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Your Hair-Saving Guide To Going Blonde

Yes, even going light has a dark side -- but there's no need to fear straw-like strands with this guide
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Maybe it was years of envying the flaxen strands of Carrie Underwood and Blake Lively. Maybe it was all that talk about blondes having more fun. Whatever it was, you've finally decided to go blonde -- your natural jet-black or chestnut mane be damned.

But we've all heard the horror stories (or seen the hair nightmares that arise from a bleach job gone awry), which led me to wonder: Can you go from a brunette to goldilocks without totally frying your hair? In search of an answer (and quite frankly, in need of a change), I decided to make the transformation.

Of course, I didn't go it totally alone -- and you don't have to either. I tapped the best in the going-blonde biz to help guide me through the process, and along the way I gathered the pros' best tips and product recommendations for going blonde without compromising the health of your hair. So how did this former raven-haired editor fare? Keep reading to find out.

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Blonde Ambition
If you're anything like me, you want your hair to look exactly like the Pinterest picture you've been obsessing over for the last two months. However, how many times have you gone into the salon only to leave with hair that looks "somewhat" like you wanted, (sigh).

According to Alfredo Lewis, celebrity stylist and global director of Brazilian Professionals education, it'll take three visits before your hair is totally transformed. But what if you're extremely impatient like me?

Determined to make a Kim Kardashian-like transformation, and go from a dark brunette to full-blown blonde in one visit, I booked an appointment with celebrity stylist, Daniel Moon, aka the man who keeps celebs like Katy Perry and Madonna looking fabulous, and he was able to reassure me that I'd come out of the experience with all my hair intact.

"It is possible to go from really dark hair, to platinum in one visit without extremely damaging your hair," says Moon. "But it all depends on the current strength of your hair strands, if it's in a healthy state and if it's ever been color treated."

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The Price of Gold
When you're making a dramatic change, be ready to open your wallet -- wide. "An average starting price is $250," Lewis says. "But some colorists, especially those with celebrity clientele, can charge up to $1,000 for extreme color changes."

And in addition to plunking down dollar bills, you should be prepared to spend some of your precious time. A lot of time. I'm talking like an entire day.

"You're going to be in my chair for about six to eight hours, sometimes more, and that sort of time commitment requires pre-meditated scheduling," Moon says.

The worst thing you can do to your stylist is schedule an appointment for a "color change" (for which stylists typically allot three to four hours), without letting him know you expect to go full-fledged blonde. I learned this the hard way. I scheduled my first appointment for for 5 p.m., but I soon realized I'd be in the salon past midnight if we tried to do the transformation in one night, so I scheduled a second appointment for the following weekend. In total, I spent three hours in the salon on my first visit, lightening my dark brunette hair to a light brown. Then during the following visit, we spent nine hours making the full transformation. That's a total of 12 hours.

The moral of the story: Be prepared for the time commitment, and communicate with your stylist so he can schedule accordingly.

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Pre-Appointment Prep
Before you step foot in a salon, deep condition your strands. It'll give hair some hydration before it runs the marathon of hair processes, according to Lewis.

"Pre-prep is just as -- if not more -- important than post-prep," Lewis says. "Healthy hair takes color better and more evenly. I always recommend my clients start preparing their hair a week or two prior to their appointment with a deep conditioning mask twice a week." We like Christophe Robin Regenerating Mask with Rare Prickly Pear Oil, $69.

While you're at it, give your hot tools a break for a couple weeks before your appointment. However, if you just can't stand to be away from your curling iron for more than a few days (or if forgoing a blow-dry is out of the question), use a heat protectant spray, like Tresemmé Keratin Smooth Heat Protection Shine Spray), $5.99.

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Spin the Color Wheel
I firmly believe that with a little confidence, any woman can rock any color. (I mean, the proof is in galaxy hair, right?) However, there is a trick to help determine which blonde hue looks best on you.

"There are so many factors that go into what shade will look best on an individual," Lewis says. "But skin tone and eye color are major players."

Moon and Lewis agree that as a general rule of thumb, fair-skinned women generally look better with warmer shades (bronde, golden or sandy), and the dark- or olive-skinned ladies pull off cooler shades better (light bronde, ombres and platinum). Though they note there are always exceptions.

"Eyes can change all the rules," Lewis says. "I lean more toward cool tones for blue and light eyes, and my brown-eyed girls tend to look better with warmer shades of blonde. Green eyes are like chameleons. Depending on skin tone, they can go either way."

If possible, Lewis recommends his clients go as far as to visit a wig shop and try on a variety of colors prior to their appointment, as it offers the most realistic idea of what the major change will look like.

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