I’ve been a partial highlight kinda gal for the past million years. I went brunette once and almost immediately regretted it. I missed my blonde!
Since my minimal heydays as a brunette, I’ve stayed somewhere on the warm blonde to nearly white blonde scale.
But you know what got to me recently? The hashtag yolo.
I’m dead serious.
And I was like, you know what. It’s time to spice things up around here ya grey wearing, neutral eyeshadow loving, boring person. This was the main source of inspiration.
So I decided to start softening my new growth a bit, and go for a more natural look. It was a bit of a process, but I’m glad I did it gradually instead of diving in head first.
I mean, it is my hair after all. I’d like it to look nice.
So, starting around the early fall, I asked my stylist to balayage highlights in around my part and hairline, but add more slices of lowlights through the middle sections of my hair.
Balayage is the act of painting color on the hair instead of using foils or papers. Balayage is often confused with ombre. Ombre is a coloring technique focusing on darkness to lightness. Balayage is similar in that it’s a painting method so it’s challenging to get extremely close to the scalp like you would with a foil, but it is not necessarily focused on only lightening the bottom of the hair.
Slicing simply means coloring a thin slice of hair, from roots to tips, instead of pulling out a weave pattern for foils. Slicing provides more color coverage in wider panels.
Because I had been highlighting for so long, my hair looked mostly one color of blonde, so my goal was to add depth from the inside out, leaving my root area and “outer most” sections of hair last for the darkening.
After that appointment I basically let my hair just grow out. That, my friends, is the perk of balayage versus traditional foiling. (OH ALL THIS HAIR TALK MAKES ME WANT TO GET BEHIND THE CHAIR AGAIN). Balayage is supposed to look quite natural and soft, and it grows out that way too.
So once I had about 2 inches of relatively distinct new growth, it was time to take the plunge. And I was doing this myself because I’m a control freak like that.
So, on a Sunday night I added more slices of Redken Shades EQ 6gb + 7g into the middle and top of my hair. I washed it out, and waited until the next day to do anything else.
Monday night I added more slices of the lowlight shade mentioned above, as well as pieces of blonde above my ears and near my temples. I washed that out and waited until I styled it the next day to see how that looked. I’m pretty conservative when it comes to hair color so I knew what to expect based on what I put in the night before.
Tuesday morning I was pleased with my hair, but I felt like the top was a bit too dark. The “ombre” look was a bit disconnected for my taste. So, Tuesday night I added a few more 1/2 inch to 1 inch slices of blonde in the sections above my ears and near my temples. And I added a few thin pops of blonde in through my bangs too.
By Wednesday morning, I was really happy with the color! It was much more of a soft balayage highlight than ombre, which I prefer for my style, and it felt really casual and natural. I liked it immediately!
I also love the warmth, the softness to it, and the brighter pieces closer to my face. And I feel really cool with cool hair now so that helps a 30 weeks pregnant lady feel pretty cool. Also I just traded in my cool sporty SUV for a minivan so I needed a boost in the cool department. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled about my minivan, but, well, you know what I mean.
The thing that I’m anticipating loving about this hair color the most is how low maintenance and flexible it is. I can add more blonde if I want to, or just let it grow out a bit.
Below are a few tips I have on going darker from blonde. I do not recommend doing this yourself unless you are a licensed professional (like myself). Home hair color can be risky sometimes, and doing a complicated coloring technique like balayage should be left to professionals.
Tips on going darker as a blonde:
1. Find a stylist you trust and will stick with you through the process. This isn’t true in every case, but it often is prettiest do to the transition in stages. Laying dark color on top of blonde can sometimes lead to the color looking flat.
2. Know how warm or cool you want to go with the darker shade! This should be covered in the consultation.
3. Lowlighting is a soft way to introduce a darker color into existing blonde hair. This won’t often contribute to a “major hair change” reaction amongst your friends, but it’s setting you/your hair up to accept darker colors well and hold on to them!
4. You can never go wrong keeping a bit of blonde around your face if you are afraid of your hair looking dull. The brightness and lightness right next to your skin will not only be pretty but also keep you somewhat familiar with your hair.
