Expert Advice

The Evolution of Blonde: We’ve Come a Long Way

Marco Pelusi | July 7, 2014 | 8:43 AM

Blonde is such a hot color this season, but many people are hesitant to make the change because of the damage they think they’ll do to their hair. While this is sometimes a valid concern, I think it’s often rooted in dated perceptions about hair color. Thanks to the evolution of hair color and hair care technology, blondes and would-be blondes now have a lot more options available to preserve the health and integrity of their hair.


To fully appreciate this, let’s talk blonde history for a moment, shall we? We can go back to Marilyn Monroe, the original bombshell blonde — and perhaps the most famous blonde in existence. Marilyn was what we call a “double process” blonde: bleached and toned. This was during the era of blonding and bleaching products that were quite high in ammonia — so much so that you could smell the blonde happening throughout the salon. Back then, going blonde could be quite harsh on the hair. In fact, Marilyn, a natural brunette, reportedly had to have her hair gradually bleached and toned over multiple visits to achieve her famous platinum shade.

The high-ammonia trend continued for quite some time as we headed into the “frosting” era of the early ‘70s. Then, popular taste evolved toward the sun-kissed, highlighted look. Remember the cap? Pulling the hair through a plastic cap with holes in it was the blonding/highlighting tool of choice for many years. This was actually far from natural-looking; it was almost pale, gray or silvery in tone. But people loved it. People also loved volume. Even into the ‘80s, it was popular to both perm and highlight the hair. The bigger and blonder, the better!

With all these damaging hair processes happening, more people became aware of the importance of conditioning the hair. So in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, European, low-ammonia, crème-based blonding formulas were finally introduced. We also moved into the era of the foil, which offered hair colorists more control over the placement of hair color. Gradually into the ‘90s, maintaining the quality and integrity of the hair became paramount when coloring. And it is my mantra to this day!

In fact, I just returned from the International Beauty Show (IBS) in Las Vegas, where I presented my own blonding/highlighting technique, which focuses on achieving natural-looking results while taking care of the hair. This “bricklay” technique involves applying the hair color in a way that never allows for any line of demarcation; you can't tell where the color begins or ends! I love this technique because it works on just about every client who wants blonde highlights. So this means more satisfied clients and less work in the long run.

If you have a client who wants to go blonde but you are concerned about their hair health, I recommend sticking with today’s low-ammonia blonding products and using proper application techniques like bricklaying. In addition, never overlap your application, or allow the lightener to be applied over previously lightened hair. This double application can create breakage and is a real mishap.

It’s also important not to leave the blonding/bleaching on the hair too long. Observe proper process time, keep an eye on your client's hair during the entire process, and make sure there's no bleeding or slippage of the foils. By following these guidelines, and openly communicating with your client, you can make going blonde a healthy, happy experience.

For more information on Marco Pelusi, Marco Pelusi Haircare and Marco Pelusi Hair Studio, go to




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