Asian Blondie
May 15, 2007 8:46 PM   Subscribe

I've always wanted to cut my hair short(ish) and dye it blonde. Problem: I'm Asian-American. Can this be done?

Without getting into arguments about racial identity, etc., I'd just like to try an unusual hairstyle before I turn 25, and I'm thinking short and blonde might be the way to go. I don't think it'll be an issue at work, since I'm an engineer in the Silicon Valley area, and there seems to be a lot of room for personalities here (as long as one continues to dress and act appropriately and get work done).

I know Asian hair doesn't bleach or dye easily, and it's never been treated before. I'm cool with cutting it super short and then dying it back to black after a few months, though.

Can this be done? If so, SHOULD it be done? If so, can anyone recommend a good stylist in the area?

Thanks in advance!
posted by universal_qlc to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh yeah, and I'm a girl. Just to get that straight.
posted by universal_qlc at 8:48 PM on May 15, 2007

Get it done professionally. Take-home kits are ... well, crap, for Asian hair. (See my old thread for tips/advice on dyeing your hair)

I'm all for experimenting. If you don't like the result, it'll be gone within a few months. Dyeing your hair is fun, and somewhat addicting. So I'd say go for it :) You might not be able to get it blonde-blonde, but you can probably pull off a lightish auburn brown.
posted by Phire at 8:49 PM on May 15, 2007

i'm asian too. i've highlighted my hair multiple times with bleach (and it's been very light brown), and all i can say is that i completely ruined my hair. if you expect to dye it black and have the same exact hair, i had to wait a really long time for it to get back to what it was like earlier. it wasn't soft anymore, and it kept tangling -- i had never had that happen to my hair before. for some reason, i keep highlighting my hair... but...

i agree with the previous poster, if you're really up to doing it, i would go professional. their dyes seem a bit gentler, and they know what they're doing. you'd probably want to go to someone asian, because they know asian hair the best and what chemicals might work with it.
posted by akka at 8:52 PM on May 15, 2007

It can be done.

Go for it. Hair will grow out even if it gets damaged. You'll always be glad you tried something new.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:05 PM on May 15, 2007

This site has great info on dyeing hair crazy colors. I agree that a professional is an excellent idea, but you can look on here for info about techniques, "don't"s etc.

Definitely go for it. If it's short, the bleach damage will grow out faster.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:13 PM on May 15, 2007

My parents always told me: "It's hair. It grows back."

You're young, now is the best time to take fashion risks. Do it! What's the worst that can happen? Hats & wigs can easily be obtained if you need to hide a mistake. Furthermore, if you go to a professional familiar with Asian hair, it probably won't wind up looking bad at all.

You'll never know unless you try it!
posted by tastybrains at 9:27 PM on May 15, 2007

White guy reporting from Taiwan here. I've seen a lot of bleach/dye jobs on Asian hair, especially in the last month or so. I think most of them look pretty bad. But then, I think most dye jobs on any kind of hair look bad, so take this with that disclaimer. The ones that look good, IMO, are the ones that might be natural hair.

The ones who've been most successful have not gone straight for golden blonde or copper-red. They've gone as far as light browns, honey colors, wood-like colors, and similar colors on the red side. Some of these, as I've driven up behind them on my scooter, have genuinely made me wonder if I were going to see a European or American face when I got there. Colors lighter than that, or even those colors if inexpertly done, have something about them that just screams 'Dye job!'

If you knew my little brother, I'd say don't go any lighter than the darkest his hair gets in winter. Since you don't, I'd like to describe his hair color. Unfortunately, hair-dye makers don't have a name for it. We went to Fred Meyer and matched his hair in the paint section to a color they call 'Canoe'. But if for some reason you don't want to go to a paint store to settle on a hair color, I understand.
posted by eritain at 9:33 PM on May 15, 2007

Go for it, but it's a mistake. (I know, I made it.) To get it "blonde" requires damaging the hell out of the hair, so short is about the only way to go. And you'll still have short, unmanagled, damaged hair that doesn't really look blonde, with dark roots.
posted by orthogonality at 9:34 PM on May 15, 2007

you'd probably want to go to someone asian, because they know asian hair the best and what chemicals might work with it.

I think it would be better to ask if they have had experience in dying Asian hair, and what kind of results. just being Asian or whatever race does not mean they can or can not get the job done.
posted by j-urb at 9:37 PM on May 15, 2007

It's possible but it will be a hassle to maintain. Your roots will show within a couple of weeks. Personally I wouldn't do it. I'd just go with the short cut and some crazy highlights but if you insist I agree to get it done professionally. Home bleaching can result in orange hair and it's not an attractive orange. It's a sad, uneven, make-you-burst-into-tears orange.

