Friday, December 8, 2023

What is ‘Recession Brunette’?! Why We’re Going Dark When We’re Light on Cash

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Heard the term ‘Recession Brunette’? Yes, the cost of living crisis is now coming for our hairdos – Bel Crawford investigates social media’s latest trend.

So it turns out NOTHING is sacred – of course, with the current cost of living crisis biting our wallets and spirits constantly we’re watching rent, interest rates and supermarket bills rocket up. But now the COL crisis has come for our hair.

Enter the ‘Recession brunette’. The WHAT, you ask? Put simply, it’s a term being bandied around social media that referrs to those of us who have lightened hair, and who are dying our locks brunette at a remarkable rate, simply because maintaining blonde is too expensive. I mean, it makes sense when you can barely afford cheese and tomatoes, right – a $400 hairdo is simply ludicrous.

As someone who has recently gone to the dark side and dyed my blonde locks ‘recession brunette’, I GET it. But aside from the cost of living crisis, are there other reasons why we’re seeing a brunette renaissance?


Yes there’s a worldwide cost of living crisis, but hair trends over the past 12 months have seen a shift away from blonde bombshells, and the term ‘bronde’ was born. Bronde combines brown with some blonde to achieve a sun-kissed look, and it’s gentler on both your hair and wallet.

After the pandemic when blondes had gone brunette simply by not being able to see their hairstylist, hairdressers were seeing an increasing number of clients wanting to darken their icy or platinum locks. This was reflected on social media and it had a flow-on effect, with more people making the change.


The Hailey Bieber Effect

We’ve copied her doughnut-glazed chrome nails, chic outfits and dewy skin-care and make-up, so when the mode, beauty entrepreneur and all-round zeitgeist queen Hailey Bieber started to darken her blonde locks, we of course, followed suit. Yup, myself and thousands of millennial women on the internet got ‘Hailey Bieber hair’.

Of course Hailey didn’t invent brunette hair, but for some reason, her every beauty and fashion choice whips up a millennial frenzy, creating an entire movement online with millions using hashtags and hundreds of pages of tutorials of ‘How to get this look’, and before and after transformations.

TikTok has evolved to become the new Google amongst youth, and countless hairdressers have shared colour formulations of how to achieve the glossy chocolate-brown look.

My Recession Brunette

As a brunette, I’ve had balayage hair for the last eight years. Balayage is a technique for highlighting hair where the colour is painted on to create a graduated, natural-looking effect. Essentially, it’s a lazy girl’s hack to go lighter with lower maintenance, with your hair needing a tone every 6-8 weeks and colour every 8-10 weeks.

Fair warning, once you start getting highlights you can get hooked – just like we all did during the ‘plant parent’ phase where we started with one peace lily, and then the entire house turned into a jungle. For me, the blonde in my hair got higher and higher until I was a full head of foils blonde.

Being blonde is a commitment. It takes time to achieve the tone you’re after and while you may love it, it’s EXPENSIVE! Depending on the look you’re after, you can be in the salon every four to eight weeks, and while I soon learnt the hack of getting partial highlights, you’re sitting in a hairdressers chair for up to four hours every couple of months and spending upwards of $400, not including the additional costs of products to maintain your blonde at home.

The last time I got a touch up on my blonde highlights the bill had risen to $500. And then it happened – it was time to go full recession brunette.

After two years of being blonde I grew out my roots. I liked my natural colour and while I thought I’d stick with a grown-out look, I toyed with the idea of going brunette.

So like all good millennials, I turned to social media – I ran a poll on my Instagram to help make the decision and an overwhelming 90% (1500 people) voted for ‘glossy brunette’.

(Click here for my blonde to brunette transformation!)

Of course, mere days after I made the change, ‘ever the trend-setter Hailey’ switched up her hair again, cutting it into a short blunt bob. Therefore, thousands of women were booking in for their chop. A TikTok hairdresser even had to put out a warning for those hoping to emulate Hailey’s latest hair style.

BUT, if you’re keen to lower your hair maintenance and join the Recession Brunette brigade, here are the do’s and don’ts if you’re going brunette:

  1. Before you make the change, hairdressers recommend going bronde first, with a darker blonde and brown blend.
  2. Find your shade. Hair colours work best when they contrast with your undertone. Cool undertones suit warmer shades and warm undertones look best with cool, ashy brown.
  3. Book in for a consultation and PLEASE leave it to the experts.
  4. Step away from the box dye. Box dye over blonde will leave you with multiple shades that may look patchy and cause damage. If you can, go to an expert to avoid hair fails and save time and money in the long run.
  5. While it may be less expensive to be brunette than blonde, it still requires maintenance, especially if your regrowth is lighter.
  6. If you have lighter roots and grey hair, your re-growth is more noticeable when your coloured hair is darker.
  7. Think about your brows. As a general rule, you want your hair to be one or two shades darker than your eyebrows. Will your new look require extra tinting and filling in?
  8. Do (or don’t) make impulsive decisions. Personally I find a break-up or anytime I’m experiencing an existential crisis the perfect time to make a drastic change!
  9. Find out how to maintain your new hair colour from an expert.
  10. Don’t wash your hair daily. Overwashing will cause your colour to fade faster.
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