Coloring Natural Hair: My Journey

Okay, so let’s address the giant pink sequined elephant in the room before we really get into this. I haven’t blogged in a very long time. I could use the classic, “Life got in the way” excuse, and that is accurate to an extent. But the more honest answer is simply that I felt I had nothing to blog about. My hair was still growing and was healthy, but at the time of my last post, early summer 2015, I wasn’t doing much in the way of experimentation with my hair and was just desperate for it to not be short anymore. I got into a haircare regimen that worked for me and my product junkie tendencies were lessening, so I didn’t have much to contribute on the product review front. I feared my content would grow too repetitive, and not be able to provide enough new or relevant information for the blog to be worth reading. So eventually, I just decided to stop writing all together.

It’s been almost a year since I made that decision, and loaaaddsss about my natural hair journey has changed since then. I’ve got way more hair, so there’s just more to do and more to take care of now than there was when you last saw me. In addition to the changes brought by new growth, I decided pretty early on that having my hair all one color was just too boring. The minute I had enough length to play with, I began my journey into bleaching and dyeing my hair, something I didn’t initially think I would do so early.

I remember researching how to color my hair and what the process would be. Every piece of new info increased my excitement, but also increased my anxiety. For every story or tip on how bleaching natural hair could make it look amazing, there was another story about how doing so had caused horrible damage, sometimes so much that the person had to do another big chop! I was, understandably, very nervous. But I knew going in that I had a few things working in my favor:

  1. My hair was still very short at this point, About 3 inches if I pulled the longer strands straight. Even if my hair somehow got horribly damaged, big chopping wouldn’t feel too bad since I wouldn’t be losing much length, anyway. Some people cut more than that off doing a routine trim!
  2. Though I didn’t have a lot of hair at the time, I was VERY careful with my hair regimen to stick to my goal of retaining length. I was shampooing with all natural shampoo, conditioning and deep conditioning, and keeping my hair well moisturized with oils and butters throughout the week. I knew I would have no problem dealing with more high maintenance bleached hair, because I already was overprotective and made sure to baby my curls so they wouldn’t split or break.
  3. In the early stages, the plan was always to bleach a few key parts of my hair and see how my hair took it. I never planned to do my whole head in one go, since I didn’t know how my hair would react. So the worst case scenario was having  one damaged section or several damaged pieces which would grow out over time. This goes back to point 1, there was low risk overall because of my lack of length and the limited amount of bleaching I wanted to do.
  4. I always, from the moment I decided I was going to work with color, planned to work with my stylist. This means I had the best possible chance of the experience being a good one. I don’t like the idea of doing my hair at home beyond washing and styling. Anything that involves trims or chemicals is left to the professionals for me. I’d rather pay extra to have everything done exactly as I like than do it at home and run the super high risk of making mistakes.

So, with all my new information swimming in my head, I sent to my stylist. I had never been blonde before, and knew that with my skin tone I probably couldn’t pull off a full head of blonde locks. So I told my stylist to give me a “Beyonce blond” that would highlight my short hair and make it look cute. She sectioned off the top front section of my tapered TWA, which was the longest part of my hair at the time, and bleached only that. She also focused on the last 3/4 of the strand, rather than bleaching down to the root, so no burning for me! The result looked like this:

Blonde hiar

 

As you can see, my stylist did a really good job, giving me a honey blonde that was not too brassy or orange looking. My hair was pretty well taken care of (pats self on back), so though it’s just been bleached in this shot, you can tell it’s not been dried out or damaged at all. My hair is in very small finger coils here, but even when my hair was still really short, I liked to get it as big as possible while still maintaining definition. So when I went on vacation a few days after getting my hair done, I washed it and restyled it, with results that were more to my taste.

Hair 2

This is probably my favorite picture of my hair when it was at this stage. My initial goal in going partially blonde was to make those looser curls I have in the front of my hair more visible — when it was all one dark mass of hair, it was hard to tell where the curl definition really was. This pic shows that my stylist totally gets me and dyed the perfect amount of hair in a color that worked for me.

As the months went on, I stayed on top of my hair routine to make sure that bleached section didn’t dry out, break, or get damaged. I was already addicted to Shea Moisture products before coloring, and as most of you know, pretty much everything they make is sulfate free and color safe, so I didn’t have to really change my products after coloring, just had to read labels for anything new I bought.

The hair continued to grow, and since the blonde was never down to the root, as it grew out it still looked super cute. Shrinkage was my friend here, because you couldn’t really see how much it had grown out, even as my hair got bigger…IMG_0596

November 2015

It was around the time this pic was taken that I began to get bored with my hair. This really shouldn’t have surprised me, because even when my hair was relaxed, I was always changing the cut, style, and to a small extent the color, from one salon visit to the next. By this point, it had been clear my experiment with bleach had not turned out nearly as bad as some naturals on the internet would have had me believing it would. My hair was not dry (at least not any more than it was before, lol), it wasn’t brittle, and it wasn’t breaking. In fact, my hair was still super soft and relatively easy to work with. I was confident that if I bleached my whole head, the results would be the same.

A new issue arose at this point. I knew I wanted something different, and I knew I wanted to double process my hair — basically, I wanted to bleach all of it to lighten it, and then add an intense semi permanent color on top. The question was, WHICH semi-permanent color? I was lucky in that my job at the time had no dress code at all, and encouraged freedom of expression, so I could literally do whatever I wanted with my hair with no consequences. This also meant that my indecisive nature was going to work against me, because I had so many ideas, and not enough confidence in any individual one to go through with it.

