My hair color was supposed to turn out like this. Since I’m here to tell you about it, you’ve probably guessed that it didn’t.
Now I’ve lived long enough to know that there’s always a risk in attempting the ‘do of a model or celebrity, even if it’s just in the fact that the hairdresser is going to snicker behind my back. There are too many variables that could affect the outcome…different features, face shape, complexion, original hair color, texture, and of course the hair expertise of the one in control. The same holds true when you decide to forego that expertise with a do-it-yourself home job and are faced with shelves of hair color products with images of beautiful models enticing you to choose the perfect hair color. That hair color that’s going to change your life.
Take it from me…it may change your life for at least as long as it’s going to take for the shit to grow out. But you ain’t gonna look like the gal on the box. Not even close.
Even yet, that image is the look I was going for. In hindsight, I should have gone a shade lighter, maybe even two. I even felt uncertainty at the point of purchase. So why didn’t I listen to my inner, smarter self? Well…the girl on the Light Brown box was prettier than the girl on the Dark Blonde box. And besides, how was I to know Light Brown to the hair color industry is the equivalent of the color of a dog’s crap after he gets into the Hershey bars you were saving for the Trick-or-Treaters? Make those dark chocolate Hershey bars, by the way.
Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating just a tad. Then again, you’ll notice that I’m not including any self-portrait shots of my new look. In fact, for the remainder of this post, I choose to uplift myself by inserting photos of people whose hair, at least in these photos, looks worse than mine does now.
Back to my story. I didn’t worry too much about shade accuracy, because this hair color kit was to include a 2-part process that, according to the box, would allow me to “personalize my highlights to work with my color, my cut and my best features”. A tall order, I know, but one that I would place all my faith in. Step 1 would consist of “brilliant all-over color”, which is accurate. The color WAS brilliant. And it WAS all-over. But I question the description of Step 2, which would give me “harmonizing highlights” via the easy-glide highlighter applicator. “Harmonizing”, I would soon discover, is an objective term.
Oh, don’t let me leave out the part where this all-over brilliance and harmonizing highlights are to be PERMANENT.
So yes, I threw caution to the wind, but I’m no novice to home hair coloring or highlighting. I’ve paid big bucks for salon jobs, some I was happy with and some I wasn’t. Back in the 80′s my hair became the color of a post-it in an attempt to imitate Madonna’s tresses (For the record, I was going for the old-school Madonna look, not the cone-bra peroxide look, so chalk that one up to poor listening skills on the stylists’ part.) Finally, I decided I could do anything they could do, because after all, I know my hair better than anyone. And I would save tons of money. Sure, I’ve had some minor mishaps along the way, but nothing I couldn’t live with or repair. I’ve tried several semi-permanent hair shades, pulled hair through caps, and added highlights on top of highlights only to cover them up and highlight them all over again.
And so far, I still have some hair left.
But this time, I succumbed to a weak moment. After letting the box sit around for a few weeks as I went back and forth on whether to follow through, I went for it. Out of pure boredom I opened the box and doused my head with ”brilliant” color, never looking back. In my rashness, not only did I skip the allergy test, but I’m pretty sure I exceeded the maximum time I was supposed to leave it on my hair. Blind faith? Perhaps.
I then rinsed and rinsed until the water ran clear, loaded on the conditioner and immediately let the blow dryer kick in, anxious to reveal the new me. You already know the next part…it was dark, much darker than I had anticipated…and a little flat. No worries though, because Step 2 was yet to come. Yes, once I was to pull out that awesome spongy magic applicator and apply my “harmony”, I would have dimension…and long, flowing, naturally highlighted brunette hair.
You know, like the girl on the box.
I might have underestimated the effort required for Step 2. I’m not sure why, because I’ve hair-painted the heads of both my daughters and at the risk of boasting, I think I achieved pretty professional results.
