Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Saga of My Hair

For most of my life, my hair has looked something like this:

But then, in January I made a drastic change and it looked like this:

Then I added some red to it and made it more of a dark auburn color. I had a hard time finding a picture of me with auburn hair, but here's one:
While I love that hair color, it is really difficult to maintain. My hair is naturally kind of light, so when the roots grew in, they looked greenish-gray, and it was not attractive. Plus the red fades really fast. Between the gross roots and the fading, I was coloring my hair more and more often, resulting in more and more damage, making me more and more unhappy with my hair. 

So, about two months ago, I decided I was going to go back to blonde. My plan was simple:

Step 1: Go dark to cover the red
Step 2: Lighten the brown just a few shades at a time until it was to a point where I could go to a dark blonde
Step 3: Color it dark blonde
Step 4: Finish it off by lightening the blonde completely.

I figured it would take awhile, but I was ready to be patient.

I went dark, covering the red. It made my hair look really blah, and my skin looked sallow in comparison. It was not a good look, but it felt like a necessary step on the way to recovery. Step 1, complete.

When my roots grew in, I went to Ulta and chose a lighter shade of brown. When I was finished, my roots were a medium brown and the rest of my hair was darker than before. I repeated this process two more times with progressively lighter shades of brown, expecting a different result, but getting nothing but really light brown roots and really dark brown hair. Step 2, massive failure.

By this time, my roots are nearly an inch long, and it's getting ridiculous. Abort plan, get new plan.

New Plane: Go pedal to the metal and buy one of those We-Swear-You-Need-One-Box-To-Go-From-Black-To-Platinum boxes of hair color. For the record, this is the shade you are promised to achieve after one, single 90 minute application:
I figured, even if it doesn't get that blonde, some blonde is better than no blonde, right?

Boy. Was I wrong.

This was last Sunday. I applied the color as I always do- and as the instructions directed me to do- at the roots first, then to the overall length. 90 minutes later, I rinsed and conditioned and looked in the mirror to find...


And take note of the multi-tone quality.
Yes, white roots, yellow near the roots, orange over the length, darker orange in front, slightly lighter in the back.

It's lovely, yes?

So, I go to my sister, who has colored her hair into disaster more than once and she gives me some advice. I go to the internet for some more advice, because my hair was actually a whole lot worse than hers had been. I make a plan (because having a plan worked out so well for me and my hair already):

Step 1: Keep applying these pedal-to-the-metal hair lightening kits to the orange parts. According to the internet (where all wisdom and truth resides), the orange is a result of the color not being lifted entirely, so longer application is necessary.

Step 2: Apply an all over blond color to even everything out.

So, Monday, I apply another We-Swear-You-Need-One-Box-To-Go-From-Black-To-Platinum, avoiding my roots, which were already blonde enough ThankYouVeryMuch.

Still orange.

Tuesday, another box of We-Swear-You-Need-One-Box-To-Go-From-Black-To-Platinum.

Slightly lighter shade of orange.

Wednesday, yet one more box of We-Swear-You-Need-One-Box-To-Go-From-Black-To-Platinum.

The lightest shade of orange yet. By Wednesday evening, it's sort of pumpkin colored in front, and yellowy gold all over. I don't have pictures of this stage, because, frankly I was really too distracted by the actual hair coloring to worry about pictures. But, to give you an idea of how nice it looked, I went to pick up my friend, Elisabeth, for a meeting on Wednesday night, and she opens her door and says, simply, "Ah! Wow!"

It was still very, very awesome hair. All this time, I'm deep conditioning and washing and conditioning with de-brassing products and just trying to be so nice to my hair, because all this bleaching is NOT healthy.

So, I return to the internet and find out that girls who go Gwen Stefani-style blonde use a professional toner.

Thursday morning, I go to Sally Beauty Supply. I walk up to the counter and say to the woman working there, "I'm pretty sure you know what I'm going to ask you." and she replies, without blinking an eye, "You need toner. A purple one will get rid of all that orange for you." and leads me back to pick out what I need.

Toner goes on Thursday night, turning my hair a very alarming shade of purple, but giving me a result of:
Not orange... NOT ORANGE!!!

