The Beauty Backlash: Why I Dye My Own HairCoral Fleming

Since the dawn of time, women have been dyeing their hair. Probably. We’ve definitely been doing it a really long time, anyway. Through every stage of our lives, we use our hair as an extension of our identity and to reflect who we are at that time. When I was 15, I inexplicably got my mum to dye my hair purple and I distinctly remember thinking that I was going to go to school the next day a completely new person. Needless to say, it was the same old me that sat through double maths, but since then there hasn’t been a time when I haven’t had dyed hair and I love to experiment with colour.

So, as a self-confessed hair-colouring aficionado, you might expect me to have a regular salon/stylist whom I trust with all my hair related needs. You would be wrong, I’m very sorry to say. I don’t know if I’ve just been unlucky, but every time I brave the hairdressers for a colour, I come out looking like some kind of troll doll about to star in an 80’s music video with a completely bizarre colour I’d never before considered. Most recently, I went in for red with blonde dip-dye and left sporting a kind-of-mahogany-kind-of-pink look. It was really bizarre, but I couldn’t help but wonder why it made me so sad. Why do I feel more devastated when a professional messes up? Maybe I need to stop seeing hairdressers as magicians with scissors; they cannot make me look like Blake Lively, and sometimes they can’t tell the difference between brown and red, everyone makes mistakes, it’s okay. (It’s not okay, I’m still annoyed about that one.)

But it isn’t just the process itself that makes me not like salons; I find them quite high-pressure environments in general. On the rare occasions that I can afford to go (thank you Groupon!) I never fail to leave more stressed than when I arrive. The initial trying to explain what you want is a challenge in itself, and hats off to anyone that can interpret my ‘cherry red, but not too bright, kind of ruby, y’know? Cherry-ruby please’ into a real life colour, and not one I just made up in a panic. I understand that mild small talk will pass the time, and create a friendly atmosphere, but I really don’t want to discuss my non-existent weekend plans with you, much less have to pretend I’m doing something exciting, because I’m guessing that ‘working, mainly’ is not the answer you’re after. Besides, I’ve still got 40 minutes of waiting time til you wash this off, and not much more to say. Please just let me read this fascinating copy of Hello magazine from 2005, and wonder if Brad really will leave Jen. And even though more often than not, the finished product couldn’t be further from what I wanted, I usually feel bound to exclaim something like ‘oh its lovely, perfect, thanks! I like how you went for highlights even though I said brown, how did you know!?’ and run out of the place before I start crying. Obviously, I’m too politely British to actually do anything. It’s not so much that they do a bad job, it’s just never what I asked for, or as I hysterically wailed to a friend, ‘It’s like going to a café, ordering soup, and getting a sandwich. It’s perfectly good food, but you wanted soup!’ I ordered soup, for heaven’s sake, now give me my cherry-ruby hair!

Okay, maybe I wasn't this angry.

Okay, maybe I wasn’t this angry.

Not that home dyeing has always been perfect for me; there’s been a fair few disasters here too (maybe I’m cursed?). In Freshers’ week, my shiny new flatmates decided to henna my hair and, in the spirit of trying new things and embracing Uni life, it only took three White Russians to convince me this was a good idea, which, of course, it wasn’t. I was promised a subtle hue, and was already reinventing myself as the Joan Harris of Glasgow University, or at the very least, the English department.. Unfortunately, the finished product was more Chuckie Finster than Christina Hendricks. Just call me the Walking Satsuma. For some reason, though, it didn’t seem like a disaster. I can guarantee you, if I’d deliberately gone and requested henna, I probably would have cried at the resultant carrot tresses, but because my friends had done it and we were all giggling together, it didn’t seem so bad…until they cheerily informed me that you can’t dye over henna and just have to wait for it to grow out. Awesome.

My head is so orange it's luminous...

My head is so orange it’s luminous…

Even though I’ve had bad experiences at home and at the salon, I can safely say I much prefer to just dye my own hair. Having control over the exact shade and outcome with no-one else to blame is infinitely better than that spine-chilling moment when they wash off the dye and murmur ‘oh…it’s darker than I thought it would be!’ I know it probably doesn’t last as long, and you aren’t treated to a bizarre Indian head massage that you never asked for in the first place, but you also don’t have to sit, staring in to a mirror for hours in a room with terribly unflattering lighting. I love having newly-dyed hair, it makes me feel confident, fearless and way more positive, but I won’t be venturing further than my own bathroom any time soon.

