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From Fantasy to Reality: The Truth About Maintaining Magical Hairstyles

One does not simply lighten their hair for an effortless platinum look

Between the premiers of Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon on HBO and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power on Amazon Prime, it’s safe to say that fantasy hairstyles are back in the spotlight. On the television screen, these ‘dos usually look elegant and effortless, so it’s no wonder they’re inspiring real-life looks. But before you run out to the nearest salon to channel your inner Targaryen, it’s a good idea to have a realistic understanding of just how tricky these styles can be to maintain.

Platinum blonde is high-maintenance (and might kill your hair)

Like Game of Thrones before it, House of the Dragon prominently features white-blonde platinum hair on several of its main characters. It’s a striking look, as actors like Matt Smith and Milly Alcock showed in the first few episodes of the show. However, we can tell it’s fantasy because there isn’t a dark root or brassy streak among the dragon-loving Targarygen family, who are apparently prone to naturally perfect platinum locks that don’t even yellow with age.

In real life, getting hair to that icy-cool color is time-consuming, expensive, and can even be dangerous. A good stylist can get you there, but you need to be patient and realistic — you’re not going from dark brown to ice-white in an hour or even a single session. Even when done correctly, the bleaching process can be damaging, as O.G. Targaryen Emilia Clarke knows all too well. The actress, who played Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones from 2011 to 2019, ditched the wig in the final season and dyed her naturally dark hair to an icy platinum befitting a mother of dragons. As a result, she said, “My hair was so fried that I basically had to cut it all off.” At least no one can doubt her commitment to the fantasy genre.

Fancy braids are surprisingly possible

In addition to platinum strands, fantasy characters with longer hair often sport elaborate braided ‘dos that look like they took a team of stylists hours to create. However, with the right tools, guidance, and a little patience, creating these braided styles doesn’t have to be a fantasy. For proof, just look at these incredible braids from Trendafilka Kirova, a rising hairstylist who quit her day job in accounting to focus full-time on hair. They may look impossible to pull off, but as Kirova’s YouTube channel shows, many can be recreated at home in a matter of minutes.

So what advice does Kirova have for budding braid enthusiasts? “To keep hair in place, the key is to properly prep it with a smoothing serum or spray before braiding,” she says. This technique “will control any frizz or flyaways and allow for clean strands while braiding.” With a bit of practice, you’ll be showing off your fantasy braids before you know it. Of course, if you don’t have long hair to start with, you’ll be waiting a while.

Mermaid hair fades quickly and unpredictably

“Mermaid hair” can mean a lot of different things, but it typically involves dying one’s hair a rainbow of blue, green, and violet shades. When done professionally, the results are typically amazing — but getting there is a lengthy process. As Suzannah Weiss wrote for Teen Vogue, “I got in at noon and didn't leave until after 6:00 PM. Between washing, bleaching, drying, coloring, drying again, styling, and possibly cutting, getting mermaid hair is a time investment whether you go to a salon or do it at home.”

As for whether or not those hours are worth it, it really depends on your commitment to upkeep. Fantasy mermaid hair colors tend to fade quickly; blue will be teal in a few weeks, and may wash out to a Joker green after that. Even if you go full-on Ariel, red dye is “notoriously short-lived,” according to Weiss. On top of that, if you get multiple colors, they may blend together over time, giving you additional hues you didn’t plan on. There are ways to mitigate these issues, among them using color-depositing conditioners, but be prepared for your mermaid look to evolve in unexpected ways.

Though some fantasy hairstyles are more difficult to achieve than others, that shouldn’t discourage you from making the change — as long as you’re realistic about it. Professional hair services go a long way towards making you the fantasy character of your dreams, and a good stylist should be able to inform you of what’s achievable in your desired time frame and budget. We may not have dragons, mermaids, and elves in real life, but hairstyles inspired by the genre don’t have to be a fantasy.

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