What I Learned From 11 Years of Transforming Hair With Dye — And What Happened When I StoppedNovember 19, 2021
Beauty has always been an outlet for me to express myself. From writing about it to wearing glitter eyeliner and dyeing my hair a rainbow of colors, few ideas are too bold for me not to try at least once — especially when it comes to my hair. Since I was 18 and finally had my mom’s permission to do with my fine hair as I pleased, I’ve transformed it numerous times from what I once felt was my boring, brown hair into wild styles and colors.
While I have no regrets, I’ve learned a lot in the process of using dye and heat styling to reinvent my look over the years and I’m sharing it all here. Read on as I reminisce about three of my most bold hairstyles from the past.
Bright Red and Barrel Curls
My inspiration here was a combination of The Little Mermaid and Rihanna (who was a redhead at the moment). I visited a hair salon for the initial process especially since I didn’t have “virgin” hair, but instead layers of color and remnants of bleach from past dye jobs. My hair took to the red surprisingly well, so in an effort to save hundreds of dollars in touch-up appointments, I learned to do my roots myself. I highly recommend this if you’re the least bit versed in hair dyeing basics. I had already been using box dye for a few years up until this point and was ready to graduate to a mixing bowl and professional-grade products. I watched YouTube videos from beauty influencers who had a red shade like mine, noted what products and brands they used and put together a list. I also consulted with hair professionals when I went for a blowout or was working on a story for their opinion. Mixing hair dye is truly a science and if you’re not a professional, then you really are taking a risk, but it was a risk I was willing to take (I would just cut my hair into a cute pixie if I failed. Keep reading!).
Luckily though, my concocting was a hit and resulted in the vibrant red pictured above.. My real secret to keeping my red pigmented was mixing a semi-permanent crimson dye into a color-safe shampoo whenever it was time to wash. My dye of choice was Manic Panic Classic High-Voltage in Red Passion — a highly-pigmented vegan option. Have old or dark-colored towels on standby to dry your hair after so you don’t ruin your good ones. Washing red hair can make the shower look a bit like a murder scene, so it’s good to be prepared.
During this time, I thought it would be a good idea to start using a curling iron in an effort to achieve more volume because the damage from all the dyeing had left my hair limp. Unfortunately, it left my hair even more damaged. Knowing what I know now, I’d strongly advise against regular heat styling if you're constantly dyeing and/or bleaching your hair. At the very least, use a heat-protectant like Dark and Lovely Blowout Heat Shield Hair Primer Mist before styling and a hair mask once a week to lessen damage and restore moisture.
Platinum and Pixie
My platinum pixie phase came about a few dye jobs later when I decided my damaged hair was unsalvageable and needed a fresh start. I thought of the most drastic change I could make and went for it. Some advised me against going platinum because of the maintenance, and it’s true — platinum hair is a process. That’s why this time, I turned to a professional.
This became a favorite style of mine and I kept it for years. During this time, purple shampoo became my best friend. I used a few different ones, including Redken Color Extend Blondage Color Depositing Purple Shampoo. It kept my blonde shiny and bright. I also finally adopted a weekly hair mask routine (Kérastase Masque Ultra-Violet Purple Hair Mask is a go-to), which made my hair feel soft.
My hair grows fast though and eventually the appointments to maintain my platinum pixie became expensive and time consuming. Growing it out was an even bigger headache. Whenever my hair would start getting longer, I’d be left with an awkward style that was half blonde and half brunette. I also started noticing a ton of breakage where my natural growth met the platinum. I’d always revert to cutting it again because I didn’t want to deal.
Wild and Wavy
It wasn’t until right before the COVID-19 pandemic that I decided I wasn’t going to continue the cycle that my platinum pixie was becoming. I let my hair grow long enough to cut out the blonde and be left with a brunette pixie. After we went into quarantine, any thought of going platinum again was gone since salons were closed. I took it as a sign to go cold turkey on not just dyeing, but heat styling as well. I hadn’t had completely natural hair since I was 18 and wanted to see what that looked like again ifI did absolutely nothing to my hair. What I discovered, I would have never guessed.
My hair grew back wavy, with the volume I always tried to replicate with heat tools. I’m conscious of the products I use now — my favorites being Evolvh UltraShine Moisture Shampoo & Conditioner Liter Duo and Garnier Fructis Pure Clean Hair Reset Gentle Anti-Residue Scrub — and have been dye-free for almost two years. I went heat-free for a year and a half but recently started using a diffuser on my waves, with heat-protectant of course, for the occasional volume boost.
My hair is wild and wavy and I love it. I can’t say with confidence that I’ll never dye my hair again or try more heat styling, but the lessons I’ve learned along my journey have certainly helped me to adopt healthier hair habits.