Fixin’ to Dye

When I was in high school, I experimented with dye until my hair was fried. In addition to relaxing my hair, I got temporary streaks almost every two months, starting from when I was perhaps fifteen. In those crazy years, I tried almost every shade of semi-permanent color from honey blond to a failed attempt at electric blue. My then-hairdresser was my partner in crime, and given his history, he may not have been thinking about pampering my tresses with the best quality products at the time. Together, we ruined many of my white school uniform blouses with dye.

After I cropped my hair short and made the decision to never chemically straighten my hair again, I steered clear of hair color for a long time. I still had highlights for the wedding, but I let them grow out completely, because I wanted to just let my hair BE for a while. Let it do its thing as naturally as possible. But I’ve got to admit — I was just suppressing my yen for hair color. From the moment I got highlights for my first high school bazaar, hair color had become something to define myself by. I’m well aware that these harsh chemical products can be so unhealthy for your hair. But I used to change my color so whimsically and often when I was younger, I found myself wanting to add zing to my dark brown hair. I missed the brightness.

Just last Christmas when I was in Trinidad, I got some fab copper highlights that gave definition to my mass of dark coils. They looked great at first, but I noticed that the copper was more of a blond, and blond made my hair look dry, dry, dry. Especially my ends. I’d often trim these little brittle knots from the ends of my curls, and they looked like tiny tumbleweeds. Because of the thickness and volume of my hair, the growing out period didn’t look as obvious as it does on ladies with straight hair. So I didn’t upkeep my highlights, or go to another hairdresser, even. I just let them go, and didn’t think much about it until a month or so ago. Then I saw this photo of the back of my head — I cropped it extra close so you can see what my hair actually looked like.

Ugh! So not cute. So thirsty. And those raggedy grown out highlights didn’t define my curls at all, just the opposite! I realized I wanted something different, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do exactly. I’ve never used henna, and didn’t know where to start with that. (If you’re a henna user, PLEASE holla. I have questions). I hadn’t used a home hair dye in a while, but I began seriously thinking about it. I started fantasizing about crazy hair colors, like old school Kelis style. I loved the touch of hot pink on Jes in Rock of Love (yes. I watched. Hanging my head in shame). However, as liberal as my office is, I just didn’t think the time was right for my fro to go hypercolor. I think my time for Manic Panic colors has passed. Because I was totally over the blond tumbleweeds, my heart was set on red. Not Kool Aid red, not a bright scarlet. I needed a shade deeper than wine, to cover up the dryness.

Whereas getting highlights cost less than $50 in Trinidad, any place that was in my neck of the woods and reputable was charging twice more for “lowlights,” or whatever else you want to call ‘em. So a professional color wasn’t in the cards for this bella on a budget. Before I made any kind of decision, I read Hair Color 411, a very helpful article on Motown Girl, written by Nekea Valentine, a freelance writer for Naturally You Magazine. I figured permanent hair color was the way to go for the shade I craved, but the warning in that article scared me — Permanent hair color can be damaging. My curl pattern might be loosened by the chemicals. Ammonia and hydrogen peroxide. Oy vey. I was very much on the fence about this.

Then I got some news that left me depressed, bothered and bewildered. I was in a funk. I figured a change would lift my spirits. I’ve already had people question my natural hair status because I’ve used hair color, so I was anticipating criticism from some of my readers. So I finally bit the bullet and chose a color — Dark and Lovely’s Burgundy Blush. Why Dark and Lovely? I can’t lie, brand familiarity didn’t hurt — I was raised on the Softsheen Carson line of products, Optimum was the relaxer of choice in my family when I was growing up. Also, the curly haired model on the box really appealed to me. Her hair looks cute. I could identify with her. Plus, the color is described as “fade resistant rich conditioning color with moisture seal technology.” Hmmm, intriguing. So I went for it.

Although the color was a bit darker than I’d originally envisioned (really the soft amber was more the kind of thing I initially wanted), I went with the burgundy, visions of the box model’s curls dancing in my head. And you know what? I don’t regret the decision at all. If you’ve done one box dye, you’ve pretty much done ‘em all. It’s typically a three-part system — some kind of creamy developer, the color itself, and a conditioner for afterwards. And plastic gloves, usually attached to the instruction sheet. The Dark and Lovely was exactly that, the only notable difference being that the stuff didn’t stink like the chemicals I used at the professional hairdressers (the box boasts about the “low ammonia formula and new pleasant fragrance. Good job there, Dark and Lovely). Unnatural ingredients aside, the conditioner is pretty awesome. But for a bella with super thick hair like mine, there isn’t nearly enough.