Images here by ShutterStock,

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  1. This is literally my life. After getting my hair literally destroyed this most recent visit to the salon, I’ll never do it again. It’s like you said, it never comes out how I asked and more often then not my hair is way worse than when I went in. Plus I get the most compliments when I just do it myself anyway. :)

    • Haha, so glad i’m not the only one!
      Thanks for reading:)

      Coral Fleming | 11/02/2013 08:11 am
  2. I’ve had my fair share of terrible hair dressers who don’t listen to what I said (I once told one I would cut her if she went near my fringe….she still thinned out my perfect full fringe into some mess), one gave my a neon orange skunk stripe, and removed my layers. SO MANY AWFUL DISASTERS.

    BUT in my experience the older stylist (think 50+) are some of the most talented and wonderful. It’s come to the point now that my hair dresser buys me dye from her retailer, i pay for it, and do it myself after she tells me what to do. Mainly cause I’m on the other side of the country 8 months of the year.

  3. sounds like you’ve only been to crumby hair stylists…. a good stylist should be honest with you about how likely it is to achieve exactly the look you want. They should also listen and ask questions to ensure that they know exactly what you expect from your service. As a hair stylist myself, I have no problem with people doing their own hair…… I say go for it! I just have a problem with people claiming they do it because hair stylists have failed them. You do it because you’re particular about your look and have mastered it on your own…. That’s your accomplishment, not the hair industry’s failing!

    • I’ve just tried so many stylists at this point! But I agree that none of them were exactly Vidal Sassoon, maybe when i’m rich and a lady of leisure I can find the perfect colourist:)
      Thanks for reading!

      Coral Fleming | 10/23/2013 09:10 am
  4. Try going to a training salon – they’re usually incredibly cheap by usual standards, and even though your hair will be done by a student, they are overseen by a really senior stylist. This means less of the “uh oh, I mixed brown instead of red” and more of the senior stylist putting it right before you leave if the student screws up ;)

  5. I wish I could do my own color but I have a TON of hair. It’s much longer than my photo now. At the salon it even takes two people to do it all. It’s so expensive and time-consuming though that I am starting to think my only options are chop it off so there’s less to do or just go gray . . .

    • me too! My hair is soooo thick, it takes hours to do & at least 2 boxes of dye:(
      feel your pain sister x

      Coral Fleming | 10/23/2013 09:10 am
  6. I’ve had a really similar thing happen when I was 18.. I asked for Karen Gillan Red and came out purple! she tried twice to put red on the roots to tone it down but failed. I am pale and freckly so I just looked like an emo (a phase I grew out of 2 years previously). Turned to bottle dye for about 3 years and decided it wasn’t very good for my hair so since then I pay 100 quid for a cut and colour but the place is like a spa and I only go every 6 months (my hairs pretty long now so I get away with it), we have a 20 minute consultation beforehand and the cuts are so good I dont even get split ends until 5 months in it’s like a reward to myself :) happy bunny now.. Check out The Chapel (London/Kent)

  7. I used to dye my hair by myself all the time! I’m naturally a dark dark brown but started going grey when I was 17 ( and I mean straight up SILVER grey). I boxed dyed my hair up until a year ago when I decided I wanted to go red. Tried itout of the box and my silver roots turned pink while the rest of my hair turned a slight auburn. I looooved box dye, but can’t successfully do red without the salon help. Whomp whoooomp.

    • Gray would be awesome though, you could put a pink or turquoise on it, even go lilac a la Kelly O. Embrace the gray:)
      Thanks for reading!

      Coral Fleming | 10/23/2013 09:10 am
  8. I’ve been doing my own cuts and dye for years for the very same reason! I’m just never as happy when someone else does it–it’s like they hear something completely different than what I tell them.

  9. I’m an adult professional woman, who cuts and colors my own hair. I know most people think this is a no-no, but I just think salons are too expensive and I never love it. I fully support you coloring your own hair.

  10. Groupon deals are usually for newer stylists only– if you’re looking to ever go somewhere that you liked, ask for a more advanced stylist. More often than not, they have the expertise on color mixing and the know-how on rising trends. It’s awesome to be able to do your own color like that though! Just make sure that, if you ever try to go light, you tell them that you dye your own tresses on a regular basis and what you used. They’ll have a better sense on what needs to be done. Also, FYI, at-home color is usually permanent. Very difficult to remove without completely damaging your lovely locks. As long as you’re using. Demi or temporary color, you’ll be just fine. :)

    Happy coloring!

    • ooo thanks for the heads up! That’s awesome advice. I’ve actually never tried to go light, cause I think i’m too lazy for the upkeep – maybe that will be my next adventure! Most stylists were raging when I told them I had henna in,. cause it’s so difficult to work with I guess.
      Thanks for reading! x

      Coral Fleming | 10/23/2013 09:10 am