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I Dyed My Black Hair Platinum & Here’s How It Went Down

In all my twenty-something years of life, I’ve never sported anything other than my jet black hair. Okay, there was that time in college when I took the bus to the grocery store and, on impulse, decided to stop at the salon next door instead to spend my measly college budget on an ~edgy~ streak of purple rather than on food (I am now older and wiser and definitely do not advise this). That streak turned orange that same night when I fell into a heavily chlorinated pool—but that’s a story for another time. For the most part, hair color was never something I experimented with. I liked my hair the way it was—black goes with everything, after all.

Well, that all changed. Being in my twenties, I’m in this place where I feel like I need try EVERYTHING, immediately. So what better time than the present to run with the trend and go platinum? I started my research, and came across Sable Yong’s piece on xoJane about what it took to get her Asian hair platinum. It sort of sounded like the worst experience in the world, but DAMN did she look good. Extreme pain + an exorbitant amount of money = platinum blonde? Probably not the best idea, but… SOLD.

Fast forward a couple weeks, and there I was in the stylist’s chair at Lunatic Fringe, a local salon in Salt Lake City. I’d been prepping in advance with overnight coconut oil hair masks every night for a week leading up to my appointment, and—this is important—PAINKILLERS about half an hour before heading in. Full disclosure, I took way more than what’s recommended on the bottle and it still hurt like hell, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

V scared, trying to maintain my composure

My stylist Cajun Howe (seriously, bless his soul for being so damn patient) sat me down and jumped right into it. He chopped a few inches off my locks first; I was planning on going shorter, so there was no reason to bleach all of my hair, but we kept a little length so there’d be more to cut after bleaching. I mean, it makes sense. I was going to be frying my hair, so being able to trim the ends afterwards would be a smart move. 

AND THEN IT BEGAN. Cajun slathered my entire head with bleach. It wasn’t so bad. I felt nothing more than a slight tingling and patted myself on the back for thinking ahead and taking all that ibuprofen. I also prayed that it wouldn’t get worse, because my tolerance for pain basically doesn’t exist. I mean, I once made my boyfriend late to his first day of work (sorry, Charlie) because I had to get blood drawn and was being a child about it, in case that helps paint you a picture of what I am capable of handling. But LOL, this was all about to get significantly worse, and naïve me sat there thinking I could be a real adult and handle it.

Here I am looking smug AF… If only I’d known what was to come

The rest of day one turned into sort of a waiting game. And a long one, at that—four hours, to be exact. We did a double process to lift as much color as possible from my heavily pigmented hair. There were moments of searing pain—as in, my scalp was burning so hot it started to feel cold. It was going to be “spicy,” Cajun warned me. It was spicy AND THEN SOME. Oh, and that smell—a combination of bleach and burning hair… it was enough to make my eyes water.

10/10 do not recommend this fragrance

Two rounds later, my dark hair was history. But it wasn’t anywhere where I wanted it to be. I knew it’d be a long process, but that in-between period is the absolute worst. I kept thrusting my inspo photos at Cajun, asking him if he REALLY thought I’d reach platinum (I’m annoying). He kept assuring me that no, really, this is how it’s supposed to go.

Not quite the look I was going for

As evening hit and the salon started emptying, we did one more round with foils—thankfully avoiding my roots. Newer hair that’s closer to the scalp lifts more quickly than the ends, so to even out my hair color, we had to do a little extra throughout the rest of my hair. It didn’t change my color that much; by the end of it, my hair still sort of looked like a “campfire,” as Cajun called it. Accurate. It was at this point that a part of me started panicking—What have I done? I’m going to have to go into hiding! Which TBH is fine because I work from home anyway. But then I was like, YOLO (do you kids still say that these days?); worse things have happened. It gave me the strength to keep my eye on the prize, but not enough to go out into public just yet. I mean, I went to the drive-thru at Wendy’s for dinner, because it was either that or starve.

When I got home, my cat literally DID NOT RECOGNIZE ME

Since I wasn’t about to walk around with orange hair (NOT with my skin tone!) for longer than necessary, I went in to see Cajun the next day. Depending on the condition of your hair, this may or may not be advisable—you might have to wait up to a few weeks, but you’ll have to discuss this with your stylist. I was feeling pretty good—despite the pain from the first day, there had been no damage to my scalp, and my hair was actually feeling really healthy. Having good hair was something I’d always been proud of; I actually hadn’t blow-dried or heat-styled my hair in about two years prior to this appointment. “The hard part is over,” Cajun told me as I sat down. Maybe he was trying to put my in a positive state of mind, which worked for about two seconds until we once again slathered my hair in bleach. I thought I was going to pass out from the SEARING PAIN (yes, even post-ibuprofen). I mean, I could actually hear the bleach sizzling.

So this is a good look

I’ll spare you a close-up, but if you *really* want to, feel free to lean in and get a good look at the side of my face, where blisters were already starting to form—and this was only the beginning of what was about to be a six-hour day. Twice, we processed my hair like this, before aggressively toning my hair to get it closer to the white blonde I was after.

Was I in pain? Yes. But was I happy with the progress? Also yes.

Hours later, we were finally done with the bleach. A blissful cool rinse later, I was like, hallelujah. That feeling didn’t last for long, though. We still had two rounds of toner to go; one to tone out the orange hues, and another to take care of the yellow. Cajun didn’t bother with gloves, so I thought I’d be fine, too. Nope—turns out when you put more chemicals on a scalp that’s been burned raw, it burns even more. Should’ve known. Pain-wise, toning was THE. WORST. I was shaking. I thought I was maybe going to pee my pants. I gripped the salon chair like my life depended on it (which it sort of did). This explains the lack of photos during this process. Trust me, you’re not missing out, you didn’t really want to see visuals of me ugly-crying/on the verge of passing out anyway.

So, let’s just fast forward. Cajun finally did the big reveal and there I was, staring at myself in the mirror as an actual blonde. Everybody in the salon ooh-ed and ahh-ed, because let’s be real, I didn’t start out with many believers. Well, here we are now.

It’s only been a day and I still have the battle scars from the experience (TMI: scabs are literally flaking off my scalp as we speak)… but I am full on IN LOVE. I love how my new hair looks with my wardrobe (even though there might be some colors I can’t wear anymore). Bold lipstick shades look even better against the bright blonde. Do blondes have more fun? TBD, because I spent the rest of the night petting my cat and watching Netflix.

As for how my hair is doing? My once-healthy hair actually isn’t as bad as it could be, but it’s certainly not in the best condition—it’s still crazy porous, so it has this weird, slug-like texture when wet. It takes forever to dry, but when it’s dry, IT’S DRY. As in, I could pour an entire bottle of olive oil on my head and I’m 99 percent sure my strands would soak it right up. I’ve stocked my bathroom with an arsenal of masks, oils, leave-in conditioners and just about every hair product you can think of to try to restore my new mane to its old condition. I’ll let you know how that goes later… but in the meantime, I’m going to go enjoy the blonde life.


 #platinum #blonde

A photo posted by Alice Chen (@alicefchen) on

Alice is the Senior Associate Editor at Her Campus. She graduated from Emory University in 2012 as an English major and a Dance minor. Before joining Her Campus, she was an associate editor at Lucky Magazine. She is currently located in Salt Lake City, UT, where she spends her free time rescuing orphaned kittens, whose lives are documented on Instagram at @thekittensquad! You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @alicefchen.