For years I dyed my hair bright colors. Here's what caused me to embrace my natural hair color again.

hair dye janaki

  • I started dyeing my hair in the first place because I wasn’t happy with how it had naturally changed as I became a teenager.
  • Drugstore boxed permanent dyes eventually gave way to a heavy bleaching and semi-permanent bright, unnatural colors habit.
  • My hair looked great, but any cloth that touched my head — not to mention my bathroom fixtures — all paid the price.
  • Eventually, I got tired of the mess and the effort and discovered my natural hair is pretty great as long as I take good care of it.

Anyone who dyes their hair regularly usually has a catalyst. From basic color curiosity to abject and unreasoning hatred of what your hair currently looks like, something significant makes you take that first step.

For me, it was becoming a teenager — which wreaked havoc on the hair that I had previously found completely acceptable.

Almost overnight, it went from a beautiful, dark gloss to this mousey, drab color that was possibly the most boring thing I’d ever seen.

I had beautiful hair as a kid — and frustration with it changing as I grew up is why I started dyeing it in the first place

When you’re a kid, you don’t ultimately have a lot of say over your hair or your clothes. Sure, you might be able to choose what to wear from whatever range of clothing you have — but someone else is still buying them for you. Someone else is also growing out — or cutting — your hair, most of the time.

But as you get older and start to claim your personal style, the experience of having everything you thought you knew about your physical self-change when you become a teenager is the worst.

In my case, both my skin and my hair let me down, so naturally, I had to take action.

First came a parade of drugstore boxes — with mixed results

My memory is hazy on the exact shade and brand of my first box of dye because I didn’t love it, and I quickly moved on to something else.

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I do know that I made it through quite a few reds, dark browns, and blue-black experiments before falling hard for a specific brand of boxed dye — in part because it smelled nice, and also because the tube of conditioner that came with it made my hair feel and smell amazing. The color payoff was great and long-lasting, too — and I stuck with colors in that family for a while.

I soon shifted into bleaching and applying bright semi-permanent dyes because I loved having super-bright hair

When I was using permanent drugstore dyes, I never ventured lighter than various shades of red. I’d never wanted to be blonde and soon after I decided to go bright, my first experiences with bleaching my hair confirmed to me that blonde wasn’t a great color for me, anyway.

Bleaching your hair yourself is slightly terrifying — because you’re constantly conscious that it could go terribly wrong. That’s also why it was fun — that, and knowing that I would shortly have the kind of unnaturally bright hair that made me smile every time I saw it.

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I mostly stuck to bright reds, pinks, purples, and blues — though I think I did at least one aqua-green at some point. Once I got my dyeing process down, I was quite happy with my hair.

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But semi-permanent dyes have some serious drawbacks, too

I loved having brightly colored hair — but every time you wash it, some of that dye swirls down the drain. If you’re super happy with your hair color, watching it wash away is incredibly disheartening.

Not only that, but I was also dyeing everything around me if I wasn’t careful. I had to be extremely cautious about what clothes I wore and I even resorted to wrapping an old t-shirt around my pillowcase so that I didn’t inadvertently dye my pillow when I slept.

I also left bright hair dye spots on the bathroom sink and bathtub and occasionally dripped big splotches on the tile floor when I would walk the few steps between the two bathroom fixtures.

That’s all on top of the ever-increasing knowledge that constantly touching up the bleach wasn’t the healthiest hair choice I could make. I grew up hearing that bleaching your hair would damage it permanently — and part of me believed it, but part of me also just wanted those colors and would do what I had to do to get them on my head.

Eventually, I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle — and after several years, I stopped dyeing my hair completely

I hadn’t seen my natural color in years, and I wondered what it would even look like anymore. Would I hate what it had become as much as I did when I was 13? After all, I had been dyeing it some kind of alternate color for well over a decade by the time I stopped.

Plus, considering the years spent bleaching my hair, I wondered if it would be so damaged that I’d have no choice but to keep dyeing it if I wanted it to look OK.

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It turns out that my natural hair isn’t so bad after all — as long as I take care of it properly. I’ve now grown it out for a few years — to the middle of my back. I wear it up most of the time, but it’s nice to be able to do braids and other long hairstyles when I want.

When I was bleaching it, I kept it bobbed because it was much easier to deal with touching up shorter hair than longer hair. I also didn’t want to deal with the inevitable breakage that would have happened — not to mention juggling multiple jars of semi-permanent dye, and the even greater amount of time that my process would have taken with longer hair.

I do miss the bright colors a lot, but I definitely don’t miss the mess or the time I spent to keep up that level of brightness. If you choose to have long hair, it is a lot easier without adding the extra stress of hair dye into the mix. Today my hair is a lot easier to upkeep and, despite what teenage me thought, my natural hair color is pretty great.

Experimenting with brightly dyed hair can be fun but for me, there’s nothing like my healthy, natural hair. 

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