At first, I thought the color was WAY too dark. Then I let it dry and went out in the sun. And here’s that first photo of me as a brand new redhead. You like?

Even though Dark and Lovely is described as a conditioning color, I cannot tell a lie — the treatment did leave my coils super parched. But you can’t tell as much as you could when the blond streaks were in. Ah, the benefit of dark (and lovely) hair. But for real, that Hair Color 411 article didn’t lie — deep conditioning and extra moisturizing is an absolute must! I found myself annoyed that the included deep conditioner tube wasn’t three times bigger. My hair really needed the extra love immediately after the coloring process.

It was pretty fun going to work with new hair, everyone noticed right away and I drank up the compliments like Vitamin Water. I also noticed a spike in um, male attention. I’m not sure if that’s because guys go crazy for red hair (which my friend John assures me is the case), or because I was feeling more confident and sassy because I like my new hair color. Six of one, half dozen of the other, perhaps? Either way, there was a marked increase in downtown construction workers noticing me. It was a little unnerving, after I thought we’d become accustomed to peacefully ignoring each other (do guys really think that approach works? Do any women respond positively to an insistent shout of “ayo shawty, lemme holla atcha?”).

My curl pattern did loosen somewhat — not into slick TLC Chili type waves, but into s-shaped spirals that unravel at the ends. Figuring it out has been a little frustrating, because my standard go-to products now react differently to my coarser, dryer texture. My beloved Cantu Grow Strong wound up congealing in my curls and looking like the “hair product” out of There’s Something About Mary when I tried it recently. I had to really rub in my Miss Jessie’s Curly Buttercream, because the thick product left whitish streaks in my hair long after I’d applied it. Ah, the disadvantage of darker hair.

It’s been about a month and the color has lightened a bit. Looky, here’s a close up pic so you can see the texture, and also how the color’s adapted and absorbed into the already-lightened parts of my hair.

Now I’m so used to the new shade, I don’t even think twice about it — in fact, there are days where I think shoot, I should have gone a shade brighter. As you can see, some of my curls are still getting those unraveled ends. So I’ve been conditioner washing it with my beloved DevaCurl One Condition, and using Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk and Kinky Curly Knot Today as styling products. On weekends, I deep condition with Elasta QP then I comb through it.

I am still adamant — I will never relax the natural texture of my hair again. I love my hair thick, kinky, coily, and free. But I’ll probably color it whenever I feel like it. I’m not advocating hair dye here — I’ve seen the ravages of chemical treatments and ammonia is a key ingredient of most of those drugstore dyes. Because it comes in a pretty box that features a model that looks kinda like you, it seems slightly more appealing. But any dye you buy is more or less a fancy, packaged version of the same stuff that dinka tribesmen dye their hair with. But I must say, I’m happy with my results, the color did lift my spirits momentarily, and I think I’m wearing it well. And that’s that.

If you’re staunchly anti hair color, I respect your position. But if you’re feeling like I did and would like to switch up your current shade, here’s your chance. Dark and Lovely is offering a sweet giveaway — seven lucky readers will get the color of their choice! All you need to do is check out the swatches, then leave a comment telling me what color you’d like, and why. I’ll close the comments on Monday and choose winners at the beginning of next week.

People choose to color their hair for all sorts of different reasons. What’s yours?

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Comments

  1. greetings afrobella!
    i too am a hair dye junkie…i have locs though.
    like you, i caught the color bug at a young age and have been hooked ever since. i have endured my share of trials, tribulations, and hair breakage, but i’m still undaunted.

    you asked about henna and i have used that too. however, some types of henna shouldn’t be applied over regular hair dye. according to http://www.hennaforhair.com “Compound hennas have metallic salts which react disasterously with the ammonia in synthetic hair dye. Problem is … many pre-mixed henna powders do NOT have these ingredients listed!”

    would definitely recommend a patch test before trying henna. also check out that site i mentioned…LOTS of good info!

