Everything You Need to Know Before Going Blonde, According to Margot Robbie’s Colorist

Celebrity colorist Tracey Cunningham breaks down how to achieve and maintain a flawless platinum blonde hair color.
Photographs by Craig McDean, Styled by Melanie Ward

Blonde hair has never been more popular. And celebrity colorist Tracey Cunningham, who works with Emma Stone, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Kardashian, and W‘s November cover star Margot Robbie, has some advice for anyone looking to take the platinum plunge.

Before you run to your nearest colorist, Cunningham recommends starting with highlights. “You can get the platinum look with highlights, it’s really the best way to go,” she says. “You do bleach it, but you don’t want to add a bleach base, because bleach bases end in disaster and short haircuts.”

Her personal technique is to use a combination of foil and balayage highlights. “I highlight with foil and then I balayage on the ends, so I do a double combination.” It’s a process that Cunningham picked up when she was just getting started as a colorist. “I learned how to balayage, but I really liked the results of foil and I liked how the balayage looked on the ends, so I started incorporating it and now everyone does it,” she said. “It makes it look really natural, like you just went to the beach.”

To transform Robbie’s hair into a bright shade of blonde, Cunningham used this technique. “We did two highlights in a row, I did one full head of highlights,” she said, “and then I just went through and re-highlighted the top, just picked up all the dark pieces and re-highlighted and then that way she still had a little bit of depth.”

While it may seem daunting to maintain blonde locks, Cunningham has a few simple tips: always use Olapex shampoo and conditioner (“It’s great and it’s for people who don’t color their hair too because everybody blow drys and styles their hair.”), put a filter on your showerhead(“Blondes get so dull because of all the minerals in the water.”), and get a gloss between appointments.

In Cunningham’s experience clients listen–and come back for more. “I think once they dip their toe in it, putting a few [highlights] around their face, they get addicted,” she says.

The Best Color-Protecting Shampoos, Conditioners, and Masks for Platinum Hair

This shampoo tones down brassiness, and preserves even the most faded highlights without leaving behind a messy residue.

Clairol Shimmer Lights Shampoo, $11,

This conditioner includes hydrolyzed milk proteins, which help to condition and protect hair with the added bonus of radiant shine.

Davines Alchemic Silver Conditioner, $30,

This mask includes artichoke leaf extract, which helps to mend split ends and restore nourishment for healthy and hydrated locks.

Ouai Treatment Masque, $32,

Formulated with white pineapple, mamaki tea, and lemon extracts, this shampoo will gradually lighten hair while cleansing.

label.m Brightening Blonde Shampoo, $40,

Almond butter and buriti oil help to bring dull locks back to life, maintain color and restore vibrant shine.

Christophe Robin Shade Variation Care Nutritive Mask with Temporary Coloring Baby Blond, $53,

Proving that touch ups are easier now than ever, maintain your color on the go all in the ease of portable spray.

Oribe Airbrush Root Touch-Up Spray, $32,

Extend your hair’s color while actively restoring damaged locks.

B3 Brazilian Bond Builder Instant Restore & Protect Reconstructor, $36,

Skip the salon by customizing your own unique blend of dual color and conditioning formulas to help neutralize hair’s brassiness.

Redken Blonde Idol Custom Tone, $32,

Rice proteins and moringa seed extract effectively cleanse and nourish hair without stripping colored locks.

Rita Hazan True Color Shampoo, $26,

Maintaining hair between salon appointments is now easier than ever with a conditioner that maintains the color for you.

Sachajuan Silver Conditioner, $33,


Watch: Margot Robbie Dressed Up as James Franco in “Spring Breakers” For Halloween, and Loved Getting Away With It