I never really worried about the cost of adding color to my hair. For years, my light mousey color would get naturally streaked blond by the sun. And when that wasn’t enough, I had it highlighted, maybe once every 3 or 4 months. But then a couple of years ago it became evident that there was just a touch too much grey to go with only highlights which meant full-head color. I was actually thrilled, because that meant I had a valid reason to go red. So I went to my guy in Vietnam, (where I was living at the time), and got awesome red with funky blond chunks.
The cost was expensive by Vietnam standards, and not what I would call cheap in relation to my salary, but it was affordable. I went through the problems of the red fading day by day, even though my hair was never directly in contact with the sun. And every 6 weeks or so, I would go back and try out different highlights or slightly change the red to see if we could get a tone that would last longer. There was that unfortunate hair-coloring experience, where I ended up with bright pink streaks right before I left the country a year ago, but other than that, it was fine.
Back in the US, I started to get my hair done every 6-8 weeks. The color still faded, although maybe not as quickly as in hot and humid Vietnam, but I was happy enough until I had to write out the check at the end. In the beginning, I still had savings and figured it was a luxury I had to afford. A few times I thought of putting off the coloring, as I did in the days when I couldn’t afford highlights, but it just doesn’t work with unsightly roots, (the main reason I never did full color before), and certainly not with grey roots.
Then I got laid off from my less-than-full-time job, which paid less than it should have. There was simply no way I was going to go into debt to color my hair, so I started thinking about dying it myself.
Self-coloring? How could I even contemplate it? Hadn’t I spent years thinking that a person was a fool to go the do-it-yourself route? Of course I had seen the aisles in the drugs stores with thousands of choices of products and colors, but I had never even stopped to take a look. Every time a hair color ad came on the TV, I completely blocked it out. But that changed. I started to listen to every ad; I went on-line to see what was available; I checked with friends who had done it themselves. And finally, I was ready to invest the $10 and give it a go.
After careful research, I decided on L’Oreal Feria R68 Power Red. I came to this decision after first narrowing it down to a L’Oreal product. Then I went to their website and looked at each and every product and color. And then I used their interactive, “Highly personal and intuitive, ‘Can I Help You?’”, where “L’Oreal Expert Colorist, Christophe Robin”, talks you through your hair type, desired results, and then chooses what is best for you. It was both helpful and hilarious. Christophe’s accent is so French, that they had to sub-title his commentary. But when Christophe’s recommendation was exactly the color I had picked, I was reassured that I could do this.
On the directions, and on every site dedicated to coloring you hair, they suggest that you do a ‘skin allergy test’ 48 hours before applying it to your hair. It sounded somewhat reasonable, but since no hair stylist I have ever gone to has ever pre-tested for allergies, I figured it was just a law-suit precautionary warning and bypassed the test.
The whole process, for someone who has never even watched a friend color their hair, was both slightly terrifying and hugely messy, especially with “Power Red” ending up in all corners of the bathroom. What is this with about 5 separate bottles in the box? I had to mix three things in one container, and then there was the shampoo and then the conditioner. I carefully lined up bottles and triple checked the order of what goes where and when.
I had purchased salon hair clips so that I could do what they do in the salon. I carefully parted and clipped hair in place and I was off. That lasted until I tried to do the next section and the damn clips were of no use. (I have thin, fly-away hair). I tried to apply the color the same way I had observed in the past, but it proved much harder than it had looked. All the while I was thinking, this was a giant mistake and maybe I should stop. I ended up squeezing the color down strips of roots as best I could. I knew I had to let it sit for 15 minutes before doing the rest of my hair, or I would end up with skunk strips of different colors. Even after applying the color to the rest of my hair, I had half a bottle of dye left and it seemed that maybe I should dump the rest on even though my hair was covered. But then I thought that the product was designed to use for people with double the amount of hair, so maybe it was ok.
The most frightening part was getting in the shower to shampoo it out. I just knew I was going to get dye in my eyes and go blind. Damn, why hadn’t I hung a towel where I could reach it? I asked myself as I leaned out of the shower and blindly groped for a towel, while water shot out all over the floor and red dye splattered the walls.
After shampooing twice, and conditioning once, (with enough shampoo and conditioner left over to do another head or two), I emerged into the combat zone of my bathroom, hair wrapped in a towel. Assured that my vision had not been compromised by carcinogenic chemicals, I went about cleaning up.
I still had half a bottle of color left but knew that it would become inert in 30 minutes, and there were all those instruction warnings that you could not keep any leftover materials because they could explode. What the hell I just put onto my body? I really didn’t think the remaining conditioner would implode, but dumped it nonetheless.
I kept looking at my hair as it dried; my biggest fear was that I would have a stripe of different color on the roots. It soon became apparent that I had managed to avoid that, and that my hair was fairly awesome. Because I had had some highlights prior to home coloring, and also because my base color was never one solid tone, I ended up with very cool highlights. And the best was that it didn’t stink like it does for days after a professional job.
It has now been two days and I just washed my hair. No color ran onto the shower floor or onto my towel, which it has always done in the past. It feels healthy and only looks a bit garish in the bright sunlight. But since it is overcast and foggy and will be for several days, it is not a problem. By next week I am assured my hair will have toned down and look good even in bright sunlight.
This has been a major awakening and life altering experience. Never in a million years would I have thought that I could do this. But for $10, and no tip, I certainly should have considered this some time ago.
I haven’t done the full check of what others think of my experiment, but if anyone looks at me strangely, I will say that I paid serious money to get this hair.