Haircolor Success

My hair started going gray the summer Max was born. The week of my birthday, to be exact. Happy Birthday to me! Sure, I had seen a gray hair here or there over the years, but I just plucked it out and that was that for another 6 months or so until I noticed another. But that year was different, and made worse because my hair color had also darkened a few shades over the years, so the gray stood out more against dark blond than it did against light blond.

So it was an easy decision to begin coloring my hair regularly. The dark blond it had become was mousy anyway, so there was no reason to preserve that. It's been over two years since then, so I don't remember the precise order of things, but I'll do my best.

My first impulse was to go light. I grabbed a box of color off the shelf at WalMart that looked like a nice light blonde. The color looked OK at first, but when it faded after a week or two I was left with weird yellowness that was more like yellow crayon than the blonde I was going for. I tried all manner of various light blondes, looking for ONE that would work with my hair. No luck. I think I spent about a year with hair that contained varied degrees of weird yellow overtones.

The yellow didn't flatter me, so I decided maybe I would try to go darker, not really dark, just enough to match the shade my hair grows naturally now. I liked the darker colors, actually, they were generally flattering, and they faded out to a natural color. But fade they did. A lot. But after trying various colors, I settled on my favorite (Clairol 6RN), a dark strawberry blonde. But after I told T that I was done trying different colors and this was going to be my new color, he asked me to change it since he really didn't like the red. He had not really weighed in on the colors previously since I tried a new one every 6-8 weeks, and he figured it would just change anyway.

Back to square one. My next strategy was to try to match my natural hair color exactly, so that I would not have any roots showing except the roots would have some gray hairs. While I succeeded in finding my haircolor match (8N), it did not give me the result I desired. Because it faded, like all haircolor. So while all my hair was the same color as my new roots at first, over time it all faded and got lighter, so by the time the roots grew out, they were darker than the rest of my hair anyway! Plus, I did not like the merry-go-round cycle of color, where I went from dark to medium to light over the course of 6-8 weeks then back to dark again. I wanted to look consistent from week-to-week.

So my next strategy was to match the hair dye to the color of my hair after the haircolor faded out. So my cycle would be more of a vibrant color to faded color over time, but that is far more subtle than going from dark to light. I started out just dying the roots, and then pulling down some more color to blend it in in the last five minutes of processing. T noted that it was more like painting my hair than dying it. Yes. By keeping most of the hair in its undyed (post-dyed?) state, there was less area to even be subject to the light/dark fade. That technique was successful, so I took it one step further this month.

I dyed everything one shade lighter than it naturally grows in. And this time, I was pleasantly amazed to see that I finally found the natural blonde color I had 15 years ago. And so far, with no weird yellow overtones like I was getting in the beginning. I suspect that at first I had too much natural pigment in my hair and it was just interacting with the dye in a bad way. But over the years, the color had been gradually stripped from my hair and so it became easier for the dye to override. But then I got the fading problem. So hopefully this new color I've settled on (L'Oreal 9N) is light enough that there just isn't much difference in tone between fresh color and the fade. And going forward I will use the painting-the-roots technique to minimize the amount of hair subject to the fade-out to begin with, and also to minimize the number of times my hair is subject to the chemicals.

Now that I've succeeded in recapturing the color of my youth, I'm undecided if I'm just going to leave it at that, or figure out how to best incorporate highlights. I miss having my hair highlighted, it does look more interesting than "regular" hair, even though the single-process colors aren't monolithic and do do a good job at incorporating subtle variations of color themselves.

It might just be that I am latching onto the idea of highlights since it is something I can control, since I know how to do it myself. I've become expert at mixing dyes at home and am not afraid of experimenting or the whole process, after two years of this I'm getting pretty good. But by focusing on something I can control, I am pushing off dealing with what I cannot control, which is the haircut. I have not been truly happy with any haircut since my old stylist in NYC left public practice to just work on models at photo shoots full time. Since then I have found a few stylists who have given me adequate haircuts, but I am not really happy with the situation. I am currently looking for a new stylist, but honestly, I don't see a lot of great haircuts on women around town. Otherwise I'd just ask them who their stylist is and try them. But there are a lot of haircuts out there that are pretty much the same quality as mine-- adequate, but nothing to get excited about. I saw ONE unknown woman at a charity luncheon last month with a good cut, but I did not ask her where she went, and am now kicking myself for not being more forward about that since I have not seen another woman with a great haircut since then. But I am on the hunt. We will see how long THIS phase of the quest for perfect hair takes.