The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday

Why I went from brunette to bottle blonde after my divorce

Alexa Chung’s break-up advice is ‘don’t touch your hair’. Wise words, but three years on, it’s time, says Rosie Green


Here’s the background: I’ve always been a brunette. Not quite raven, but not far off. But in my new post-marriage world, I’ve been kicking against the K-Middy hair I’ve sported for so long. The nice, conservati­ve with a small “c” look that neither offends nor excites. Going blonde is an itch I’ve always wanted to scratch. It was fuelled by the iconic blondes that I admired growing up. Sindy in my childhood, Madonna in my teens and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy in my 20s.

Truthfully, I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that blondes were having more fun. Their halo of gold draws the attention to them, lighting their path, blinding others to their sins. And blondes are hot, are they not? I wanted to be, as Raymond Chandler so brilliantl­y put it, “A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.”

I would say all this to my blonde friends and they would always say, “Oh, but your hair is shiny, elegant and much lower maintenanc­e.” Maybe some of that was true, but I always felt they protested too much. Like a supermodel saying how hard it is to be beautiful or a billionair­e bemoaning their riches. Would they swap their troubles for being homely or poor? No. Ditto the blondes.

So I was on board, but it was harder convincing everyone else. At John Frieda, my go-to salon for over two decades, my colourist Phillipa Lock looked circumspec­t. She was inwardly contemplat­ing the damage/maintenanc­e/result equation. Plus as a colouring pro she was also looking at my skin tone and features, while assessing if blonde would suit them.

I say to her that my skin tone has changed as I’ve aged, so what wouldn’t work 10 years ago might now? I used to be a classic English rose. Fair with pink cheeks. But now I am darker. More golden. “Maybe,” she says. I message my friend and mega colourist Nicola Clarke. Also part of the John Frieda family, she has her own salon (Nicola Clarke at John Frieda) and has just coloured Kate and Lila Moss for the Met Gala. “Come in,” she says.

I arrive at her salon and my gung-ho spirit is dissolving as I sit in her chair. Negative thoughts ticker tape through my head. Will it destroy my hair’s condition? Will it, like dropped waists and red lipstick, simply not suit me. And what will going blonde do to my identity? I have always been a brunette. Will I feel like a fake? A try-hard? Will I look cheap? Will it wash me out? I know, with my beauty editor hat on that as we age we lose feature definition, so will I become one big blob of beige?

First the good news. Regarding hair condition, Nicola says: “Colouring has evolved so dramatical­ly for the better. Thanks to treatments and formulas, it’s much easier to do a big transition like this and keep the hair healthy.” More good news. “Blondes have changed a lot since it was a tint all over and bleached highlights,” says Nicola. “Now darker roots are cool. As is multi-tonal hair.” She adds that because of this, it’s now so easy to give the illusion of blondeness without having to bleach the whole head. “I have clients who have long full styles and I have weaved lots of colour through the mid-length and ends and they look so blonde, but they’ve still got a lot of their original base colour.”

Nicola tells me to book in for two to three sessions, because to do it in one hit you’d have to use stronger products, which would compromise the hair. Plus, she wants to see how the hair responds to the lightening products, how it “lifts” and to see how the undertones of my hair react to the bleach. And she wants to avoid patchiness and keep it multi-tonal, which is crucial to being a modern blonde. She actively encourages shadowing at the roots as it is flattering and cool.

The process starts…

I am there for three, possibly four hours. And though I know this is agony for some people, I love the coffees and the buzz. Anaïs Gallagher – daughter of Noel – sits next to me at one point, and a Bollywood star takes her seat later on.

When I’m “cooked”, foils are removed and my hair is shampooed in stages. Then comes the toning. “Fifty per cent of the success is in the toning,” says Nicola. Think of toning like a top coat for your hair. Counteract­ing brassiness, tweaking the colour and bringing out shine. This level of care and caution makes me think about Kim Kardashian, who went blond in one 10-hour sitting for her Met Ball look.

As my hair is blow-dried I can see it is blonder than it’s ever been. A lighter me is emerging, which is both exciting and terrifying. But still, I don’t think the person on the street would call me a blonde. I stare at myself. I love it, but I find it unsettling as well. I love the actual colour – Nicola’s genius means it’s a myriad of golden tones. But do I like the colour on me? I don’t know.

My boyfriend says it’s like going to bed with a new woman and I can tell he’s adjusting. The kids actively dislike it. I begin to wonder if I’ve made a big mistake. I’m worried about it being orange. And that I look cheap. My hairdressi­ng friend Sarah Munnings talks me down – she fills me in about the lightening curve, saying: “Dark hair must go through a reddish orange stage to get to yellow. Trust the process.”

A few weeks later…

I arrive at her salon and my gung-ho spirit is dissolving as I sit in her chair

I go back to the salon for another three hours and now I am categorica­lly blonde. I can see creamier bits, golden lights surround my face. The redness seems to have abated. I catch sight of myself in shop windows and bathroom mirrors and think, “Is this me?”

And the condition? Well, surprising­ly good. Pre-bleaching I had a prepping K18 treatment at Salon Sloane. Belle, the salon’s co-owner, said it would restore elasticity and strength to my hair, get into the inner structure and reconnect damaged keratin chains. And it certainly seems to have stood it in good stead.

And as for aftercare, I have upped my game and so far, that seems to be paying off, too. Yes, my hair is drier and more prone to knotting, but treating it with masks and oils and kindness means less chance of breakage. “It’s about constancy of care,” says Nicola.

So how do I feel now?

Well some days, when my hair is scraped into a pony and it looks a bit frizzy, I hanker after my sleek chestnut mane. Especially when I see my daughter’s hair looking so lustrous. But 90 per cent of the time I love it. I love the shimmering, light-catching colours in there. I love that it represents a new attitude in me, a new lightness of being. Plus, and this is a real bonus, it’s thicker.

So am I a forever blonde? Truthfully, I don’t know. Maybe we’ll be golden, or maybe it’s just a summer romance. Either way I’m glad I scratched the itch.

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