This is the perfect color for you. The darkness on top brings out you blue eyes in the most beautiful way, but you’re still a blonde! Beautiful.
This is so beautiful! I love the darker hair, it highlights your fair skin and blue eyes. You’re such a doll!
What I wouldn’t give to have Miss Kate consult me on my hair. I don’t think I’ve ever had a hairdresser that I trust more than you… And you’ve never even seen my hair. Your passion for all things hair completely shines through, I fear I’m surrounded by stylists who just cut hair because it pays the bills… No passion.
Lol reading this, I was white blonde as a child and as an adult have maintained various shades of blonde highlights. I too threw caution to the wind and went dark blonde or light brunette for a day and a half. I immediately hated it and will never do it again! Hand on heart never! I have just recently had lowlights to my very over processed hair that was looking a little flat. I like how it adds texture.
Anyway, I do love reading your blog. Best wishes for a very merry Holiday season from Australia!
It looks great. And, just FYI, just because you are moving to your second child, doesn’t mean you HAVE to get the stereotypical minivan!! I have 5 kids and only had a minivan for about 6 months. I have always had the ginormously large Yukon Denali XL! Larger than a minivan with MUCH more storage room in the back for strollers, etc…but for me now it’s sports bags, etc.
I’m actually really excited about my van! I love it already 🙂
I always said I would never drive a minivan, but after my second son was born last year we traded our SUV for a minivan and I love it so much! Best decision ever, you won’t regret it!
I remember the minivan conversation earlier this year…which minivan did you end up choosing? Just traded in our 11-year-old minivan for a 2014 minivan and still loving it!
Oh ok…I didn’t pick that up from the post.
Karen I would do aboit anything for a consult! Your hair is beautiful!
Kate…so sorry! Auto correct sucks
This is great! Not only does this look AWESOME on you, I love these tips! I’m an on and off blonde and every time I want to change it up, i just dye it back brown and it looks like I’m going into witness protection because it’s so dramatic! This is great and I’m definitely pinning this for when I get the “do I want to be a blonde anymore?” Bug and skip the total dye process.
For lowlights do you recommend always going with a bit gold in it so it doesn’t look flat? My blonde hair ( I mix a 9 and 10 grey’t naturals from Matrix) is looking very light and one color and for winter I would love to add a few lowlights but am afraid of them looking drab. My coworker got lowlights put in and I thought it just looked drab and almost dark grey. I don’t want that!
I hesitate with the word “gold”. I think that can look too fake on some blonde hair. Warmth is a better goal versus gold 🙂
It looks great on you! I have never done highlights or anything like that. I’m a flat, one-color, boring person. I’m afraid to lighten my hair at all, because my hair so dark. Do you have any tips on adding depth to dark hair?
I’m in the same boat – would love tips for those of us with naturally darker hair! I never know whether to ask for highlights or lowlights, or a combination, because I don’t want to end up dramatically lightening my hair color just to achieve depth.
My mother has dark, black brown hair. Her stylist convinced her to get some very tiny highlights, they are only a few shade lighter than her hair but it add so much depth! It looks like the sun has caught her hair and its wonderful in this time of year were we see little to no sun.
I just traded my ginormous SUV for a minivan too….the new Toyota Sienna….can’t believe I waited so long. Dual moonroofs, huge DVD screen, great bluetooth system and the gas mileage is amazing! I love it light years more than my SUV.
I love this color on you. I dont know if I could pull off blonde. I tend to stay with darker colors!
Is this curl you have here in one of your tutorials? If not you sould make one. I am trying to grow my hair out and its only a few inches shorter than yoursm my curls never come out like that! Lol
I love it!! It’s gorgeous – perfect amount of blonde and brunette…the depth you created is awesome. Well done!!
Love!! I have always been a darker blonde (was a white blonde as a kid), and had gone darker a couple times in my life (out of the box, and then at a salon). But, I’ve mainly stuck with different shades of blonde lowlights and highlights at the same time to balance my hair, and give it some dimension. I plan on getting my hair cut and colored sometime next month before the hubby and I go on our honeymoon in February (eek!), and your pictures may be my inspiration for some change! I loved mixing in some platinum pieces, but feel as I get older… something more subtle may be best. I have usually stuck to more “caramel” colors, and have really liked that.
