When Lucy Liu showed up to the Obie Awards on May 21 with dirty-blond hair, the internet damn near had a collective heart attack. The perennial black-haired actress had emerged a blond bombshell, and considering how light she went, I had a hunch that sh*t went down during her color appointment. So I reached out to the brains behind the look, stylist Victoria Hunter of NYC's Whittemore House Salon.
As Victoria told me, this look took nine hours and four rounds of bleach to create. The colorist used her very own Whittemore House Hair Paint, which is a clay lightener. "It treats, strengthens, and protects the hair at the same time that it's lightening it," she said. That kept Lucy's strands in tip-top shape postcoloring. "Lucy thought she'd have to cut her hair short if she wanted to go blond," Victoria said. "If I used normal bleach, her hair would probably have ended up on the floor."
About a week after Lucy's first visit, Victoria called her back in for a follow-up. "During that appointment, I hand-painted over the top of what I'd done the week before," she said. "I added a shaded root just to make it look more natural." That's what keeps Lucy's hair looking fresh and lived-in, rather than coming off as an obvious double-process blond.
Victoria noted that one reason the sessions were so successful is because she understands the nuances that come with coloring Asian hair. "When you're working with Asian hair, you have to treat it very differently than Caucasian hair, because it's much more coarse and thick," she said. Black hair can "throw off" red, yellow, and other warm dyes, since it naturally contains a lot of red pigment.
Victoria said she has a lot of Asian clients because her salon's Hair Paint lightens without ruining dark strands. "Otherwise, if you're using a normal bleach on Asian hair, they won't be able to do four or five rounds like Lucy did," she said. "They'll have to do maybe two rounds and then wait a couple of weeks and come back, but their hair will get damaged or destroyed."
After going through such a process, Victoria recommends using oils and serums to keep moisture in your hair. "You want something that's nourishing and gives a really nice texture," she revealed. "You don't want to put something that contains alcohol in the hair, as it's too drying." Some of Victoria's favorites include the Ever Recover Oil by Reverie ($52), which hydrates strands without leaving a sticky or oily feeling. She also copped to loving the Iles Formula Hate Performance Finishing Serum ($44), which locks in hydration.
BRB, canceling all salon appointments unless they result in hair that resembles Lucy's casual, beachy style. Bring on the (safe) bleach!