Home » hair » My Hair: a History

My Hair: a History

I’m quite sure you all are wondering: Why on earth do I have blue (okay, turquoise) hair? Did I just wake up one day and say “I think turquoise hair is the wave of the future, and by golly, I’m riding that wave?”

Not really. Unless you know me fairly well, you may not know that I have had my hair nearly every color under the sun, and that includes the boring and sundry colors of blonde, brown (various shades), and auburn. The only hair color I haven’t ever actually had is black, and I don’t ever plan to.

You may also not know, and you might even be shocked to discover, that I have been coloring my hair since I was 11 years old. Okay, that’s not quite true. My dad colored my hair when I was a youngster. He was a former hairdresser, and so he knew what he was doing.

The roots of this (Ha! See what I did there! ROOTS! … ahem, sorry.) may have come from my strange hair happenings as a young child.

I was actually born with black hair. (Whoops, I guess I misspoke earlier about black being the only hair color I’ve never had.) But as I grew from infant to toddler, my hair became lighter and lighter. (Incidentally, both of my daughters’ hair did the exact same thing.) By the time I was maybe 3 years old, I had golden blonde hair.

I loved my golden blonde hair. I heard myself called “Goldilocks” a few times, and I fancied myself being like Goldilocks and the Three Bears — only, you know, without the whole breaking-and-entering and being chased by bears. My younger sister had also been born with dark hair, but hers had stayed dark. My golden blonde hair made me feel special.

And then, something insidious began. My golden blonde hair started to become… darker.

Yes. I was born with black hair, which turned blonde, which then turned brown. Talk about a cruel joke.

I was probably about 9 or 10 when my hair began to darken. I was not happy about this change. By the time I was 11 years old, I had slammed face-first into puberty, and I missed my golden hair dreadfully.

I also happened to find in my home a box of blonde hair dye… that was, evidently, meant for my mother.

I thought this was ridiculous. Out loud I said, “But Mom, you have dark brown hair! How can you possibly go blonde?!” What I meant was, what in the world?? I am the one meant for blonde greatness. ME. Not you. You’re dark and you should love it.

(Did I mention I had just swallowed a mouthful of puberty? What an awful brat I was.)

To this day I remain convinced that my mom decided against dyeing her hair blonde when she heard me laughing about her delusions while on the phone with a friend. (Did I mention I was a brat?) My dad somehow got it into his head that I wanted my hair dyed blonde.

Imagine that.

So he did it. That year, the year I was 11, my dad dyed my hair blonde many, many times. He permed it, too, because evidently I was not only unhappy with my blonde hair, but also with my straight hair. (Again: brat.)

By the time I turned 12, I’d had enough. Going from brown to blonde was something that needed to be kept up, because those brown roots are a dead giveaway, even when one is a preteen. So I asked Dad to dye my hair one last time, returning to brown. God bless him, he did. And that was the last time he would dye my hair until I was a senior in high school and requested highlights.

Highlights were another strange story. I’m not sure, in retrospect, why I wanted highlights rather than the whole-head deal. Maybe I thought they would be more natural-looking, I don’t know. But my dad gave me highlights all throughout college. Not surprisingly, by the time I graduated from college, my hair looked basically completely blonde, with tiny bits of brown peeking through here and there.

While I was in college, I met the man of my dreams, who became the husband of my dreams. Two comments, one from him and one from a friend, made me consider going natural once more. First, he said to me, “It’s so funny that I’ve never seen your natural hair color.”

(Note what he didn’t say: “I wish you’d quit highlighting your hair.” Oh, he is so smart.)

My friend said to me, “I wonder what you’d look like with your natural hair color?”

(Again: not “you should return to your natural color,” but “I wonder…?” I like to surround myself with smart people.)

The bug got into my head, and I couldn’t shake it. I was tired of highlighting my hair. The upkeep, the dreaded upkeep! Such a chore. I was sick of it.

So I quit, cold turkey. I’m trying to remember if I had Dad dye it back to brown, or if I just let my roots grow and grow and grow. I think it might have been a bit of both. I think I let my roots grow out until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and then I asked him to dye what was still blonde.

I stayed brown post-graduation and post-marriage for quite some time. I think I occasionally used some semi-permanent dyes to add different inflections of color – a little auburnish brown here, a little “cinnamon” brown there — but nothing serious.

That was, until my hair decided to get determinedly and prematurely gray on me.

