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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Rutgers chapter.

It’s bold. It’s fierce. It’s slightly alarming: the red hair phase. Dying your hair red has gained an infamous reputation among young women. Red hair is not just a color; it’s a message. From my experience, I have found that red hair acts as a symbol of empowerment, a signal for change, or a cry for help. And, in my case, it was all three: so, why not dye my hair red? 

Last spring was a tumultuous time in my life, to say the least. Transferring colleges, healing from heartbreak, navigating family conflict, and keeping up with my mental health proved to be a challenge. I watched helplessly as my life spiraled out of control. My life was no longer mine. I had nothing but a chaotic heap of obsolete memories and dead dreams left in my hands. I suppose that upon staring at these shambles of my so-called life, I found a solution. 

I made the impulsive decision to chop off my hair and dye it red.  

At the time, it seemed as if my appearance was one of the last remaining things I had control over. When I stared into my reflection in the mirror, I saw the girl who spent hours on college applications. I saw the girl who missed her first love. I saw the girl who avoided going home. I saw the girl who craved feeling happy again. Hair holds memories. My shoulder-length chestnut-brown hair held pain. 

So, off to the salon I went to solve all my problems. I say this statement with a mix of sarcasm and sincerity. While I knew that such a drastic hair change wouldn’t solve all my problems, I was hoping it would solve at least some. I mean new hair, new me—am I right? And so, I convinced myself an auburn bob would suit me the best. However, as the hair stylist kept chopping off more and more hair and adding more and more dye, I realized that perhaps I needed more than just scissors and hair dye to feel better. 

I absolutely hated the hairstyle on me. Yet, I think what I hated, even more, was the reaction to it. It didn’t occur to me that red hair elicited such strong responses: “Well, what happened to you?”, “Aw, who hurt you?” and “So…you’re in your red hair phase?” The stigma surrounding dying your hair red became quite apparent. Honestly, I was surprised at the level of concern and judgment from people.

Oftentimes, red hair insinuates something is wrong, functioning as a warning to others that some incident caused a girl to dye her hair red. Choosing a vibrant, eye-catching color like red seems to almost speak for itself. Girls in their infamous “red hair phase” typically get written off as “crazy,” “unstable,” or “confused” for making such a drastic change to their appearance.

For me, the “red hair phase” genuinely was a phase—only one month to be exact. I could only tolerate looking at my reflection and bearing all the negative comments for that long. I reverted back to my original color with a newfound appreciation for it. I never expected to miss how I normally looked. While the red hair did not offer any solutions to my problems, it did offer me the opportunity to learn how to love a piece of me that I almost hated.

I consider the “red hair phase” to be a rite of passage that leads to healing. Perhaps my “crazy,” “unstable,” or “confused” decision to dye my hair red needed to be done in order for me to not only love my natural hair, but also love the new direction that my life might take. As much as I regret dying my hair red, I reflect upon how it initiated this process toward self-love. Self-love is not a linear process. Sometimes in changing something that you hate about yourself, you discover how much you long for that piece of your identity back.

Whether you choose to enter your “red hair phase” or not, remember that hair can tell a story: what will yours be?

Reader. Writer. Dreamer. Lover of all things relating to language and literature.