I never thought I'd ditch my long brown hair, which had been my look since kindergarten. My hair was my signature. It made me feel sexy. It was a part of my identity.
Then, a few months ago, I made a drastic switch, cutting my hair to my shoulders and dyeing it a golden blonde. Everyone asked why, and I rotated between responding with "to change things up," "just for fun," or because "it was on my bucket list."
But the real reason I went blonde isn't quite as glam: I was actually hoping to camouflage my sad, skinny, thinning hair.
As a kid, I had fine hair, but there was lots of it. My mom had no problem teasing it into an early '90s Kelly Kapowski pouf.
But once I hit my teens, it got wimpier and wimpier. I was crazy self-conscious about it, skipping plans and staying in because I felt like my scalp was showing. I always stressed around anyone who was taller than me (so, everyone, because I'm barely 5 feet tall) because I thought they could look down and see my pink head shining through my sparse strands.
I tried to figure out why my hair hated me and saw a bunch of derms and a trichologist (a hair specialist) about it. They all told me that it was just hereditary hair thinning and there was really nada I could do about it (luckily, it wasn't a super severe case).
I lived with good days and bad days, but that all changed when I got extensions when I was 28. Suddenly, I had a crazy-lush mane that looked awesome 24/7 with minimal effort. Toss in a few spritzes of Rita Hazan's Root Concealer along my part and any scalp visibility would disappear. I was stoked about this life-changing solution—and completely addicted.
I didn't take a single break from extensions for almost three years (which is a big no-no: pros recommend taking at least a week's break between applications). Each time I went to the salon to swap old tape-ins for fresh ones, my already skimpy hair grew skimpier. My stylist kept suggesting I take some time off to give my scalp and strands some TLC, but I was a brat and refused to go back to my sad, meager mane. But I knew something would have to give.
Finally, I popped into Cutler salon in New York and chatted with hair pros Rachel Bodt (a color expert) and Tim Wandrey (cutting and styling guru). They promised me that they could fatten up my tresses without extensions by lightening and chopping. So I signed right up, and never looked back. Just kidding. I obsessed about it for two months, made a Pinterest board called ~BlOnDe BoMbShElLs~, and asked my hubby and bestie every 15 minutes if they were sure I should do it. (They were sure.)
Once I ditched my extensions, Tim chopped off half my ponytail (I almost fainted). Next, Rachel highlighted my entire head. It took almost five hours to lift my dark brown hair to a coppery shade. Then she applied another cream all over and let it sit for around 20 minutes to lighten up a bit more. Finally we rinsed it all away and Tim got back in with scissors to snip a blunt-ish shoulder-length cut with a few layers and a side swoop to glam it up.
Looking at myself for the first time was so weird. It changed the way my makeup looked. It changed the way my clothes look. I looked different in my selfies (of which I immediately took 4 million). I was confused, but totally into it. I was a blonde!
The combo of the cut (which adds so much lift) and the color (which roughs up and expands the cuticle and hair shaft a bit), made my hair look really full. And since there's less contrast between my new hair color and my skin, any exposed scalp or wideness along my part is way harder to spot then it was against ultra-dark locks.
The best part was that I felt completely liberated. Having hair that looked healthy and full for the first time in over a decade completely changed the game. I could stop obsessively checking my scalp with a small compact mirror while out with my hubs. I was out the door way faster — not just because it took less time to style my new 'do, but because I didn't sit around feeling depressed about it for a half hour, contemplating ways to skip my plans. All the anxiety and stress and drama that revolved around my not-so-plush hair was gone. I was stoked.
I saw Rachel twice more for a few extra highlights to nix any brassiness and brighten things up, and I think it's safe to say the project was a success. Sure, I may still miss whipping my dark, waist-length mermaid hair around from time to time, but having a sassy, shorter cut has its perks too (it makes me feel like such a grown-up, plus it takes less than half the time to dry and style). Besides, I've always felt like more of a Barbie than a Teresa.
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