My dark brown hair was getting grayer and grayer. I was at about 40 to 50% gray at a very young age (late 20s, I think), and it was not doing nice things to the tone of that dark brown hair. It was making it look lighter. Like a mouse.

Ew.

I went back into permanently dyeing my hair. I went various shades of brown here and there, before I decided to try something I had always fancied but never had had the guts to until then: I decided to go red. Not “auburn” like I’d gone occasionally in semi-permanent tones, but RED.

I picked out the reddest color from L’oreal’s Excellence line, and on it went.

I was thrilled with the results. This was the boldest I had ever seen my hair. It was vibrant and shiny and I loved it so, so much.

I dyed it this color for several months. And then — I’m not sure why — but I decided to return to brown. But this time, a really nice, warm brown. Chocolate brown. I was happy with that, too.

Then two things happened that got me thinking about hair color in a whole different way.

First, my favorite musician, a bassist named Joey (some of you may have heard of him), dyed his hair purple. Just out of nowhere. At first I was flabbergasted and thought this was the dumbest idea ever. “Why on earth would a sensible person dye his hair purple?!” I asked myself.

Over the next month or so, though, it grew on me. I thought it actually complemented his blue eyes and his gorgeous curls (he has the most ridiculously beautiful curls, I hate him for that). And one time, when he played in a football stadium with the light shining through those purple curls and they glowed so vibrantly, I realized it was a pretty sweet look.

Second, one of my best friends, Kendra, did something she declared she had always wanted to do. She had her hair dyed fuchsia.

FUSCIA, people. As in a combination of purple and pink.

And guess what? It was gorgeous. Even prettier than Joey’s hair.

And so, out of the blue (hee!), I decided: “I’m going to dye my hair blue.”

Why blue? Why not? I have blue eyes. I’ve always looked good in blue. I figured it would look good on top of my head.

I found a product called Manic Panic and discovered a shade called After Midnight Blue. The swatch looked like it would be a dark navy. Perfect.

About a week after I bought it — after looking at it every day and wondering if I would have the guts to go through with it — on it went.

Blue Twitter Av

The results were a little different than I expected, though I liked it. I hadn’t bleached my hair prior to slathering on the blue dye. I had dyed it brown fairly recently, though, so my hair was porous enough to soak up the blue dye. The end result was hair that really looked black but glowed blue when the light hit it. I loved it.

But a funny thing happened. It kept turning greenish. I didn’t like that. I wanted blue, not green. Somehow I got it into my head that if I added purple dye, it would counteract the green tendencies and keep it blue. Somehow, I was right. It did keep the color looking more blue than green.

Eventually I got tired of the constant battle to prevent greenness; it seemed to always want to go green. So I decided to just switch wholesale to purple.

The purple showed a lot better than the blue did, somehow. Not surprisingly, folks who knew I liked a bassist with purple hair assumed that’s why I had dyed it purple. To which I would tell them, “Not entirely.”

Me in Columbus 

Eventually I grew tired of redyeing my roots all the time — same old story, really. So I quit the purple and returned to boring brown.

But several months later, I started getting the itch again. Have you ever heard someone with tattoos tell you that once you get inked, you become addicted and you want more and more? I’m convinced that the same thing happens once you dye your hair an unnatural color. It gets in your blood. Once you’ve had something vibrant sitting on top of your head and see it every time you look in the mirror, your head no longer looks quite right without a bright color up there.

I saw Alison Iraheta on American Idol. Alison had flaming red hair. And I mean flaming. Not the red hair I naively thought was “bright” back when I decided to cover my raging gray. This was bright like a fire engine. And I wanted it.

I started with my old route of putting a Manic Panic red on top of previously reddish-brown color, but that wasn’t really good enough. I realized that I was not going to get the vivid flaming color I wanted unless I took the plunge and bleached it.

Now here, I was in luck. I happened to have a babysitter who was taking cosmetology classes, and she was kind enough to offer to bleach my hair for me. I don’t think, at that point, that I could have done it alone.

And this time, I decided I was going to use real hair dye. No more Manic Panic for me – it just didn’t stay in my hair long enough. I joined an unnatural hair color forum called, fittingly enough, “HairCrazy.” I asked around for suggestions on long-lasting unnatural hair color dyes. A brand called Special Effects (or SFX) was recommended to me, and I gave their color “Candy Apple” a try.

P1000454

I loved it. I. LOVED. IT.

