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Life Might Be Different With A Different Color Hair

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There's beauty science, like the kind chemists and formulators do. And then there's the science of beauty. Wherein you try something new with your look, and observe how those around you react to it. In Zinnia Kumar's recent #ITGTopShelfie she talks about her work as a human attraction scientist, which got me thinking about my own my own experiments with hair color. There's not a color (natural or unnatural) I won't try, and with every change I've felt and been received totally differently. For example, I got way more male attention when I was platinum blonde. When my hair was pink, it was easier to make friends with strangers. And though I feel the most "me" when my hair is its natural dark brown, right now I have red streaks in it, which makes me feel like me in bold font. Each color taught me something fascinating, and I wondered if any other dye-curious people felt the same way.

My sample size was small, because there aren't too many folks whose strands have tasted the rainbow. But the four people I spoke to (two writers, a model, and a florist) had lots of perspective to add to my research. Namely: yes, life is different with different hair colors! I'll let you read it in their own words.

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Georgia May Jagger

Model and Co-owner, Bleach London

When did you first start coloring your hair?
I was 14. At the time, I was attending school and we weren’t allowed to have unnatural hair colors. I wanted to experiment by adding magenta to my hair, but because of my school’s rules, I ended up only coloring the back. I would braid it to hide it!

Do you think you’ll ever stop?
I can’t imagine ever stopping. All throughout lockdown, we did virtual hair parties with the Bleach team and I loved trying a 50/50 split look with Washed Up Mermaid and Violet Skies. I’m excited for more people to embrace and have fun with new looks after this past year we’ve had.

What is your hair color right now?
I’m pretty relaxed and enjoy just having highlights and letting them grow out. I’m doing that until I can get the first appointment at Bleach LA with my friend and business partner Alex Brownsell! I’m thinking my next hair color will be something red.

Which hair color have you liked the most? And the least?
Alex did Bleach’s Big Pink on me for the British Fashion Awards. I was wearing a hot pink suit and it was just the right amount of too much. Funny enough, it was the same shade that I had experimented with in school and it was so fun to fully embrace it. But the hair color that felt the most "me" by far was the rainbow look I did. I’m a maximalist and love all the colors.

One time I went to a different salon because I had to get my hair colored for a shoot. I went in asking for blonde and came out with dishwater green hair. Not the best look!

What’s the shortest amount of time you’ve ever had your hair be a certain color? What’s the longest?
All of the Bleach coloring items are semi-permanent. So the shortest amount of time was probably when I used the Rose Shampoo and Conditioner, which gives you a light pink tone that washes away after a few days. The shampoos are great to experiment with for a quick and easy change. The longest was about a month during lockdown when I experimented with blue and purple.

Did your style change when you had different hair colors?
I’ve found that you either fully embrace your style with the hair color you’re wearing or tone your style down. Personally, I enjoy dressing monochromatic with whatever hair color I’m wearing at the moment.

Did people treat you differently when your hair was different colors?
What often happens is people start asking me questions about my new hair color, and I've already forgotten that I just dyed it purple! Since I experiment so much with my hair (my friends call me a chameleon), I tend to forget what color it is after I leave the salon.

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Ryan Norville

Florist and Founder, Oat Cinnamon

When did you first start coloring your hair?
In college. I initially did it because I was letting my hair grow out after a pixie cut—color was a way for me to play around with my look while my hair was in its awkward stages.

What is your hair color right now?
I recently had a son, and since we have the same hair texture I thought it would be cool to have photographs where we look like twins. So right now my hair is jet black. I think my super short black haircut gives off a "get the job done, no-nonsense" kind of vibe, which I do think is pretty accurate about me. I am trying to figure out what I can do next with it… I'll be back to experimenting soon!

__ Which hair color have you liked the most? And the least?__
Definitely mint. It was unique and just so me—I felt mermaid-y on some days and fairy-like on others. Imagination is really important to my job and being able to play with that imagination through my hair is really fulfilling. My second runner up would be lavender. It was the color of my hair when I was pregnant and gave birth to my son, and I think I associate a lot of sentimental value to it.

Once I had asked a hairstylist for a super platinum blonde, near-white color. She had colored my hair before so I was fairly confident in her abilities, and she seemed confident that she could achieve the color as well! When she was done, my hair looked more mac-n-cheese than platinum…

What’s the shortest amount of time you’ve ever had your hair be a certain color? What’s the longest?
Well, I left the mac-n-cheese hair in for about a week—I wanted to give my scalp a chance to rest after being processed with bleach. The first time I dyed my hair gray was five or six years ago, and I think that was the longest my hair has been one color. I kept it for over a year.

Did your style change when you had different hair colors?
I first got into the technicolor shades by way of pastel pink, and that made me want to try bolder clothes. But when I colored my hair mint, I felt like my hair didn't go with anything in my wardrobe. I had a lot of warm colors, brown neutral tones, and prints that for whatever reason didn't feel right when paired with mint hair. And if I wore something colorful, it felt like overkill. After some time I realized I loved the way wearing white looked with it, and just made that my uniform.

Did people treat you differently when your hair was different colors?
When you have brightly colored hair, people tend to assume you are very young—some people I did business with assumed I was an assistant when I showed up to meetings with tattoos and my colored hair. Other people thought that just because I tried a lot of hair colors and styles, I wanted their unsolicited opinions about which they like best. If I needed validation about my hair, I would have asked them before I got my hair colored! It just goes to show that minding your business is never a bad idea.

