Blonde is always big, but perhaps it’s never been bigger than on the eve of the release of the much-anticipated Barbie movie. Now there’s a new blonde look taking over strands and social media. “Margot Robbie’s super blonde-on-blonde transformation as Barbie is an iconic blonde look and may have been a catalyst,” says Sharon Dorram, celebrity hair colorist and owner of Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger in New York City.
We’re talking sun-bleached blonde, the latest spin on fair hair that will be hot all summer. “A sun-bleached blonde is a general blonde tone that is typically solid, but it is also beautiful with highlights or lowlights,” explains Ali Dash, a colorist and stylist at Salon Yoshiko Palm Beach. “To keep the overall look, stay within one or two levels of each other just to add a little depth to the color. Sun-bleached blondes have a warm undertone.”
Though the specifics may change over the years, since the look is always evolving, sun-bleached blonde tends to ebb and flow in popularity. “It is always eye catching,” Dorram says. “There is naturally a greater demand to lighten hair color beginning mid-spring and through the summer. It may sound cliché, but as clothes lighten up—white jeans, white T-shirts, flip-flops and sundresses—so do hair color trends. Sun-bleached blonde has many personalities.”
“Sun-bleached blonde done correctly can be very flattering because it is soft and sexy,” Dorram says. “It can also be low maintenance. The pieces are chunkier on the ends than the roots, echoing the blonde of children’s hair after a long summer on the beach.” Not only does that mean less time in the salon chair, it also means the color grows out easier thanks to the natural look.
“Due to the low amount of care that is required to maintain this style in place during the summer, a significant number of celebrities are opting for it,” Dash says. “After the hair has been lightened to a blonde color, you will only need to touch up the roots—not the lengthy processes of highlighting and balayage that were so fashionable in the season before last. Maintenance is easy.”
Another perk is it gives the hair added volume and movement. “Sun-bleached blonde hair always works well with layers,” Dorram says. “It shows the movement of a haircut.”
How to Get Sun-Bleached Blonde Hair
Sun-bleached blonde works well on nearly all hair colors when properly done. Dash warns that those with dark or medium brown hair may be better off sitting this trend out, unless they have virgin hair. “If this is the case, then go for it,” Dash says. “It may be difficult to get the desired look on previously excessively highlighted hair, but with a skilled artist, everything is achievable.”
There are various degrees of sun-bleached blonde. Dorram shares a few examples: It can be a subtle pop of bright blonde framing the hairline or heavier chunks of blonde with contrasting lowlights. It can be subtle blonde-on-blonde with pops of blonder highlights framing the face and crown, even a brunette with blushes of golden highlights that mimic a month on the beach.
“The classic signature of sun-bleached blonde hair color are lighter blonde tips on the ends of the hair mimicking children’s hair color,” Dorram adds. She advises never going more than three to four shades lighter than the natural base color unless lifting first with a single process to create a beautiful creamy blonde on baby blonde.
Since there are so many ways to do sun-bleached blonde, communication with your colorist is key. Always bring photographs to ensure you’re on the same page, and a qualified colorist can interpret that color to suit each individual.
“There are a ton of different blonding techniques that will each give you a different look,” Dash says. “There is a slew of different blonde tones (golden, icy, neutral, ash). Walking out of a salon with the color that you dreamed of is unlikely without the right vocabulary. The best way to share with your colorist about your newly desired blonde look is to bring inspiration pics.”
How To Style Sun-bleached Blonde
Like any type of hair color, taking good care of it is key once you leave the salon. “My advice is to always use high quality shampoos to maintain the color,” Dorram says. “Stay far away from tinted shampoos such as blue or purple shampoos which tend to dull the pop of a highlight.”
Dorram’s go-to for summer is Virtue Purifying Clarifying Shampoo ($30), which she uses once a week to remove the residue from swimming and buildup. She alternates that with Philip B Russian Amber Imperial Shampoo ($160), which adds body and shine. Her favorite standard conditioner is Virtue Restorative, Hydrating Treatment Hair Mask with Keratin ($34). “It always keeps hair bouncy, not heavy, and well-conditioned after exposure to the elements,” she says. “Remember to always use a wide tooth comb in the shower and afterwards, and a boar bristle brush—never a wire tip brush—when styling the hair.”