BLONDE AMBITION

While only about 2 percent of the world population is born blonde, the rest are still going for gold:

34% of the hair dye sold in the U.S. last year was blonde.

80% of Koreans in their 20s lighten their hair.

MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE: THE LABOR, COST, AND STRESS OF RELAXING BLACK HAIR

HOW IT'S DONE: A petroleum base is applied to the scalp, then a relaxer with sodium hydroxide (basically, lye) is put on the hair. It stays on for 25 to 30 minutes and is then washed two or three times with a neutralizing shampoo. Finally, a deep conditioner is applied and rinsed, and hair is styled.

TIME: 2 to 3 hours

COST: About $225 for virgin hair; $110 for touch-ups

MAINTENANCE: A touch-up is needed every 8 to 10 weeks. Because of damage caused by the chemicals, hair can only be washed once or twice a week.

RISKS: A too-strong relaxer causes excessive breakage and scalp burns.

What Do You Think?