Updated: Dec 8, 2020
The Experience and Advice
by Maurice Alexander
An unfiltered pholograph of the final result of a bleaching at James Dun's House. Image courtesy of Maurice Alexander.
Being in my final year of my university degree, I realised that this would be the last opportunity I would have to do something I had been longing to do; bleach my hair blond. I had occasionally seen it done by fashionable Instagrammers and I was enamoured with the look, a true love at first sight moment, especially when the light hair is contrasted against dark eyebrows. However, I had never dyed my hair before and had no idea where to begin, what to expect with the process or what it would require. It is for this reason I am detailing my experience going blond to providing all the advice and recommendations for anyone in Aberdeen wanting to go blond for the first time.
My Time At James Dun's House
With zero knowledge or experience, I resolved to have the procedure performed by hairdressers of the highest skill available in Aberdeen to eliminate any risk or error and to maximise the chances of me being pleased with the final result. Having no clue about where to begin, I made an enquiry with Mr Dun’s Barbers, known as the best men’s barbershop in the city, but I was informed that they do not offer such a service and that I’d have to pay a visit to their sister venue, James Dun’s House. Contained within a charming townhouse of silver granite bricks and fenced with a black gate of wrought iron, the beauty salon is at 61 Schoolhill, positioned between the Aberdeen Grammar School and the Bon Accord Shopping Centre. It’s impossible to miss the venue’s most distinctive feature; a gate entrance championing a grand Victorian lantern formed with the very same iron as the pointed fence surrounding the property.
Before arriving, you should have an idea of the colour you’re wanting to have and, preferably, come equipped with a few photographs showing the hairstyle in question, ideally with different angles. For me, there was no hesitation making my request for what I call a tricolour; bleach blond on top, my natural brunette on the sides and black eyebrows. a man, you may feel uncomfortable about entering a beauty salon, but be assured that they James Dun’s House regularly has men in for all fashionable dyes, bleaches and highlights. So, there’s no need to feel out of place when you walk in. Upon entering, you’ll find the reception on your left. After explaining why you’re there, the receptionist will then call over a stylist who will discuss your request at the white table in the centre of the room.
A principal question you’ll be asked if you’ve ever had your hair dyed or bleached before. Never having done so, the stylist will perform a ‘colour allergy’ test, which involves applying a miniscule dab of dye behind your ear. This is of zero cost to you, takes a moment to execute and is a necessary precaution to ensure that you don’t have an adverse reaction when cupfuls of the substance are applied onto your scalp. After discussing the details of your request and the pricing, you’ll be asked to schedule an appointment at least two days beyond the date of the allergy test, to allow the dye to settle onto your skin for a thorough clearance of any allergic reaction you might have.
An all-over hair bleaching by a top colourist at James Dun’s House is priced at £130. If you’re a man you’ll find it very difficult to be reasoned into bleaching your hair when compared to the usual prices men usually pay for their standard haircut, but you should be happy to pay it. This is because you are paying for the expertise of the woman applying these products. Be aware that the colourist is a craftswoman that has undergone rigorous training and education to get to the position of being paid to do this. Think about it, there’s a reason why it’s almost impossible to find a barbershop that can bleach and dye hair; it’s a job requiring the skilled hands of a professional.
Having virgin hair with no history of these sorts of treatments, I was so thankful that I had the knowledge and care of the colourist by my side during this new experience. The process of bleaching is the application and prolonged exposure of hydrogen peroxide onto hair follicles which gradually wicks away their colour. Having bleach in contact with your scalp for an extended period of time causes some light irritation which would have caused me to panic if I undertook this task at home. This bleaching creates an absence of colour within your hair, making a shade of white snow, which then has a tint instilled throughout it with the application of a toner.
Toners are an integral part of going blond, whose aim are to play with the uncurrent colour of your hair, guiding it towards your desired colour. For me, I wanted to go a light, cold shade of blond, but fashionable colours available include soft pink and sterling silver. I was informed that toners come in two types, permanent or semi-permanent, and that the latter is much less ‘painful’ on the scalp for those having their hair bleached for the first time, so request a semi-permanent toner to save yourself the tears.
Several days later, I arrived at my appointment on a sunny Friday morning. I was greeted by the receptionists and the top colourist overseeing my transformation from a dark brunet into a pale blond was Amy, who appeared moments later to lead me up to the floor above. The upper floor of James Duns House is a large room furnished embellished with the classical touches of antiquity. The building itself has a long history as a museum and art gallery, with treasured relics of its past life proudly on show in the room. Under the grandeur of the high ceilings, up on the north-facing wall is a marble relief displaying its previous life as a place of classical education. The central subjects of the piece are grand medieval crests flanked by two nude, pagan men with their alabaster beauty dripping with the beaux-arts, each holding branches of the chestnut tree decorated with their unfurled leaves.