I have two kids and I would love a minivan. The sporty smaller SUV isn’t cutting it anymore. No more room 🙂 So I’m jealous of your hair and your minivan now!
The depth looks amazing. As a natural medium/dark brunette, I often wish I could achieve the look you got. I’m tired of the blonde foil highlights!
I also love my minivan. I thought I would hate hitting “that milestone,” but it is seriously the most practical and comfortable vehicle I’ve ever driven!
I love you hair, and this is exactly what I want to do. My problem is finding a good hairstylist. My husband is military and we move constantly, finding a good salon is harder then finding a good doctor. By the time I do, we move again. Not to mention all the mishaps in between. I wanted to do what you are I had two inches of growth went in, with a couple things going on, one I had only had a partial highlight, so the bottom was virgin hair, which in turn I was cutting off to donate. Second, I needed low lights, my highlights seem to always get out of control, I tell the stylists I want natural highlights and every time I get some regrowth and they foil in more and more and more and I end up all platinum blond. Nope, not natural at all, nor does it look good on me. I warned the lady as I always do that my hair pulls strong red, very warm orange tones. I’m not sure the brand of color but we even talked about the level, I can’t remember now exactly, it was back in October, but I think it was around a 7 mixed with something. Anyhow, I did not get dark ash blond low lights to match my hair, instead I got a reddish color that on most would be beautiful, but it doesn’t look right on me since I have cool toned eyes and skin. She also used bleach for my high lights which she did paint in but in odd places and she foiled some too, though I asked her not too, and I asked her not to use bleach since my hair was already previously dyed. I ended up with tones of breakage and NONE of my natural color, she put the low light on everything. And when I complained, her and her colleague tell me oh it’s so beautiful, not offer to make it right. This was just my most recent experience (my sweet mothers day gift from my husband to a different salon turned out to be an 8 hour mess). And I’ve had thousands of the same types of appointments. I’m about to give up. Currently I have about 3/4″ of regrowth of my natural so I have multi tones and colors all over with a line of my natural color which is a dark ash blond to light ash brown. I’m honestly afraid to go in again, she didn’t listen and screwed it up so much I had to start over again with my regrowth. Sigh. Wish I could just do it myself sometimes.
Oh and the minivan, we had one, I hated it at first but it was so easy to just push a button and let the kids climb in and it had so much storage. It grew on me, and was a great vehicle for travel and to carry the kids around, but I felt my coolness factor leaving me everyday, then I turned 35 and so did my husband. We traded it in for a traverse. We lost some of the cargo space because the traverse sits higher off the ground, and the sliding automatic doors, but at the same time, I stopped scraping the front on curbs and I feel alot sexier driving it. LOL I know silly, but I guess sometimes you do what makes you feel good. YOLO
Absolutely love this colour!!
I have just toned my blonde down a little and would love to go this sort of route however I tend to have my hair straight/tied back (no time for waves!) so was wondering if this sort of colour effect would work as well with hair worn straight?
Thank you for this post Kate! My hair is mostly dark and I am wanting to go a little lighter and your tips REALLY helped! I also know what you mean about the minivan. While I would love one for all the storage and convenience, there is just something about the term “van” that makes you feel a little less cool!
The darker blonde is gorgeous! It definitely looks more natural and adds a lot of dimension. I like to imagine that if I ever had blonde hair, this is the look I’d want to go for.
And girrrrrl, there ain’t nothin’ wrong with loving to wear gray! It’s my go-to color every day. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
I have color envy!!!
Hi Kate, you look great as always. Just wondering about the cut and size barrel you use.
I wish I would have known about balyage when I was going back to my natural color! The process my old stylist took me through to bring me back to my natural color really damaged my hair, and took almost 2 years to lighten it up. It looked awful! I hated that process. Balyage would have definitely been the better route, but alas… I’m back to my natural color and that’s all I wanted haha. Your hair looks really nice!
Jenny // Mish Mosh Makeup
It looks great! I am a brunette and decided a year or so ago to have extremely dark lowlights out in. My hair stylist touchy I was crazy, but it turned out great. I love having darn hair.
