I was not blessed with hair that naturally cascades and shines like that of a heroine in a cheap fantasy smut novel. If left unattended, my hair is somewhere between Hagrid, Hermione, a 1970s teenage skater boy, and Cousin Itt. There’s a lot of it, it’s thin, fragile, and has been described before as “very stubborn”. Pair that with the fact that I am extremely lazy when it comes to any sort of styling, and this has left me heavily reliant on a good hair stylist to make my coif suitable for the public eye.

This epiphany came courtesy of my last three haircuts, where saying “I really like it” at the end was no longer a bald-faced lie. I bit the bullet and paid for a salon-level haircut and have decided I am never looking back.

To avoid the same mistakes I’ve done, here’s a list of the things I’ve learned over the past 26(ish) years of bad haircuts. Avoid these if you can.

1. If you’re going through a major life change, bangs will not solve the problem

Ahhhhh bangs. It’s common knowledge at this point that if your friend abruptly decides to get bangs, the only kind thing to do is ask her over for a glass of wine to figure out what is going wrong with her life. Bangs are a simple way to change up your whole look that requires minimal commitment. Bangs also do not look good on everyone.

Instead of coming out a new person completely – be it quirky and cute like 2010s Zoey Deschanel or disheveled but sultry like 1960s Brigitte Bardot – you’ll end up with a high-maintenance style you’ll love for exactly the one day the salon styled it for you. You’ll then loathe them each morning when they decide to defy gravity. Somehow they’ll either be too poofy and thick or too greasy and you’ll have to deal with that awkward growing out phase, with the added bonus of acne now erupting on your forehead.

Plus, you’ve still have been ghosted by that douche who was definitely way below your standards already. Only now everyone knows it.

2. If you’re going to go blonde, do it right or don’t do it at all.

Although we’d like to think we’re past the times where blondes were seen as the sexy, fun alternative to the dowdy, serious brunette, if you’re not already blonde, there will reach a point in your life where you will ask yourself “do blondes really have more fun?”. Once this starts, it’s over. Despite all the hair coloring apps and filters in the world showing you that you shouldn’t do it, you’ll still be wondering if you’re not reaching your full potential by being blonde.

But going blonde is a commitment. If you’re going blonde, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind – it’s one of those things that’s worth doing it right.

  • If you’re starting off really dark, do not do it all in one 6-hour session. Not spreading out the sessions will help you hair not only look like straw by the end of it, but feel like it too.
  • Be aware of upkeep and TONE IT so you don’t end up with piss yellow hair. No one has ever crooned over “your beautiful piss yellow hair”.
  • Be willing to pay up. Don’t try to skimp on this. If you’re taking up hours and hours of someone’s time and you want them to do it right, pay them for it.

Maybe the reason we revere peroxide blondes is the same reason heavily tattooed people can be so hot: nothing says mating potential like showing off you have large amounts of patience, pain tolerance, and disposable income.

3. Pitch black hair only looks good on a very very very select group of people

At the opposite end of the spectrum of going blonde, we have going pitch-black. Maybe not as popular a choice, but definitely one that will pop up if you’re light-skinned with light eyes, because somethingsomething high contrast. Pitch black hair has a few advantages over blonde. It’s easier and faster to DIY, it gives you that big makeover moment, and it can look striking.

What nobody tells you is that there is no way to dye it any other color afterward. Your hair might lighten a bit, but it will stay dark for a ridiculously long amount of time. Enough time that if you don’t like it, you’ll end up absolutely hating it. If you’re pale, it can wash you out and highlight every blemish and sign of hyperpigmentation under the sun. If your hair is prone to frizz, oh wow will it look fuzzy and fried. Because nothing says good hair like emulating a Brillo pad.

Try dark brown instead: it lightens up quicker if you don’t like it, while still giving a similar look. With the added bonus of not making you feel like either a Russian spy or Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way. Unless that’s the vibe you’re going for.

4. Dyeing your hair at home is actually fine (depending on your end goal)

Some people will tell you that you should never use box dye and that your hair will be irreparable if you do and to only let a professional dye it and yadayadayada. Do not listen to these people. Also stop hanging out with those people too, because they sound really boring.

One of the thrills in life is sitting on the bathroom floor with a glass of cheap wine, waiting for the dye you just haphazardly massaged onto your scalp to finally settle in. And if you can get a friend involved in the process? Boom, that friendship will last as long as those splotchy stains in your sink: forever.

Unfortunately, you need to be realistic. If you want to go from black to blonde with just a bottle of at-home peroxide, it’s not going to happen (see: blonde misadventures above). If you want highlights or to give yourself one of those multi-tiered bright color dyes, you’ll likely be highly disappointed.

But if all you’re looking for is to go slightly darker or a little more red or to dip dye your ends? Just do it. The worst that’ll happen is it’ll be a bit patchy and you can always buy more dye.

5. Don’t (!!!!!) go back to the same hairdresser who never fully gets your hair right

The reason I have trust issues can be directly traced back to the fact that my mother has always insisted that my aunt is a good hairdresser. Which is true if you’re not related to her, but when it comes to doing my family’s hair, it’s not exactly true either. She was my hairdresser growing up because she was cheap, easily available, and meant to understand my hair type. She was also a fan of experimenting without consulting us and prone to spacing out when dishing the dirt about the latest dramas.

Highlights of the capillary torture she’s put the family through include: misreading labels and dyeing half of her sister’s hair pitch black and the other bleach blonde because she was stressed gossiping about an affair. Giving my risk-averse oldest sister a mullet. Giving the entire family bangs and only realizing at the end that our hair type was very different from the model with thin, pin-straight hair. Dying my hair pitch black when I’d asked for dark brown because she thought it would “make my eyes look beautiful”… right after she’d had a lengthy conversation with my mother about not dyeing my hair pitch black.

While this wonderful woman would never do any of these things to her non-related clients, she kept on doing it to us and we kept on paying her for it. This leads me to my final recommendation: if your hairdresser just can’t get it right and won’t listen to you, go somewhere else. Even if she’s the cheapest. Even if she’s family. Even if you’ll have to make up a new excuse every time she asks to do your hair when she sees you.

Here’s the thing about hair: generally speaking, it grows back. Unless you’re suffering from a serious condition like male pattern baldness (my condolences), it will grow back.

So get bangs, dye it box blonde in your bathroom, or do any of the things I said you shouldn’t. Because everyone’s hair is different, so what works for me may not work for you.

Except for the bad stylist thing. Ditch them. You deserve better.

4 thoughts on “5 Lessons I’ve Learned From 26 Years Of Bad Hair Makeovers

  1. Laughing and crying over your accumulated wisdom.
    Any experience – good or hilarious horror story – with bold non-traditional colors? I’ve been toying with the idea of a bright red, pink, and/or purple ombre for a while. I keep chickening out due to concerns like “job-hunting” or “maybe I’ll hate it”

    Like

    1. Love it – my thoughtless mistakes have just turned into wisdom

      I wish I had a good story for bold non-traditional colors. Same “job-hunting” and “maybe I’ll hate it” concerns on this end. Although… I recently did a very big chop and the fact that my hair is already short does make it even more tempting to dye it a bright color (blue or green). If I do, I’ll be sure to update if it ends up in the “happy accident” or “oh-my-lord-what-have-I-done” side of things.

      If you end up doing it and gather any tips, let me know, because: TEMPTING.

      Like

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