My mom dyed my hair red in the 5th grade when I landed the lead part of Anne in "Anne of Green Gables," beginning my love affair with all things hair. Next I tried perms, various bobs (not a good look on me) and the ever-evolving bangs. When I hit puberty (that's still such an icky word) my hair changed texture from straight to really wavy, but I straightened it all through high school until I started working at a local salon as a shampoo girl and the stylists showed me how to manage my thick, wavy hair by diffusing it and using lots of spray gel. Working at that salon opened a whole new world to me, and I experimented with all kinds of highlights, products and styles while working there.
In the spring of 2001, Vidal Sassoon (RIP) was testing a new product on my university campus. It was leave-in conditioning mousse that highlighted your hair, and it came in two colors: blonde and red. I took samples of both. That miracle product turned my hair a bright, beautiful red with blonde highlights. By winter I had run out, and the product never made it to market. Such a shame. I tried to duplicate the effect at home (and, okay, slightly day drunk off of pina coladas after hanging out at the pool with a friend all day) with bleach and Manic Panic. I got carried away and ended up with a head full of cherry red hair. When I tried to remedy it I went too dark and was confused for an Asian person. Let's just say that the kind of experimenting I did in college was atypical, completely legal and a total embarrassment to my mother.
(I have photos of everything I'm describing, but the computer they're being held hostage on is conveniently inoperable. If I ever get it working I'll update this post appropriately.)
This is how I imagined I would look with the Manic Panic and bleach. I did not.
(Don't be fooled by this amazing photo of yours truly --
I was styled for a hair magazine and they airbrushed the junk out of it.)
By the time I moved to DC I had settled back into my natural color -- chestnut (or, if you're a guy, brown) -- but it didn't take long before I got bored with my look and longed for a hair change.
Oh look, I'm skinny!
Kiss me, I'm black Irish. (Margels cameo!!!)
(P.S. This was taken in an Olive Garden bathroom...
in case you're wondering what girls do when they go to the bathroom together.)
Helpful arrow points out the token white person.
Next I went pomegranate red, and it was GORGEOUS.
Then I put in highlights, which were EVEN MORE GORGEOUS.
My hair looks awesome. Now shut your mouth so yours will too!
(Just kidding, I promise I was not torturing this very sad little girl.)
And then it got a little too light.
And I got a little too fat. This was during my Doughnuts Period.
It was all around BAD.
The dreaded "Purple Red"
That was obviously a problem, so I dyed my hair back to its natural color, but that only lasted for a few months before I got bored again.
This boring hair makes me hate winter even more.
Plus, several of my friends told me they liked me better as a redhead, and one even ventured to say being a redhead was my "thing." Powerless to the idea that I had a personal brand, I set off on a mission to find the perfect red...
...and briefly ended up with this:
and this, as you may remember:
I tried several brands and colors over the next year, which spawned my most popular post ever, and my stylist at Bang was extremely vocal about the catastrophe which had become my once beautiful hair ("So many tones!"). All that experimenting had turned my now dry, brittle tresses four or five different shades, sort of a gradient effect.
I was either going to have to go back to my natural color or *gasp* spend upwards of $100 in a salon to get it fixed. (I was NOT going back to that judgmental stylist.) That's when I discovered eSalon.
Y'all. This is the best online service I've ever tried. You set up a profile with a recent picture and answer a few questions about your hair then you pick a picture off the site that reflects what you'd like your hair to look like. Next you get an email from your personal stylist, who you can email with questions, and then, for $25, you get a package in the mail with your custom mixed color, instructions and tools (brush, gloves, stain remover, etc.).
Besides being easy, the color they mixed for me is the BEST red I've ever had. I get so many compliments from strangers and it looks natural, which believe me is difficult to accomplish when you're not a natural redhead. Now every six weeks more color shows up in my mailbox, and they send me reminders when they begin to mix my color, in case I want to change it or have it delivered on a different date.
Happiness is Good Hair Color
OH! And P.S. I fixed my horrifically damaged hair by switching my shampoo and conditioner to a sulfate-free brand by L'oreal called EverPure. Sulfates, found in many personal cleaning products (including toothpaste, which is scary), are added to create suds and end up "eating away" at whatever you are using them on. I use sulfate-free toothpaste now, too (Trader Joe's baking soda and mint). It only took a couple of months before my hair was back to normal.