I have been following your blog for a while but this is my first time commenting! But I just wanted to say that I love your new hair!!! Also I just saw that you got a van! I did too! I think it’s sad vans have a reputation for not being cool or whatever because my van is so awesome!! I love it!! Anyways, I am also a hairdresser and mom of two. (We have a lot in common) I am launching a blog in January and would love to collaborate with you someday! Just giving you a heads up that I might be contacting again in the future!
Your new color really makes your eyes pop!
Absolutely love this look! It looks so great on you. I would love to try something like this but 1) I’m scared of change (lol) and 2) I don’t know if I could trust somewhere around here to do it! Also, this is me to the T: “It’s time to spice things up around here ya grey wearing, neutral eyeshadow loving, boring person.”
I love your hair, it looks so great! In the last 8 months or so I have gone thru one bad hair job after another. I am going to a stylist that I like, but I didn’t love what she did with my hair. It’s good, not great. As as stylist, how do you recommend talking to her about it? I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I also don’t want to stick with a bad ‘do, or try to find someone else? I would LOVE my hair to look like yours and I think my natural tone is pretty close. After a few bad jobs there is a LOT of red in there. Any advice? I would really appreciate it!
Hair looks a-may-zing! I have the same colour palette, highlights and lowlights. But in my case Im not sure I can do the balyage thingie. I have bangs and always straighten my hair. With my square type face that’s the best look for me. Curls are not my thing. So…
And Im driving minivan for many years – 3 kids, so…. I loved it. BUT couple of more years and Im going to get myself a nice cool SUV, even though these days minivans are great, have all these perks, all these buttons that open and close everything! Enjoy!:))))
Wow! So pretty! I love that it’s definitely different, but still YOU.
I have very dark brown, almost black, hair and for most of my life I thought it was impossible to do anything with color on my hair. Everyone always told me I couldn’t do lighter because my hair would turn orange, and I couldn’t do anything else because it wouldn’t show up. Well, screw that. 🙂 Two summers ago I asked my stylist if she thought I could do some subtle highlights and she immediately whipped out the swatches. I trust her completely, she is SO GOOD. We went with a copper color, really close to the color highlights I get if I’m out in the sun a lot. I loved it! Last spring I did something daring – we colored the underside of my hair dark teal blue and green, which involved lightening it first, but the lightener she used did not fry my hair OR turn it orange. 🙂 The end look was stunning and I kept it until this fall when I felt like something darker, richer…we colored the blue hair back to dark and added some subtle face framing caramel highlights. I love this too! It feels super elegant. I’m not saying I’ll never do blue hair again – I’m open to that if the urge strikes me. 🙂 I got soooooo many compliments on the blue. The most common one was “I normally do not like color like that on hair, but that is really stunning!”
All that to say, don’t believe people who tell you that you “can’t” do anything with your hair. (Except an experienced hair professional. Always believe them if they say you shouldn’t.) But you might be able to do more than you think you can, so if you have a hair fantasy, why not ask? 🙂
Ha! I totally hear ya on the minivan comment! We upgraded from a sassy VW passat with a turbo that I loved to drive to a Toyota sienna when baby #2 was on the way. I LOVE my minivan.. such a perfect vehicle for a mama with littles. How I would I survive without my doors that slide open with a press of a button?!? But I do NOT feel cool at all. But 2 (almost 3) babies and sliding doors vs feeling cool.. I’m good with the trade off. 🙂
Love your hair! I haven’t changed up my long layered style for a long time but do the color a lot. I envy your Southern hair as I can’t achieve much volume on top. And thanks for all the tutorials from fancy to everyday to mom hair.
You are stunning!! We had no idea about the difference between ombre and balyage but are absolutely in love with how your hair looks. It’s so natural and soft. Must ask our hair stylist about this technique, stat! XOXO
Wauw, really nice! Love the color =)
i absolutely LOVE this look for you. perfection!
Looks great Kate!!!! I’m forever sticking with my natural red hair; lol. 😉
Love the color, Kate! I recently went darker too! I was getting tired of the upkeep, but being a blonde for 26 years was hard to let go of, and I wasn’t quite ready to bite the bullet and go to my natural brunette/auburn color! I love your suggestion on the balyage. I’ve never heard of it before, so I’ll definitely have to look into it!