So I did what girls have done for years — I appealed to my friends, albeit on social media, to decide with me what might look good. I put up a few pictures of color ideas I found on Google. I made sure all the girls were WOC with natural hair, to get an idea of what the colors might look on my kinky/curly texture. I had three main ideas swimming in my head at the time — one was a deep red/burgundy, similar to the way my mother had been coloring her hair for years. Another was about the same blonde I had in my hair already, just in highlights all over. The last, which I loved but was nervous about, was a gorgeous dark purple. Not a safe color by any stretch, but certainly beautiful if done right.

I posted the pics and a brief explanation of my situation. I went in with the expectation that almost everyone would suggest the red hair, since most WOC I know can pull off some shade of red and look awesome, and since my mom had already successfully styled her hair that way for over a decade. But to my surprise, the clear winner was the purple look I had posted. Almost everyone who commented voted for it, and I had to admit upon looking at it again that it had been the color I was most curious to try, because it was so hard to picture myself with something that far out of my comfort zone.

I have said it before and I will say it again, having a stylist who you like and who knows what they’re doing with regards to your hair is CRUCIAL, particularly when you’re dealing with any sort of chemical process. Jasmine has been my stylist for years, and kept my hair super healthy even when it was relaxed. I had wanted to bleach my bangs years ago when she was still perming my hair, and we tried it briefly ONCE. No serious damage was done, but it also clearly wasn’t lifting my color and leaving it on too long or applying it at the wrong time in between touch ups would have meant serious breakage, which she explained to me at the time.

The only reason she agreed to double process my hair at this point was because it was natural and she felt I was taking very good care of it with my regimen, which would give it the best chance to withstand the potential damage of the bleach. We planned out a date, I sent pictures to her to give her an idea of what color I wanted, and she mixed several dyes at the salon until we got to a shade I liked. I wanted something leaning more on the blue side of purple rather than the red/pink side.

December 2015
December 2015

This photo is hideous, BUT it’s one of the only photos from when I first colored my hair purple that accurately shows what it looked like in the beginning. We went with a realllyyy dark shade of purple. In dim lighting, it could probably have passed as black. Even my boyfriend, who knew I was dyeing my hair purple that day, said that it looked like I’d just dyed the blonde part dark to match my natural hair color, when in reality I’d been in the salon all day bleaching the rest of my hair and then having it colored! The only way it showed up in photos at first was with flash, which is why this photo has such harsh lighting. Later, as some of the color began to wash out, it started to show as more of the true purple I had originally intended:

IMG_1045

My routine had to be tweaked a bit at this point. Maintaining blonde hair is, in some ways, easier. Or at least it was for me, because with blonde hair, you’re only lifting the natural dark colors in your hair, and not placing a pigment on top of that. I’m not much for pools or swimming, so barring the risk of chlorine damage, there isn’t much I could have done that would have drastically altered the shade of blonde I had. Once you’ve double processed however, meaning added a dye on top of the bleached hair underneath, there are other things to consider. The color can and will bleed out a bit with every wash. How quickly it fades and how good it looks while doing it depends on what you do on wash day. All my products were still sulfate free, so there wasn’t an issue there. It was a bit of an adjustment to rinse with cool water instead of hot, though! All in all, the color faded very slowly and I had plenty of time, a good two or three months, before I started to feel I had to get back to my stylist and recolor my hair.

That pretty much brings us to the present. By the time I went in to recolor my hair, spring was around the corner, and I decided the purple might be a little too dark going into the warmer months. I didn’t know what color I wanted to switch to, but Jasmine suggested a plum/burgundy since it was in the same color family. I looked up pics to get an idea of what specific shade I wanted, and set up an appointment. It took a few rounds for the color to really take to my faded brownish-purple hair, but I can now say with some confidence that the color is here to stay, and doesn’t fade as quickly as it used to.

IMG_1201

During this time, my hair has also grown leaps and bounds. It’s firmly out of both TWA territory and that awkward length stage where it’s not long or short. The back is close to hitting my shoulders while curly, and hits a little past my shoulders if I pull a curl straight. Coloring my hair has also had the added benefit of giving me a very clear line of demarkation to indicate where the new growth is coming in. Right now there’s about 2 inches of new growth at my roots. I’m trying to let it grow out as much as possible before bleaching it. I don’t want to risk the more delicate sections of my hair thinning out from bleaching too frequently. But overall, I’m super happy with my experience, and I’m glad I followed my own instincts (and my stylist’s advice) rather than just being scared off by people online who had worse experiences than I did.

As with anything else, you have to research this on your own and decide what will be best for the health of your hair. For myself, I’m tired of dealing with gray (yes, GRAY at 24 years old!) strands all over my head, so bleaching and coloring helps me not have to deal with that, as well as gives me the freedom to be creative with my curls. What more could I ask for?

This post was super long, and you are a trooper if you actually read the whole thing and made it to the end. 🙂 It seemed pointless to split it up, honestly. Over the next few weeks, my goal will be to post some product reviews — I’ve tried loads of things since we last spoke, and Shea Moisture went cray cray with the release of several new product lines, which I got a chance to try (some of it for FREE!). I can’t wait to share all my experiences, and as always, I hope it will be helpful and informative. Love and blessings!

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4 thoughts on “Coloring Natural Hair: My Journey

  1. This is awesome! Purple hair looks amazing on you Could you check out my blog? I just did a post on coloring my hair red ❤

    Like

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