This art is complemented by an interior that perfects modern luxury; rich rosewood flooring, walls painted in soft pink, with the furnishings one expects from a hairdressing establishment all bathed in light pouring in from the tall, vertical windows. There are about 15 stalls in total across the large room so it is not at all noisy or crowded, each one having a padded chair in front of an enormous mirror supported by two columns of light on either side. You might these lights would be harsh, but they actually provide a flattering brightness to maximise your aesthetics in the mirror. I was seated in a stall to the side of the the relief, by a window, which faced the room with a backdrop of potted silk flowers suspended on the wall behind.
Removing my coat and bag, placing them on the armchair behind me, I was given a black cloak to enrobe myself with to protect my clothing from any product. The room isn’t cold and you’ll have to sit for quite a while with this extra layer of material on, so I would wear nothing more than a t-shirt when having a bleaching treatment done. Wearing a jumper would be uncomfortably hot and you won’t be able to remove it once the bleach is applied as you’ll risk damaging the clothing’s material, so take my advice.
Cloaked, seated and facing the mirror, the first thing to be done was the application of a hair-friendly adhesive for several sheaves of aluminium foil which are applied to the areas of hair you don’t wish to be bleached. The adhesive isn’t anything like PVC glue or anything- it just feels like a shampoo being applied with a paintbrush.
For the areas you do want bleached, a mix of peroxide and Aveda replenishing serum is applied. The colourist applies this mixture with a paintbrush but does so in sections to achieve a thorough application. For me this took a few minutes, but nearing the end of the procedure, it became apparent why it’s necessary to have the knowledge of an expert when bleaching your hair. This was because of the irritation felt on the scalp when it’s exposed to hydrogen peroxide for the first time. As mentioned previously, if were bleaching at home on my own or with friends, I most certainly would have panicked and washed it off immediately. However, in the hands of a trained professional, I was reassured that slight tenderness and itching are normal sensations to experience. Following this, my entire head was unglamorously wrapped in clingfilm and the colourist made her exit for the next hour to give the peroxide time to work its magic. Remember that I was next to a tall window, however with this part of the salon being on the 1st floor, which grants total privacy from the outside world, so you don’t need to worry about the intrusive glances from passers-by. James Dun’s House also provides complimentary tea, coffee and, the real mark of an opulent establishment, prosecco for you to enjoy as you wait.
This is a curing process in which your hair's colour will gradually fade to white. For me, this was complete within an hour and 30 minutes, much to the surprise of the colourist. My hair has a natural dark shade of brown, think dark chocolate, and the general rule is that the darker the hair the longer the curing process. This quick transformation could be because I was a white blond in my very earliest years of life, but who knows? One thing I would recommend is to bring reading material, a fully charged phone and some food (I brought a delicious Peri Peri Chicken wrap and a Portuguese custard tart from Marks&Spencers) as this can be a very long wait for some people. Ultimately, its impossible to tell who will take longer or quicker than others, so don’t risk starving and bring a lunch!
An important part of the tricolour is the black eyebrows which I got crafted by a beautician from the spa department at James Dun’s House. The process of achieving cartoonish black eyebrows involves them being sculpted through waxing and then dyed with a pigment. The beautician brought with her a small, portable wax pot that heat the pink wax to a gentle heat for its application. I then discussed with her what your ideal eyebrow shape. The wax isn’t uncomfortably hot, it’s just a warmth followed by a sudden jolt of pain when it’s pulled off your skin. This pain isn’t unbearable either, it’s for a fraction of a second and then vanishes. You won’t let out a scream don’t worry. You don’t have to be concerned about leaving the salon with inflamed skin around your eyebrows either, because the area is quickly treated with a calming elixir which soothes any redness.
Then comes the application of the black pigment. I was fearful that applying a dye to waxed skin would sting, but it was painless. The dye is applied all around the eyebrow and is then wiped off after a two-minute wait to reveal the eyebrows imbued with the onyx colour. I was then left alone with my food until the colourist later came over to check the progress of the bleaching. Around an hour and 30 minutes later, she was satisfied with the hair’s pale colour and I was ushered over to the hair washing facilities that are also on the same floor, to the left of the main room.