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Sable Yong

Freelance Writer and Host, Smell Ya Later

When did you first start coloring your hair?
In 2015, I went platinum blonde for an xoVain story about…going blonde. I saw Soo Joo Park with platinum blonde and that was all the evidence I needed to take the plunge. Been coloring ever since!

Do you think you’ll ever stop?
Things have toned down these days—it’s a lot of work maintaining a double process! After years of breakage, I let my hair grow out to its healthy virgin self… and then colored parts of it because I couldn’t bear going back to “normal.” I might take a break, but I don’t think I’ll ever fully stop fucking with my hair in some way.

What is your hair color right now?
My hair is natural on top and the undermost layer is bleached, for a kind of peek-a-boo effect. Originally, I thought of it as a reverse Debbie Harry or a bit of, like, a punk Narcissa Malfoy. It’s quite different in a subtle way, which is what I liked about the style initially. It’s also a bit quirky but doesn’t come with preconceptions. And I love that it’s versatile—when I put my hair up you see much more of the blonde. Surprise!

Which hair color have you liked the most? And the least?
Probably when my whole head was a bright cerulean blue. I don’t know what it is about blue hair but it was the most fun and most attention-grabbing hair color I ever had. I also always wanted to do the front-paneled bleach highlights like Rogue in X-Men since I was a teenager (mostly inspired by rock musicians of the 90s like Jill Cunniff from Luscious Jackson and James Iha in The Smashing Pumpkins), which I did in 2019. That’s really taken off since!

At some point, while growing out my double-process, I colored the bleached ends a reddish color. I forget what I was originally going for but what I got was…not it. A hairstylist called it “rusted copper” in a joking way? But it was over for me then.

What’s the shortest amount of time you’ve ever had your hair be a certain color? What’s the longest?
Shortest was probably pink. Pink fades quickly. I only had it for maybe two months? I realized… I’m not a pink hair kind of girl. It was cute! It just didn’t feel very me. Green was also quite brief. The longest was definitely platinum blonde. I went years as a blonde until I mucked it up by coloring it blue, and then the colors never stopped.

Did your style change when you had different hair colors?
I realized that when you have pink, blue, or green hair, if you wear any of those colors while having that hair… you look like a cartoon. More than you already do. When I had blue hair, I think I pared down my makeup a lot and shied away from red lipsticks to avoid an overall patriotic color scheme on my face.

Did people treat you differently when your hair was different colors?
When I had blonde hair, I made so many more girlfriends. Maybe it was part curiosity or maybe blonde hair made me appear…edgier or more interesting or something? Same with my current half-blonde streaks and layers. Blue hair was by far my horniest hair color. Men apparently LOVE blue hair on women. I know because they would not shut up about it. Strangers on the street, dudes in my DMs, dudes in my dating apps. Maybe I should go back to blue...

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Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

Author, The Undocumented Americans

When did you first start coloring your hair?
I’m 31 now, but I started dyeing my hair my freshman year of college. My parents are South American immigrants and evangelical, and though the goal at the time was J. Lo's highlights from the Jenny from the Block music video, I told my dad I had been inspired by Rachel Ray.

Do you think you’ll ever stop?
I have a ton of thick hair that never falls out. I understand that bleach is damaging but I like the texture it gives—my hair naturally is so straight that I look like a very good girl, and I am not a good girl. If anybody concern-trolls me about this, I'll bleach my eyelashes with 40 volume.

What is your hair color right now?
When you see me with dark brown hair, like I have right now, that's me trying to stop and embrace nature. I want to look like the kind of girl who makes her own nut milks and marmalade. To me, that girl just lets her hair be and piles it on top of her head.

Which hair color have you liked the most? And the least?
My favorite hair color was pink done by myself, on top of a blonde I had done professionally. I think pink looks the most natural on me. It fades beautifully and looks different every single day, so I always see somebody new but familiar when I look in the mirror.

I haven't hated any of them. You can serve a look with any color if you have charisma.

What’s the shortest amount of time you’ve ever had your hair be a certain color?
I was about to pitch a show in LA, and I had pink hair at the time. For a brief moment I thought, what if I want to look like what they think a Latina looks like? I dyed my hair with dark brown box dye, but because of the color wheel my hair turned green. I went to see my friend and said, “My hair is green” and he said “It's not green,” but everyone at the studio agreed it was. That night, I dyed it black.

Did your style change when you had different hair colors?
The makeup I wear to communicate my nut milk vibe is two dabs of the Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter to color correct, some Saie highlighter, and the Westman Atelier Lip Suede blotted on my lips. No mascara. I think I have greater liberty with color when my hair is blonde or dark. I am more likely to wear my hair longer when it is a natural color—when it's something like purple or green, I wear my hair in a bob.

Did people treat you differently when your hair was different colors?
Art on your body seems like it's meant to be remarked upon, so people feel entitled to. I grew up wearing gold nameplate rings and bracelets, and my dad and I fought a lot about which way they should face. He used to tell me to wear the letters facing outside, but why should others be able to read them and not me? The tattoos I have that contain text also face me, because I don’t give a shit if people on the L train can read them. Both of those things mean a lot to me, in terms of claiming ownership of my body and living for myself. So if I’ve learned anything it's that sometimes you are freaky for yourself and not to be someone else's freak show.