I have this rule: if I’m considering a big change to my look, I wait six months and then check back in with myself. Do I still want that change? If the answer is yes, I go for it—that’s how I ended up with bubblegum pink hair. My hair has become my identifier (people I haven’t seen in years spot me from a mile away), and even though maintaining it takes a lot of time and money, I’ve never felt more free. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
Your colorist is your new best friend
Bleaching hair, especially hair as dark as mine, is an intense process that will inevitably damage it. You should go to a colorist. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be honest about your budget. A bleach job gets more expensive when the stylist has more experience, so if you’re nervous about breakage it makes sense to splurge. You’re going to spend a lot of time with the person you choose (my first appointment took eight hours, and each touch up takes around four), so it’s important you and your colorist click. In case you’re wondering, I see Erika Caggiano at Spoke & Weal in SoHo.
Though the process is long, your hair probably can’t be
Bleaching your hair tends to dry it out and also straighten out curls. I have to get trims once a month to make sure my hair looks fresh. And I’ve also found my hair looks healthiest when it’s cut above my shoulders, which is fine because I’ve always been a fan of short hair anyway. I’m 4’11”, and when I cut my hair my coworkers said I looked like a little baby punk. I kind of love that.
You might not get your favorite shade on the first go
It can take a while to finally settle on a color you’re really happy with, so trust is the name of the game. There’s a learning curve to get used to the bleach job and care, and adjusting to that has also taught me to be more easygoing with my look. Now I trust my colorist to choose a shade that she thinks suits me: I’ve been every variation of pink, from coral, to purpley-magenta, to my current bubblegum. Since it’s the bleach that causes hair damage, not the color glosses, letting my colorist try different shades is low-risk and exciting. Every touch up is a little different!
And since bright colors are uncommon, home care is limited
Overtone, a line of color-tinted shampoo, conditioners, and masks, is my preferred method of keeping my color fresh between touch ups. But it’s always sold out in the shade I want. I usually use Vibrant Pink, but once I bought the Extreme version instead because it was the only one in stock. I tried it for the first time the night before an important meeting, and it turned out looking wild—way too bright in a way I hated. I panicked and slicked my hair back with a large headband, which made me look like a floating head on Zoom. The lesson here is: letting your color fade while you wait to buy your preferred shade is better than getting impatient and buying whatever’s in stock or taking a chance with another brand. (Or maybe it’s buying extras when you can.)
The whole thing’s expensive
Each touch up ranges from $250 to $300 every four to six weeks, and added up, all the products in my daily routine net out to $333. Rebuilding and hydrating hair products are important to keep my hair looking and feeling healthy, so I can’t really skimp. I wash it about once a week (any more frequently and my hair starts to frizz) using Olaplex shampoo and conditioner. Pureology’s Color Fanatic Leave-In Spray makes my hair look so much healthier that people notice when I use it, and I switch between Verb and Olaplex hair oils on my ends. Gel is a necessity on fried hair, and I like using Ouai’s Finishing Crème to slick the top and their Matte Pomade to keep my ends in place. And hair masks are a must—my staples are this one from Overtone and Olaplex No. 3, and I rotate in Santa Maria Novella’s Honey Hair Mask and Aesop’s rose one. It makes sense to stock up when you see a sale. I also try to save money on tools like combs (this one from Giorgio is just $10) and boar bristle brushes to stimulate my scalp (the Mason Pearson child sized brush is cheaper than the adult version and works the same).
And even with all that, you’ll have bad hair days
But it’s worth it to me. On its worst mornings, I still love the way my hair acts as an accent to my outfit or makeup look.
Plus, people will always have something to say about it
Whether positive, negative, or neutral. Last time I saw my doctor he said, “Oh no, there's a new condition doctors just discovered, and I think you might have it! The first symptom is that your hair turns pink!” Boys, thinking they’re being creative, ask “Is that your natural hair color?” I’m a graphic designer by day, and though piercings, tattoos, and dye jobs come with creative industry territory, I do feel people staring. Sometimes I wonder if the judgments they might make are worth it, but then I course-correct. Everyone's going to have an opinion, but when it comes to my hair, mine is the only one that matters.
Photos via the author