How Getting Blonde Balayage Helped Me Appreciate My Natural Brown Hair

By Nicole Andre
·  5 min read
how getting blonde balayage helped me like my brown hair

Anyone who has ever sat in a busy hair salon knows the sight of many women with foils clipped to their head, sitting and waiting for their color to develop.

It became especially apparent to me after my recent visit to the hair salon (once they were finally allowed to open in my state) just how many women dye their hair blonde in some variation (all over color, balayage, highlights, babylights, etc.). Quarantine roots don’t lie! The question I had to ask myself as I was getting my hair cut was “Is that really the best choice for all of them?” Because I’ve done it myself, and, for me, it definitely wasn’t.

My Experience with Balayage

I’ve always struggled with liking the way my hair looks. It’s frizzy and, as I’ve gotten older, pretty curly. My blowdryer and my curling iron are my best friends. I felt like the dark color didn’t show much dimension when I tried to style it. Hair is such a big part of a woman’s appearance that I think it’s natural for women to look at themselves, their friends, and women in magazines and movies, and wonder if they would be better off with a hair color other than the one they naturally have. So, when curiosity collided with the fact that three of my close friends have beautiful, naturally blonde hair, I decided to take the plunge and get balayage done.

What matters most is how your hair makes you feel.

Spoiler alert, I hated it. I regretted my decision instantly, but I actually lived with it for about 10 months! I even got it redone at one point because I thought that would be easier than growing it out, and I didn’t realize how easy it would be to go back to my natural color. It’s not that it looked bad. It looked fine. Many people complimented the change in fact. But it didn’t suit me. Ultimately what matters most is how your hair makes you feel. Self-consciousness isn’t what anyone should be going for. 

Which brings us to today. I grew out the color as much as possible over quarantine, and my hairdresser toned it all back to my natural color, leaving a few lighter brown sections, more along the lines of the highlights you would see on Jennifer Garner as opposed to the bright blonde highlights I had before. And I’m so much happier with it. I’ve never loved my brown hair more!

Don’t Knock Your Natural Coloring

The lesson I learned is to try to appreciate your natural coloring as much as possible. Anyone who has spent enough time trying to figure out their “season” (color theory characterized by the four different seasons) knows that the key is learning to work with the natural coloring that’s already there. Some quizzes will even specify on the questions about hair color that they mean your natural color.

And with good reason! Your coloring is designed to work together, whether you chalk it up to science, mother nature, or divine design — something one of my naturally blonde friends and I talked about when she was telling me how much more she thought brown suited me. 

Your coloring is designed to work together, whether you chalk it up to science, mother nature, or divine design.

If you need a little help doing appreciating your natural coloring, I suggest thinking about celebrities, models, old Hollywood starlets, or even real-life women you know, but this time with a goal in mind. Think of all the women you find pretty who share your hair color.

A shortlist for blondes would be Elle Fanning, Gigi Hadid, Gisele Bündchen, and Grace Kelly. One time seeing Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days will probably help you see how great your natural color is. For brunettes, try Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Keira Knightley, Jessica Alba, Gal Gadot, or Zendaya. And if you were lucky enough to be born with red hair, please look to Bryce Dallas Howard and Amy Adams before you even think of touching it.

The Cost of Dying Your Hair a Different Color

Beyond natural coloring, one great part of working with your natural color and not against it is not having to deal with the hair damage that’s an inevitable part of bleaching. I can’t begin to tell you how scared it made me seeing the hair breakage I had when I would brush my hair after getting balayage. I no longer feel like I need to use Olaplex every week, which if you’re in the boat I was, I think really helped by the way, although it wasn’t as dramatic as the photos you see online. My switch back to brown looked and felt healthier instantly! One advantage of brown hair is how shiny it can be if you keep it healthy, which would be hard to do with bleached blonde hair.

Hair damage is an inevitable part of bleaching.

And if for no other reason, toning my hair back to my natural color was definitely the right decision for my wallet. Highlighting is the cheapest upfront (though more maintenance than balayage later) and that’s already around $150 on average. You’ll end up paying a lot more if you want an all-over blonde color.

Closing Thoughts

All in all, there’s no one hair color that’s universally prettier than another. Men seem to be marrying women with all different hues, so the “which do guys prefer, blondes or brunettes” debates and polls can stop. It all comes down to what looks flattering on you and what you like. If you’re a brunette who wants to go blonde, go for it (maybe just stock up on Olaplex).

But don’t assume the change will necessarily be more flattering or that you’ll like it more — and that applies to a lot of things you might consider changing about your appearance, not just hair. My dad’s advice? “At some point in life, we all have to learn to work with what we’ve got.” Thanks, Dad. It took a mistake at the hair salon for me to understand what you meant. I get it now.