When I was in grade school I decided I would be so much more beautiful if I had auburn hair. My normally dark brown hair didn’t, I felt, complement my freckled face as well as it could. I diligently saved up my allowance, and went to an inexpensive hair stylist with my mother to have my hair dyed a carefully selected auburn. It was a disaster. My stylist applied the dye to my roots and promptly forgot about me, and said nothing as she hastily spread the dye through the rest of my hair. I was left with flaming red Ronald McDonald hair rather than my desired subtle romantic auburn. Crying, my mother and I washed out what we could in the shower immediately afterwards.

The Surprising Lessons I Learned When I Dyed My Hair

Fast forward to now: needless to say, I have never once considered dying my hair again! That is, until my 2018 birthday when I stopped by our local Ceremony Salon to raid their lipstick sale. I was jumped by some of their stylists who recruited me to hair model for them and a few weeks later, the amazing Amber carefully hand-painted an ombré bright caramel blonde hair which I eventually had glazed back down to a rusty brown (it only took me a week to realize that I am simply not a blonde…”>.

For all of you curlies thinking about having your hair dyed, I’m going to point out the pros and cons of my experience.


Complimentary Colors

Well it turns out that auburn isn’t the color for me – it’s rusty brown! Finding a hair stylist and color expert whose intuitions I trusted helped me to find a color that really complements my style and skintone—a color that would never have occurred to me on my own! I’m so excited to keep playing with the range of browns that complement me!

In the meanwhile, this color has given me such a confidence boost over the past year. I really couldn’t have anticipated how much this could change how I look and feel.

The Surprising Lessons I Learned When I Dyed My Hair

Increased Curl Visibility

My dark brown hair was almost on the verge of black, and as a result, really hid my curl pattern from the world. A lighter hair color really puts my curl pattern on display. I think some feel that having streaks dyed into your hair is the only way to accomplish this, but I’ve found that for me, a lighter hair color is just as good and looks more natural.

Growing out Ombré

I’m so glad that we went with a painted ombré hair color. This is excruciatingly easy to grow out! I’m not planning on dying my hair again until it has grown out entirely so that I can avoid damaging my hair. But it doesn’t look strange at all.


Maintaining Color

The most exhausting part of having hair dye is needing to go in occasionally to touch up the hair color as it lifts and lightens. Coordinating all of this and scheduling it around when I would normally wash and style my hair has been a bit of a pain. I’ve gone back to the salon just once or twice in the last six months to have my hair glazed again.

The Surprising Lessons I Learned When I Dyed My Hair

Hydration and Sulfates

Lifting the color from your hair is pretty devastating! I’ve had to be extra diligent this past year about deep conditioning my hair before and during hair washing. I’ve also had to be diligent about avoiding sulfate-free shampoo to avoid lightening my hair color too rapidly, although of course the benefits of this for hair health are well known!

Overall, I’d say that I went from hair dye hating to hair dye happy. My takeaways? Go to a top rated hair salon in your area. Try to find their color specialist’s Instagram accounts and see if you like what they’ve done with other clients. Go in with reference photos for the type of color look and treatment you’d like. And make sure you come away with your consultation feeling good about your experience – your gut knows if you can trust your stylist’s instincts!

Kathryn Desplanque


Kathryn Desplanque is an art historian and postdoctoral fellow at UNC at Chapel Hill. She's mixed race, of African-Carribean and caucasian heritage, and has 3c hair. When she isn't researching and writing about the history of art, she spends her spare time on haircare and skincare, cosmetics, and comic books.

No comments yet.