OK, so it's still not attractive (and these pictures were taken after the gym, so no judging the lack of makeup or the ponytail kinks), but at least it's not orange. Well... except for a few streaks in the back...

Friday I got sick and couldn't bear to do anything, so the hair did not get touched for a whole day.

Saturday, I finally applied the all-over blond color to even things out.
And it worked! It's not the most flattering shade, but it's even, and it's blonde, and it's not even a little bit orange.

The lesson learned here is that after I did the first We-Swear-You-Need-One-Box-To-Go-From-Black-To-Platinum treatment, I should have done a toner right away. I still might have needed another round of each, but it would have saved me time, money and a lot of damage.
Now, the plan is to keep using this shade to touch up my roots for a few months, because I just don't think my hair can handle any more damage to the lengths. I would like it to be a little brighter, but I'm not going to do that until I can cut it, and give it a chance to get healthy again.
Final tally for those who care:
7 days
4 boxes of We-Swear-You-Need-One-Box-To-Go-From-Black-To-Platinum
1 bottle of toner
1 bottle of developer (to make the toner work)
1 box of actual blonde dye
1/2 bottle of de-brassing shampoo
1/2 bottle of de-brassing conditioner

But... I'm blonde again. And I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin this way.


  1. I did this recently when I wanted to go back to blonde from a red/brown situation. But unlike you, my hair turned laser lemon yellow. I am actually thinking about doing another box of bleach since my hair is currently two toned and I think I am over that.

    Also as far as trying to get it back to feeling nice, I actually used lots of hot oil and even some African hair masks.

  2. Good. LORD. What a total and utter drama! And yet, still probably half the price of if you'd gone to a salon ;)

  3. I'm currently a washed-out dark red because I couldn't afford to maintain my blonde, and when I was blonde there were absolutely NO hairdressers in my town who even freaking new what toner was! I had to go to the big city and buy purple shampoo from a small organic cosmetics place - really expensive, but the only toner there was. In two whole cities. And I forgot what it was like to be red and foolishly didn't expect it to fade so quickly. Ah, I look forward to the day when I re-blondify. The way I did it years ago after I had to go dark for a play was to cover up dark purple with brown and then get blonde foils in my hair. Then I started with darker shades of blonde and worked my way up. It took a couple of months, though.

  4. and this is why I finally just chopped all my hair to chin length... got rid of all the blonde streaks/red streaks/what the heck ARE those streaks in my dark brown hair. Of course, now that I'm left with my spunky dark hair peppered with my natural white I might just go really RED all over... but your story is quashing that temptation...

  5. Yes, my advice is this: if you go red... STAY RED. Or at least plan to spend a lot at the salon to get it fixed when you want it gone.
    Subject: [thisisnotyourblog] Re: This Is Not Your Blog: The Saga of My Hair

  6. I did a similar thing five years ago: I was auburn just before I had my oldest son, and I wanted to go back to blond, but I went to a salon and had it done. To get all the red out and get it fully blond again? Two weeks, two separate sessions, six hours and $400. Now, with three kids and a law school budget, I just flat out do not have that option :/
    Subject: [thisisnotyourblog] Re: This Is Not Your Blog: The Saga of My Hair

  7. At least! I corrected red out of my hair at a salon five years ago and spent about $400!
    Subject: [thisisnotyourblog] Re: This Is Not Your Blog: The Saga of My Hair

  8. I've been here. Contrary to popular belief I'm not naturally a redhead. I have naturally dark brown hair (in the ugliest mousy brown color) anways in High School I bleached it blonde, which was cute cause I'm so damn pasty. But it didn't really suit me and i had like 3 inches of brown roots, so i decided to go red. Well guess what happened? Half my hair was like fire engine red and other half was bright PINK. I had to take the first 2 periods off school the next day to fix it (but that only took one box of dark brown hair dye).

  9. Love the new blog - love the new blonde. You looked super sophisticated and librarian like as a brunette, but your fun sassiness is portrayed better this way.

  10. I have turned my hair orange more times than I can tell you... especially in the "pre-internet days" when all hair truth and knowledge was hard to come by. (Does anyone remember those days? I think I just dated myself.) I will only let a real hair person do it now. And my roots need to be done super regularly, because my motto is this: Some of us are born blond, and some of us are born to BE blond. (I am the latter.)