Also, just so you're prepared, hair bleach hurts while it's on your head. It stings, burns, and in general hurts like a mo fo. Some people claim it doesn't hurt but I've seen men crying and begging it be washed off. Wanted to make sure you knew that.
posted by Soda-Da at 10:07 PM on May 15, 2007

In Japan, young women with blonde hair and a deep tan are known as ganguro. In terms of cultural baggage, it's generally thought of as being a bit slutty.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:20 PM on May 15, 2007

Look, don't let anybody rain on your fun hair parade. Get a referral from someone you know who has cool hair (esp Asian hair that's done cool-ly) -- who's their hairdresser? Go talk to that good hairdresser about what will work on you. Get some fun, funky, weird cut/color. You're absolutely right that this is a good time of life to experiment. Live a little. Bleach hurts, the roots will grow out, so what. Have fun with it, and if it's bad you can chalk it up to experience.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:27 PM on May 15, 2007

Go see Deirdre @ Tao Blaze Salon in Los Gatos. former colleague who I know is competent.
posted by hortense at 10:47 PM on May 15, 2007

My husband has super dark, coarse Italian hair and he had it bleached blonde for Halloween a few years ago. (We went as Buffy and Spike.) I sent him to a proper salon with a reputation for their funky colour work, so I knew they'd do a good job. Apparently it actually took two bleachings and then a toner to get it to the right shade. (He cuts his own hair, so this was basically his first time EVER sitting in a salon for so long.) I was prepared for it to look awful... but instead it was SO HOT. So who knows? You might look fantastic.

(But note: After Halloween, he decided he liked it so we tried to lighten his roots ourselves at home. It looked CRAP. Go professional. They have a different sort of bleach from what's available in normal hairdye kits.)
posted by web-goddess at 10:47 PM on May 15, 2007

White guy from Japan chiming in: in Japan, it seems a majority of people under say, 40, dye their hair, though plenty of people over 40 do as well. It's almost always a subtle brown color (chairo). Very rarely will someone dye their hair really blonde, as in yellow. It's more of a punk(ish) thing to do, like dyeing your hair orange or blue.

As for the look: Some people look better with natural black, some people look better with brown, and some people look better with blonde. It's difficult to imagine until you just do go for it! Ask your friends for their honest opinion of what looks good on you, and ask yourself.
posted by zardoz at 10:48 PM on May 15, 2007

Nthing "go for it!" and Nthing "get it done professionally".

And make sure it's by someone who has done Asian hair before and has the tools to do it. If you're in a major city call around the trendy salons in [Asian country]-Town or Little [Asian-City] and ask if they have experience.

It will do nasty things to your hair regardless, but the stuff you buy at most stores will simply screw up your hair.

(I'm not Asian but I did bleach my hair for several years, and every non-Caucasian I know who has tried to do it at home with American hair products has regretted it.)

And if it turns out that you don't like it, you can always blame the salon! :P
posted by Ookseer at 10:57 PM on May 15, 2007

Different perspective here. My asian friend (a guy with short hair) had a friend dye his hair blonde (with a kit). We were all there when it happened (at a dinner party). Hair turned orange-blonde within 45 mins (the max time the kit suggested). His hair looks just fine. But if you do it, better have it done professionally. good luck.
posted by special-k at 11:04 PM on May 15, 2007

Asian. Woman. Have had blonde hair twice in my life. Get it done professionally. If you have thick strong hair, doing it at home probably won't even work. Just get it done at a place that does this regularly (Asian hair to blonde.) They'll know how not to fry it. And condition well after.
posted by typewriter at 12:28 AM on May 16, 2007

Also, just so you're prepared, hair bleach hurts while it's on your head. It stings, burns, and in general hurts like a mo fo. Some people claim it doesn't hurt but I've seen men crying and begging it be washed off. Wanted to make sure you knew that.

YMMV - some people feel almost nothing; my scalp itches like heck; other people say it hurts like the dickens.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 12:29 AM on May 16, 2007

Another white guy from Japan, I think it looks cool when done correctly. If you're hair is really dark, spend the extra cash to get a pro to do it so it doesn't end up damaged or spotty.
posted by m3thod4 at 1:00 AM on May 16, 2007

Another Asian chiming in to reiterate what others have said.

1. DO IT. It's frickin fun - no words.
2. It's a 2-step process of first smacking all the black color from your hair and then adding back another color. The more extreme you go with step 1, the better step 2 will turn out. The tradeoff is hair damage but it's going to be damaged anyways so you might as well get it done right.
3. Get it done professionally.
4. Bleach had a mild effect on me (just felt warm on my head) but for the majority of people, it feels closer to mild burning sensation.

