But beware: Any blonding—from highlights to the whole head—means obsessive avoidance of anything that can stain, darken or oxidize this delicate hair color. For most women, the beach and ocean are surprisingly nonproblematic. “In general, sun and salt make blonde hair look prettier,” says Jennifer J. The exception to this rule is hair that’s been double processed. “Double--processed blondes—those who lighten their base color, then highlight—are prone to dryness, especially on the ends, and sun exposure can exacerbate this,” says Johnny Lavoy, consulting hair expert for L’Oréal Paris. “There’s also the risk that the sun will turn your color brassy instead of just lighter. I tell my clients, ‘Don’t avoid the sun, but slather on leave-in conditioner if you’re going to be outside for an extended period of time.’ ”
Rita Hazan, who owns an eponymous salon in Manhattan and lightens Jennifer Lopez’s hair, advises her blonde clients to use a sun-protection product in the summertime. “Sun-kissed strands were cute when we were kids. But our hair is drier and more fragile now—so leaving it unprotected is more likely to leave it looking fried,” she says. To shield your strands from UV rays, try L’Oréal EverPure UV Protect Spray ($9; drugstores).
Pool water also does no favors for blondes—unless they’re going for a greenish tinge. “The solutions aren’t sexy,” says Teca Gillespie, a Procter & Gamble beauty scientist. “The best preswim strategy is to douse your hair in tap water, coat it with conditioner and then cover it with a swim cap.” Even if you can’t stand to wear a cap, the tap water and conditioner will help—but a regular swimmer will still need to use a clarifying shampoo at least once a week (and clarifiers can strip moisture from your hair, making vigilant deep conditioning even more of a must). Try Paul Mitchell Shampoo Three ($14; -paulmitchell.com for salons).
The bane of the blonde, however, isn’t in the pool. It’s in your bathroom shower. Hard water in particular -becomes your enemy. One reliable defense: an in-shower filter (about $40 at any home--improvement store). For something more permanent (showerhead filters last only three to six months), a full home-filtration system is the next step up. “I have one client who invested in home filtration once she went blonde,” says Jennifer J. “She thought her shower water was making her hair brassy and figured if she was going to be spending all this time and money on her color, the filtration system was a necessity.” You may or may not agree, but one thing is inarguable: When you’re a blonde, conditioning is more important than ever. “No more doing it only from the midstrand down,” says Jennifer J. “Condition like crazy every day. I tell my clients, ‘Wash your hair less often—I suggest every other day—and condition more, even on nonshampoo days.” And make deep-conditioning treatments a weekly habit. “It’s all about keeping the cuticle down and reducing the porosity of the strands,” says Gillespie. “If you can keep the cuticle down, your hair stays shiny.” Try Dove Damage Therapy Intensive Repair Conditioner ($5; drugstores).