Hello, my name is Erin Jahns, and I’m fully addicted to bleaching the hell out of my hair. It’s an addiction going 15 years strong (I’m 26, and my first-ever color job was in fifth grade), and despite the amount of emotional and physical turmoil my strands and I have endured, I plan on being as blonde as physically possible until my dying day. Or, at least, until my hair goes white—we’ll see what happens first.
But first, some context. As a baby and through most of grade school, I was as blonde as blonde could be. Of course, at the time, I couldn’t have cared less about the color of my hair, and if anything, I probably wanted blue, glitter-streaked highlights like the Spice Girls or edgy black lowlights à la Christina. The only reason I begged for highlights when I reached the fifth grade was because I thought I’d look “glamorous” (lol), and it’s what all the cool girls were doing. So, naturally, I begged my mom and dad for an appointment until my mom finally acquiesced and brought me along to her next salon appointment.
Peroxide zebra stripes were my first foray into the world of fake blonde hair, and from that day onward, I never went back. As I got older, my natural baby blonde turned into dirty dishwater, thus my foiling sessions became increasingly regular and increasingly hard on my hair. By the end of high school, I was asking colorists for full bleach and tones (so I was 100% bleached versus just heavily highlighted), and by the time I got to college, it’s fair to say my hair was in a legitimately sorry state. Not horrible, but on the brink of disaster if I wasn’t ultra careful with how I cared for and treated it. Am I doing a good job of foreshadowing my impending hair doom?
Most people, at some point in their life, will have some kind of hair disaster. And while I had hoped I’d gotten mine out of the way in 1997 when my sister took me for a bowl cut at Kid’s Hair, I wasn’t so lucky. During my sophomore year of college, I experienced what my family, friends, and I refer to as “The Bleach Apocolypse of 2013.” After receiving a full head of highlights at a highly regarded salon in Minneapolis (where I’m from), I was left completely unhappy with the color. The end result was an ashy, mouse-like shade of brown with weird tones of blue and purple (probably from some kind of toning mishap), and I was beyond confused how the colorist had managed to stray so far from the bright, buttery-white blonde I’d always been.
In a panic, and because I had spent near over $300 for said color, I begged her for options as to how she could fix it immediately. In hindsight, I should have sucked it up and sought out a different professional at another salon weeks later, but I had worked myself into a state and was completely desperate for an immediate solution. Also panicked (and a tad annoyed), the colorist told me the only way she could transform me into the bright blonde I wanted was to re-bleach over all of the highlights she had just foiled. (If you’re cringing, you should be—that’s legitimately the worst thing you can do to freshly weakened, colored hair, and her right to color hair should be revoked.) But, as I said, I was panicked and immediately accepted her offer even though she should have known better, apologized, and sent me home.
Fast-forward about one and a half hours later, and I was sitting in my car, balling my eyes out with a wet, tangled, bleached-off disaster on top of my head. The bleaching was an entirely horrible idea and as the colorist washed my hair and attempted to comb through it, I watched in terror as fists of hair quite literally fell off my head. I know it might sound silly, and there are certainly larger world issues than a bleached hair disaster, but at the time, nothing could have felt more traumatizing. I truly thought I was going to have to shave my head, and as much as I admire stars like Joey King, Charlize Theron, and Natalie Portman, I’m not an actress, and I don’t have the cheekbones.
Of course, the trials and tribulations I faced post-apocalypse are long and detailed enough for a novel, but long story short, I was, in the end, able to salvage my blonde hair. I poured hours and hours into research, babysitting check after babysitting check into rehabilitation products, and even more hours and babysitting checks at a different salon, getting trims, treatments, and consistent TLC. (The morning after the disaster I went to an Aveda salon where—I kid you not—I became a staff project and am still remembered to this day.)
It took about three years for my hair to bounce back, and up until a year or two ago—right around when I moved to L.A. to become a beauty editor—I was convinced my hair would never be the same. I still struggled to grow it out, and even though I had cut back on my highlight appointments (I think I went at least six months without getting so much as close to heat or peroxide post-trauma), colorists never seemed to get the tone right and my hair perpetually felt like straw.
Until, that is, I met my two fairy hair godparents, celebrity hairstylist Cervando Maldonado and celebrity colorist Cassondra Kaeding. I met Cervando week one of my job as assistant beauty editor for Byrdie, and (bless him to infinity) he’s taken me under his wing and helped bring my hair to health and lengths I never thought possible as a blonde. He’s the only one I’ve let touch my hair, style and cut-wise, since arriving in L.A., and I credit his amazing snipping genius and practical hair tips (get yourself avocado or coconut oil and apply it to your ends as much as possible) for reviving my hair over the past two years.
That said, even though my cut and length were on the right track, I was still consistently frustrated with my color (even in as star-studded of a town as L.A.), and it wasn’t until Maldonado introduced me to Kaeding at his West Hollywood salon, 454 North, that I truly felt I had found my long-lost color soulmate. I’ve met countless celebrity colorists thanks to my day job, but Kaeding is one of the most sought-after colorists in the industry right now, and