Drastically changing your hair colour can signal many things, a new start, recent trauma or perhaps some sort of crisis. I opted to go from brunette to blonde a month ago because for me, it signalled a rebirth of sorts. I had a deeply traumatic year last year. I was coming to terms with my beloved mother's terminal cancer diagnosis (something I'm still struggling with) and suffered terrible health problems of my own that resulted in me being attached to several machines due to total renal failure, nearly having my legs amputated and being hospitalised for two months. My recovery is on-going but in a nut shell, I was out of action for close to a year. I suffered deep depression, I couldn't work, I couldn't write. It was a very dark time.
They do say that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger - and as trite as those words can sound, this has certainly been my personal experience. I emerged from the trials and tribulations of the last year, stronger, wiser, more resilient, more focused and with greater empathy and compassion for the world around me. It's not that I was a cold-hearted fashion bitch before, more that nearly losing everything, my life included, gave me a renewed sense of perspective on pretty much everything. I was forced to audit my life and question what I needed, what I wanted, what was staying - and what had to go.
To celebrate my life MOT and phoenix-like rebirth from the ashes of the previous year, I decided I wanted to bleach my hair. Significantly. I literally woke up one morning and decided that I wanted to hit the (peroxide) bottle in a BIG way and look like Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner. I'm not the kind of person who does anything by halves. It's always "go hard or go home". No subtle highlights, balayage or ombre for me. I wanted 80's-style white blonde hair. I set about scouring the internet for reference images, with Rutger as my starting point. These are some of the cool cats who made it onto my inspiration board:
With a visual idea of what I wanted to achieve saved on my desktop, I set about researching the practicalities (i.e. trawling You Tube for hair bleaching tutorials). I discovered a rather fine Miss Kendra Beasley. I'm mixed race (Ethiopian mother, Scottish Father) and this chick had a similar skin tone, hair length and texture. She explained the process really well, touching on everything from the products needed to the developing time and aftercare etc.
I've copied her video below:
Armed with a shopping list, I headed to my local Sally Hair & Beauty to purchase these essentials:
Brush For Tinting
Core Tint Bowl Black
Salon Services Peroxide Creme 9% 30Vol
L'Oreal Quick Blue High Performance Powder Lightener
Wella Color Fresh Silver - Violet 0.6
I've experimented with my hair numerous times throughout the wilder phases of my late teens through to my early 20's. I've had a hot pink stripe, I've had beach-chic mahogany highlights (courtesy of Paul Edmonds in Knightsbridge - probably my best professional dye job to date). But no hair colour odyssey is complete without a few disasters. Mine was when I had a badger-style mohican (shaved black sides and a longer ivory blonde section down the middle). Apart from looking like I had road kill on my head, like all novices, I had thought it a good idea to get my hair cut then tackle the bleaching by myself. I bleached the central section several times, hadn't bothered doing my research and hadn't taken care to deeply condition it. One day, as I was blow-drying my mohawk, a large section at the front broke off in my hand. Even my adorable hairdresser couldn't salvage the situation, so I had to shave it all off and start again. Needless to say, this time around, I knew I had to be careful unless I wanted to end up "doing a Britney" again.
With my road kill faux pas ever present in my mind, I raided my beauty cupboard for a deep-conditioning hair mask. Thankfully, I had the privilege of having lunch with the lovely Lee Stafford at the Sanderson some time ago, courtesy of NBPR. I was given an abundance of hair treats, one of them being this wonder product:
Lee Stafford Breaking Hair Treatment
This minimised any hair breakage and has totally changed the texture of my heavily processed hair. I use it as an overnight treatment at least once a week, generally more as I tend to blow dry my hair most days, which combined with the bleaching process tends to leave my hair frizzy and brittle. This makes my hair softer, smoother and much easier to manage. It smells yummy too.
If I'm feeling especially indulgent, I'll mix it with a multi-purpose beauty oil, massaging it into my scalp and through the hair, paying close attention to the ends, leaving it overnight and shampooing it out in the morning.
I'm fond of The Body Shop Shea Beautifying Oil as a generic option:
Or the NARS Monoi Body Glow II for a luxury option:
Both smell heavenly (but not so strong that they battle with your favourite perfume or cologne) and can be used on the body, face, hair and nails. They are fantastic beauty all-rounders and a total "must" for your beauty cabinet. They make great bath oils too, or do what I do and massage them into damp skin post shower to seal in moisture for silky-soft skin.
It took me two days and around three bleaching, toning and deep-conditioning processes to achieve my desired level of lightening (devoid of the brassiness that can come with the bleaching process). I was so pleased with my new look that I posted a picture of my new "do" on Facebook (as you do) and my timeline went CRAZY. People were loving my new look. Including my friend, the super-talented fashion photographer James Burton (of James Burton Photography). He invited me over to his place in Fulham to celebrate Fashion Mister Version 2.0 and we spent a few hours chilling, catching up about life, lust and creative projects. He also wanted to give some equipment a test run (no - not like that LOL) and offered to take some new head shots of me. Did I mention that when we met up, he turned up looking super-duper-fly on a skateboard? Too cool for school and more than a little awkward. I had a huge thing for skater boys when I was younger, I still think they are pretty hot.
My blog and social media platforms were in need of a refresh, so of course I graciously obliged to his offer of taking my picture. I mean come on, if you have the option of taking an awful selfie or having a photographic genius work his magic, you are going to choose the latter, you'd be mad not to. Being the bloke he is, I had already received a text from James instructing me with what to wear. We're generally on the same page creatively so I'd already planned on doing the whole skinny jeans, t-shirt and vintage black leather Harley Davidson motorcycle jacket combo. But I nearly died when he produced a pair of fingerless black leather gloves, as I ended up looking like a carbon copy of the inspiration pic of Billy Idol that had found it's way onto my mood board. Spooky!
After a few hours, some cigarettes, heaps of direction and some gentle encouragement from James (I'm used to being the boss on set), we ended up with some amazing images. It was weird posing with no music, so during the process I grabbed my iPhone and cranked up Billy Idol's Rebel Yell and Kim Wilde's Kids in America to help me get into my groove.
A big shout out to James' Ware Bear who kindly agreed to pose with me in the last shot:
I was so pleased with our creative collaboration (especially when James told me I required minimal retouching). It went down a treat with my friends (the pics got bundles of likes and comments on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). I'm now affectionately called "Blondie" by friends and family and have been compared to Grace Jones. Fierce!
Emma White Turle, top make-up artist and Beauty Editor for Schon! Magazine, liked my photo on Twitter. I got the thumbs up from fashion legend Donovan Pascal, super-stylist, original creative force behind the Religion label and founder of Idol. I even got approached on The Tube by a chick who wanted to know how she could get my look. Not bad for a day's work and thanks in no small part, to the kindness (and photographic wizardry) of my mate James.
Brush For Tinting - £2.27
Core Tint Bowl Black - £2.99
Salon Services Peroxide Creme 9% 30Vol - £5.99
L'Oreal Quick Blue High Performance Powder Lightener - $19.71
Wella Color Fresh Silver Violet 0.6 - £8.95
Silverising Shampoo - £6.95
Lee Stafford Breaking Hair Treatment - £10.99
The Body Shop Shea Beautifying Oil - £9.00
NARS Monoi Body Glow II - £44.00
Sally Hair & Beauty Supplies
The Body Shop