SILVER LININGS

I’ve gone grey prematurely, and I couldn’t be more stoked.

Okay, confession time: one of my greatest hair wishes is to go blonde. Not just any blonde, but a platinum, almost white, blonde, a la Abbey Lee Kershaw in her Gucci Flora days, Carey Mulligan’s turn as Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby and more recently, Michele Williams on the Louis Vuitton Resort 2015 campaign.

Unfortunately, my hair is so relentlessly black, it tends to take twice the usual waiting time for regular hair dyes to develop. The lightest shade I’ve ever gone on my tresses is a milk tea brown that very quickly turned brassy, courtesy of a drugstore-bought box dye, many stained towels and a ruined shirt. Everyone I confided my blonde ambitions to, tried to dissuade me, telling me that blonde hair on Asian women would look tacky, that bleach would kill my dark, glossy, waist-length locks, that the maintenance would require massive amounts of time and effort.

So I shelved my dreams, until two things happened. First, my editor-in-chief Jumius showed up at the office on a Monday morning with a head of K-pop boyband-worthy platinum blonde hair, the result of a weekend whim. It looked fantastic. Second, I fell in love with the trendiest hair hue on social media: silver hair, which has eclipsed the appeal of platinum blonde. It’s edgy yet ethereal, and on Asian features, safer and less likely to cross into gogo dancer territory.

Even on the runways, flaxen locks have lost their spotlight, and unconventional colours are taking centre stage, most notably on Asian models. Australian model Fernanda Ly’s cotton candy strands stole the show at the Louis Vuitton F/W ’15 runway presentation. Former poster girl for bleached Asian hair, Soo Joo Park, updated her look with a dishwater blue tint. And joining in the #grannyhair trend is New York-based Filipino model Marga Esquivel, who walked the Gucci Resort 2016 show with the highly coveted hair colour.

“I want silver hair so much it hurts,” I lamented to the rest of the L’Officiel team one day. 

“Then do it and write about it,” my editor replied.

Challenge accepted, I went about looking for a colourist to endow me with a head of silver. I didn’t have to look long – other beauty insider friends quickly directed me to the best blond-er in the city: Angeline Tan of FDP Prestige Salon, a.k.a. the Hairy Godmother. I quickly made an appointment and went for a pre-consultation.

First things first: the salon, tucked away in sleepy Kembangan, is an oasis of natural woods, fairy lights and New Age music. And despite its reputation for turning out the best blondes on Asian heads (if you see a local celebrity with blonde hair, chances are it’s an Angeline creation), there’s barely a whiff of chemicals in the air, only a blend of spa aromatherapy oils.

Her secret? She never uses bleach. “We create our own formula that’s hand-mixed in-house, and it doesn’t include typical bleach ingredients,” Tan explains. “Although it functions similarly to bleach and strips each hair shaft of pigment, it’s much gentler and contains more natural ingredients like pineapple extract. It does take longer than regular bleach to lighten your strands, but at the end of the day, would you rather suffer damaged, straw-like hair just to save a couple of hours in the salon chair?”

Her technique, which she calls pre-lightening, is also the reason why her own blonde hair, which she has had for over seven years, is a shimmering, glossy testament to the fact that turning jet-black hair to the palest platinum blonde won’t utterly destroy your tresses. I was sold.

On the day of the process, I dutifully followed Tan’s instruction, which was to skip washing my hair for a day (I wanted to be safe, so I skipped two). “Hair colouring and lightening is best done on unwashed hair,” Tan says. “Colour holds better onto the strands, and if your scalp is too clean, it might be more sensitive to the chemicals that will be applied.”

After critically surveying my hair, Tan gave her verdict: my strands are covered with acidic dyes, due to my DIY efforts, and will require stripping to get rid of the old pigments, which means that I might not be able to reach the level of lightness that I wanted in one day since my hair would be extra fragile. However, since I have very fine hair, it just might take to the lightening process quicker, so we’d have to play by ear and see how much abuse my locks can take.

10 hours, two rounds of pre-lightening, one round of toner and a repair treatment later, I got my wish – somewhat. I had witnessed my hair progress from carrot orange to ramen yellow, and turn from its former silkiness to a tangled, fuzzy mess, and it wasn’t the best hair experience. Out of the salon, my hair was a glossy, multi-hued mix of blue-grey, steel and ash blonde. It wasn’t the Pinterest-esque shimmering silver locks I had imagined, but it was subtle and chic – and looked amazing in photos. “It’ll fade to a light grey shade,” Tan assured. “If I gave you that shade now, it’ll be gone in a week, tops.”

True to her promise, two washes later with a purple shampoo and my hair was the perfect metallic gunmetal hue. Purple shampoos, initially created to get rid of brassiness in blonde hair by depositing purple pigments in the strands to neutralise yellow, is also an essential part in the upkeep of silver hair, since it’s basically blue and violet pigments blending with bleached yellow hair to create the appearance of silver and grey. In order to maintain the strength and silkiness of my processed hair, I also added two hair masks to my routine, a protein one and a moisturising one, which I use interchangeably. Despite my paranoia, my hair is still in pretty good shape, and only feels marginally less silky than before.

I also discovered an unexpected benefit of my new hair colour: I was able to experiment more with makeup when previously, I felt limited to using only neutrals. “Silver and grey hair is one of the best hair colours for makeup,” makeup artist Shaun Lee says. “It brings out the colours of your makeup, really letting them pop. Red lipstick in particular, looks wonderful with silver hair.” However, the one thing that silver-haired ladies like myself need to look out for is foundation. “Make sure your foundation matches your skin and complements your hair.”

Having survived the arduous bleaching process, albeit with a gentler alternative, and finding out that it’s not as bad for my hair as I thought it would be, I’m actually looking forward to going even lighter the next time around. Just like how some hairstylists might term chronic bottle blondes “blonderexics”, I’m a “silverexic”, and I just might not stop until I’ve achieved the palest silver possible!

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