How to Choose the Best Blonde Hair Color for You - Or, The Fanciest Salon Visit Of My Life

(Anna Fischer/StyleBistro)

Last week, I had, like, the fanciest day ever. Rita Hazan — the same superstar colorist who took Jessica Simpson's bleached-out 'do to its current gorgeous honey shade — worked her magic on my scraggly, patchily dyed, Kurt Cobain mop.

(StyleBistro/Rolling Stone) See what I mean?

But first, some background info: I've been highlighting my bobbed, dirty blonde hair off and on for about five years. Sometimes, when I get it cut, I'll get a few brighter blonde strands in front. Sometimes I won't. I might go nine months with no color and then decide I want a full head of highlights. Or I'll add them little by little, every three months or so. There's really no rhyme or reason to it. It's more like "Oh! A Groupon deal for highlights at a salon I like? Sure. Why not."

So, getting my hair done by Rita was a revelation. First, we had a long conversation about the sort of color I wanted (as natural as possible). And, after discussing my morning hair routine (lazy) and commitment to upkeep (ha!), we decided low-maintenance was the way to go.

(Caitlin Petreycik/StyleBistro) Sadface "before" selfie.

Which means — yes — I was getting more highlights, rather than all-over color. But different highlights. Fancy highlights.

(Anna Fischer/StyleBistro) I am interviewing Rita here, not scrolling through my phone. I just wanted you to know that!

Rita started by bleaching my roots — something no other stylist has ever done when highlighting my hair. Then, not quite satisfied with the level of blondeness – she lightened my roots again. When I say bleach, I don't mean, like, Miley Cyrus white. She took my roots up just a few shades. It was really subtle, but it made it seem more believable that the much brighter blondes she was about to add in would naturally grow out of my head.

And she's fast. Kind of like of flair bartender with that bottle of bleach.

(Anna Fischer/StyleBistro)

Then, she foiled me up, adding the teeniest tiniest highlights, and making sure to not the dye the ends of my hair, because they were already pretty light from previous color jobs. Another revelation — other stylists just slathered my strands in dye from root to tip. More lessons in fanciness!

(Anna Fischer/StyleBistro) Hair excavation.

After a shampoo and glossing treatment — Rita's Foaming Color Gloss collection is pretty genius, by the way — I was ushered over to Kimberly Gueldner for a cut. Kimberly does Faith Hill and the Scissor Sisters' hair — so you know she's seen it all.

(Caitlin Petreycik/StyleBistro) My super-creepy shot of Kimberly at work.

She took my shoulder-skimming bob up a few inches, and added some subtle layers to lighten it up a bit. (After tsk-tsking me for letting my last hairstylist razor my ends. It's really damaging to your hair. Which I would have known had I been introduced to this world of fanciness sooner.) She blow-dried it smooth, which was nice — it felt swingy. But it's been a few days now, and I love the way it looks air-dried with some sea salt spray scrunched in, even more. 

When Rita saw the finished product, she was like "needs more blonde." So, back to her chair I went, where she added just a few more (very pale) highlights.

Can you tell that Rita is a perfectionist? I have never had a colorist who was so invested before. After a second blow-dry, I was finally finished. And blonder than I've been since I was ten.
(Caitlin Petreycik/StyleBistro) Triumphant "after" selfie.

Unsure about when the next time I'm in a Very Fancy Salon will be, I asked Rita for a few tips on getting the perfect blonde color — wherever you get your hair styled.

1. If you color at home, trial and error is key. So is mixing brands of dye!

"People who color their hair at home, they’ve been doing for a long time and they know the whole system," Rita said. "It baffles me how people know. I’m like 'How do you know what to pick?' And they’re like, 'Trial and error, basically.'" If you go the D.I.Y. route, Rita recommends mixing dyes. "Hair color is like makeup, I can’t use one brand," she told StyleBistro. "Different companies make different products that are better at different things. I like to use a little bit of everything. We have Clairol, L’Oreal, Redken, everything."

2. The key to making blonde look expensive? Tone.

"Sometimes it looks too yellow, or too orange, or too white," Rita said. "It has to be the perfect tone. And that is the hardest part for people to do at home. That’s when you need a professional."

3. Consider your personality.

"Number one, you look at the skin, the hair, the eye color," Rita said of choosing the right blonde for her customers. "But to me, it’s more about personality. How far can somebody take it? Can you pull off blonde at all even if your skintone is made for blonde? You have to feel the whole energy, the whole vibe of somebody, so you know what color works."

4. Color your eyebrows, too! (Maybe.)

"I like dark eyebrows, but if you have really, really, really dark eyebrows, lighten them up a little bit."

5. Think about upkeep.

"I hate roots. Blonde is high maintenance if you have dark hair. With the right tone of blonde, you can have roots and it will blend in so it won’t look bad for two or three months."

Of course, being newly blonde isn't over when you leave the salon. It's all about maintenance — and Rita Hazan has some great tips for keeping your color fresh. I'll share her advice (and some great product recommendations) with you later this week!

I'm the Senior Associate Editor at StyleBistro. Follow me: Google