I didn’t know what to expect, but it was very pleasant. The bleach was washed out, the toner was applied to set a bright blond colour into the follicles and my hair was conditioned. By this point my scalp was very tender, not a throbbing pain or anything, just very sensitive. I’m sure it would have been wonderful if my scalp didn’t feel like it did, but it was over soon enough. However, I have absolutely no pain threshold, so I’m probably unknowingly exaggerating and you won’t feel anything but slight discomfort. With the bleach washed out and my hair revitalised, I was back in front of the mirror again and treated to a blowdry. You wouldn’t think having someone dry your hair would be so enjoyable, but it really was. Bleached hair must not be exposed to any high heat, so the current of air from the dyer was chilled. Several minutes passed of myself just sitting watching my hair gradually take form within the reflection of the mirror with great anticipation.
The final result was marvellous and nothing short of magical. Even the colourist confessed that she didn’t think my proposed hairstyle would come out looking so well. My inner emotions were of captivation, a curious pride and bundles of excitement, which can only be comparable to the recently awoken caterpillar’s realisation that it has grown painted wings. One thing that I was focussing on was the contrast of my hair in these final moments compared to what I had begun with just under 2 hours ago; hair with a pallid glow, a complexion shared with the of petals of January snowdrops, worlds apart from my natural rich chocolate shades. Upon leaving, I noticed that passers-by would quickly glance at my new hair, which was an odd feeling that evoked a smile. Seeing myself in the mirror this way and having the pleasure of this wonderful experience, I concluded that bleaching one’s hair is something that everyone should do at least once during their lives.
Maintenance & Product Recommendation for Blond Hair
Being blond is fantastic, but it comes with a price tag. On top of the high, entirely necessary, cost of the bleaching procedure, you will have to purchase a small collection of products to ensure the health of your hair. When bleached, your hair turns dry, fragile and thus prone to breaking; the total opposite of the condition of hair at peak health and vigour. To prevent these unfortunate side-effects of going glamorously blond, you will have to conduct a drastic reform of your hair care regime.
Having thick, grease-prone hair which had never treated with bleach or dye, I was accustomed to washing my hair every 2 days with shampoo and conditioner and wetting my hair in the shower in the morning between washes, with no use of post-shower products. This routine is totally unsuitable for bleached blond hair as it will quickly cause the luscious, platinum hair you’ve left the salon with become visibly dry, frayed and brittle. The first change is to space out the washing days to once every two to three days and washing with specialised types of shampoos and conditioners.
Your primary hair-washing products should be classed as ‘purple’. Purple shampoos, conditioners and masques serve to neutralise tints of yellow which naturally form in bleached blond hair. James Dun’s House sells the shampoo they use during your procedure, a Fanola ‘No Yellow Shampoo’ which comes in a slender, cylindrical bottle, evocative of a swan’s neck with a purple cap containing a viscous shampoo of the most intense purple. The shampoo is neutrally scented but must be the most darkly violet coloured substance I’ve ever seen, appearing like the blood of a dragon. This should be used no more than once a week or else your hair will become tinged with purple. I was informed by the colourist that I was best wetting my hair, generously applying it and allowing it to sit in my hair for 10 minutes before washing it off with slightly cold water to maximise its effectiveness.
After shampooing, you must condition your hair as it will be thoroughly stripped of all its natural oils and is guaranteed to break without it. A purple conditioner should be used to build upon the lightening work accomplished by the shampoo and I chose the Aussie brand ‘Blonde Hydration Conditioner’, as Fanola do not produce a complimentary conditioner for their shampoo. This is a thick paste which will seem anaemic following the liquid amethyst Fanola shampoo, but in addition to its lightening properties, the composition of this conditioner is tailored to the needs of bleached hair, fortified with extracts of hemp and Australian plum. I leave this in for 5 minutes and rinse off with semi-cold water as with the shampoo.
The final ‘in-shower’ product I use for my blond hair is another Aussie product by the name ‘3 Minute Miracle Blonde Deep Treatment’. This is a masque for your hair augmenting the nourishment and softening properties the conditioner provided, mirroring its botanic ingredients, the green starred cannabis leaf boldly emblazoned upon the bottle. The masque has the consistency of thickly whipped double cream and is kept within a stout cylindrical container behind a rubber seal, rather than a conventional lid, which releases the lilac paste with a palpable squeeze. I was worried the product would escape in the absence of a lid, but after weeks of use there hasn’t been any leakage, so don’t be concerned about placing it in a plastic bag or anything. After 5 minutes sitting around with this in my hair, I rinse it off in a cascade of cold water from the shower.
