How Brad Mondo's Silent Reactions Sparked a TikTok Hair Revolution
"I'm sorry, Brad Mondo."
It's a phrase you hear a lot these days if you use TikTok, where people cut and color their own hair (oftentimes in questionable or downright damaging ways) in the hopes that the New York City-based hairstylist and colorist will react to them. Not to offer them tips or even give them words of encouragement — simply to watch them in silence and offer up anything from a pleasantly shocked smile to a wide-eyed look of absolute disgust. No joke: Some people have full-on ruined their hair with bleach just to get this guy's undivided attention.
Mondo's not new to web virality, specifically on YouTube, where he's been recording and posting his reactions to at-home hair transformations since 2017. There, he talks through full videos, up to 30 minutes, and explains exactly what's happening to a person's hair as they dye it. He still makes those videos — but by copying and pasting the premise onto TikTok's simplified "duet" format, he instantly surpassed a whole new level of internet fame this year. One that comes with an army of young TikTok followers with vats of hair lightener and dyes they aren't afraid to use, so long as Mondo might chime in with an exaggerated facial expression.
As the hairstylist tells Allure via Zoom call, he simply noticed that more and more people had started documenting their attempted at-home hair transformations on TikTok and ran with the opportunity. "My first viral video on TikTok was me duetting a person ruining their hair with color," he recalls of the clip from January 2020. "It got 10 million views overnight, and I was like, 'Oh, people don't even care if I talk in this?' I guess it's the facial expressions people can relate to, and it's fun to watch a professional's opinion on some at-home color."
You'd think that a professional hairstylist and colorist would shake their finger and give a stern talking about hair health to anyone who'd dare bleach, color, or cut their own hair at home without any training or experience. Mondo couldn't have a more opposite mindset than that. "Hair grows back… these people clearly just wanted to have some fun that day," he says. "At this point, I just vibe with it."
While lots of people on TikTok understand the risks of at-home hair experiments, some have made unexpected and irreparable damage to their hair in attempts to impress or shock Mondo — and that can be hard for him to watch sometimes. "I've seen some videos where you can tell that the person did not want to ruin their hair and they're distraught over it — that's when I get sad about it."
Thanks to his large and voracious TikTok following (which is quickly nearing 7 million people), Mondo's pretty sure he's seen it all when it comes to at-home hair jobs. During our interview, he laments that he'd just watched someone wash their hair dye out in their backyard with the help of a high-pressure water hose: "This guy was hosing her down with it… That was pretty original." He's also seen hair melt away from bleach. He's seen full chunks of hair shaved off as the result of a bad dye job.
Still, amid all those disasters, Mondo's followers have shown him some extremely impressive feats of at-home hair coloring. He's using it as inspiration for his own hair-care band, XMondo, which is expanding to include its very first hair dyes. "I follow so many people who are professionals and who aren't professionals who are doing hair, so I learn so much from others on the [TikTok] platform and just from their hair care routines," he explains. "I used all that information when I was creating my own color line, and I combined everything that I've learned from the consumer standpoint and as a professional to create something that's a hybrid of both."
XMondo Color launches on November 19 with a trio of dyes that are every bit as good for your hair as they are bold and vibrant. All three shades — Super Blue, Super Pink, and Super Purple — were essentially hand-selected by Mondo's followers (he polled them about their favorite hair colors on Twitter) and contain nourishing stuff like sodium hyaluronate, vegetable protein, and UV-protective titanium dioxide. Plus, it smells pretty damn good; like cherry blossom, bergamot, jasmine, and sandalwood to be exact.
Of course, you likely won't be able to use Mondo's new dyes unless you bleach your hair to a light enough base, and that's where Mondo says most people go wrong at home. If you want the full-color payoff of the bright pink, purple, and blue dye he's just put on the table, here are some of his basic hair-lightening tips.
"Things like always sectioning your hair before applying color are so important," he says. "Starting off in the back instead of the front is always important. Using enough bleach or enough color — people love to skimp on the bleach and buy one little packet to cover their whole head, and then they wonder why they have dark spots all over."
And if you're wondering how to tell when you're about to take your bleaching too far, Mondo's got some wise words about that, too. "I take a damp cloth and wipe it off on a strand of hair [while bleach is processing]. If there's yellow in there, it probably needs more time," he explains. "But you just can't go past that pale-yellow mark or else your hair will fry off. Just like the inside of a banana, that very pale yellow, you want to end there."
Overall, he just advises taking things slow and to expect imperfections along the way because that's simply what happens when a professional isn't at the wheel. Do as much research as you possibly can. If you can find someone online who's done a successful at-home hair dye job similar to the one you want, Mondo says it's not a terrible idea to follow their lead. “Maybe it won't be great advice, but at least it'll get you started,” he says.
And don't forget to have fun. Otherwise, what's the point of having bright pink or purple or blue hair? If you ask Mondo, probably not much.
XMondo hair dyes, $28 each, are available starting November 19 from xmondohair.com.
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