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?