I played with different kinds of red. I tried “Nuclear Red” after “Candy Apple” and liked it even more. I tried “Cherry Bomb” and went back and forth between the two. I even mixed “Nuclear Red” and “Cherry Bomb” and found a really intense, bright red. I was in red heaven.

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I tried pink for Easter after about 6 months of red.

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It was okay, but I didn’t love it the way I loved my red. I dyed it back to red almost the second Easter was over.

I stayed happily red for a long, long time.

Then we moved to Oklahoma, and for some reason I started thinking about orange. (Maybe it’s because of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Who knows.)

I decided to give a Special Effects shade called “Napalm Orange” a try.

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(You know what, I think I forgot until just now how good it really did look!)

I wound up getting my Oklahoma driver’s license photo taken after dyeing it orange, and honestly I think that was the kiss of death for how well I liked it. Maybe within a week of having my license photo snapped, I was tired of orange.

I mixed orange and red together and came up with a shade I called “cranberry orange.”

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Wow, I forgot how good that looked, too. Why did I leave that color, again??

Oh, yes, that’s right. Not long after “cranberry orange,” I had this sudden strange desire to make my hair… silver.

I have no idea why. Silver isn’t bright. It’s subtle. I think I had an idea in my head that it would be spectacular. That it would make me look like some sort of glowing goddess. I don’t know.

For those of you not familiar with the world of unnatural hair color, I’ll let you in on a secret. Going silver is a pain in general. Going from red or even reddish orange to silver? Oh. My. Gosh. SUCH a pain.

I started out by trying to fade cranberry orange as much as possible with washings, washings, and more washings. I used dandruff shampoo, I used dish soap. I used something called a vitamin C treatment derived from suggestions on the hair forum.

Finally, I tried my first bleach bath. A bleach bath is basically using a diluted bleach. It’s not as strong as a full bleaching, but it’s not as damaging, either, so if you need to do it more than once, it won’t completely destroy your hair.

After bleach bath number one, my hair looked like this.

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Basically, just a lighter shade of orange. It wasn’t hideous, but it was nowhere close to being as blonde as I needed it to be to go silver.

When I couldn’t stand it any longer, I did another bleach bath. And then, because I got impatient, I put my silver toner on top. Not surprisingly (because it was nowhere near as light as it needed to be), I didn’t get silver. Instead, I got a really pretty lilac shade.

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One more bleach bath, and I finally got the silver I was hoping for.

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And… well, it was okay, I guess. I thought it would be a lot more dramatic. I think if I had used a different brand of toner, I might have gotten a darker silver that might have been more exciting. As it was, it was basically just a really shiny white or platinum.

Not surprisingly, after all that work, I was bored with it within a week.

That’s when I got my brilliant idea to work my way around the color wheel. I decided I would just go crazy and dye my hair a different color every month. Hey, why not? My hair was pure white. I could make it be anything I wanted.

I started with some tiny ice-blue streaks…

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… and then I went all in and dyed all my hair sky blue.

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This, by the way, may be the best photo that has ever been taken of me or ever will be taken of me.

I was absolutely astonished at how good it looked. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised; after all, I’ve always thought that blue was my best color. (That’s why, way back when, I started with navy blue.) But this? This almost made it look like I was made to have blue hair. Crazy, right?

I kept the blue hair for a while. I just loved it.

But eventually I decided I was ready for my next stop on the color wheel. And the next stop was green.

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This was my least-favorite hair color on me ever. Which is crazy, because off my head, green is my very favorite color. But I became heartily sick of green on my head in a matter of days.

I was completely delighted to wash the green out ASAP and bleach for a move to yellow hair.

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Me with yellow hair, giving my husband the evil eye for some reason.

Although I definitely liked yellow better than green, I didn’t like yellow as well as sky blue. I began to think I was never ever going to like another color as well as I liked sky blue.

Orange would have been next on the color wheel, but I’d already gone orange. I’d already been red, too (for a loooooong time). To my knowledge there was just one color I’d never really tried: a cross between red and purple. What I called “wine-colored.”

Merlot 2

Hahaha, I forgot I named it “Merlot.” Fitting.

This became my second-favorite color of all time.

This was one of the few times, however, when I didn’t dye my hair with a ready-made color. I mixed some of my old red with some cheap purple I had bought for my daughter’s hair. It looked great at first, but when it faded, it split up into the weirdest colors. Basically my hair became red, orange, pink, and a grayish purple. It looked hideous.

