My Hair Colour Transformation: Black to Blonde and Back Again

Thursday 2 August 2012

Hi All
There is a discussion going on over at a lovely blog I read called Antoinette Vintage (, about how 'possible' is is to go blonde if you have really dark hair. I joined in the comments, but it really got me thinking - so much so that I wanted to do a post on the same subject!
A couple of posters stated that their hairdressers said they couldn't dye their hair blonde as it was too dark, which seems off to me. I mean, you couldn't go from very dark brown to blonde in  a day (the amount of peroxide required might devastate a small town in Belarus), but you most certainly can over time.
The way to do it is to start off with a full head of highlights, a couple of times. You'll hopefully achieve a caramelly shade of blonde/brown -  sort of like Jennifer Lopez, or Olivia Palermo. You can just stick there (it happens to be my favourite hair colour, that sort of 'tortoiseshell' that's mid-way between blonde and brown). Or you can keep adding top ups until all your brown hair has turned blonde!
I've done this twice myself. My natural colour is a very dark brown, almost black. And since I was little, I've dreamt of being blonde. Perhaps because all fairy tale princesses in the 90's were blonde! And Barbie has a lot to answer for!

Since then, I've actually come to the conclusion that there are a lot of stunning brunettes (and that men actually seem to prefer them to blondes), and yet it hasn't stopped me hankering after golden locks. Some things are deep seated!

I feel at my personal best with a few highlights- it makes me feel a lot more groomed. But I know aim at Jessica Alba-style caramel locks rather than full on blonde.
I first started going blonder after I graduated from uni. I was quite a stressed, depressed person there and to me, going blonder signified the start of a much happier, well-adjusted phase of my life. It was also when I stopped visiting rock clubs! I gradually went ligher and ligher, ending up quite blonde.

Then, last year, I got married. My husband wanted me to have my hair its natural colour- because that's what it was like when we met and he prefers brunettes. The idea of being the 'natural me' going down the aisle also appealed to me- and the fact finances were very squeezed saving for a wedding meant all the extra cash not being spent in the salon could go towards a dream honeymoon!
Since then, I have starting having highlights again, because I just like my hair that way. I haven't gone as light as last time, because it's difficult to maintain, and I like the colour it is now best of all.

But all in all,I have spent more time in the colourist's chair than you'd care to imagine! Here is my hair 'journey' (god, that's cheesy. Couldn't think what else to call it...) in pictures, and here are my top tips on going blonde for fellow brunettes...

From brunette to blonde and back again!

My natural hair colour....very dark brown....damn near black, but with red undertones
I started having caramel coloured highlights....and making 'comedy' expressions in pictures...
My hair gets blonder and blonder as I get more highlights over time and my brown fades..

Ultimate blonde! My childhood dreams of being Barbie are realised...sadly, the condition of my hairlooks like the straw I'm standing on...

I go back to my natural dark locks to say 'I do' in September 2011..

And in my current phase, which I like to call 'tortoiseshell'...the best of both worlds!

My top tips on achieving blondeness with dark hair:

1) Have a hairdresser do it. Seriously, it will not work out if you try to do it yourself, you'll just go ginger (been there, done that!). Much like plastering a wall, you really need a professional. For one, over-the-counter dyes are not legally allowed to contain that much peroxide, so they'll never make you blonde enough. Second, hairdressers know much more about toners, shading and creating a blonde that will look even vaguely realistic on you. It is expensive, but you really can't shortcut it. After you've been having highlights a while, and your overall base colour has shifted to be lighter, you can always skip a bit by having a 't-section' when your roots start showing rather than a half or full head.
2) Consider what shade would look good on you. Very few people can get away with balls-out platinum blonde, like Gwen Stefani or Rita Ora. That hair makes a statement, and you have to have the attitude to go with it. It will make you look like you need to dress a little more quirky as well, so if you have that style, all good. Otherwise, if you're a bit more conservative, a 'digestive biscuit' colour is going to work much better.

3) Conditioner is your friend. Heat is not. One thing you know lots of colour on your hair does is dry it out a lot. In fact, the thing I regret most about my years of highlights is how they've stripped my hair of its natural shine and made it straw-like and crispy. You need to counteract this from day one. Buy a big tub of a deep conditioner and use it once a week. Invest in a hair oil. And do not even bat your eyelashes at a curling iron, hairdryer or straighteners without dousing your hair in a good heat protection spray first. Try to stay away from these appliances as much as humanly possible (as a GHD addict, I have trouble with this one.. but I try not to blow-dry my hair unless I'm in a real rush. I bought a microfibre hair wrap and I use that instead to dry my hair naturally).

4) Take along pictures! Hair colour is a very subjective business, and you and your hairdressers vision of 'blonde' might be quite different. So use visuals. Take along plenty of pictures of what you're hoping to achieve, so the hairdresser can tell you if its possible and if it will look any good on you.

5) Be prepared to spend money... Not only is regular colouring expensive, but maintaining any sort of condition to your hair is as well. You need to invest in quality products, such as a colour care shampoo and conditioner, hair oils, deep conditioners etc if you want to have a blonde that looks any good. There's a reason good blonde colour looks 'expensive'-it is! Just think of it as what it is-an accessory you wear every day, and with every outfit. You want it to look good!

6)....And time! All that time in the salon, all the time shopping for hair products, all the time applying hair products can add up. Either way, you're going to be spending time and money maintaining hair that was previously fuss-free before.

If you still want to do it after that, good luck to you and I'm sure you will look amazing!I hope this post goes to show it can be done - but in stages!

If you have any product recommendations or care tips for coloured hair, please share them below :) xx


  1. hey! thanks for your comment and this post, you have definitely filled me with confidence that i could pull it off. If i went to the hairdressers and asked for highlights instead of 'i want blonde!' they will prob do it. Im definately gunna DIY it this weekend, if fails I will seek out a hairdresser, my new boss's best friend is a hairdresser so Im sure she could do it!

  2. Good luck, you'll get there if you want to, and I'm sure you will look fab. Post lots of pics! xx

  3. love the post, your hair looks really nice how it is now - like you said the best of both worlds! xx

    1. Ahh, thanks Gem that's ever so's slowly creeping lighter on top though, so I'm beginning to get that nasty, two-tone 'badger' look though! xx