  2. The new hair color looks fab on you bella!!! I love hair color, I just went from at least 10 years of reddish brown hair to dark brown almost black locs, still getting use to it but loving the new look on me. Enjoy the new do.

  3. I’ve been coloring my hair for so long that I have no idea what my true hair color is.

  4. ShanTeneka says:

    Bella you glow!!! and the hair is fab u lous.

  5. I’m a long time reader, first time commenter (lol) but this post hit something in me. I still relax my hair but I’ve stopped dyeing my hair for a while. Oh god do I miss the dye!! I have been a redhead for the last 4 or 5 years and now its all dark and kinda boring.
    So I checked out the swatches and if I win I want to go hard, and go bright. I love the vivacious red color. Thanks
    PS I love the color you have! Brings out the caramel color in your skin.

  6. Bella, the brown cinnamon is speaking to me! I’ve been natural for 1 year this month(yeah),and I’ve never dyed my hair but said that I would if my hair stayed strong and healthy this first year. I also just started a fabulous new site and I’m feeling really inspired and I think my hair should also look the part, so that’s why I want me some Brown Cinnamon!

  7. Love the color! I just went from various shades of blonde with highlights to black. And it looks greats. Lots of people are going back to their natural color (or close to it). The black hides any damage and makes my hair grow. I like to use the oriential brand that you just add water too.

  8. Trinichica says:

    You look sooooo adorable..the colour is really working with your skin tone and you look as happy as a lark! I just coloured my hair 2 weekends ago a similar shade(by Garnier)and I love it; my only issue is that 1 box on natural hair is NEVER enough!….The wine colour just looks so great on us though. I have been coloring my hair since I was………..gosh…15 or so; it started with the kool-aid packets and then I graduated to Dark & Lovely. I usually change up the shade as the seasons change; it is truly a morale-booster for me; how about anyone else?

  9. Oh my goodness, Bella! It’s fabulous–the color really suits you. Glow on!!!

  10. bella, the color you picked looks great! i’ve been thinking about doing some henna in a darkish reddish color. the reasoning is pretty simple: i want more verve, sass and general sexiness.

  11. Bella,

    That color looks fabulous on you. Rich Wine is my winner.

  12. I love your color! The wine shades are some that I haven’t tried because I am not sure how they’d look on me but you have let me know that the wine shades are fierce! Lookin good, girl! I am a hair color junkie! I color my hair because it spices up my look and gives me that sassy edge. Ever since I went natural(7 months ago) I have been coloring my hair. Just another perk of being natural. I love the blondes and golden browns on me so I have picked Honey Blonde as my color choice.

  13. Bella, I love the red hair!

    This post is right on time for me. I’ve NEVER had my hair colored before. (Deprived, I know!) But I’ve been wanting to try a “cherry cola” kind of color, and I think that Burgundy Blush/393 would work best for my skin tone and hair (think Angie Stone).

  14. Very, very pretty!

  15. This article is so timely! I stopped chemicals to alter the texture of my hair years ago, but I continued to color it. I started wearing my hair cut to the scalp and stopped coloring it. Lately I started letting grow out and have not been happy with the way it’s graying. I found out about Robert Craig hair colors that have no chemicals in their formula. Just yesterday, my beautician colored my hair. It’s a little darker than what I used to color it…the products really don’t lift the natural color, but it does enhance your natural color and it colored the gray in it to golden highlights. So far I’m pleased with the outcome…getting used to the darker color but very happy to have found a non-chemical hair coloring product that works for me.

  16. Aah, man..this post is two days tooo late!!! i just ordered Clairol’s Textures & Tones in Bronze. I read on a natural list serv that it works well, the conditioner is great , and it doesn’t have ammonia. Lots of the sistahs like how it works on them. However, had i known you were going to do a prodcut give-away, I would have waited and tried for that;) oh well, I ‘ll let you guys know how it turns out. I’m scared to being doing high-lights at home, but I, too, have been lightening my tresses since I was 14. i especially can not stand my natural dark color in the winter months, i think I look washed out….I need a little bit of somethin’ somethin’ to add some flair!

