GTG’s very own blondie, SJ reveals her top tips for keeping blonde hair looking its best
One of the beauty topics I am asked most about - aside from which is the best budget mascara out there - is how to care for blonde hair. I am naturally blonde, although I am no longer the Scandi white blonde of my youth and now rely on highlights and a touch of balayage every eight to 12 weeks to keep my colour looking bright and fresh.
Right now there's a spike in interest in how to go blonde and, once you've done so, how to keep blonde hair looking as shiny and glossy. In fact, searches for all things blonde have increased by 60 per cent in the last month, thanks to a certain movie about one of the most famous blondes of all time (I’m looking at you Barbie).
Much like Barbie, who has rocked blonde hair for all of her 64 years, I have never strayed from my natural hair colour in all of my 40. Part of me wishes I was an adventurous hair colour chameleon, but from a very young age I was told (mainly by my mum) that "people pay a fortune for your hair colour". So I’ve always stuck with what I’ve got. Now that I pay to get it the way, I can confirm that my mum was right.
Blonde hair comes with its unique challenges. If you are a natural blonde, your hair is likely to be finer. If you are (also) a bleached blonde, then shine and condition, as well as keeping your colour vibrant rather than brassy (or heaven forbid green, if you are anywhere near a swimming pool) are your Holy Grail.
Bleached blonde hair is temperamental. When hair is ‘lifted’ - the professional term for lightening hair - the structure of the hair changes. Bleach and lightening toners penetrate the outer hair shaft (unlike semi-permanent hair dyes which wrap around the outside and wash away) and remove the melanin pigment inside to make the hair lighter.
However, in doing so, it breaks the outer shaft of the hair weak making it more prone to snapping. It also provides an escape route for the new colour you’ve spent time and money creating.
So it is essential to take additional steps to protect the outer part of the hair as best you can with dedicated products as well as some simple dos and don’ts.
I'm here to share with you the best products for making blonde hair look shiny and glossy, the best colourists to see for natural and undetectable highlights and whether purple shampoos are really worth the bother. Plus, I can tell you all about the haircare products I rely on to care for my own highlighted blonde hair.
How to make blonde hair look shiny
Bleached blonde hair is known for being the least shiny of all hair colours and it’s thanks to physics. Light needs a smooth surface to bounce off and create dazzle and shine. When hair is bleached the chemicals penetrate the surface of the hair making the shaft rough, not smooth. This makes it harder for light to bounce off. However, hope is not lost because there are some brilliant glossing products that create an artificially smooth surface around the hair allowing it to temporarily shine.
Conditioning waters are excellent at lightly wrapping around the hair without weighing it down. Amika Flash Instant Shine Mask, £24 is a new favourite. I’ve also used L’Oreal Paris Elvive Colour Protect Wonder Water, £4.99 for years.
Hair oils are also brilliant for adding shine, especially post blow-dry. Stick to completely clear ones as any that are too yellow or orange can deposit colour on the hair and make blonde look brassy. Arkive The Good Habit Hybrid Oil, £14 is fantastic.
How to make blonde hair feel soft
Legendary hair colourist, Josh Wood has told me many times that conditioning masks are key for keeping blonde hair looking good. Bleach and lighteners cause the hair to become drier, and more fragile and it can easily feel like straw. Because naturally blonde hair tends to be finer, finding a mask that provides much-needed hydration without leaving it looking as flat as a pancake is essential.
I always have a tub of the iconic Kérastase Nutritive Masquintense, £41.40 on the go. It really does make blonde hair feel soft and 'salon fresh.' In the summer months, when my hair is drier, I swap out my regular conditioner and use this exclusively. In winter, I use it every two weeks.
How to maintain blonde at home
I recommend using a shampoo and conditioner either for blonde hair or for colour-treated hair. As well as providing extra moisture and helping to keep the hair shaft sealed, they don’t contain ingredients that strip hair of colour: parabens and sulphates being the main culprit. Pureology Hydrate Shampoo and Conditioner, £41.13 is quite simply the best.
