Which Blonding Technique Best Suits My Lifestyle?
So you’ve made the decision to go blonde, or shake up your usual blonde routine. You’ve waded through the plethora of options, and selected the perfect new color for your skintone. You’ve researched how to care for your newfound blondeness at home. So what’s left to consider?
Why, TECHNIQUE, of course!
Application techniques very widely, and choosing the right one for you is much like deciding on a haircut...while it’s tempting to go for whichever style looks the cutest (or the sexiest, or the sassiest...you get the idea), the biggest consideration should be lifestyle.
Just like the fact that there are better cut ideas than a chin-length bob if you rely on ponytail capabilities to get you through the week, your color inspiration should suit your lifestyle, and be selected with your schedule and wallet in mind.
You’re probably getting tired of making decisions pertaining to your hair transformation at this point...but fret not! We’ve put together this handy-dandy guide - highlighting the top 5 blondification techniques, average upkeep requirements, and the pros and cons of each - to help you narrow down your options and achieve the blonde of your dreams while staying within your means!
Classification: Very High Upkeep
All-over blonde can be absolutely gorgeous, and may seem like the simplest option - but in reality, it’s the most time-consuming and expensive of the blonde options, and achieving the desired tonality can be difficult.
The vital first step is to find a stylist who specializes in color; expertise is a necessity to ensure that realistic expectations are set and met, with ideal tone and minimal damage in mind. While an experienced colorist will be more expensive than the average stylist, it’s important to remember that doing it right the first time will cost less in the long run, and that an inexperienced professional has the potential to wreak irreversible havoc with the health of your locks.
When considering all-over blonding as a technique, keep in mind that:
- It is the most costly option, both up-front and over time
- Be prepared to spend many hours at the salon for your initial appointment if you’re going more than a level lighter than your current color, as there are many stages to achieving an all-over blonde
- You should expect to lose at least a couple of inches in length due to processing damage
- Prepare yourself for the fact that you may experience tingling or burning sensations on the scalp during processing
- Extensive at-home upkeep between colorings is required, which takes time and money
- Regular root touch-ups are needed every 4 weeks to minimize “banding” (a harsh line of demarcation between the lightened length and untouched regrowth)
- The end result will largely depend upon your natural hair color, as well as the health of your hair going into the process
Classification: High Upkeep
With much stylistic leeway, ever-popular highlights have long been the “golden standard” when it comes to blonding options. Great for short hair (with a cap) or longer hair (free-handed or with foils), highlights can help you to achieve whatever look you may desire - whether you prefer an all-over effect with less damage than a single-process blonde, or chunkier lights for a funkier finish - and even enhance hair’s texture, volume and manageability for those who struggle with fine, flat, or lifeless locks.
While keeping up highlights is easier and less costly overall than all-over blonding, they are still classified as “high upkeep” on our list - because you’ll want them done well for the sake of hair health, and you’ll need to touch them up regularly to avoid the oh-so-dreaded and ever-so-unsightly regrowth line of demarcation.
That being said, depending on the application pattern and your styling preferences, you may be able to get away with touching up only the partline and perimeter portions that are exposed via your normal style to extend wearability and effectively minimize the number of full-head processes needed per year.
When considering highlights, keep in mind that:
- The level of upkeep required will depend on the pattern in which the highlights are applied, as well as your styling preferences
- As the application process can be lengthy, seeking out an experienced colorist will make all the difference
- Expect at least a trim with each touch-up, as bleaching is likely to cause fraying at the ends
- You’ll likely want to use a Purple Shampoo/Conditioner/Masque between salon visits to keep unwanted yellow tones and brassiness at bay
- Highlighting is a great way to add volume and texture to hair - but if those are not desirable side effects for you, a clear gloss treatment post-process can help to re-smooth the cuticle and eliminate unwanted voluminosity!
Classification: Medium Upkeep
A hot new take on the classic Highlight, Babylights have stolen the show in recent years as the premier highlighting technique. Best described as a more delicate, personalized version, Babylights offer all of the benefits of highlighting - while providing a slightly more subtle, noticeably more personalized result - suitable for all styles and ages. There’s a reason these face-framing beauties are all the rage!
When considering babylights, keep in mind that:
- Processing is likely to take a bit longer, and possibly even be more expensive, than traditional highlight services, as the sectioning required is more precise, and each foil houses fewer hairs - meaning more foils overall are required to achieve optimal results
- Thanks to smaller sections and more evenly-dispersed coloration, babylights may require fewer touch-ups than regular highlights, as the line of demarcation at the root tends to be less noticeable, having an almost “smudged” appearance when well executed
- As with traditional highlights, expect at least a trim with each process
- You’ll definitely want to use a Purple Shampoo/Conditioner/Masque between touch-ups to maintain a bright, salon-fresh vibe
Classification: Low Upkeep
Balayage is an application technique hailing from the term “to sweep” in French. Balayage consists of hand-painting color on specific sections of hair to achieve a dimensional finish; as the name would indicate, this technique provides a long, slow transition from lighter to darker that, when properly executed, heeds a beautifully natural-looking finish.
Because the blonding is done intermittently throughout the lengths (like a more relaxed version of highlighting), there is no hard line of demarcation - which makes this blonding option one of the easiest to keep up and one of the most cost effective.
When considering balayage, keep in mind that:
- Stylist selection is KEY here...expert technical execution is incredibly important to an optimal finish
- While the over time costs tend to be lower thanks to fewer touch-ups being required, the initial investment can be costlier due to the specialized nature of the service
- Balayage is one of the better options for those with sensitive skin, as the color isn’t applied directly on or adjacent to the scalp
- While less damaging than all-over blonding or highlighting/babylighting techniques, you’re still altering strands - which means you should expect to leave at least a trim’s-worth lighter in length
- Purple or Blue Shampoo/Conditioner will be vital in maintaining an optimally icy tone, especially given the longer periods between touch-ups
Classification: Very Low Upkeep
Whereas the term “Balayage” refers to a certain technique, the moniker “Ombre” is indicative of the finished style - defined as a dark-to-light graduation of color featuring full horizontal saturation at the ends and a shorter, more marked vertical transition.
Achieving a perfect Ombre involves fully saturating the ends with lightener and blending upward toward the vertical center. The result is a drastic gradient from very light ends to a natural root; while not as natural-looking as Balayage, Ombre is every bit as gorgeous when done well - and requires the least amount of upkeep out of all the options on our list.
When considering ombre, keep in mind that:
- Like balayage, Ombre is a specialized service...while it may be tempting to try at home, the specific nature of the style really does require an expert colorist’s touch
- After a heftier initial investment, costs decrease over time, and touch-ups can be few and far between - making this an ideal option for busier gals who have trouble finding the time for regular salon visits
- As the ends will be fully saturated with lightener, expect to lose a bit more length than with balayage or a highlighting service
- The icier the ends the more beautiful the result - so at-home care between colorings is more important than ever in maintaining brightness and optimal hair health for Ombre styles