I did red (awesome), electric blue (super awesome), green (looked like crap on me), and blond (tad boring after the prior 3).
posted by junesix at 1:09 AM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers everyone. I think I'm going to go step by step here - first short(er), then some streaks/highlights, and then if I feel comfortable, a nice light brown/darker blonde. Hilarious online makeovers indicate that this shade might actually look nice of me. I appreciate the advice, and I'll be on the lookout for a stylist in the South Bay now (I suppose it's time to graduate from SuperCuts).
posted by universal_qlc at 1:13 AM on May 16, 2007

Yosh in Palo Alto is expensive as all get out and you need to make your appointment a month or more in advance, but I've never gotten a bad cut there.
posted by plinth at 5:58 AM on May 16, 2007

Do it, and go to a pro. However, it won't be cheap. When your roots grow out, soften the look with some crazy highlights.
posted by desuetude at 6:18 AM on May 16, 2007

Ask for heavy highlights...going from black to platinum in one shot a. will scare the crap out of you and b. isn't really do-able anyway because they will have to double process it (aka dye it several times) and you'll have to be there all day and spend a lot of money.

Heavy highlights with bleach (tell them to go as light as you want them to be) won't be as shocking, won't take as much time or be as expensive, and it will give you a good idea of what going ALL blonde would be like. Personally, I think the girl in the myspace pic someone linked to looks HOT! But I can also see the dark/light contrast of bleached highlights on Asian hair looking damn hot as well.

And seriously, if you're going short don't worry about the damage, it'll grow back so quickly. Also, don't bother touching up at home. It's tempting and fun to dye your own hair until you absolutely hate how it turned out and fixing it is a total nightmare...
posted by infinityjinx at 8:00 AM on May 16, 2007

i'm asian and i have pretty much dyed my hair every color in the book. i have not had my natural hair color since my early college days—in fact, i don't even remember what my natural hair color looks like on me. for having dyed my hair for the last dozen years or so, my hair is very healthy and i attribute that to going to very good colorists.

anyway, the success of dying your hair depends on two factors:
1) how dark your hair is to begin with
2) what kind of texture your hair has

if you have very dark or black hair and/or the typical thick, course asian hair, it will be very difficult to achieve a blonde that isn't going to a) kill your hair, and b) not look like crap. any colorist worth anything will either vigorously warn you against going blonde or refuse outright to do it because of the damage it will do to your hair. essentially, bleaching the crap out of your hair will cause it to break off. it will look and feel like straw; it's not going to be the soft, shiny, luxurious blonde you'd like. the maintenance is also pretty insane: depending on how quickly your hair grows, you'll see roots around 3 weeks or so and that ain't pretty. you would have to maintain every 4-6 weeks. also, if you get a bad dye job, you can't just fix it right away because it will just further damage your hair. and any "fix" is not gonna get you back to what you were; your hair will still be damaged.

however, if your hair is any shade of brown and the texture is normal to fine, then go for it. that kind of hair takes pretty easily to color and the damage will be minimal. i have baby-fine brown hair and i have never had an issue holding color, particularly bright reds which are the hardest color to hold. i have a great colorist who would love to see me go platinum but i have never had the desire. i have however (including currently) had big chunks of platinum put in my hair and minimal damage.

if you are interested in looking good, always, always go to someone who specializes in color, if you want to dye your hair anything more than a couple of shades lighter than your own haircolor. a good colorist will also be able to give you an expert opinion of whether a color will work for you and advise you of what is and is not doable. a colorist who agrees to do anything you want regardless of whether it will look good or damage your hair is not the person you want to put your trust in. whether the colorist is asian or not is irrelevant. i have never had an asian colorist. a lot of bad dye jobs i have seen on asians have been done by asian colorists because they are following the trend. the goal is to find someone who is very, very good at color and knows exactly what they are doing, what is possible and not possible, and what will make you look good or look like crap.

one more thing: if you go significantly lighter, don't forget to lighten your eyebrows as well.
posted by violetk at 10:59 AM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have seen tons of asian kids (guys and gals) with bleached blonde hair, and more often than not, imho, it's looked great. I'm actually surprised you're pointing to your asian-americanness as a problem. It's so common to me for asian-americans to have bleached blonde hair that I think it's a bit of a type. Get it professionally done so you can be comfortable that it's handled properly, and enjoy!
posted by buddha9090 at 9:27 PM on May 16, 2007

Response by poster: Just as an update, in case anyone reads this - I went to JulieQs in downtown Mountain View, and got myself a head full of blonde streaks and hip bangs w/ a shag cut to match. It took three and a half hours, but I love it so.
posted by universal_qlc at 8:40 PM on May 20, 2007

Right on - thanks for updating and enjoy the cool hair!
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:40 PM on May 20, 2007

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