Using these purple haircare products was a learning curve. My first piece of advice is to not panic after you have massaged in the Fanola purple shampoo and look at your hands. Post-application, you’ll see that they are darkly stained with purple. This is to be expected as the instructions on the Fanola bottle do state that you’re supposed to use disposable gloves to apply it, but I doubt they are a common item in every home. Just wash your hands in hot water with soap after you’ve rubbed in the shampoo and the dye will easily lift off your skin. This dye effect will not happen to your forehead, to my great relief, as the shampoo trickles down whilst it rests. With all the trickling, dripping and splattering of these potently purple haircare products, I would purchase a deep purple towel and commit that to the weekly purple hair washing procedure, as my towel can hardly be described as white, now appearing like the hide of a psychedelic dalmatian.
On the days that I need to be somewhere and its unfortunately on the third or second day not washing my hair, I wet it with slightly chilled water and apply conditioner before rinsing it off. This doesn’t dry my hair out like it would if I used shampoo, but works brilliantly in taming it and allowing the hair to appear presentable. The conditioner I used for this quick fix is a deliciously scented ‘Maui Moisture Smooth and Revive Vanilla Bean Conditioner.’ When washing your hair on the other days of the week, you can use any high-quality shampoo and conditioner pairing. I use the Aussie shampoo and conditioner ‘Miracle Moist’ combo on Mondays, Wednesdays/Thursdays for a normal wash and then use the trio of purple haircare products on Fridays/Saturdays for the de-yellowing wash.
You will have noticed two common features of showering when bleach blond; the waiting considerable lengths of time with each applied product and the absence of hot water. The active ingredients which counteract the yellowing of blond hair need time to work to their full potential as well as the additional enrichment of your hair when regarding the conditioner and masque, so these waiting times are mandatory. Since the maintenance of blond hair cannot be rushed, bring your smartphone into the bathroom to entertain yourself, which tremendously helps the passage of time. I’m unsure of the chemistry that takes place, but the sections of hair in possession of hints of dandelion are muted to appear like snow with the light of the Winter sun upon it.
High temperatures must not be used on bleached blond hair as the heat dries it out. This applies to both the temperatures of the water in the shower and of the heat of the hairdryer. However, before drying your hair, there’s a final product I was recommended by the colourist at James Dun’s House, which is the Aveda ‘Botanical Repair Strengthening Leave-In Treatment’. It is used at and is available for purchase from James Dun’s House and comes in an evergreen tube containing a pale gel with a scent akin to tea-tree and menthol. No more than a pea-sized helping is to be evenly spread throughout damp hair before drying and provides a final coat of protection as well as supplementing the enriching qualities of all the products you’ve used in the shower. This should be used every time your hair is wet. You’ll be thinking that there’s no way that such a small amount will provide the necessary coverage, but for medium length hair as a man, a pea-sized drop is certainly enough. I played around with the amounts and found that any more caused by hair to clump together, a key sign of excessive product application, so trust me when I say that it goes a long way. With the long hair of a woman, I was advised by the receptionists at James Dun’s House that the same amount should be applied only at the ends of the hair. This product really does make a difference to your hair’s appearance. Without it, your hair will look clean but also dry. With the Aveda Botanical Repair Strengthening Leave-In Treatment, you’re appears like it did before the bleaching; shining, luscious and full of vitality.
Hair damp and applied with the Aveda leave-in treatment, you can now dry your hair. You can do it either by air-drying naturally, more suitable for men of course, but I found that my fringe always curled this way. Therefore, I recommend that you should dry your hair with the use of a hairdryer with the use of the coldest settings available on the device. In addition to allowing your hair to dry much faster, the hairdryer always provides your hair looking light and airy, whilst also giving it a smooth texture. This latter point is especially important, as you want to do everything you possible can to avoid using hair straighteners on bleached hair. I wouldn’t use mine just to minimise the damage done already, but I haven’t ever felt the need too. Its bright colour is all more beguiling!
Nothing lasts forever; as beautiful as your blond hair is, it won’t stay frozen in time- as your natural hair will begin to grow through and appear near the scalp after a period of time. This new natural coloured growth is termed ‘roots’ and for me, being a dark brunet, it was about two weeks until I noticed that I wasn’t thoroughly blond anymore. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to bleach your whole head of hair again. To get back to being 100% blond, James Dun’s House will ‘top up’ your dark roots with an application of the hydrogen-peroxide mixture onto the section of your hair needing it for a £85 fee. They offer this top up service up to two centimetres of growth, so be sure to go sooner rather than later.