I don’t think anyone ever forgets their first time. I must have been around 15 at the time; I bought it behind my mother’s back with the misplaced hope that I would have caramel-coloured hair à la Beyoncé (I found out she wore wigs all the time more than a decade after). Suffice to say, after I was done with the bottle, my hair was the colour of Heinz Baked Beans, and trouper that I was, I kept it that way for months and months till I finally had to succumb to the roots and dye it black (I thought it looked like Shakira’s for a time). 

Always one to make a mistake several times over just to be sure, I went through various colour phases, each more interesting than the one before it (I thank the universe every day that the internet was still in its infancy at this point in my life). Around a decade ago, I just gave up and decided to work with what the Good Lord had seen fit to give me, and although I no longer look at unachievable colours wistfully, I would like  to share what I have learnt from my many times in the hairdresser’s chair.

Be clear about what you want – your hairdresser is not a mind reader, nor is she or he a magician. You need to be assertive. If you want a particular cut, go with the necessary photos. If she or he starts cutting and you don’t like how it is looking, tell them straight away.

Just because your daughter has dyed her hair blue, it doesn’t mean she’s going to be a delinquent

Don’t just sit there in quiet horror hoping for the best. I’ve done this a few times and there is nothing I regret more.

Be realistic about what can be achieved – Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is award-winning colour. You have to be prepared to be patient and spend money if you want the aforementioned Beyoncé hair.

One session is not going to be enough for most complex colours and neither is a very low budget. Like marriage, hair colouring is a commitment; if you don’t want to be tied to it, don’t say yes.

Take your hairdresser’s advice – my old hairdresser kept telling me that I wouldn’t be able to get the colours I wanted if I didn’t bleach my hair but I was obsessed that bleach would ruin my hair so I kept looking for alternatives, none of which worked. I went from hairdresser to hairdresser expecting a different outcome, which of course didn’t happen. I learnt the expensive way, that like my mother, the hairdresser is usually right.

Speaking of mothers, there’s nothing wrong with experimentation. Just because your daughter has dyed her hair blue, it doesn’t mean she’s going to be a delinquent; it just means she’s trying out a new, often temporary, look. My mother used to go mental over my colour changes, but once she realised that I wasn’t about to become a drug dealer and join the Hell’s Angels she calmed down considerably. By the time sister number two started dying her hair she would just look at us with raised eyebrows pointedly and say nothing.

Don’t take things too seriously – the more adventurous you are, the greater the chance that something will go wrong. Be prepared for that eventuality and don’t freak out. The many mistakes I have made taught me to laugh at myself (not that I needed much help in that department but you get my drift). It also taught me that there are more important things to worry about than a bad dye job. If something does go wrong, you can either wait for it to grow out or dye over it. It’s not the end of the world. Hopefully, you will leave that experience older and wiser. 


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