeup. Totally unexpected to me! And I now care more that I have color on my lips.
Last week in New York, the HomeGoods staff had hair and makeup artists available because we were all on camera a bunch. And the makeup artists would give me both heavy eye makeup with fake lashes, plus an intense lip color. I felt like it was a lot. Maybe too much. It’s kind of an intense look. Not sure. I was still getting used to it.
DO YOU FEEL FAKE?
The “fakeness” of my hair color has been fun for me to discuss. My current natural color is basically halfway between white and black. It’s a salt-and-pepper mix that feels sort of metallic gray. So going dark like I was before, or going blonde like I am now, both feel equally fake to me. And I’m fine with that.
If you watch the video, there’s a part where the length of my hair has been bleached, but my roots haven’t yet, and you’ll see they are very white/grey!
DO YOU GET MORE ATTENTION AS A BLONDE?
Actually, yes. I do get more looks on the street, or maybe I’m just more aware of it. And once in awhile friends don’t recognize me. : )
WILL YOU KEEP THIS HAIR LENGTH?
That’s a good question. I really expected, assumed even, that I would have to chop off my hair because of color damage. So I was picturing a bold new haircut in addition to the new hair color. But really, my haircut has remained similar the whole time. Which is fine, but not the dramatic change I was imagining. So I’m thinking it will be fun to continue experimenting with my hair length and style.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR CURLS?
Well, oddly, my curls seemed to really change when we moved here to the Bay Area. I don’t know if it was the move, or if it was going to happen anyway. Maybe an age thing? But I lost a ton of curl when I moved here. Which is part of why I started getting blowouts more regularly. I haven’t been able to figure out how to style my new, less-curly hair, and blowouts save the day. (Apparently, I’m not the only one to see a change in my curls. Mara mentioned having one too.)
Anyway, I haven’t tried to wear my hair naturally curly at all since the bleaching started. But when I have curls added at a blowout appointment, they stay remarkably well. So that’s nice.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR BANGS?
Last summer I had bangs cut. And it turns out I love having bangs. I know getting regular trims with bangs can be a challenge, but I haven’t felt like the upkeep is too hard at all. Since I go in often (when I’m both dark or blonde) for root touchups and blowouts, working in a bang trim hasn’t been a big deal. I like that the bangs give me more coverage when I have a breakout, and I feel like it’s easier to make my hair look “done” with bangs.
But on one of the days at Alt Summit, when I wore the red velvet suit, Rubi styled my hair with my bangs pulled back and I realized I was ready to grow them out. So that’s what I’ve been doing. So far so good. I’m sure there are more awkward stages to come, but I’m willing to do it.
IF YOU COULD START OVER, WOULD YOU TRY THE BLEACH AGAIN?
Yes. For sure. It’s been a really good reminder that I have permission to dress or style myself however I like. Sometimes I see someone that I feel like has a super modern, stylish look, with funky hair or unusual clothes and somehow feel like I’m not allowed. That I’m somehow required to look a certain way or dress a certain way. But that’s simply not true. If I want to look super modern and stylish, the only thing that’s stopping me is me.
I would say that if I was doing it again, I would have tried harder to speed things up. I think I would have talked the colorist into skipping the foils, and doing two overall bleach sessions in the same day. I was willing to let my hair get damaged, and I wonder if we could have reached the color I am now at the first appointment. But who knows? Hair can be unpredictable. I guess I just really like the idea of starting out really dark and then ending the day platinum — like Kim Kardashian’s recent hair color change.
Obviously, if you want to bleach your hair, and are concerned about damage, slow and steady is the way to go. If you’re looking for a dramatic change, damage is a part of the risk.
WILL YOU STAY BLONDE FOREVER?
I don’t know. I still feel like I haven’t reached the picture in my head, which involves even lighter hair, and a shorter cut. If I am able to get there, I think I would want to stay there for quite awhile. I’m even wondering if going white now, will ease my hair into true white as I get older.
But maybe I’ll play with this for a year or so and then crave my dark hair again. We’ll see.
Okay you guys, now I’m dying to hear: have you ever made a dramatic hair color change? Do you know anyone with naturally dark hair, but who has lived for most of her life as a blonde? Or vice versa? Have you ever really wanted to change your hair color, but been too timid to go for it? Have you ever tried something new with your hair and hated it? Do you think you feel different or behave different when you change your look? Lastly, did you like the video?
P.S. — I’ve been asked, so I’m guessing you’re curious too: Neither the video, nor the hair color services were sponsored. I was a paying client like everyone else, and I hired the videographer because I wanted to make a time lapse video. I love time lapse videos and think it’s good content! But I did get a 10% discount on the hair color, because the salon owner is a friend of my friend Rubi.
Which reminds me, I’ve had so much fun going in to San Francisco for my hair appointments, but I’ve decided I really need to find a great colorist nearby in Oakland, because going into the city ends up adding way too much time to the appointments. Especially for something like a root touch up that happens once a month or so. If you know any awesome Oakland colorists, let me know!