Before approximately two weeks ago, I was a hair bleach virgin. My fear of cancer-causing chemicals, and other risks of bleaching your hair, helped me steer clear of this practice for most of my life. Watching girls get their hair bleached on America's Next Top Model, which often resulted in tears and scalp burns, did not making bleaching seem all that appealing to me either. My way of compromising with this apprehension was getting an ombre dye, which didn't involve the bleach actually touching my roots. During that process, my eyes teared up so much from the smell of the bleach that I was convinced I would never be able to cover my whole head in the stuff.
Well, about a year later that's exactly what I did — in hot pursuit of silver and lavender hair. I became pretty obsessed with this trendy hair color once my best friend talked about getting his hair dyed that way. I fell in love with the color palette, but I realized I would in fact have to bleach my hair (roots and all!) to achieve my dream hue. Out of the need for change and the end of the school year motivation to try something new, I decided to give it a try. I chose not to go all-in, and only dye the top part of my head, where my hair is longer, and leave the shaved bits my natural brown. The results were spectacular, but unfortunately very ANTM style, complete with all the anxiety, burns, and tears:
1. The Anxiety-Riddled Self Doubting Stage
From the moment I made the appointment until the day before bleaching time, I had the most intense First Time jitters. Would the color come out right? Would I like the color on me? Would it go with my features? Would it clash with my outfits and current makeup preferences? Would I have to abandon all my favorite lipstick colors? What about that cute printed dress I just bought, would it clash with my hair??? This was brand new territory, and I wasn't sure I was emotionally prepared. Or if my wallet was ready to buy brand new clothes in entirely different color palettes to complement my new silvery lavender shade.
2. The "Nah, I'm Pumped" Stage
By the day of the appointment, I had convinced myself to put all my worries to rest. I was probably going to look great, and if on the off chance I had to throw out all my clothes and lipstick, I would cross that bridge when I got to it. But for now, anxiety was replaced with pure excitement as I thought about how rad I was going to look in my new hair. After 20 years of light brown hair, I was ready for a change! Bring it on hair bleach.
3. The "I'm Going To Have Regrets Up The Wazoo" Stage
The second my hair stylist touched my roots with the bleach, all the fears came rushing back into my mind. And flashbacks of scenes of tearful models on TV came over me as I felt the chemical burn of the bleach on my scalp. The more I thought about it, the more it burned. Was this going to burn my flesh off? Or worse, give me cancer? What if I don't want silvery lavender hair? Would my hair look really weird if I started rinsing it out now?
The smell of the bleach began to hit me, 10 times more than it did when I got my ombre. My eyes teared up, and I tried my best to keep my nose covered with the towel wrapped around me. I couldn't help but imagine the fumes from the bleach invading my nostrils, and wrapping around my nasal cavity and brain. I watched as bleach dripped down my face, onto my legs, just narrowly missing my favorite black skirt. I quickly hiked my skirt up high enough to spare it of the harmful bleach.
My hair stylist finished the bleach application, and the time spent letting the stuff sink in wasn't as unbearable as I thought. I adjusted to the pain quickly, and with my hair up out of my face, I wasn't smelling much of anything either. I started to feel pretty positive, and proud of myself that I had made it this far without freaking out. Then it was time to rinse...
4. The "Oh, The Horror" Stage
As soon as I looked in the mirror post-rinse, I wanted to cry. My hair was more of a yellow than a white blonde, which is the color it needed to be to get to that sweet silvery grey shade. My hair stylist informed me we would have to bleach again. Was I ready?
5. The "Let's Do This Thing" Stage
Was I ready? Yes I was! I did it once, I could do it again, right? My partner's play was in about an hour, so I had to go with my half-bleached hair, and my stylist would wait until I returned to begin round two. During the production, I had time to relax and get lost in the plot line and my partner's performance. So when I returned from the play, I was ready. Hopping into the chair enthusiastically, I was more motivated than I'd been all finals week as they caked the bleach through my hair for the second time.
6. The "OMFG I'M DYING" Stage
Everything was going swell until the bleach was applied to my roots. It burned, and I mean burned. Like I was pretty sure the flesh was burning off my head. It turns out bleaching more than once in 24 hours is usually a no-no, and my scalp could attest to that. It turned out I did actually sustain a couple of burns on my scalp. I cried quietly in the shower as the warm water hit the burns, and I rinsed out the bleach for the second time that day.
Luckily, the second time did the trick, and I was ready for the grey and lavender colors. The dyes burned badly on the parts of my head that were burned. I mean, more chemicals piled onto a chemical burn can't be too good. But, as I said to my stylist over and over, "Suffer for fashion," to which they replied, "Beauty is pain."
7. The "Sweet Smell Of Relief" Stage
Once it was all said and done, and every last chemical was rinsed off my head, I felt great. The color came out amazing, and I realized that all the pain I endured during the process was worth it. My scalp was a little irritated, and my hair felt super dry, but I looked so rad! And the color came out exactly as I had imagined it, making me grateful to my stylist for hanging in there with me through this ordeal.
I couldn't wait to show it off to my partner and friends, who rewarded me with their excited exclamations and compliments. I felt brand new. Like, look out world, new hair, new Meg! It still takes some getting used to in terms of styling and lipstick color, but I'm head over heels in love with my new look, and ultimately don't regret that bleaching journey. Honestly, I would probably do it again.
Images: Meg Zulch; Giphy