Beauty Confessionals: I box-dyed my hair for years and will never recover emotionally

The early 2000s were a dark time. Literally. My dirty blonde hair stood out amongst a sea of bleached highlights, but because I couldn’t afford to shell out my hard-earned McDonald’s money on wrapping my hair in tin foil, I did the next best thing: I enlisted my best friends to box-dye my hair blonde. And at first, it wasn’t a total disaster.

My friend – who was used to dyeing her sister’s hair – was surgeon-serious about the process and made it look easy, so I got smug. That’s why, bored one night, I called a random pal to come over and pick up where my friend left off. She wasn’t sure. This girl was used to dyeing her own hair (which, admittedly, was kind of green), but peer pressure mounted, and she eventually conceded. But: never dye under duress. As my hair dried, our chorus of “It looks great!” got louder yet more unsure-sounding, especially since we both knew that when we said “great” we secretly meant “green.”

So the next day, my original dyer came over with a friend to repair what could not be undone. This wasn’t a job for traditional box dye anymore – we needed “contrast.” And that’s why we began cutting up tin foil for Salon-Like Quality™ highlights, believing this was our only logical choice. The process began at 7 p.m. And by midnight, the last foil was folded, the Friends season seven finale had been watched, and my bottom layers had been sitting in dye for about five hours.

You don’t forget the sound of your two best friends unwrapping your hair and whispering, “It’s blue!” between over-compensatory “You look like Christina Aguilera!” It was white. My hair was white. (Also dead.) Which is why I asked them to cut it. (Next week I will write about, “How do I have friends at all?”)

“Just a trim!” I begged, as my exhausted pals tried to recover from the emotional trauma they’d just endured. I sat on the toilet, watching inches fall, and, after more hushed whispers (“You cut it diagonally! It’s not straight!”), my shoulder length hair was a bleach-blonde chin-length bob. And I was grounded for having friends over so late on a school night.

So how do you come back from that? Short version: emotionally, you don’t. But physically, condition your hair like no tomorrow. Pureology Hydrate Condition ($44, is how my stylist helped reverse the damage, and thanks to its peppermint, sage, and rosemary extracts, it also helped cool down the bleach burns (sexy!). Then, seek out something like Moroccanoil Treatment ($43, to build up your stripped strands – which will unfortunately take a while. But sleep well: it won’t always be this way. (Even if you do the exact same thing six years later.)

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