The Highs and Lows of Being Bleach Blonde
If beauty is pain, platinum hair is the goddamn masochism Olympics.
The year was 2015. Korean model Soo Joo Park had been named a face of L’Oreal Paris. Her hair was platinum and, at that moment, I just knew mine had to be, too. This impulse led quickly, with little-to-no council, to the salon where, head set ablaze with bleach, I silently screamed my way to the hair of my dreams. It was life-changing.
I’ve always had the deepest black hair. Looking in a mirror and seeing, essentially, a millennial, dragonless Daenerys Targaryen in the reflection, filled me with the triumphant glee of defying genetics in the name of self-determined vanity. It was at once an instant accessory and a bold identity statement – unnatural-looking, for sure, but that was the point. I never hated or disliked my natural hair color, but I’ve felt like the leveled-up version of myself since becoming platinum. That said, being so next-level is not without painstaking maintenance and care. Below, five things to know before you take the plunge.
You’re going to need a bleach budget.
Platinum is expensive, no matter how fancy a salon you choose to go blonde in. It’s always a double-process, and double the process means double the price (unless you have a friend do it at home in which case, god speed). Set aside a few hundos for this initial dive and then at least another hundred every four to six weeks for root touch-ups. Gasp you may, but I don’t know why anyone would assume looking mythical was affordable in the first place.
Prepare to cross a chemical river of fire.
Have you ever lit your head on fire? No? Me neither. However, getting your hair bleached for the very first time is probably not too far off. You think I’m being dramatic, I know. But to you I say, HA. Bleach on a virgin scalp sears for however long it takes to lift those roots several layers to platinum. Your colorist will tell you not to wash your hair for a few days prior to let the natural oil buildup form a protective layer, but honestly, this doesn’t help much. You can also massage a bit of coconut oil onto that noggin, but overall it’s just going to burn. I’ve done this twice in my lifetime, and each time it was a testament to my divine will and supreme vanity. If beauty is pain, platinum hair is the goddamn masochism Olympics. Good news though — it doesn’t hurt nearly as much getting your roots touched up afterwards.
Get used to the feeling of straw attached to your head.
You know the part in Season 5 of Buffy when Hell-goddess Glory brain-sucks Tara, rendering her a babbling echo chamber of who she once was? Hair that’s been scared white with bleach is essentially a husk of its former pigmented glory. That is to say, it looks like hair but feels more like straw in hair’s clothing. Sure, there are things like Olaplex to quell the damage, but unless your hair is rather light to begin with, Olaplex can only do so much. No matter how many times people say bleach is damaging to hair, no one really seems to grasp this notion until they are running their fingers through damp elastic noodles post-shower and buying coconut oil in bulk to sate their eternal dryness.
Platinum upkeep is like having a very high-maintenance show pet living on your head.
This is the best metaphor I can think of when asked if it’s difficult to maintain super-blonde hair. Just think: salon visits every five to six weeks for root touchups, expensive hair products to tone and condition these forever-thirsty golden snakes attached to my head, a tricky washing schedule and frailty when it comes to heat styling (which should not be done frequently). But it looks glorious and is a dream to style. I’ve always had thick, straight hair that would barely hold a wave, let alone a curl. Once bleached, it had so much more volume and body. I could twist or braid it and it would accept the wave pattern until it got wet again.
It looks really, really good when done well.
For all the above-mentioned grievances, I’ve come to celebrate platinum blonde as my final form, at least for the first half of my life (assuming we’re working off a hundred-year life expectancy here). More fun? Debateable. Truer to my chosen method of self-expression? Very much so. I mostly wear black and enjoy the bright halo of platinum atop the stark backdrop of my wardrobe. It’s its own accessory, and depending on the makeup I choose, I can go ethereally divine or sharply terror-glam. Seriously, it’s more versatile that one might assume!
Platinum is a lot of work, sure, but if you looked in the mirror, freshly silver-haired and thought, “Yup, I’m a goddamn goddess,” you’d accept the upkeep as just another chore to maintain your divine presence. Honestly, some folks commit hours to perfecting their complexion, or daily heat-styling, or traveling far and wide for the most alluring babylights. We’ve all got our beauty commitments. Should you choose to cross that chemical fire, I’ll be there waiting to slow-motion-jump high-five you at the finish line of the beauty Olympics.
Photos by Sable Yong and Roberto Machado Noa via Getty Images; collage by Edith Young.