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Tips for going blonde (and pastel) with Asian hair

I’ve always loved the idea of dyed hair. Not only is it a way of expressing your own individuality, it just looks plain cool!

I tried for months after I moved to LA to lighten my hair but had so many issues with various stylists. My almost-black Asian hair was resistant to so many different hair stylists’ dying techniques. In 2015 I bleached my hair about four times, hoping for a blonde ombre/balayage. It turned out more orange-y than blonde, even with multiple sessions of bleaching.

In 2016, I dyed my hair three times with three different people and ended up with weird streaky highlights that were brassy and totally unappealing.

Then, I found MARY! She was the answer to all of my hair problems, and the creator of my hair joy.

Today I’m sharing some tips I’ve discovered over the many months that made up my journey of going blonde!

1. Find a stylist who knows Asian hair AND color 

I went to various different stylists before finding one that worked for me. Some of them knew how to cut Asian hair but couldn’t color. Others were celebrity colorists but worked primarily with Caucasian clients. In my experience I’ve found that it’s really important for the stylist to REALLY understand Asian hair in order to be able to lift its color and tone it to look as best as possible. Asian hair is very brassy and has naturally warm undertones, so it’s very difficult to get it to look like photos you’d find on Instagram of Caucasian hair looking ashy and light.

2. Have patience for the process

My first appointment with Mary involved me explaining my hair journey and what my end goal was. I had hopes of doing an ash blonde ombre on my dark Asian hair. Mary took a look at my combination of orangey-yellow base color and awkward highlights and was very transparent with her evaluation of what was needed to get my hair to where I wanted it to be. She didn’t over-promise and set my expectations for what was realistic for my hair. Going light blonde is not a one-day thing and requires months of repeat sessions so that your hair doesn’t break off from the harsh chemical treatments.

3. Treat your hair well between sessions

Bleach is damaging! I put oil in my hair every time I wash it. My personal favorite is Wella’s Luxe Oil because it has no color. Avoid argan oil which is reddish in color and can pull out some of the brassy colors in your hair.

Olaplex No.3 is also good to use on a weekly basis, especially before you head to the salon for another treatment. When your hair has been bleached many times and is feeling pretty damaged, using the Olaplex Travel Stylist Kit is a huge help too!

4. Say no to base color

At some point during my hair journey, one of the stylists I went to put base color in my hair without telling me. Virgin hair lifts extremely fast and lightens very easily. Base color is another story. Avoid it all costs if possible!

5. Don’t wash your hair every day 

I used to have to wash my hair every single day. Twice a day, even, if I worked out or felt unusually gross. Turns out this is actually worse for your scalp and hair! It was a tough transition, but washing at least every other day is much better for your hair so try not to do it on a daily basis. I would blow dry and straighten my hair after each wash, and the excessive heat is also extremely damaging. When you do wash, try and use a purple shampoo or mask once a week to take out the brassy undertones in your hair. My recommendations are Fanola’s No Yellow Shampoo or their Mask.

6. Go to your stylist to tone your hair

Toner is magical. It’s a product that helps correct hair color and usually adds more natural and visible tones to your hair treatment. It’s not permanent, and usually washes out in about 4 weeks, but it’s good for your hair! Below is a photo of purple toner in my hair (left) and how it washes out after a few weeks (ash blonde).

If you’re based in LA, check out Mary’s Instagram and book a consultation appointment if you’re interested in coloring your hair.


Emily is a Los Angeles based content creator with a passion for photography, videography, and storytelling. Through @emwng, you'll find photos and videos of people, places, delicious food, and of course, her two fluffy sidekicks Kokoro and Chibi.


  • June 1, 2022

    hi! this article is really helpful. i know that it’s an older article, but would you mind providing a cost breakdown or an approximate overall cost to get to “blonde”? thanku!

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