Our little black book of London's best blonde hair colourists

Blonde ambition: 'Le Mepris' (1963) starring Brigitte Bardot
Blonde ambition: 'Le Mepris' (1963) starring Brigitte Bardot

My fixation with blonde began with my mum. She had Targaryen sheets of icy white hair which would drape over her shoulders, and I remember my young mind thinking my own brown lengths would never be quite as striking. I also harboured a fascination with Brigitte Bardot, Grace Kelly and Debbie Harry, so blonde seemed to me the colour to have.

I know this might read as insane. What about Audrey Hepburn’s beauty, complete with dark head of hair, I hear you cry. Or Ava Gardner? She was astonishing to behold. Liz Taylor, etc. But, no, I just wanted to be blonde, and so as soon as I was allowed to colour my hair, I embarked on a mission to achieve flaxen lengths.

It was a chequered endeavour, including an episode in which I went for white blonde as inspired by Gwen Stefani, before it promptly turned green. There was also the ash blonde phase which made my complexion look waxen and I plastered on the make-up to try to adjust the balance. And then there was the time when I decided to colour my own hair with a box dye, only for it to turn a sort of murky orange.

That final one disabused me of the idea that it was a good idea to highlight my own hair, and I’ve since turned to many a London hairdresser in the attempt to alight upon a colourist who understands my desire to be lighter in a way that flatters my face, and doesn’t completely wreck my hair in the process.

I’ve since come to realise my brunette hair is every bit as beautiful as blonde, but that hasn’t stopped me from loving some highlights to brighten things up. And if, like me, you simply can’t get by without a few flashes of fair through your hair, below is my address book of top colourists for blonde — and those of some friends with excellent heads of hair, who I have canvassed for recommendations.

Sara Cassidu, Senior Colourist at HARI’s King’s Road

I first went to see Sara, who everyone calls Cassie, over the summer to add a few pieces of icy white to my hair, and she got it just right. Blending using the balayage paint strokes technique so it was subtle but still added freshness. I’d suggest going to see her if you like the idea of baby lights which look like the sun has just kissed the hair around your temple, with some more pronounced ribbons of blonde running through lengths.

233 King's Rd, SW3 5EJ; harissalon.com

Caroline O’Brien, Colourist at Nicola Clarke at John Frieda

There is no iteration of blonde Caroline hasn’t safely steered me through over the years, and she is a sensible and wise colourist with twenty years of colouring hair under her belt. Remarkably, she has on a few occasions added platinum blonde sections to the front of my face which were at once striking but blended perfectly into the rest of my head. Most my friends now go to see Caroline for highlights and tell me repeatedly that she always gets it right, changing tones for seasons and adding more — or less — if needed for interest.

58-59 Margaret Street, W1W 8SN; nicolaclarke.com

Bernadett Rafain, Hair Colour Specialist at Michael Van Clarke

This is a recommendation of beauty journalist Tara Ledden, who has the longest, most silky looking mane of blonde I’ve ever seen. Of Bernadett, she says: “She pays such close attention to detail and really tailors the tone of blonde so it’s the most flattering to your skin (and often the most seamless match with your natural hair too, so you don’t get obvious regrowth and you can go longer between appointments). She also managed to achieve really fine highlights without having to back comb my hair, which is music to my ears as I have such fine, long hair that it knots quickly and the untangling process can often take longer than it does for the colour to lift. Normally, I tell people stylists with blonde hair themselves know how to do it best but she’s the exception that proves that rule.”

1 Beaumont St, W1G 6DF; vanclarke.com

Nicola Clarke, Nicola Clarke at John Frieda

If you’ve ever screenshotted a picture of a celebrity sporting blonde hair to take to the salon as inspiration, chances are that colour would’ve been done by Nicola Clarke. She’s indisputably the most famous of all the blonde colourists, and counts Kate Moss, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, and Madonna as clients. It's hard to think of a celebrity head she hasn't touched. Every time Nicola has coloured my hair, she’s managed to walk that delicate line between what suits my lifestyle, and what I aspire to, so you’ll be in very safe hands with her (that’s if you can get an appointment).

