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October 5, 2011

I Was a Hair Color Virgin

gwen flamberg

Flamberg's new look.

Photo Credit: Ashley Macknica

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The morning of my process, I'm filled with anxiety. What if this is like the great spray-tan debacle of last summer, when I spent the better part of a perfect- weather weekend scrubbing off jigsaw-like patches of bronze? What if I like the bleached ends too much and become one of those blondorexic redheads, like Marilyn Monroe, losing my fire altogether? I suppose I'll never know unless I just give it a shot.

Inside the Serge Normant at John Frieda Salon in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, I sit patiently amid his revolving A-list clients — Ellen Barkin, Famke Janssen, Miranda Kerr (all happily dyeing, it appears) — while Josh applies bleach to my ends, eventually cycling through three rounds of foil and glaze, wash and blowdry. Three hours (an eternity for a beauty control freak) and a roll and a half of Saran Wrap later, my hair is magically lighter, brighter, redder — just as Josh had said it would be. I love it instantly.

A close friend agrees: "This is the bombshell hair you rocked eight years ago." While the physical change is fairly subtle, it represents a huge shift. Instead of throwing my hair into a ponytail, I actually look forward to the hour-long chore of shampooing and styling it. (As Josh promised, the texture is still soft and silky.) I find myself open to new things, to adventure: I buy a bike, I paddleboard in the ocean. The beloved Manhattan apartment I've rented for 10 years has been sold to a new owner. Instead of mourning the loss, I find a sexy new loft in a youthful, artsy Brooklyn neighborhood.

I've surprised myself. There hasn't been one agonizing, stomach-dropping moment of "what did I do?" I marvel at the beautiful gradation of my strands from terra-cotta to crimson and obsess over the cool dimension that my same-old haircut has suddenly gained. Do I look younger? Not especially. But I feel that exquisite excitement that comes only from doing something you were once afraid of. And that's when it hits me: My return to red isn't at all about turning back the clock on the outside. It's helped me reclaim the best part of youth, that delicious feeling of infinite possibility.

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