Blond hair for summer? Groundbreaking. (Said in our best Miranda Priestly voice.) But truly, there’s nothing particularly earth-shattering about people going lighter and blonder as the weather warms up. What is new this year is the movement away from icy—and very dramatic—platinum blonde tones. Instead, summer 2021 is all about warmer, more natural-looking blond hues. Enter butter blond, one of the most popular (and a current celeb favorite) shades of the season. Here, top colorists weigh in on the trend, and everything you need to know if you want to rock buttery blond strands this summer.
What Is Butter Blond?
“Butter blond is a primarily warm, natural blond tone that mimics the same tone as virgin blonde hair. It’s the only blond shade that will make people think you were actually born blond,” says colorist and founder of #Mydentity, Guy Tang. It’s an especially great choice for summer, because the warmth complements the warm tones in your complexion, enhancing your summer glow, he adds.
Plus, it also plays off of the lightness and brightness that people with all hair colors, but blondes especially, naturally develop after they’re in the sun all summer, adds Jasen James, a colorist at Chicago’s Maxine Salon. (Picture those little kids you see running around the beach with the most amazing sun-kissed highlights.)
Who Does This Blond Shade Work Best for?
In theory, butter blond can really can work on anyone. Even though this is a very warm color, there are some cool tones mixed in (more on those in a moment), so it really does flatter any complexion, notes Tang. And while it’s going to be the least low maintenance on someone who has lighter hair to begin with, anyone can become a butter blond. Case in point: Previously dark-haired celebs such as Mandy Moore, Billie Eilish, Emma Roberts, and Selena Gomez, all of who are now rocking butter blond hair.
Still, butter blond is really best suited for those who aren’t afraid of warm tones. “People that are attracted to warmer tones usually express this via their clothing and accessory choices,” points out James. The easiest example: Choosing gold over silver jewelry.
What Should You Ask Your Colorist For?
This depends on the base color you’re starting with. Butter blond is going to be the easiest to achieve on those with natural level six to eight hair, says Tang (colorist speak for light to dark blond hair). In this case, you can achieve the look with tons of all-over highlights and a toner.
One caveat: While we’ve talked a lot about warmth, it is important that there still be some deeper, cooler tones mixed in, Tang, points out. This makes for the most natural end result and ensures that your blond looks beautifully buttery, not yellow and Big Birdy. In the case of natural blondes, that means asking for, “a deeper tone at the roots and dimensional, natural-looking highlights with brighter pieces around the face,” suggests Tang.
And per the point of roots, this is when it’s important to discuss with you colorist how much upkeep you can commit to. Okay with coming back into the salon every four to six weeks? Ask for highlights that start very close to the root. More low-maintenance? Ask for a longer root, so that the grow-out appears more natural, says Tang.
As in our celeb examples, if you have dark hair and want to go butter blond, it’s going to first involve lightening your hair before adding the highlights. The darker your stating shade, the more work will be required to reach a golden blond hue. AKA, plan for a longer salon appointment, if not multiple ones, and keep in mind that your new look is definitely going to require more upkeep.
Regardless of your natural hair color, James says some good words to use to describe the effect you’re going for include: butter, light caramel, honey, light or dark gold, and golden retriever. Yes, like the dog. “I know it sounds strange but their coats are beautiful,” he laughs. Our dog-loving hearts not only appreciate the reference, but have to agree.
What Kind of Upkeep is Required?
How often you’ll need to head back to the salon will depend on the base color you start with. Regardless, having the right products at-home can go a long way toward not only helping maintain your new hue but also the integrity of your hair. James is a big fan of the Kérastase Genesis Bain Hydra-Fortifant Shampoo ($35; kerastase-usa.com) for color-treated hair. The fortifying shampoo is great for weakened hair (which often is synonymous with lightened hair), and also has the added benefit of removing excess oil from the hair and scalp, a nice benefit in the summer time.
The Matrix Total Results Unbreak My Blonde Reviving Leave-in Treatment ($23; ulta.com) is a must for those who feel like their tresses need a little extra TLC; it touts a proprietary bond-building technology to bolster protein bonds in the hair that are weakened during the bleaching process. And finally, if you want to brighten up your color just a little bit, no salon trip required, James recommends the Oribe Bight Blonde Sun Lightening Mist ($38; dermstore.com). The heat-activated formula—use it before a beach-day or hit it with a blow dryer—enhances highlights in a natural way. “It’s like being able to extend your summer vacation,” he says.
Butter Blond Inspiration
Thinking of going butter blond for the summer? Scroll through and screenshot these pretty inspo photos before your next salon appointment.
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