Undergoing a drastic hair colour change – such as going from blonde to brunette – is somewhat of a rite of passage in modern life. With cutting-edge colour technology on our side, switching up your shade is easier than ever – just look at A-listers like Kim Kardashian West, who cycles through hair hues with the same voracious enthusiasm we typically tend to reserve for tapping through salacious blind items on Deux Moi.
But unlike consuming an unhealthy amount of anonymous gossip, going from blonde to brunette isn’t devoid of consequences. Getting it wrong can be at best a disappointing (but fixable) inconvenience, and at worst an all-out follicular fail. Proper consideration and consultation is a must before taking the plunge, so steady up on that salon appointment and start with GRAZIA‘s comprehensive guide to going from blonde to brunette hair.
Should I go from blonde to brunette?
There are a number of things to take into account when it comes to going from blonde to brunette for the first time. “Besides the usual things like suitability, it’s paramount to choose the right shade for your complexion and features. I always explain to my clients that going from brunette back to blonde – depending on how dark you go – can be a process that takes some time and can be damaging to your hair. So, if this is a short term fix it may not be worth it,” explains Vincent Nobile, co-owner and colour director at Sydney’s Headcase Hair salon.
Lauren Mackellar, hairstylist and co-founder of Melbourne’s Studio Meta salon, agrees that assessing your level of commitment to going (and staying) brunette is important. “Let your colourist know If you’re the type of person who likes to switch up your colour regularly,” she says. “This will help to guide them towards using different techniques that will still give you a change, but without being locked into a colour that is then difficult to remove later on.”
If you’re not looking for a long-term switch, there might still be some viable options to satiate your impulse to go darker. “There’s lots of techniques you can ask for to achieve a less permanent or seasonal change, such as lowlights and/or a root stretch, which can give you a great change from being blonde if you’re not sure if you’re quite ready for the full commitment of going darker all over,” Mackellar says.
Will going from blonde to brunette suit me?
Perhaps of tantamount concern is the notion that going brunette might not look the way you’d like it to. Thankfully, there are some simple tricks that should be able to give you a solid indication as to whether a brunette hue is going to work or not, and which shade might be best suited to your complexion. “A great way of finding out if cooler or warmer tones suit you is with your wardrobe at home,” advises hair stylist Alex Newman, Mackellar’s co-founder at Studio Meta. “If you can wear orange, yellows, or vibrant reds you are more likely to be a skin tone that suits brunettes with honey, auburn and cherry undertone. If grey, blues, purples and magenta are more your thing, brunette hues with velvety ash, violet, mahogany undertones will suit you better.”
If a consultation with your colourist reveals that a solid, all-over hue might not be in your best interest, there’s still a whole spectrum of shades and colour techniques that could give you what you’re after. “There are also many shades of ‘bronde’ as well that can work really well,” says Nobile. “I always customise the tone to completely suit the individual’s complexion and features.”
While the general consensus amongst experts is that most complexions will suit some variation of brunette, Nobile notes that there are some exceptions. “There are some blondes that are just born to be blondes and are 100 per cent suited to blonde hair,” he explains. “They usually have light hair naturally. I would also say that those with natural strawberry blonde hair with porcelain complexions shouldn’t steer clear of brunette colour.”
What can I expect during my colour appointment at the salon?
Post-consultation, prepare for a lengthy stint in the chair to ensure your colourist can get the best result for your tresses. “Having a clear and agreed vision with your stylist before applying any colour is a must,” says Newman, who warns anxious clients against jumping to any conclusions about the colour too quickly. “Once the colour is painted onto the scalp it will start to develop and may look a lot darker than you anticipated. Try not to panic and if you do have some real concerns, don’t be afraid to ask your stylist how it’s looking.”
You might find that your ultimate hue isn’t achievable in a single sitting, which will require another visit. “I like to remind my clients to expect a level of fade after the first appointment and that it might mean coming in for a second application sooner than your usual appointment time to replace the depth that gets lost with regular hair washing,” Mackellar explains. “This is because blonde hair is a lot more porous from having lightening products used on it, which then makes it difficult to hold onto colour when you decide to go darker. It could also be a two or three-step process in the chair the first time.”
The good news? Once you’ve reached your ideal shade, you’ll spend far less time in the chair at subsequent appointments than you would getting all those ultra-fine blonde highlights. “So if you’re time poor, going from blonde to brunette might be an added bonus,” says Mackellar.
What will colour maintenance be like as a freshly-minted brunette?
“The upkeep of a brunette colour depends a lot on your lifestyle – how often you wash your hair, if you swim regularly, even regular styling at high temperatures – all of these factors can potentially fade your colour faster, and could mean you require more frequent colour top ups,” says Mackellar. “Also if you’re naturally fairer than the shade you opted for, you’ll have quite noticeable blonde regrowth that may mean you’re back in the salon more than those with naturally brunette hair.”
Nobile recommends that fresh brunettes head back in for an appointment “every couple of months [to] get the ends glossed so they look shiny and healthy and get rid of any brassy tones if needed.” At the salon, both Nobile and Mackellar recommend asking your stylist for a deep conditioning colour treatment like the Christophe Robin Shade Variation Masks ($67). “It will keep your hair shiny, hydrated and add a touch of tone each time you wash your hair,” says Mackellar.
In between appointments, Newman suggests picking up a good treatment serum. “I highly recommend Young.Again by KEVIN.MURPHY ($44) – it’s packed with antioxidants to help protect your colour from environmental fading, like sun, heat styling and pollution,” she suggests. “A small amount in your hair after you wash is best – consider it a primer for your hair; it goes on first and your other products can be applied on top.”