“Is that your natural color? Never dye it!”
I’ve heard that statement, or some variation of it, over and over throughout my life. Even as a little girl, strangers would stop and talk to me about my hair. I was different: I was a redhead. A strawberry blonde, to be more precise. (Quite blonde as a child but it deepened to a light copper in my teens.) Redheads are many things, but ordinary is not one of them.
I’m fortunate that I was never teased for my hair, like many are. My favorite book as a child was Anne of Green Gables, and I never understood why she hated her “carrot” hair. The truth, though, was that I was a deeply insecure person. I worried constantly (still often do) that people disliked me. I feared that they would only value me if I was some version of “good enough.”
So I clung to this idea of being special and different. I built much of my identity and self-worth on this superficial thing: hair color.
By the time I got married at age 23, I noticed in photos that my hair looked like it was losing some intensity and fading. This actually happens to a lot of redheads – oftentimes sun exposure can lighten it. (And I’m a California girl, too!) Sometimes age darkens and ashes it, or it looks more blonde as white hairs appear. This is what happened to me. I started getting so many white hairs that it looked lighter and lighter, though they did look like beautifully-done highlights which was nice.
I felt an irrational panic over it. This was partly because my father and grandmother both went white very early, and I worried the same thing was happening to me. I was too young to lose my precious red hairs to white ones! (Most redheads don’t go gray! – source)
Who am I, what am I worth, if I don’t get to be a redhead anymore? I know how silly it sounds. But low self-esteem can affect little things like this. Red hair was a cornerstone of my core self. People liked it – so they must like me. I imagined myself disappearing from the eyes of the people around me. Ridiculous, right? But I felt this way nonetheless.
Truthfully, all that was happening was some very blonde streaks. Yet, it was signifcantly lighter than the copper hue of my teenage years. So, on my honeymoon, I went and had my hair dyed. I chose a darker, richer, copper red. It looked a lot like my old color that I coveted. Something happened, though, inside of me. I felt this rebellious spirit emerge – HA! To everyone who commanded me to never dye my hair – you can’t tell me what to do!
Over the next two years – maybe three – I dyed my hair a variety of colors. And I changed it constantly. I was very much like the proverbial kid in a candy store. I wanted to see what I’d look like as a platinum blonde, a brunette, etc. (Find links to each experiment down below.) It was so fun. I discovered that I loved the chemistry of hair dye – in a different life, I could have easily chosen to be a hair colorist. It’s such a neat thing.
I haven’t done anything with my hair for a while now. I’ve been growing it out and I can see now that it’s very faded. I have some old blonde dye in the length, and bleached bits on the ends that still need to get trimmed off. I’ve also been growing my pixie out. So that’s a lot of change for my hair!
I feel much more at peace when it comes to my appearance. I’ve decided that I’ll go ahead and dye my hair still. Not because of panic or rebellion or even for fun – simply because I don’t want to go white yet! I’m only 28! (Okay, maybe it’s a little bit for fun.) I’m excited to find a color formulation that resembles my natural hair years ago. (Edit: I’ve now found my favorite color combo, which is a henna and cassia mix. Find out more here!)
This series chronicles my adventures as a rebellious redhead who did the unthinkable: alter that ‘special and unique’ color – then found a sense of self-worth in the process. To my fellow Strawberries, if you want to dye your hair, this can be a great resource for you. You’re more than a hair color, whether you’ve seen it as a good or bad thing. Don’t be afraid to have fun or try something different just because everyone’s told you not to. And if you don’t want to dye your hair, but have sometimes wondered what it’d be like…live vicariously through me!