But if you’ve never hair-painted before, I must point out that painted highlights are “slightly” more difficult when you’re working on your own coif. It starts out easily enough as you coat those strands framing the face. The solution even shows up as a nice shade of blue as you’re painting, so you can tell which strands have already been coated. That’s a nice theory, but at some point, you realize you have to coat some strands underneath if your hair is layered. This is necessary in order to achieve the “natural” look.
Then comes the point where the blue isn’t blue anymore and you decide you have no idea where the gaps are or what’s already been done. For me, this was also the point where my arms started aching, some PG-rated swear words were vocalized, and the couple of mirrors I had propped up were no longer reflecting the backside of my head, Enter my 17-year old daughter, and I quickly relented to let her come to my rescue, as we sorted through the icky, once-blue strands piled all over my head and finished the job. I selected the remaining strands and filled the applicator, and she painted. I say this not to place the upcoming blame on her, but to express my helplessness during this process. We continued as I kept reminding myself that beauty comes at a price and “hey, I’m saving lots of money here”.
This is where the directions bewildered me. If I’m supposed to leave the “paint” on for no longer than 15 minutes, how do I factor in the fact that it took over an hour to apply said paint? I need the answer to this, Loreal hair experts, because it makes no sense to me. Was I supposed to have finished my Picasso-like paint job within 15 minutes? Or have I just bleached out/fried half the strands of hair around my face and hair part? Exactly when does that clock start ticking?
Pondering this question, I panicked a little and decided I needed to put an end to the painting and get to rinsing. That and the fact that the strands in my bangs, where I had started, were now a chalky white.
Yet again, I held my head over the tub and rinsed away, then immediately dashed to the mirror. For those who’ve endured this process, do you know how when you first look in the mirror as your hair is sopping wet, but you can’t quite see the highlights until you start drying it? Yeah. me too, but that’s not what happened this time. No siree…this time, the ORANGE, BRASSY highlights which I had applied quite heavy-handedly along my off-center hairline (where I part my hair) stared back at me. It may have been Halloween Eve, but a shade resembling the Great Pumpkin was NOT the look I was going for.
And might I add that the girl on the box did not have pumpkin-ish streaks either? I just had to point that out for emphasis.
But it gets worse. I don’t really even have an issue with this particular shade of orange. I can pretend it was intentional and part of my autumn look. I can pretend that I don’t notice or care that my hair is not in harmony and that I’m intentionally rocking the punk soccer mom persona. I can buy some blue or green Halloween spray-on color, mix it up, and pretend I’m in costume. Somehow, I can OWN IT. But what I can’t own is my disdain for the fact that the orange is brassy and is randomly distributed (quite unevenly) throughout my newly dark chocolate Hershey-hair, with the main focus being on the top of my head. I can’t own the fact that it’s splotchy. And I can’t own the fact that unless I find a way to poof up my baby-fine hair an inch or two, the dark brown stripe between the orangeness and my scalp is going to be on display for all to see…tomorrow.
I considered returning to the store for another box of color to coat those glowing strands yet again. I considered digging the remnants of the first application out of the trash bag and going into a reapplication tizzy. I considered a nice hat to wear to work on Monday. I even considered shaving my head.
I came to my senses, though, and decided no more blowdrying for the day. My scalp was looking a little red anyway, and the fact that I could even see my scalp gave me another reason to worry. I’d sleep on it. After all, maybe a new day would shed a new light on my crowning glory and how I would perceive it. Or I’d wake up on Monday to find it was all a bad dream.
No such luck though. In fact, the morning sun shining through the window intensified the brassiness, as well as the contrast. I would have to work around it. The poof wasn’t going to happen on my baby-fine hair. A ponytail seemed to accentuate the unevenness. I didn’t own a wig. And no one else in my office was coming to work in costume. Somehow I’d have to find a temporary styling solution before being seen in public.
And that’s when I discovered the wonderful benefits of the comb-over.
Stay tuned for a sequel to this post if I ever figure out how to combat permanence…and the wind.
If you liked this post, you might like My Uh-Oh Moment.