We’re suckers for a transformational journey, whether it’s a rags-to-riches tale or a three-part cinematic saga. Don’t be mistaken into thinking that all transformations have to be large in scale, either—some of our very favorites happen in the salon chair every day!
In this three-part series, we took a brunette beauty to gorgeous, warm blonde hair color in a series of appointments with expert colorist and L’Oréal Professionnel ambassador Min Kim. Keep reading to follow along with the stunning brunette to blonde hair transformation.
Part 1: How Do You Dye Brunette Hair Blonde?
The subject of our hair journey is Liz Chon, a beauty product developer on a mission to take her dark hair lighter. After a previous incident trying to lighten her naturally dark brown hair at home, Chon was willing to give the transformation one more chance…the salon way this time!
First stop: New York City’s Butterfly Studio for Chon to meet Kim and have a hair consultation.
“Consultation is important at a big color change because it’s the opportunity to find out exactly what is going on with the hair, which 100 percent affects the way that the lightener will lift and how to manage the results that I’m going to have,” Kim explains.
At her consultation, Kim combed through every strand of Chon’s hair to understand its health, strength, and look for any evidence of past color. Spoiler alert: She found some. After the at-home bleach saga, Chon had covered up the orange sections with black box dye—crucial for Kim to know, because black dye is bound to lighten differently than virgin hair!
The pair decided to take the transformation in stages: Chon would commit to coming back every six weeks or so to take her hair another level lighter, and Kim would keep the hair as healthy—and gorgeous!—as possible, every step of the way.
One common misconception is that if you’re aiming for a final hair color that’ll require multiple appointments, you’ll leave appointment one or two with hair that looks, uh, unfinished. Kim was quick to bust that myth!
"I would never let anyone leave looking crazy," Kim says. "When you come into a hair salon, the purpose is to see a professional who's going to give you the best advice and steer you in a way where you’re able to achieve your goal but still keep the hair you want.”
Part 2: Toning Up Brunette To Blonde Hair
After the initial consultation, it was time to make this brunette to blonde balayage a reality! Kim’s preference was taking it slow, noting how the Chon’s hair reacted to lightener to create the prettiest—and most natural-looking—shade.
There’s also another reason Kim prefers to proceed with caution, she says.
"She is relatively new to color," the stylist explains. "A lot of times, I find that people fall in love with the color before they get to what they think they want and I’m hoping that’s going to be the case with Liz!”
Kim painted lightener in sections throughout the hair, feathering her strokes at the top and using both bold and subtle strokes to mimic the way hair naturally lightens after hours in the sun. The result was stunning, warm blonde balayage that brightened Chon’s face without overwhelming her.
"We're going to do a really beachy vibe," she says. "It's really going to mimic what would happen if she was away in Bali for a week or two. I like to call it ‘vacation hair,’ so we’re putting the vacation in."
The best part about balayage? The maintenance can be as intense or relaxed as you’d like it to be! If Chon’s dream hair has bright blonde right at the root, she’ll need to come back in more often than she might if she’s comfortable with the color growing out a bit. That feathery application means no visible line of demarcation as her hair grows!
As a final step, Kim toned Chon’s hair to help eliminate brassiness and leave her with a warm, toffee-like finish that’s very close to the way her hair would actually lighten. After that, Kim set Chon free to live with her enjoy her new highlights until the next appointment.
Part 3: Lighter And Brighter
Back in the salon, Chon had basically become a hair color guru. While the dark blonde had served her well, this appointment was about raising the stakes—and the hair color levels—with bright pops of blonde to push the look even further. Because Kim had already put in highlights, all that was left to do was another application of strategically placed lightener.
According to Kim, the gorgeous golden blonde was a result of the collaborative relationship she built up with Chon. Because she, as a client, felt included every step of the way, she wasn’t surprised when her warm blonde highlights weren’t a full head of silver-blonde hair. It’s all in the communication!
"Managing expectations and delivering what it is she requested is a fine line. That's when, as a professional, it's really important to voice your opinion and explain why something is good or not the best idea and perhaps you should take another moment to reconsider the option.”
Before setting this newly blonde bombshell out in the world, Kim took a moment to guide her through the at-home maintenance process—as any stylist should!
"Blondifier by L'Oréal Professionnel is a shampoo and conditioner line she can use, there's also the Color Corrector which is a purple conditioner that you can supplement your daily shampoo and conditioner routine with,” Kim says. “In between [appointments], if you ever feel like you need to have something to neutralize [the brass], a gloss appointment is something that takes anywhere from five to 10 minutes."
Just like that, Chon was blonde and done! Three appointments, one consultation, but a world of change.
Inspired to try a hair color transformation? Use our salon locator to book a color consultation with a stylist near you.