Hair, yet another natural aspect of our embodiment to which we ascribe meaning. Certain lengths and styles of hair are gendered, and assumptions about one’s intelligence, personality, and age are often made based on hair color.
Due to the stigma surrounding certain hairstyles, hair dying is popularly utilized as a way to conform to conventional beauty standards: older women color their gray hair to appear younger, and younger women often highlight their hair so it appears blonder, aligning with Eurocentric beauty standards. However, dying one’s hair a bright, ROY G BIV color has emerged as a subculture. Hair dying is an appealing form of body modification due to its customizability and painlessness relative to tattoos or piercings. A fun hair color allows people to express their creativity and individuality. It can serve as an accessory or a statement piece that adds an interesting element to a person’s look, even if their outfit is basic. Dying your hair can be a huge commitment and an intimidating process. Hopefully, my recount of my experience can help you decide whether or not dying your locks is for you, too.
I dyed my hair a deep indigo-navy this past summer while working as a counselor at an overnight camp. It was both an impulsive decision and a long time coming. It was something that I’ve always said I wanted to do, but could never invest my time, energy, and money into actually following through with it. My friends who joined me in this hair journey also shared this sentiment. We decided to dye our entire heads a bold color because the camp was the perfect place to do so: hair dying may be a messy process, but at camp, everything was messy anyway. And if the color faded in a weird, patchy way, it would be okay, since camp is the one place where no one would judge us for our appearance.
I knew that I did not want to bleach my hair, since adding that additional, more dangerous step, was especially intimidating for me as a beginner. (I’d realize that this was a good call; just dying the hair was arduous enough). Luckily, Splat has a line of hair dye that is designed to be vibrant without bleach. My friends and I all picked out a different color from each line; I went with the indigo, my friend Eliana chose purple, and Julia chose a deep emerald green. As I am still a hair dye novice, I don’t feel qualified to make actual recommendations or help you navigate the overwhelmingly large number of hair dye options at Walgreens. I’ve been told that Manic Panic and Arctic Fox are also good options, but I can’t speak on this from experience. I will say that, although tricky to work with (I’ll get to that in a bit), the Splat hair dye did show up in my hair just as depicted on the box. My hair is a medium-brown, and dying my hair without bleach did end up working really well. The same goes for Eliana, but Julia’s green seemed to be a lot less pigmented than the purple and the blue.
The actual hair-dying process was, as expected, quite lengthy. Another friend and experienced dyer of hair was the one who applied the color to our hair. There was not a lot of product in the bottles; it took me a bottle and a half to coat my shoulder-length hair blue. Eliana, who has lots of thick hair in tight curls, needed two whole bottles to get the job done. After the color was applied, I piled all of my hair on top of my head and wrapped it in a trash bag to keep the dye from staining my clothes and skin. So, yeah, gotta say that was the best I’ve ever looked. After waiting an hour, it was time to wash out the color. The box instructed us to wash our hair using the shampoo provided, until the water ran clear. I spent hours in the shower, scrubbing my hair with various shampoos and conditioners, but to no avail. The water was stained a cartoon-y blue, and wasn’t getting any lighter. The deep blue dye stained the shower, and each time I emerged to check my progress, I looked like the first female member of the Blue Man Group. The blue dye got all over the shower and my skin to what I was told was an abnormal extent. Eliana and Julia didn’t have this problem, so I’m unsure if there was an issue with the blue formula overall or if my particular bottles were just duds. Perhaps the process could have been a lot less messy had I gotten my hair done professionally, although I feel as though it wouldn’t be worth the price.
After all of that effort, scrubbing, and tears, I absolutely loved how my Coraline-blue hair turned out. It was the perfect balance between subtle and eye-catching; in some lighting the blue looked almost-black, rendering it not a huge transition from my brown, but when the light hit it, the color appeared really boldly. I loved the feeling of inherently making a statement, of having my pride in my offbeat, creative personality brought to the surface. Annoyingly, though, the water in my showers ran blue for weeks, although it was a much lighter tint and did not stain the bathroom. I did have to sleep with a towel over my pillow case because there was still a lot of excess dye, mostly in my scalp, which was stained bright blue and remained as such even when my hair started to fade. Luckily, the fade, which began around two or three weeks in, didn’t look patchy or obvious at first. Instead, my hair turned into a blue/grey denim hue which still looked cool. Most of my hair turned back to brown within a little over a month, but blue streaks on the underside of my hair lingered for much longer. Although I had originally planned on keeping up with it so I wouldn’t have the notoriously awkward fade out, it just seemed too expensive and too much work, and I was still recovering from the initial dying process. Perhaps I’ll eventually continue to experiment with different brands and colors, but for now, I am going to let my hair breathe and be naturally brown for awhile. But when all was said and done, I still have an open mind about a colored head.