Dyed hair today, gone tomorrow

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Folks I haven’t seen in a while don’t recognize me or do a kind of double take when they see me. It’s been interesting to watch and I smile as I explain why I look different.

No, I did not have surgical alterations that erased wrinkles or tucked stuff back up where it was years ago. What changed is my hair color.

More specifically, what changed is changing my hair color, something I’d done for more years than I remember. In fact, I can’t quite recall exactly when I entered the land of artificially-hued tresses.

I know my first try, when I was a teenager, involved lemon juice and sunshine. When that didn’t do much in the way of changing anything, I moved to using a drug store product. At that age, my hair was blond but I wanted it lighter. Why I wanted to change it I don’t know.

Anyway, my first over-the-counter experience involved something called “Sun-In.” The lure of spraying it on, sitting in the sun and then magically seeing “natural” looking highlights appear sounded good to me. I imagined golden threads of color shining in my hair. What I got were scattered patches of unattractive yellow-orange, not exactly the golden goddess look I was going for.

That is when I jumped head-on (no pun intended) into a life of chemically-altering my hair. Once I put the stinky, smelly goop on my head, it was like waiting to open a Christmas package. What surprise would I unwrap when I removed that towel?

Sometimes it was a good gift and my hair was a nice, semi-normal color. Other times, mostly when I tried something new, I got interesting results like green tints, which sent me back to the old product or on the search for something else to fix the mess.

Of course, even when it was nice it did not last because hair grows — mine quickly — then roots appear, and they ain’t pretty. Back in the olden days there were no products addressing the dark root issue. So, about once a month the entire head got another treatment.

Eventually the old hair, as opposed to new root hair, looked and felt like straw from the chemicals dumped on it. I lived with this until my mid 20s, when, in a moment of madness, I cut my hair and decided not to color it.

That didn’t last, and before the color was completely gone, I started frosting it, and later highlighting. All was relatively well for years until gray appeared.

Gray hair does strange things when you attempt to color it. Mine turned a shade of brassy red, making me long for that Sun-In orange I once disliked.

After trying to fix this, both at home and with professional help, I decided coloring was too much of a hassle and I quit. Several haircuts later, my hair was its natural color for the first time in 30-plus years.

I’d like to say for me the change was a caterpillar emerging from its cocoon. It was more a cautious groundhog deciding if it wanted to come out of its hole, but I adjusted and even started liking what I saw.

Nowadays the hair color aisle still tempts me, but I am no longer a Miss Clairol girl. So, I explain to those who don’t recognize me or do that double-take thing that what they see is the new color-free me.

The cautious groundhog is out of the hole and a gray-streaked butterfly is flapping her wings.