  17. I think that your new colors looks FAB…

  18. MochaSiren says:

    Bella,

    You are sooo pretty. Love your hair light and dark. I used to dye my hair a lot too back in the day. I always found the dark colors made my fine hair look richer and fuller! You are so blessed to already have thick hair! I have said this in previous post but whenever I see your pics you remind so much of the beautiful women in my family! Thanks to our Moms and Dads, right? ;-)

  19. You look great!!!

  20. Bella, your spirals are so defined! i just went natural in august; i have about 2 1/2 inches and lots of spirals, but I don’t know how to define them and always end up frizzy. I know everyone’s hair is diff’t(blah blah), but I’m sure you know a trick or two that I don’t.

    As for coloring, I’m in desperate need to cover my grays. I’m only 31 for goodness sakes! But I figure I better hold off until I get to know my hair a little better.

  21. oh boy i bet i’m not in the top seven= but *throwing my lucky coin*
    I would love to try the soft amber.
    Your hair looks pretty Bella! color works wonders for anyone despite the damaging effects sometimes.

  22. I didn’t get the olay…. but i’ll try for the dye. Before I went natural I dyed my hair a super red. And loved it. I knew it was going to wreck my hair so I planned to do it before my big chop. 5 years post chop i think I am ready to go back to a business friendly red. The deep copper appeals to my new “grown-up” sensibility. Help a fellow natural sister get her red on!

  23. Pick me!!! I need a new look for my spring graduation!! :)
    I love hair color but since my hair started thinning out I haven’t done anything more than a semi-permanent color. My natural color is an ashy brown which I have always hated. It used to turned reddish brown from many days in the summer sun but that was in my youth. I have tried to recreate that sun kissed look ever since!! I like the rich auburn color!

  24. PS: Bella, You do look absolutely adorable! And Trinichica, the first time I dyed my hair, they used four boxes of dye just to lift the color light enough to take the next round of dye. I feel you pain.

  25. Bella you always write about things when they are pressing on my mind the most. I’ve been pondering hair color since the spring. My hair is totally natural so of course I was worried about the outcome; would it be dry? would I look like a clown? etc.

    So after admiring your amazing hair color and checking out the swatches, I definitely think the Rich Wine #392 would be a nice place to start. A new color but no so drastic that I break down into tears!

    Maybe after that, I’ll be ready for Red Hot Rhythm #376! Talk about Sassy!

  26. Long time reader, first time commenter(greetings everyone):
    I apologize for the itemization…am in between two meetings…LOL
    1. Love the color!
    2. Did you watch ANTM last night? It’s so unfortunate that the one whose hair was cut off failed to realize how truly beautiful (and regal as Tyra said) she looks with her new hair style…
    3. Glamour just hired a new afrobella (she had an afro on the pics I found on the internet) in their beauty department, Baze Mpinja (from now defunct vibe vixen). She blogs in the “Girls in the Beauty Department” forum…interesting don’t you think…hummm
    :-)
    Blessed day!

  27. Hey Afrobella..

    I love the Soft wine. It is suttle and would look beautiful with brown skin tones! I love your haircolor. i experimented with streaks and color and it left the texture of my curls in a bad state.

    The best thing has been Biolage Shampoo and Conditioner and cream based products…Also Elasta QP Feels like Silk is a Winner! My color is almost out and my hairs texture is way better!

  28. Nice post! I’m a hair junkie so my hair changes all the time.

    I don’t have a perm so sometimes I do the wash and go, but usually I got with the twist outs or a high bun. This summer I gave myself copper-colored streaks with a box of Loreal or something. They came out really nice.

    Then I got bored with it, because I usually prefer my hair to be all dark, so I dyed it black about a month ago. Lately I’ve been wearing it straight because I gave myself bangs, which I’m loving!

    When do color my hair, if I feel it’s getting too dry, I’ll give it an Aphogee protein treatment, and then immediately follow with a deep conditioner. It works great. Keeps my hair soft and strong.

  29. Angela Chambers says:

    Bella, I am a 38 year old woman with 5 year old natural hair. When I first took that step to be free of all chemicals, I was gunho. I started with the fro, then twists, and from there added color to be trendy. Now I’ve turned to wigs just to keep from dealing with it. I am now at a point that I refuse to fall back into the hands of captivity, however I would like to reinvent myself again. I’m battling with the grey, and would like to add pizzaz with that rich auburn. I would make you proud.

