How to go from brunette to blonde: Dos and don'ts from a pro

One of our editors makes a big change for 2013. Find out what she learned about undergoing this hair transformation.

Before and after: Lora's transformation from brunette to blonde

Before and after: Lora’s transformation from brunette to blonde

Toward the end of 2012, a series of unfortunate events left me in need of a change; I was in a rut. I was a brunette for over seven years, and even after experimenting with highlights and lowlights, different cuts and styles, I was bored. And so I decided: I would make the ultimate style change-up and ring in the new year as a blonde.

Once I’d made up my mind, friends warned me not to take the decision lightly: this was not an easy at-home job. So I took the advice of assistant style editor Tyler Franch and booked an appointment with one of the best colourists in Toronto, Sean Godard at Salon Tocci.

I arrived at my first appointment nervous and excited, clutching four photos: three looks that I liked and one that I was trying to avoid. (I wasn’t sure if this was too pushy, but Sean reassured me later: always bring photos as a reference to use with your stylist.) I had an idea of how I wanted my new ‘do to look, but after a quick chat, I was comfortable with putting my trust in Sean. Just over two hours (and a head full of foils) later, I was a natural-looking dirty blonde. And when I returned for my second session two weeks later and took it to the next level, I couldn’t believe my eyes: less than a month after I made my decision, I was a full-on blonde. I felt like a whole new woman (seriously—I kept catching my reflection in windows on the street and thinking someone was following me).

Thinking of joining the bright side? Here’s what you need to know from the pro:

Determining the best shade is very important,” he says. “The first step is to figure out if you look best in warm or cool shades.”  People often think they want to be a cool blonde when in fact warm blonde tones look better on most skin types.  “Also, go for the most natural results: no more than two to three levels lighter than your natural color (anything lighter will involve a double process two-step color).”

Before you decide to go full-on blonde, you need to consider a few things: considering how fast my hair grows, I figured out that I’d need to visit the salon every eight weeks or so to have my roots touched up—and I’d need to budget for that. If you’re tight on money or time, Sean suggests trying highlights or going for an ombre effect so you won’t need to touch up as frequently.


Treat yourself! “Treatments are a must for my clients,” says Sean. Treatments are the best thing to prevent damage both pre and post blonding service.  Protein treatments like Redken Extreme line are the best to repair the inner structure of the hair and prevent breakage do to lifting. The best hair care hands down for blonde hair is Redken Extreme line, it repairs and restores hairs protein balance making hair stronger shiny and have more of a bounce.  CAT treatment (cysteic acid treatment) is one of the best products in the line, its a classic product with redken.  This stuff saves hair that is breaking off and restores all the internal bonds in the hair.

Bring photos. I felt a bit pushy bringing photos of my ideal ‘do to the salon, but Sean reassured me: you should always bring a photo example of the look you’re going for. It’s the best way to give your stylist a point of reference.

Have fun! There are subtle ways to refresh your look when you go for follow-up appointments, says Sean. “Using a new glaze or toner is a low-commitment way to change your blonde at every visit.”


Go overboard. One of the most important things to think about before you go platinum is how fast your hair grows/how often you’ll need to return to the salon for touch-ups and what your budget is.  This will help determine if an all-over colour is better or if you’re better off going for highlights or an ombre look that doesn’t need to be touched up quite as frequently.

Try this at home. While you might be tempted to take the DIY approach, Sean always recommends keeping the drastic changes in the salon. “Of course there’s a chance that you’ll nail it at home. But if you don’t, it’s going to cost you a lot more to have a pro fix it than it would have to get it done right the first time.”

Expect an instant transformation. Just like me, a lot of you will need to book more than one session to take your hair entirely from brunette to blonde. This is usually the best approach to avoid damaging your hair. And remember: just because Drew Barrymore rocked that ombre look on the red carpet doesn’t mean it will look just as great on you. Be realistic!

Be afraid to break rules. We’re not sure who said that you can only go dark in the winter and light in the summer. In fact, I’ve been wearing less blush since I went blonde because my dark hair isn’t starkly contrasting with my pale skin any more.

Special thanks to Sean at Salon Tocci in Toronto.