What is your expertise on the affects of haircolor for pregnant women? I’m just curious, I’ve heard conflicting information both ways. But as a professional, what are your thoughts?
Love the new color!! Makes your beautiful blue eyes pop! What a fun time to have this little pick me up.
Your hair looks beautiful! It really warms your face 🙂
Love the new color! Could you (in all your spare time!) give us a lesson on dark hair trying to cover gray and go a little lighter in the process?
Its actually spelled balayage, if anyone goes to their hairstylist looking for this technique.
Thank you! That was driving me crazy, as a fellow hair stylist.
thank you for the correction
Hi Kate; quick Q. I am looking for a pretty silver or grey long lasting eyeshadow. I looked at a few places but wondered if you had any suggestions? ( if anyone besides Kate has a suggestion please share! ;))
Hi Kate! I love your blog because just that – I love EVERY section of it, from your hair tutorials to your clothing style to reading about your son! You probably won’t see this, as my comment is pretty far down the list, but I absolutely LOVE the cardigan you’re wearing in this post. Where did you get it?
I LOVE YOUR NEW LOOK. And how well you explained the process. I’m a stylist as well and love love love when a client wants this look. Rock on Kate
What kind of van did you get?
I love this post! I am currently trying to save money, but definitely need to touch up my blonde highlights in my dark brown hair. Have you ever posted on the do’s / don’ts / best brands for when a person HAS to do her own color? Thanks! 🙂
I love your new hair color. If I was still blonde, I’d be taking this post to my stylist! Was curious if you could share the formula you use for Lauren’s hair? The color it is currently. Definitely obsessed with her hair! You do a great job!
Hi Kate: I have been getting blond highlights for YEARS, along with low lights occasionally. I had begun getting silvery grey hair, which I do like and would like to slow the highlights and let it go natural (although I always enjoy the extra body that color gives my slick, straight hair). Continue getting minimal highlights during growing out? Go more silvery than gold?
I love that color! My natural hair color is similar and I think it would much more low maintenance than highlights and low-lights. Maybe I will take the plunge!
I love the length and cut of your hair. How would you suggest I tell my hair lady in order to get it cut right? Also how do you get it cut to have the loose pieces that frame your face? Those are a must for me as I have a big forehead. Lol
Any tips on how to locate a stylist that can do balayage?
Love the new hair! Do you have to tone your blonde? If so what formula do you use?
I love the look on you. I’ve been contemplating going back to blonde as it was my natural color 20 years ago. I started dying my hair in my teens and never looked back. I like my auburn brown just fine but something in me is craving the brightness of blonde again. My current natural color is a dark ash blond at the root so I might be able to get away with just balayage!
nice hair style
I LOVE your hair! Looks amazing on you! My question…I want this look, but I do have some gray hairs coming in..ugh! so, if I did this my hair would show more of my few grays I think with it so dark on top. ( currently have highlights and lowlights and darker hair than you with nothing in it) Thoughts on coloring just the top roots a bit to my natural color? and then the Bayalage on the bottom and around my face?
This is the best Balayage I’ve seen! LOVE it! Went to the salon and asked for balayage from a younger stylist and got barely-noticeable highlights! What would you recommend I ask my hairdresser if I want this look?
Would you mind sharing what you used for the blonde pieces? Was it high-lift tint or bleach? Love it!!! Thanks.
Love both colors on you. What colors did you use when you were more blonde. I feel like my stylist always makes my base color too gold-ish. Not sure how to ask for more ash color without it looking drab.
Are you at liberty to share who your hair stylist is?
I live in the U.K. and I have blond fine bleached highlites and now it’s all over blond I want to put another coulor in to break it up what do you recommend please..
Your hair looks beautiful! very nice..
Thanks so much for sharing this awesome info!
Organic hair color charlotte NC
Wow! You look amazing with your hair. I love the color plus it looks great on you. I wish I have a hair like yours 🙂 I am looking for natural hair color for my hair, I prefer natural hair treatments, something like this https://juvetress.com/darken-hair-naturally/ has anyone here tried it? Love to hear what you think?