  30. Em.Kay.Aarrh says:

    Either color looks great. I don’t think that the blond looked dry at all. Sometimes it is good to get a diff perspective on something that we can be hard on ourselves about. but the new color looks gorge. I myself am tinkering w/ the idea of a color or a texturizer. Don’t know about going to DC for a silk, considering that miss j’s was literally 2 blocks from my apt. We will see.

  31. Your hair color looks nice. I checked out the swatches and being that I have had every color under the sun except for blue :D, I think at this stage in my life, the brown cinnamon is calling my name. This is my third or fourth trip down natural lane but this time I said I am staying this route. As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom in her mid 30′s on a budget with a few grays starting to show, I could use and would greatly appreciate the momentary spirit lift of some color.

  32. Dettygirl says:

    To Cybelle- I DID watch ANTM & when that Bianca girl realizes how much better she looks sans damaged colored hair she’s gonna be FIERCE! (2 snaps) lol

    Bella- Your color looks perfect. Does anyone know anything about those clear glosses/rinses/dyes? They are supposed to add some permanent shine to your hair while enhancing your own natural hair color?

  33. Great colour!

    I have fouund that colour makes me feel brighter, more energised and younger…so I colour and or streak..i used to use those that wash out after a while and then began using cellophanes..lovely.

    Recently, I bought 1 item from John Frieda’s luminous color glaze which is a 3 part system to use at home..i got the color glosser/shine booster & in one use it has made a difference.

    I highly recommend its use and since it can be used by both natural as well as colour treated hair it should be tried.

  34. I am a big believer in hair color…it works wonders! It lifts your spirits and helps you get over the “hair blahs.” Change is good. I love the red, by the way..I’ve been a fabulous redhead myself in the past. Go head girl!

  35. Bella, I love the new haircolor, it looks gorgeous on you! lookin’ good shawty!!

  36. Hey Bella,

    I’m wondering…how do you get the spirals? Do you double strand twist your hair when it’s wet and then apply the hair milk? Whatever you do your hair looks fabulously free…loves it.

    M.

  37. Sigh…I wish I could color my hair. You hair looks so pretty bella. I dyed my hair that same red, and it looked haute, but I’m horribly allergic to hair dye. I mean horribly. I was lucky my scalp didn’t fall out and I only had to cut two inches of my hair off. I’ve tried a rinse, specifically one from Dark and Lovely, but they won’t show up in my hair (my hair is really dark). Do you have any suggestions for rinses?

  38. i am way 2 scared to use dyes anymore, i recently tried to dye my hair with softstafro permanent colour to an auburn colour, because my dad had been using it for a while to dye away his greys, i know hes vain but we love him lol(i should have really been a little more selective with who i take hair dye advice from)and i had even applied it for him a few times but he had alway used black so i assumed that the results of dying black hair auburn would be a little dramatic. so i did the whole powder mix, applied it with a toothbrush and wait 20-25 minutes washed it out and…….nothing. i thought id wait a few days but i always have an itch to put in braids so after 3 days the colour was still vacant. so i decided i would rather just put coloured extensions in but i am so interested in henna i’ve had it on my hands and it looks so cute but im waiting for the “auburn” to grow out but i found this website and it has quite a bit on henna i hope its useful
    http://www.mookychick.co.uk/style/removing_henna.php

  39. just to say the blonde wasn’t bad either, you know. just a little dry like you said. but the color was great on you, i thought, from your other pictures. anyhow, the new color is great and makes me want to color my hair.

    i love henna on my skin.

  40. your hair looks awesome and your skin is amazing (just had to throw that in there too). I’ve been a color girl for about ten years–from highlights to rinses to permanent color. Now, i only color my natural curls about once a year. i usually do a shade in the reds and i love how my full head color grows out into blond highlights. i would love to rock that deep copper…

  41. Penni Brown says:

    Hi Bella – I’m a henna fan. I have naturally reddish brown hair and the henna make my hair a brilliant red color. The key is using body art quality henna. It’s only like 1.50 from your local indian grocery store. Mix it with some water (and an acid like apple cider vinegar for the best color release) and after it sits for a while, apply it to your head like you would a perm. Then, let that marinate on your head for a while. Rinse, then deep condition with a very moisturizing conditioner. It’s very easy and the results are great. Enjoy your color journey!

