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By Diane Hardin

"A blond in a red dress can do without introductions -- but not without a bodyguard." -- Rona Jaffe

A Real-Life Test of John Frieda's Sheer Blonde Line

According to the John Frieda Sheer Blonde product brochure, being blonde is "a valued asset, a defining characteristic, a virtual blessing, a way of life."  Hence, the need for special products to care for these unique and often fragile hair tones.  Frieda (creator of the famous Frizz-Ease line) has come up with an intriguing line of products made for maintaining, enhancing and styling both natural and chemically-achieved blonde hair.

To tell the truth, I wasn't expecting dramatic results from these
products. I had heard that they were overly harsh, and I have never really believed the hype about non-professional color-enhancing shampoos and conditioners.   I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that Sheer Blonde is for the most part a very nice line that truly does enhance blonde (and other) hair tones, with a few improvements needed.

I tried out all the products on the following participants/friends in my makeshift kitchen "salon":

M:  a 9 year old girl with the loveliest long, wavy, natural pale wheat blonde hair.  She usually uses Matrix Vavoom shampoo and conditioner.

KH:  a 30 year old mother/part time research assistant, whose fine, soft shoulder-length hair is chemically lightened about 2 levels to a pale strawberry blonde. She normally uses Back to Basics Raspberry Almond shampoo and Jason Sea Kelp Conditioner.

KB:  a 35 year old male graphic designer whose short hair is a natural dark ash blonde with about 5% gray.  He uses Aveda products almost exclusively.

D:  a 34 year old female professional in the broadcasting industry, who has thick, long natural light ash brown hair with highlights in pale platinum/beige.  D uses a variety of high-quality department store and salon products.

J:  a 26 year old secretary with curly medium blonde hair, bleached by the sun.  Her usual hair care regimen is Pantene.

Me:  34 years old with medium brown, shoulder-length hair (colored with demi-permanent hair color) -- I wanted to see if these products worked to highlight darker hair colors.  I have no hair care "routine" -- I experiment constantly!

The Sheer Blonde Products:

Shampoos and Conditioners: Highlight Activating Shampoo (8.45 oz, suggested retail price of $6.50) and Instant Conditioner and Highlight Enhancer (8.45 oz, srp $6.50), each available in two formulations: Platinum to Champagne and Honey to Caramel tones.  Developed in part by Christophe Robin (a well-known and respected French hair colorist with a considerable celebrity following).

The shampoos are similar to typical clarifying formulas, designed to remove residues, minerals and build-up.  Whether natural or chemically enhanced, blonde hair requires a clarifying type of shampoo on a regular basis to remove these dulling deposits, but these shampoos can often be too harsh to use on a regular basis.  Frieda claims that the Sheer Blonde shampoos leave natural oils intact. The conditioners contain botanicals meant to enhance highlights and lowlights, and special conditioning ingredients for porous and fragile hair.

These products actually performed as promised, adding noticeable highlights and lowlights to all hair tones.  Nine year old M liked "the way that stuff made some of [her] hair shiny, some of it shinier than most of the rest of the time, and some not."  Her hair turned out "kind of fluffy, and easy to run [her] hands through".  Even my non-blond hair had more light brown highlights than it usually does, but I was a bit disappointed that the added tones washed out with my next (different brand) shampoo!  The conditioners, although they do add a lot of shimmer and shine, are not very moisturizing. These would be great to use every second or third shampoo -- I strongly recommend alternating with a good deep conditioner.

The Platinum to Champagne shampoo and conditioner duo really seems to punch up blonde highlights beautifully.  It contains lemon peel, sunflower seed, and the ubiquitous chamomile extracts. Without fail, everyone's hair looked much shinier, and had more contrast between high and low lights without an overall darkening effect.  KB had a bit of a surprise -- his gray was much more noticeable after using the Platinum to Champagne products! The Honey to Caramel duo had the unexpected effect of adding a few reddish/brownish lowlights to KH's hair -- not a welcome change, in this particular case. This duo contains natural caramel (a brown coloring agent made from sugar, which I believe may have been responsible for the unwanted lowlights), honey and wheat germ.

Both shampoo formulas have a very pleasant scent, clean, herbal and light -- quite gender neutral. The products' texture was thick, rich and creamy.  KB commented that the products seemed to be super-concentrated, and rinsed out easily. They did not leave his hair with an overwhelming scent (unlike his usual Aveda). He actually preferred these products to Aveda, and plans to switch.

The special formulations of the styling products in the Sheer Blonde line are not found in other drugstore lines. They contain coloring agents to balance and enhance all blonde tones.  Sally Hershberger, personal stylist to Meg Ryan, Michelle Pfeiffer, and many others, helped to develop this side of the line. There are three styling products: Golden Opportunity Glossing and Grooming Creme (4.4 oz srp $6.50, 10 g packette srp $1.50), Blonde Ambition Dual Action Mousse (7.5 oz, srp $5.50), and Spun Gold Shaping and Highlighting Balm (1.2 oz, srp $5.50).

The Golden Opportunity grooming creme contains sunflower oil and wheat proteins.  The texture reminds me of a light version of Kiehl's Creme with Silk Groom.  It has a very mild scent, which appeals to men as well as women, and a soft lavender color. This creme is super rich; a little bit goes a long way, so you must spread it very thinly to avoid getting the "greasy" look.  The lavender tone didn't affect hair color at all (which is a good thing for blond hair, but also somewhat unremarkable compared to the shampoo and conditioner).

A softly scented rich lavender foam, the Blonde Ambition Dual Action Mousse is an okay but unspectacular mousse with very little holding power.  The lavender color seems to affect only the lightest platinum blond tones, canceling brassiness.

My favorite styling product is the Spun Gold Shaping and Highlighting Balm -- a firm, thick pomade with a moderate amount of fine gold shimmer.  This product has a very clean scent, which reminds me of laundry detergent!  It is NOT ultra-light, as claimed; it is heavy with a dry, waxy finish.  It is important to follow the directions for using this product exactly, or you will end up looking like you used Turtle Wax on your hair.  Since you have to use it so sparingly, it doesn't add much shimmer, but what it does add is subtle, attractive and shiny.  It's
an excellent pomade, giving hair a nice sheen, good body and texture.

Overall, I found this to be a much more interesting line than I had
expected.  The products are, for the most part, well thought-out.  The shampoos and conditioners have excellent highlight-accenting capability, and are well-priced.  All of the styling products would benefit from an additional punch of color, although that would probably make them look quite scary to most consumers. The holding power of the mousse needs to be improved.  I believe that the line could also use several additions.  A weekly deep conditioner would be very useful, and a sparkly gold gel would be lovely.  I hope that Frieda continues to expand and refine this line.  It's a real drugstore find.