58-59 Margaret Street, W1W 8SN; nicolaclarke.com

Harriet Muldoon, Blonde Specialist at Larry King

I was recently sitting at an event with two beauty industry insiders, Anne Marie Lodge (aka Really Ree), and Chloe Burcham. Both had the sort of shimmery highlights that unfailingly catch my attention, and when I asked who’d performed their hair alchemy they both had the same answer: Harriet. Ree told me, “she made me blonde when I was dark in two goes, and she’s got the perfect balance of low lights and highlights that makes hair look expensive.” Chloe, nodding the entire time, then added, “she really does a nice clean blonde that looks natural.”

34-36 Harrington Road, SW7 3ND; larryking.co.uk

Claire Thorp, Consultant Colourist at Hershesons

You can thank Savannah Miller for this recommendation. Claire has been colouring her perfectly pleasing head of blonde hair for over eight years, and every time I see Savannah I end up envying her hair. “She makes my hair the same colour as my daughter’s,” she says of Claire. “She has a really wonderful way of seamlessly colouring the hair so it looks natural but also really blonde, and is the absolute master of the foil and balayage and combination, adding toners and all sorts, all the while with a big smile on her face. I can’t rate her highly enough.”

29 Berners Street, W1T 3LR; hershesons.com

Christel Barron-Hough at STIL Salon

Christel is the favourite of Suzannah Ramsdale, the Evening Standard's Lifestyle Director. She says, "Aside from Christel's masterful colouring skills — she has won British Colourist of the Year three times — an appointment with her is like a therapy session. So zen, so calm, I usually dread chit-chat at the hairdressers but Cristel is a joy to be around. She specialises in bright, Nordic blonde which she handpaints to create warmth and texture. Her colouring techniques are called Instagram-friendly names like Prism Lights, LA Blonde, Contouring and Lumiere Lights — but whatever you choose will be tailored to you. Also, the head massages are a major highlight using luxurious aromatherapy oils. Heaven!”

99-103 Fulham Road, SW3 6RH, 020 7243 1521; stil-salon.com

Jessie Renyard, Senior Colourist, Nicola Clarke at John Frieda

Another expert colourist from the Nicola Clarke salon, Suzannah also loves Jessie for her blonde expertise. In high demand by private clients (she's too discreet to say which celebrities, but she is often flown around the world to attend to the tresses of many a famous name), she's only in the Margaret Street salon three days a week at the moment. Book in ASAP, you're in the hands of a master.

58-59 Margaret Street, W1W 8SN; nicolaclarke.com

Jo Hansford’s salon in Mayfair (Jo Hansford: Mayfair Hair Salon)
Jo Hansford’s salon in Mayfair (Jo Hansford: Mayfair Hair Salon)

Louisa Moore, Colour Specialist, Jo Hansford

Jo Hansford is the grande dame of expensive looking blonde — after all, she’s Queen Camilla’s longstanding hairdresser. In her cocooning Mayfair salon (where a full food menu is served) an army of talented colourists and stylists blend, foil and snip the tresses of London’s elite. Suzannah loves Louisa Moore for her intricate approach to colouring. She specialises in beautiful, buttery blondes. To finish off, book in a cut and style with Michaela Galvin. Just make sure you’ve got fabulous plans afterwards, this is hair to take on the town.

48 S Audley St, W1K 2QB; johansford.com

Sophia Hilton, Director at Not Another Salon

Want your blonde with a streak of pink? Fancy something bolder than bold? Sophia's name comes up time and again for this sort of creative colour — and you'll no doubt be inspired by the colourist's creations on their own heads while there.

188 Brick Lane, E1 6SA; notanothersalon.com