  42. When I turned 30, I got my hair professionally dyed. I liked the look and so did my mom. After that, I’ve been coloring my hair on my own for the past eight years. Hair color is freeing and seductive. I’ve gone from golden blonde to sunkissed brown. My hair color even changes how some people think my race is which totally bugs me out!!
    With blonde hair, people think I’m biracial or creole. With the darker hair, I get sometimes latino. I do miss my ebony original tresses. For now, my fave is the sunkissed brown. Has enough color that I have a pop but I still look like my beautiful black self.

    If you dye at home, use hospital gloves instead of those flimsy gloves they put in the package. I leave my color on for a while up to an hour. People think I’m nuts. The color really stays in longer to me. I’m careful to baste my sides with vasaline to make sure that I don’t get burned.

    I love color in the hair. To me it’s like the ultimate way to express yourself.

    Much love,
    Shell

  43. Bella, I love, love, love the haircolor. Thanks for giving me the answer to what I can do to change up my boring, fast growing out twa.

  44. Bella, I love the Brown Cinnamon. I think it would bring out the brown in my skin. Almost a year ago, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer at the age of 29. I opted for a lumpectomy, then chemo, then radiation. My relaxed hair fell out in long strands and it truly hurt, but when my hair began to grow back, I have to admit that I LOVE the coils! I have been a little scared about coloring my hair, but I am READY!!!

  45. I am so ready to color my hair. I am a newbie to color and January ’06 was my 1st foray. I am hooked. My hair was extremely dry and I have done a lot of work to retore the moisture and curl. With that said, I want the ‘Soft Amber’.

  46. I really like the Dark Copper hue for two reasons. First, the dye hue is perfect for this model, and she has about the same skin tone as me: a nice deep brown. So I’d probably guessimate that the hair color would look marvelous on me too! Also, the color reminded me of this recent trip. I went to Pinnacles on a retreat and one of our activities was a 5 and a half mile hike. As you can imagine, I was exhausted! While we were taking a break, our guide told us to find something that represented us. I found this really beautiful flower that looked like a weed at first but when closely examined, it was radiant with beautiful color that reminded me of this color dye! ‘Scuse my love for English, but the plant I found reminded me of how at first everyone around me thought that my natural hair was hideous, but now when everyone sees how truly beautiful it is, they can’t stop staring at it!
    Also, I have never dyed my hair before and I think this is a great time to start!

  47. Gosh you’re beautiful. Maybe one day when i’m feeling brave i’ll try hair colour.

  48. i think that is a cute color and it works for you…wow you can be a blonde and a redhead thats pretty cool

  49. Thank you ladies so much for your compliments and kind words! =)
    I feel fierce with my red hair. But don’t forget — if you want to be considered for a Dark and Lovely hair color of your own, you need to tell me which one you want and why!

  50. LBellatrix says:

    Bella, the color looks great on you!

    Count me out of the competition…I had one bad experience with hair dye in the late 90s and since then I’ve been too scared to color. If I decide to grow this TWA out, I might try henna as a strengthening treatment, but that’s about as close as I’m going to get.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptI hadn’t used a home hair dye in a while, but I began seriously thinking about it. I started fantasizing about crazy hair colors, like old school Kelis style. I loved the touch of hot pink on Jes in Rock of Love (yes. I watched. … [...]

  2. [...] abagond wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptAlso, the curly haired model on the box really appealed to me. Her hair looks cute. I could identify with her. Plus, the color is described as “fade resistant rich conditioning color with moisture seal technology.” Hmmm, intriguing. … [...]

  3. [...] This Week in Beauty Blogs Posted October 12, 2007 by valentina Found in: This Week in Beauty Afrobella discusses the trials, tribulations and triumphs of changing your hair color in Fixin’ to Dye [...]

  4. [...] The winners of the Dark and Lovely giveaway are… [...]

  5. [...] About Dark And Lovely Hair Dye: Fixin’ to Dye L’Oreal Mousse Absolue or Absolute [...]