A purple shampoo may is a necessity for anyone with a full head of bleach as it counteracts brassiness and deposits a cool tone to maintain the icy white look. I don’t have lots of bleach in my hair, but as I prefer the cooler blonde tones to the warmer buttery ones I use a purple shampoo every two to three weeks to keep any brassiness in check before my next salon appointment. My favourite? Olaplex No.4P Blonde Enhancer, £28. However, if you are a warmer blonde, swerve purple shampoos entirely.
As for extending your colour at home, it depends on your specific blonde as to whether this is advisable or doable. I like a very natural blonde with varying shades and tones and so I head to the salon every time. There is not one hair colourist I have ever interviewed, who says you can do highlights successfully at home.
I would also steer clear of bleaching your hair at home unless you feel very confident in your abilities. Getting the developing time right so that your hair doesn’t fall out is imperative.
If an all-over 'block' blonde colour is what you’re after then there are home hair dye options. I haven’t used any of them, but friends of mine who had never coloured their hair at home before turned to the Josh Wood Colour Kit, £14, when they couldn't get to the salon during Covid.
How to care for blonde hair in the sun
The sun can lift already lightened hair even more, making it even whiter, which may not be what you want. And the combination of blonde hair + swimming pools + sea can turn blonde hair green. I speak from experience. I've been told its the copper content in chlorine oxidising, in the same way that copper can turn green.
I pack almost the same amount of sun hair products as I do the best face SPF when I go away. Here are my blonde-in-the-sun hair saviours:
Hair SPF - Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil, £24.50
It’s one of the original hair SPFs and it’s brilliant. It protects hair colour from fading or changing, although I would always recommend wearing a hat too.
Anti-green hair CC cream - Kérastase Soleil Crème UV Sublime, £33.70
This doesn't specify that it stops hair from turning green in the sun but it does contain UV protection and I can testify that I’ve been using it for years. I haven't had any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle green hair since.
Scalp SPF - Ultrasun SPF50 UV Face & Salp Mist, £20
Fair hair doesn’t always offer the same scalp coverage as darker hair, which is why blondies can easily end up with a burnt scalp or hairline. This is great for spraying through dry and wet hair. It has quite a powdery texture that doesn’t make hair feel greasy but also doesn’t leave any chalky residue.
Detangling brushes - Act + Acre Detangling Brush, £28
Because it’s not as smooth, color-processed blonde hair gets tangled and knotted easily – even more so when in and out of water. As an effective but gentle detangling brush, this one is exceptional – for the whole family too.
Leave-in conditioner - Kristin Ess Weightless Shine Leave-In Conditioner, £11
After a day in the sun, I drench my hair with this leave-in conditioner, tie it back into a bun and let it work its magic. This is also great for detangling my kids' knotty hair too.
Who to see for the perfect salon blonde
These are the salons I recommend. They are all brimming with super-talented colourists at varying price points.
Gielly Green in Marylebone, London
A gorgeous and welcoming salon in Marylebone that’s filled with talented hairdressers and a newly done beauty zone too. I have been seeing AJ Blackadder for more than 15 years.
Half a head of highlights with AJ costs from £280.
You know you're in safe hands with any John Frieda-trained colourist. There are two salons in London. I see blonde goddess and celebrity colourist, Zoë Irwin who works from the Mayfair salon – you may just be lucky enough to get an appointment with her too.
Half a head of highlights with Zoë costs from £255.
Trinder Hair in St Albans, Hertfordshire
If you’re looking for a gorgeous salon out of London, then nestled in the gorgeous market town of St Albans in Trinder Hair. I have known Marc and Sophie - the husband and wife owners - for more than ten years and visit them regularly.
Half a head of highlights with Marc or Sophie Trinder costs £133
Larry King in South Kensington, London
Again, all the stylists are brilliant but Harriet Muldoon is a true blonde expert and a blonde herself.
Half a head of highlights with Harriet costs £260.