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I feel like for every kid that wants to be an astronaut, there are twice as many that want to dye their hair. 

The romantic in me believes that this is the result of their fantastic imaginations being larger than their bodies, making them want to become as bright and vibrant as the way they see the world. The realist argues that kids are just like that: drawn in like magpies to every weird and colorful thing they can find. 

My fixation with hair dye began with neither of these; it started in seventh grade, when I was in the throes of typical teenage angst and on the uncontrollable slide down into my emo phase. Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on how you look at it—no matter how much I pleaded and cajoled, my parents would only buy me a spray-on dye from Walmart. I would wake up early every morning before school, fume in the mirror for a few minutes, and then slowly and painstakingly paint a stripe of dark blue in my hair. 

Those days, I looked terrible, but at least I felt cool. 

Fast forward to the end of last year, when I pulled the Christmas card on my parents and conned them into paying for a haircut and my first hair dye appointment. I’d picked a bright lavender color out—a cheery contrast to my old, edgy preferences—and was feeling pretty confident about the amount of research I had done. I was looking forward to having new hair for the new year, and had even reasoned to myself that even if the color turned out badly, I would still find a way to be happy with it–after all, I just wanted a change.

The short version of this story: change I definitely got.

The longer version:

I got my hair bleached, purple, and then chopped to my ears.

It looked great, actually. Examining myself in the salon mirror, and then again in the car on the way home, I concluded that it was my favorite haircut that I’d ever received. The hairdresser had informed me that the color I chose would fade quickly, in about one to two months, at which point I could redye it a different color if I wanted, and the future prospect of being able to experiment at home with different shades and hues had me giddy. 

The next few days were a golden haze. My friends were wildly supportive of my new look. My mom showed off pictures of me on her Facebook and shared every nice comment her coworkers and family members made. I took a shower once and when I emerged, I looked in the mirror and for two seconds thought a hot guy had broken into my house. I’d never been a hot anything before. 

Never had I possessed so much self-esteem. I couldn’t think of a time before then that I had been so happy with my appearance; it was as though someone had wiped away a mirage and revealed my true self to me. I felt expressed. I felt seen. 

But then—a yellow hair. 

Not even a week later and the dye was already starting to fade.

I wasn’t particularly worried about it, as I was still riding my confidence high, but my parents, who disliked my corn silk look, decided to intervene. Somehow, my mother managed to secure a free redye with the same hairdresser, and I was too cowed by her audacity to protest.

However, if you’ve done your research like I have, then you know that you should only dye your hair about once every two months. Less than two weeks had passed since my last appointment, which could only spell disaster. 

First, the second dye job stripped my hair completely of its moisture, leaving in its place a sad, dry haystack.

Second, the color was darker this time around, and reacted strangely with my hair, turning it an unattractive magenta. 

Third, the dye was permanent, which meant that unlike the first dye, the color would stay for longer, and if I wanted to get rid of it, I would have to re-bleach my hair—something that would have to wait at least three months unless I wanted to go bald.

Thus marked the end of a dynasty. It wasn’t a particularly long dynasty, but it was certainly a glorious one. 

I think if I was afflicted with the color from the start, I wouldn’t have been so dismayed by it. But I’d already tasted the sweet, sweet high of having cool hair, and so the blow only stung worse. 

Furthermore, before I dyed my hair, I hadn’t cared about how it looked. If I was having a bad hair day, it didn’t really matter because really, what could I do? It was the hair I was born with, that I had, and if it wasn’t cooperating then there wasn’t really anything I could do about it. It was beyond my control. 

But when it’s dyed, it’s different, because it’s a decision that you made, and people who look at you will know this. And if your hair looks bad, then their first reaction is going to be, “That girl makes absolutely terrible decisions.”

Which, yeah, I do, but not about my hair!

Anyways, there’s nothing quite as humbling as having garbage hair. Moms are basically psychologically programmed to find their children beautiful, so you know it’s bad when you walk down the stairs and she starts laughing at you from the couch like a hyena.

I gave myself a few days to grieve what could have been, before making my peace with looking like a twice divorcee. By the end of the next week, I had relapsed back to my usual apathy towards my appearance. 

But then—a yellow hair. 

Not even a week later and the dye was already starting to fade.

Maybe I didn’t bleach my hair enough. Maybe my color-safe shampoo wasn’t really color-safe. Maybe my hairdresser woke up and chose violence that day, or maybe the hair gods just decided not to smile on me. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you why, but just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. 

If it had been semi-permanent, the dye would have faded completely out of my hair, and I would’ve been able to redye it at home with no problem. Unfortunately, mine was permanent, and much like a bad ex, it left some terrible traces behind. Specifically, the color taupe, which is already an atrocious word by itself.

Thus, the journey ends, with me looking like a burnt chicken nugget.

Is there a moral to this story? No, not really. To be honest, I just wanted to complain, and writing this article served as a sort of a therapeutic scream into the void. But if you insist on having something to take away, then give you something to take away I shall.

First off, if you’re looking to dye your hair and you’ve never done it before, do your research. I cannot stress this enough. Do your research, but more importantly do research about your own hair. I’ve learned from the past couple of months that everybody’s hair is unique, and it’s hard to predict how chemicals like bleach and dye are going to affect it. Most websites recommend getting your hair done professionally the first time, since a hairstylist is going to be able to better gauge what your specific hair type needs. If you talk to them, you’ll be able to learn how to do it on your own without any major casualties.

Second, don’t be afraid to change things up. It’s too easy to fall into monotony. If you’re finding yourself underwhelmed by your appearance, or perhaps disconnected from it, an easy fix is a change to your hairstyle—whether it’s a haircut or a new color. It’s a little thing, but you may find that it has a big impact on the way you see yourself.

Lastly, have fun! This article probably comes off as a bit melodramatic, but I don’t want to give you the impression that I’ve been sobbing into my keyboard. These things always feel better when it’s our choice, and even when they don’t turn out the way we want them to, they still make for good stories. 

Despite the grievances and mishaps, I wouldn’t say I regret dyeing my hair. The results were, in hindsight, very funny, and I came out of the experience more self-assured. I know how to present who I am; I see myself more clearly than ever. 

And hey, at least I got a good haircut out of it all.

Jenny Nguyen

CU Boulder '25

Jenny is a freshman at the CU College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in MCDB with a computational biology minor. Her interests include astronomy, debate, Pokemon, and a variety of TV shows and movies ranging from the average slice-of-life to a good, bone-chilling horror flick.
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