Can You Pull Off Going from Brunette to Blonde? This Test Will Tell You

Khloé Kardashian's colorist, Tracey Cunningham, breaks it down.

Getty; design by Jennifer Chalet

Khloé Kardashian was the quintessential brunette—until, well, she wasn't.

Even though we watched her color gradually evolve before our eyes, the day she revealed a full-on platinum blonde dye job we were stunned. Instead of looking super drastic like Kim's Lucius-Malfoy-esuqe transformation, it had a born-with-it feel we couldn't help but gawk at considering she had ultra-dark hair to begin with.

For brunettes everywhere, it felt like an official endorsement to do the same. But then again, not all brunettes look good with blonde hair, so how do you know if you will?

Khloé's own colorist and Redken creative consultant Tracey Cunningham weighs in, here, with a four-step litmus test on whether or not you should go blonde—and what to do if the answer is "no" but you're still craving a change.

1. Is blonde complementary to your eye color and skin tone?

The truest test is looking at childhood photos to see if you had any natural blonde in your hair when you were young—but if you didn't, that doesn't mean you can't try it now. Ultimately you're looking for a shade that will complement your coloring, keeping in mind that non-brassy, ashier blondes complement cool skin tones, while golden shades work better on warmer ones. It's also worth noting that blonde can have an especially washed-out effect on yellow undertones. As for your gaze, "Blonde can work with lots of eye colors," says Cunningham, "but I do love a warm, natural blonde with green eyes. I'm always drawn to what's most natural."

2. Can you dedicate time and money to multiple appointments and at-home treatments?

Simply put: a transformation isn't going to happen overnight. Khloé has been lightening her hair for years—going from sombré to babylights to a whole head of highlights—to get that famously bright shade. In the past several weeks alone, Cunningham has given her three highlight procedures using Redken Flash Lift Lightener and Olaplex to restore hair bonds. So you can imagine how many color appointments she's had to get to this point.

Ensuring your hair is healthy enough to keeping going lighter and lighter is another task in and of itself. "You need lots of moisturizing treatments in-between each service to help maintain healthy hair," she says. In other words, hair masks are a non-negotiable part of the process. And on that note...

3. Is your hair in healthy shape?

"Coloring damaged hair is about much more than just split ends or straw-like strands, it can affect the color itself and how it is absorbed in the hair," Cunningham warns, which is why she always asks her clients if they've recently colored, straightened, or permed their hair. As a rule of thumb, you should always proceed with caution, but if your hair is in particularly bad shape (color, sun, or heat damage), perhaps wait until it's in better health to begin a blonde transformation.

4. Are you willing to cut down on hot tools?

If we can't pry a 1-inch curling iron from your dead, cold hands, you're not the best candidate for a drastic color change. Because your hair will undoubtedly suffer damage from going lighter, you'll need to cut back on hot styling tools as they cause internal damage that weakens the protein cross-links, says Cunningham. To use them wisely, keep hot tools and hair dryers on lower temperature settings and always use a heat protectant to minimize damage/keep your color looking fresh.

And, ladies: If going full-on blonde isn't the right move, consider sombré or babylights.

Whether you're worried bleaching won't complement your color, is too high maintenance, or will seriously impede on the health of your hair, there are many ways to add touches of blonde versus a whole-head transformation. In fact, it could very well be the most favorable look on you.

"Babylights are so flattering on everyone," explains Cunningham of the soft and fine highlights that are artfully placed around the hairline. "They're those beautiful, sun-kissed tones that your hair took on as a child–very natural."

And if you're going for something especially low-maintenance yet universally flattering, sombré (AKA soft ombré) might be the way to go.

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Betsey Farrell

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