Blond Ambitions: How to Lighten Your Hair Like a Pro?

  CHRISTOPHER POLK/GETTY; LAZIC/BORISIO/INF

CHRISTOPHER POLK/GETTY; LAZIC/BORISIO/INF

Julia Roberts is officially a blonde. Yes, the woman who once had one of Hollywood's most famous heads of hair — last seen  sporting glossy ginger-brown locks on the red carpet at January's  (above left) — was snapped on an L.A. street over the weekend with freshly bleached hair pulled up in a ponytail. We don't yet know if she went blond for a role, just for hoots, or to give red carpet reporters one more thing to ask about when she hits the Academy Awards this Sunday (and her rep refused to say), but the 46-year-old's dye job gives hope to many a brunette, since going from one end of the color spectrum to the other has long been considered a risky move.

Roberts's new shade is warm and infinitely flattering, probably because it’s been in the works for a while now, according to Kaitrin Simkin, colorist at Sally Hershberger Salon in Los Angeles. "There's not a chance she did it overnight," says Simkin. "But that's why it looks so great." She’s the latest famous female to make a radical shift to blond — Kim Kardashian and Sofia Vergara both did the same last year "All brunettes have the opportunity to go lighter," says Simkin. "Anyone can do it, but not everyone should because, depending on the process, the results will really vary."

 (Photos: Getty Images/Twitter/Sofia Vergara)

(Photos: Getty Images/Twitter/Sofia Vergara)

In 1991 Roberts went severely platinum blonde for her role as Tinkerbell in Steven Spielberg’s"Hook," and then famously chopped her hair off in what could have been her one and only “awkward” phase — who can forget her and then-fiancé Kiefer Sutherland showing up in similar hairdos at the 1991 Oscars? She has since experimented with paler shades but has mostly stayed near the darker side of the spectrum, which seems to suit her best. (That platinum color? Wasn't exactly flattering). "Her '90s blond is a good example of what happens when you shift color too quickly," says Simkin."It was very yellow and muddy-looking, which flatters no one."

Here, tips from Simkin as well as New York-based L'Oreal Professionnel Artist and colorist Jennifer MacDougall on how brunettes can take the plunge.

Go Slow: Raising the base color a few shades every few weeks, while adding some highlights to the ends, will give you a more natural-looking, multi-toned effect. This is probably what Roberts did, but over the course of just one month, rather than several.

Beware of the Big Bleach-Out: This usually isn't recommended unless you're looking for the Pam Anderson look, but yes, it's an option. A stylist can lift your base color all the way to platinum with repeated applications of a blue-based bleach. Bleacher beware: Your hair will definitely sustain damage, and the color will be really high-maintenance. You'll start getting roots within a few days. 

Be Patient: "When opting for the gradual color change, remember that you may not see the desired color right away," says MacDougall. "You will see a cooler blond after the first visit, then may go to a warmer gold.  It's a process and has to go through the natural levels of the hair until you reach the desired color."

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You'll Probably Have to Pretreat : Stylists have something called "color remover" which they comb over strands and let sit for a few minutes to remove any old pigment in hair, be it natural or from previous coloring. You'll want to strip any existing color (especially red tones, like Roberts's) from the hair to cleanse the hair palette and provide a fresh new start for hair before going blonde.

Splurge on a Pro. Remember you want to end up looking great, not buying a wig, so turn to an expert. "No one should attempt to do this themselves," says MacDougall. "Too many things can go wrong."

But Make Sure to Ask About Price Ahead of Time: Transforming someone from brunette to blond can be more expensive than typical color service, and stylists often charge by the hour so ask for the price beforehand to avoid any nasty surprises while checking out.

Don't Do It on a Whim: If you know you are interested in a drastic color transformation like going from brunette to blonde for the first time ever, let your hairstylist know ahead of time, so she can plan accordingly," says MacDougall.  "It may take double the amount of time as a typical color service."

Don't Forget Your Eyebrows: Have your colorist tint your brows to match your new hair color so they don't give you away!