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From Black to Bleached: How to Lighten Even the Darkest Tresses

... without all your hair falling out.
Soo Joo's signature. Photo: Kevin Tachman/WireImage/Getty Images

Soo Joo's signature. Photo: Kevin Tachman/WireImage/Getty Images

If the adage “blondes have more fun” is true, then platinum blondes must have the best time out of everybody. The good news: Impossibly white locks aren’t completely impossible to get, and it’s a look that anyone can pull off, no matter what your skin tone. No, really. One look at models Soo Joo Park and Ajak Deng – who lightened her crop for a while a few years ago -- will convince you. But, to steal a line from "Spider-Man": With great hair comes great responsibility. And if you’re going platinum, a little sacrifice.

We talked to colorist Aura Friedman, the woman behind Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi platinum ‘do and Park’s bleached locks (and countless other celebs and fashion notables) to get the tea on what you need to know before taking the leap to platinum blonde. Here’s the skinny:

It’s a longer process than you think:

Especially if you have darker hair, don’t expect to sit in the salon chair, throw on some bleach, and then walk out with white-blonde locks. “A misconception is how long and how much work it actually takes to get you from either your natural color or color-treated hair to the platinum shade,” Friedman says. “It takes a really long time. Most colorists can’t do it in just one shot.” Be prepared to set aside some time for more than one bleaching sesh. Think of it as a great excuse to break out your best headgear; darker hair can often turn an orangey color before it gets to blonde.

Photo: @gabifresh Instagram screen grab

Photo: @gabifresh Instagram screen grab

No matter what you do, your hair is going to be damaged:

If you think you can get around the damage going platinum does to your hair, think again. We asked Friedman if there was a way to prepare your hair for the havoc this extreme coloring wreaks on your locks, and she told us that sadly, there is not. In fact, the damage can be so intense, that she often won’t do it on hair that’s already been color-treated or processed. Ask your colorist first if they think your hair is healthy enough for the hue.

Don’t expect to be platinum for long:

“I usually tell my platinum clients that this is probably a color they won’t be able to keep forever, because it’s so damaging.” Bleach can leave your hair dry, brittle and breaking. Putting your hair through that trauma again and again is not something you want to do. Blogger Gabi Gregg of Gabi Fresh recently traded her chocolate locks in for platinum, and she’s already noticed the damage it’s done, even though her hair otherwise looks great. “Mostly it’s really dry -- the ends are the worst. I might cut a little more,” she said before adding, “It was still worth it, though!”

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Try to leave your roots alone:

If visible roots don’t bother you, consider leaving them out of the bleaching process, to keep any potential damage as far away from your scalp and your follicles as possible. Also, deep roots can actually provide a really good anchor for the overall color.

Zoe Kravitz goes extremely blonde. Photo: John Lamparski/WireImage/Getty Images

Zoe Kravitz goes extremely blonde. Photo: John Lamparski/WireImage/Getty Images

Give your color some dimension:

Just as you have highlights and lowlights in other hair colors, the same goes for platinum. There are lots of ways to get a multi-tonal look, and some color combinations might surprise you. A silvery, ashy hue can be punched up with “a nice shadow at the root,” Friedman says. Slightly more golden or yellow shades can take shades of pink to add a nice tone. Make sure you see your stylist for toning touch-ups to help maintain your color for longer.

Take extra care of your hair:

Since you’ve put your hair through a lot, show it a little TLC with plenty of moisturizing treatments and products that will make the color last longer. Friedman says to start with a pre-wash primer before you wash your hair. “The reason why it’s so important is because it protects your hair, locks in vibrancy, and repels water. Water can discolor your hair the most–especially if it’s processed–because your hair is so porous.” Plus, products like these protect your hair from the buildup of harsh minerals you can find in tap water. She also suggests a conditioning protein treatment, which helps repair brittle, processed hair. Lather one on once every two weeks. If you’re into more natural deep-conditioning treatments, Gabi Fresh told us that she’s using argan oil and coconut oil once or twice a week, putting her hair in a stocking cap, and then wrapping it up in a hot towel for a few hours.

If you’ve learned anything here, it’s that platinum blonde is a very high-maintenance hue.  But don't let that stop you. 

Click through for some platinum-friendly products, should you choose to take the bleach plunge:

Above: Nexxus Color Assure Pre-Wash Primer, $17.99; Pureology Strength Cure Restorative Masque, $20.99; John Frieda Sheer Blonde Everlasting Blonde Shampoo, $6.99; Sachajuan Silver Shampoo, $31; Living Proof Restore Repairing and Damage Reversing Travel Kit, $29