Let me start this post by saying that I am a hair idiot. I don’t know how to do anything with my hair besides wash it, point a blow dryer at it until it is no longer wet, and when I’m feeling very ambitious, put a few curls in it with a wand. After that, my hair knowledge ends. I can’t braid it, can’t finagle it into an updo, can’t give myself a blowout or figure out how to “train” my roots to not be so alarmingly greasy all the time. No matter how many YouTube videos I watch and no matter how much money I spend on hair products, it always looks the same.
I’ve never really admitted this to anyone before, but I’ve thought of the last two years as milestones for finally getting aspects of my appearance figured out. In 2017, I figured out makeup. In 2018, I figured out clothes. 2019, I decided, would be the year I finally figured out hair.
Part of perfecting makeup and clothing was taking an honest look at my relationship with them thus far. The patterns were similar for both categories – I spent a lot of money on cheap stuff, and I was always unhappy with it. I felt anxiety every single morning when I put on my face or got dressed. I was frequently late for work or events because I would have to wash my face and start again, or try outfit after outfit until I was literally crying in frustration.
When I took charge of the situation, things got better. I look forward to deciding what makeup to wear every morning. I enjoy planning my outfits. Both makeup and clothing have gone from my biggest insecurities to my favorite forms of self-expression.
But my hair. My hair was still the thing that I tried product after product for without any success. It was still the thing that left me in tears after I couldn’t figure out why it looked the way it did when I’d done everything the stupid Pinterest infographic told me to do. It was wasted money, wasted emotional energy, and I needed a change.
Platinum has been on my mind for a long time. It was one of those things I always thought looked so damn cool, but wasn’t for people like me. Like most things I really wanted, I didn’t think I deserved to have it. I settled for second-best because that’s what I thought I was entitled to. And suddenly, I had my epiphany. Like makeup and clothing before, I realized that enough was enough. I wasn’t going to hate myself anymore. I was going to pursue what I really wanted and nothing less.
The first thing I did was book a consultation. I showed my stylist (who cuts my hair into a bob approximately every 8 months) a picture of punk rock Kristen Stewart and asked if that was possible. He said yes, with seven hours and all the money I’ve ever had, we could turn me into punk rock Kristen Stewart, too.
I booked the appointment.
Two months later I was sitting in the chair, armed with snacks and ready to come out the other side looking like a different person. My goal whenever I visit the hair stylist is basically to look as different as possible from how I looked before – this time, it was really going to happen.
I arrived a few minutes early and was in the chair promptly at 11. I snapped this photo while my stylist was in the back mixing what he later told me was the strongest bleach they had. The hair you see on my head in the photo above has never been dyed, highlighted, or altered in any way. It’s called “virgin” hair, although I would prefer never to use that term again because it is creepy and weird. It hadn’t been cut since April.
Did you know that when you get your entire head bleached, you basically have to paint every single strand of hair? It took so long that my stylist had to call in another person to help him, because otherwise he wasn’t going to be able to take his next appointment. In this round, we bleached everything but my roots.
After we finished paining the bleach on, I got sent to the comfy corner to read my book and eat a snack while my stylist took another haircut and the bleach went to work removing all the pigment from my hair. We let it sit for about half an hour. It was heavy and a little uncomfortable on my ears, but otherwise fine. After my allotted half hour, I was rinsed, shampooed, and blown dry, and then we started on the roots.
Probably my favorite photo of the day, I’ve dubbed this the “Lucious Malfoy with bird shit on his head” stage. I sat with the bleach on my roots for another half hour. People told me that this would be the most painful part, and I kept waiting for it to hurt more, but it really just felt itchy, sort of like a sunburn.
After my roots were done, we rinsed, shampooed, and blew dry AGAIN. I was full Malfoy at this point. After one round of bleach, my hair was very yellow, and we determined that I’d need another full round of bleach to get the platinum hue I was after. I started to worry that it wasn’t going to look the way I imagined it.
My stylist had not eaten lunch or sat down or had a break during this entire process. While I was taking this photo, he was in the back mixing yet more bleach (about half the potency as the first round) and then he returned to the grueling process of bleaching my entire head for the second time.
The second round of bleach took a lot longer with just one person. Once it was done, my stylist finally managed to escape for five minutes to eat some lunch, and I was sent back to the comfy corner to amuse myself until it was time to rinse the bleach out. I texted selfies to my friends. I ate another snickers bar. I eavesdropped on a lot of people oversharing with their respective stylists. It wasn’t so bad, but the bleach was feeling hot an itchy on my ears again.
After another 35 minutes, we rinsed and shampooed me, and then added toner. The toner sat on my hair for about five minutes, was rinsed out, and after a brief inspection, my stylist announced that I would need a SECOND toner. That one sat for about 7 minutes. The final step was to give my hair a treatment, presumably to keep it from all falling out of my head after two rounds of bleach.
At this point I was feeling restless. I’d been in the salon for hours and hours. It felt like there was still so much to do. I was getting worried that I was going to be late to the movie I had tickets to later that evening. I was also worried that I had made a huge mistake and I was going to look awful when we finally finished. But still I sat, head positioned uncomfortably over the sink while something called The Extreme Treatment worked its protein building magic on my poor, abused strands.
Finally, after the treatment was rinsed and I was back in the chair, we started on the haircut. I have never spent less time explaining to my stylist what kind of haircut I wanted and he has never spent less time cutting it. I sat in the chair, said “just cut it to right above my shoulders” and he said “layers?” and I said “no” and then we were off. He had a balayage coming in in 45 minutes and I really, really needed to get the hell out of there.
When the cut was done and we did my third and final blow dry of the day, I couldn’t believe how amazing it looked. It was exactly like every photo that I had been obsessively pinning for the last two months. White and ethereal looking, like a lost Targaryen sibling. The chic little bob he’d given me looked so much better with blonde hair than it did with brown, and it filled me with confidence that I would still look tidy and professional at work despite having a very unnatural hair color.
I was out of the chair. I was buying purple shampoo. I was texting this selfie to everyone I knew, including my mother, who I had not previously informed about my plan to go platinum. She texted back “Really??” and then “Call me.”
It’s only been a couple of days, but I already know that this is the hair I was always meant to have. I feel happier and more confident than I have after any hair appointment. I’m proud of myself for not settling.
In six weeks, I go back for my first root touch up, and I have been informed that it only gets blonder from here.
Would you be interested in future hair posts? Let me know in the comments below!