I thought nostalgically about sky blue. Now that I was done circumnavigating the color wheel, I decided it was time to do whatever I wanted. And I chose to go back to sky blue.

Well, sort of. You see, I still had that crazed mess of colors on my head. I was afraid to bleach it *too* much, because I didn’t want to fry my hair. Eventually I decided to just bleach my roots, throw what I had left of my sky blue dye (brand name Ion Color Brilliance Brights, by the way, which is indeed bloody brilliant) over the top of my mucky mess, and hope for the best.

I wouldn’t say I got “the best,” but I did get what I called “peacock.”

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A little blue, a little green, a little purple. Why not?

Gradually the green and purple grew enough to cut out and redye, and it was all a nice, even blue again.

A few months went by, and I wanted to try something a little different. I decided I wanted just enough green in the mix to make a color called “turquoise.”

I bought Ion Color Brilliance Brights in Aqua.

And here’s what I got.

FOTD385

Turquoise has since replaced sky blue as my favorite. To me, it seems that the tiny bit of green tone adds just enough depth to make it more interesting. (Because, you know, sky blue hair isn’t interesting enough. It needs more.)

I’m still turquoise, and it’s been nearly 2 months. I think I will probably keep this color for quite some time. It’s actually still quite vibrant, which is an astonishing feat for two months. I know that part of this is because I rarely shampoo my hair (I have what is called a “conditioning co-wash,” which somehow cleans your hair without actually lathering or stripping hair of its oils the way regular shampoo does).

Frequently asked questions about my hair:

1) Doesn’t all that bleaching damage your hair?

Well, of course it does. But I don’t bleach my entire head every time I bleach. I try to bleach only my root regrowth whenever I redye. So the hair is only actually bleached once. And of course it’s a little damaging, but not so much that I’m in danger of it breaking off.

The hair dyes I use for my crazy colors are also very conditioning and help keep my hair healthier. The conditioning co-wash I use seems to do the same. I also regularly use leave-in conditioners and even coconut oil.

2) How can you be brave enough to do that to your hair?

I get this one a lot, and I find it really funny because I don’t think of dyeing my hair as “brave.” I think of it as a fun thing I do. It doesn’t hurt that I work from my home and don’t have a corporate bigwig to look askance at my hair, of course.

3) Why do you keep dyeing your hair?

Two reasons. Number one, all this gray has made my natural hair color truly awful. Maybe if my hair goes completely gray, I’ll quit coloring it and enjoy the naturally occurring silver. But until that happens, hello bleach and hair dye!

The second reason is because, as I indicated earlier, I can no longer seem to imagine my head without a bright color on top. It started out as an impulsive, crazy idea, but my nutso colors have kind of grown until they’re now part of my identity. I could break free, I suppose, but I have a feeling that my head wouldn’t feel like my head anymore. And no one would be able to find me, either; they’re all used to my having this crazy turquoise. Who would know me now if I showed up in dull brown hair?

Oh sure, people would get used to it. But I’d rather they didn’t. I’d rather didn’t. I enjoy my wacky hair immensely. Most other people do too. I’m a naturally shy and inhibited person (I know, hard to believe, right? But it’s totally true), and my hair helps break the ice. No one seems to feel like I’m a difficult person to approach. It’s hard to hide into the woodwork. And for me, that’s a good thing.

Maybe someday I’ll give it up — either my hair will completely go gray and I’ll love it, or I’ll just get too tired of the bleach-and-redye routine. But for now, I love my crazy hair, and I’m not parting from it anytime soon.

PS: want to see, approximately, my natural hair color? This is without the gray, of course. But my pre-gray brown hair was about like this:

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6 thoughts on “My Hair: a History

  1. !. I actually LIKE your natural color. However, sky blue, turquoise and merlot are my favorites. Oh, I think SILVER was the best!!!

  2. I love your hair color experiments! So refreshing! As crazy as it may sound but the sky blue color really looked natural on you:) p.s. Hello in Serbian is Zdravo:)

    • Thank you! It does sound crazy but it’s so true somehow. 😀 And thank you VERY much for letting me know the Serbian word for Hello. That’s been bothering me for months. 😉

    • Thank you! It does sound crazy but it’s true, somehow. And thank you so much for letting me know the Serbian word for hello – that’s been driving me crazy for months. 😀

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