Hey, Blondie

How blonde ambition drove one staffer to go platinum.

  • Erin with blonde hair
    Photo by Caitlin Abrams
    The finished product.
  • before and after bleached hair
    Photo by Caitlin Abrams
    And a before-and-after.
  • Marlee and Charlie at Haus Salon
    Photo by Caitlin Abrams
    A consultation with colorist Marlee Solomonson and hairstylist Charlie Brackney reaffirms the game plan for the day.
  • Charlie Brackney of Haus Salon
    Photo by Caitlin Abrams
    Charlie gets to work on that mop.
  • Charlie Brackney of Haus Salon
    Photo by Caitlin Abrams
    Charlie focused on a dramatic, blunt cut. "An edgy color demands a bold style."
  • Marlee Solomonson of Haus Salon
    Photo by Caitlin Abrams
    Marlee begins the bleaching process by avoiding the roots, where heat from the scalp accelerates the color-stripping process.
  • Photo by Caitlin Abrams
    As the hair reaches the desired lightness, bleach is applied to the root. Ouch.
  • Photo by Caitlin Abrams
  • Photo by Caitlin Abrams
    A final styling from Charlie.
  • Photo by Caitlin Abrams
    The author with Marlee and Charlie at Haus Salon.

There’s one in barre class. There are always a few in the grocery store, in line at Caribou, spilling out of the skyways—the minute I moved to Minnesota, I was surrounded by blondes. I’d never been so fascinated by them, or felt so much in the minority. “Brunette and fine with it” was more along the lines of my hair motto, never having received so much as a highlight to my virgin strands, or wanted to.

So when discussion one February afternoon in the office turned to the idea of “going blonde” (one does not simply “dye one’s hair yellow”) and I committed myself to taking the leap on the spot, it seemed a little dramatic. But the idea of a drastic change had been secretly crystallizing for some time. Coming into the second half of my twenties, I wanted to shed the trappings of post-college and elevate my look—make the outer me match the very grown-feeling inner me—in a way that wouldn’t allow me to turn back or hide under long brown bangs. And a platinum dye job would certainly get me there.


Marlee Solomonson at Haus Salon
Regular trips to New York and Chicago for coloring refresher courses keep Marlee up haircoloring trends and the science of bringing them to life. Cost: around $140

Mi Shaun Schmidt-Schwab at The Beauty Room
The owner and lead colorist at the Beauty Room is known for her pure champagne hues (never yellow) and has Allure mag on her side. Cost: $70-$140

Mel Ryan Wikner at Evolution
A trained stylist and colorist, an afternoon with Mel will have you looking totally made over. Good thing she’s a sweetheart. Cost: starting at $70

Oh, and it’s totally of the moment. I sat in Justin Anderson’s chair, hair colorist to the stars (Aniston, Miley, et. al.) and dpHue color consultant, when he stopped by the Edina salon last month for a quick consult. “If you look at any of the fashion magazines, my favorite thing in there right now is this super blonde hair with dark eyebrows. Like Ireland Baldwin—I just bleached her hair to white and then I actually darkened her eyebrows. It’s bold, it’s fun.” Bingo.

With his blessing and some direction from our own magazine’s beauty authority, Elizabeth Dehn, I went to Haus Salon in Kingfield. Colorist Marlee Solomonson explained that when you get right down to it, coloring hair is equal parts art and science: a colorist needs to both understand the aesthetic the client wants and know the chemical process to achieve it. In this case, Solomonson translated my Pinterest board of faux-Swedes to a “bleach and tone,” a process in which the hair is coated with bleach to strip it of color (this is the time-intensive part), then washed and re-coated with a coloring agent. The timing depends on how the hair reacts, whether it’s been colored before, and just how blonde you want to go.

Must-haves for a long haul at the salon: a crossword, a book, the Internet, and Diet Coke.

With never-dyed hair and very-blonde in mind, I spent six hours in the chair, and I won't lie to you—it was painful. Sunburned scalp between braids painful, with the smell of peroxide to boot. But I held on as long as I could, for the sake of the blonde. Noted: the importance of holding off on shampoo for a few days before your appointment cannot be understated—the natural oils of your scalp put up a safety barrier I would have appreciated.

Sweet relief when the bleach was washed out, a half hour with much less painful toner applied, and then: a blonde looking back at me in the mirror. I laughed every time I caught my reflection out of sheer disbelief. It was like wearing a new pair of glasses: a blonde frame around my face all the time; did everyone notice? Would strangers stop and look?

It is a lot different than being brunette, but not so much that I didn't get used to it in the few weeks since. I’ve got a whole haircare routine I’m still trying to master (although: texture! I have it now!) I had to switch out my makeup and work wardrobe—but that's exactly the earth-shattering change I was looking for. A hair color change meant the rest of my life had to catch up quick to how I'd been feeling on the inside anyway.

And funny enough, I worry a lot less about what people think about my hair.


We’ve already covered that you’re not getting into this for the low-maintenance lifestyle it affords, correct? Upkeep should run you every 3-6 weeks, depending on how much root you like to show. Anything longer than that makes it harder for your colorist to match the original shade, so delay with caution.

In between appointments, you’ll need to get your hands on some sulfate-free, purple hued products. Purple falls opposite yellow on the color wheel, so they do wonders to keep platinum in place. On my shower shelf? dpHUE’s Cool Blonde Shampoo ($20), which looks potent enough to do damage to my towels but smells and feels luxurious—a tall order, as sulfate-free shampoos don't lather. And lest I forget my silver bullet, Davines Alchemic Conditioner in Silver ($30), a gooey scoop of which keeps the brassy away like nobody’s business (find it at 411 Salonspa).