Jennifer Zabel spent 24 hours as a brunette—and hated every minute of it. Here, her journey back to blonde.
It was all my idea. After a barrage of photos of Gwyneth and Cameron looking fabulous in their brand new, rich, deep, glossy brown hair everywhere from Hollywood premiers to chic New York parties, I decided to deepen, ever so slightly, my naturally blonde (ok…dirty blonde, kind-of-light-brown) hair. Years of highlights had left me frustrated: my hair only looked really blonde when I stood next to someone with dark hair.
Armed with a stack of magazine pages carefully divided into two categories—perfect caramel browns and way-too-dark browns—and encouragement from my fiancé (“It’ll be like having a new girlfriend,” he said, somewhat problematically), I headed to the salon for my transformation. “With your light skin and blue eyes, you’re going to be stunning as a brunette,” the colorist raved. “Besides, there have always been too many blondes in New York.” Perhaps the fact that she herself was platinum blonde should have been cause for concern.
Three hours later, I was a full-fledged, dark-chocolate-with-a-reddish-tinge brunette. ‘It’s just so… brown,’ I said, somewhat stunned—and a little panicked—as I ran my fingers through my hair. “You’re just not used to it,” the colorist assured me. “In the morning, you’re going to love it.”
I met a friend for a drink—which I found I needed. “It’s fine,” she said. The truth was inescapable—I looked strangely, eerily dead. A corpse wearing a really bad wig.
In the morning, I still didn’t love it. I spent nearly an hour in the shower and went through an entire bottle of shampoo, to no avail.
By the time I got to work, I was desperate. “Go to Zoë,” pronounced Jessica, a dead ringer for Jennifer Aniston with gorgeous blonde highlights.
“Just Zoë, at Privé—she rules.” Enough said. I went.
Privé—a marble paneled, softly lit, downtown Manhattan salon where everyone from Sharon Stone to Uma Thurman goes for natural-looking, perfectly highlighted hair—was the site of my salvation. Zoë—a Sharon Stone look-alike with long, straight hair and a New York attitude—was my savior. “It’s going to take a little doing,” she said, “but we can fix it.” In other words, another three hours:
First, Zoë applied a solution of sulfur and lemon juice—a very potent, smelly concoction—to dissolve the brown pigment from the hair shaft without affecting the natural color of my hair. Twenty minutes and a cool water rinse later, we surveyed the damage.
Much to our surprise, the first salon had lightened my hair before darkening it—so post-uncoloring, my hair was a bright yellowish orange. Zoë didn’t flinch, smoothing in a dark, cool blonde conditioning glaze to tone it down.
Before foiling in highlights and lowlights for depth and dimension, Zoë brushed a water-soluble, plant-based oil all over my hair to protect it from the harshness of the ammonia and peroxide. After a few minutes under the dryer and a clear conditioning gloss (this one to seal the cuticle and add shine) my hair at last looked like mine again—shiny, surprisingly healthy, and, untrendily but happily, blonde.
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