The Joys And Sorrows Of Dying My Hair Platinum Blonde

Even in the glory days, my roots were readying for their ultimately victorious takeover.

At various points in our lives, we all have to reckon with who we are and what we really want. Sometimes, this lesson comes in the form of a dream job that we wind up hating, or by way of a relationship that looks good on paper but has no spark.

For me, it was in the form of some bleach that made its acquaintance with my head.

My hair has always been on the blonde side, either by nature or nurture. When I was a kid, it was the color of sand. Around middle school, when my locks began to veer threateningly towards light brown, I started using a product called Sun-In to lighten them. For all intents and purposes, Sun-In is hydrogen peroxide and water, but what do you want? I was twelve.

By the end of high school, I had settled into a respectable pattern of home dye jobs of the Clairol variety, and once I hit my twenties, I began getting highlights professionally done. My routine served its purpose well and until about age 27, at which point, for reasons I can’t now recall, I was seized with a strong desire — I wanted to change things up. I wanted to stop playing it so safe.

I wanted to go platinum blonde.

What could have just been a quick trip to the salon instead dragged on for about four months. Instead of just doing it all at once, I sidestepped my heart’s desire by going back to my hairdresser after she did my highlights about three times in a row to complain that she hadn’t made my hair light enough. Finally, perhaps tired of listening to me, very likely in an effort to get me to never return, or maybe in an act of legitimate altruism, she hit me with a bowl of bleach to the dome.

I actually didn’t know what she had done until I went to the bathroom to peek, and staring back at me in the mirror was Draco Malfoy.

It was a shock to suddenly look like a Harry Potter character, but the change was what I was looking for. It was extreme. It felt daring, even despite the fact that, let’s be honest, platinum hair is hardly a form of follicular rebellion in Los Angeles.

Still, I loved it. I loved that when I put lipstick on, I had a look. No longer a bleating sheep in the aimless herd of sorority girl highlight-heads, I was emboldened to bust out my highest heels, my nicest sweaters and even – yes! – wash my clothes before wearing them. It was as if I had accessed my inner, most fashionable self.

After a week or so of riding the high of essentially being the next Jean Harlow, though, I came across a few problems.

For instance, if I didn’t put on lipstick, I looked kind of like a white sheet with eyeballs. On nights and weekends, when I put on my standard yoga pants and sweatshirt with grease stains, my hair turned me from your average twenty-something slob into a washed-up Vegas showgirl. And my existing wardrobe didn’t quite match my bold new ‘do. Half of it, you see, now made me look like a student in clown school.

In other words, my hair was high maintenance. But I desperately wanted to rise to the challenge. I wanted, for once, to be as committed to looking my best as the Dita von Teeses of the world. I wanted to have the cosmetic fortitude to get dressed and do my make-up and my hair every day, goddammit, and have it all be worth something.

So I tried. I went to the MAC store and worked my way through about 85 different shades of lipstick, finally emerging with my mouth swollen and puffy and my hands streaked with color but triumphant, clutching a tube called “Russian Red.” I figured out how to curl my hair into an adorable vintage-meets-late-aughts style.

And for a short while – a very short while – it worked. I was able to beat my indolent beauty routine into utter submission. It was gone, for maybe two weeks. My better coiffed self had prevailed!

But it didn’t last, and the reality of my situation hit me about three weeks after my dye job. Looking into the mirror one morning, I was greeted not by Draco, but by Courtney Love, circa the Frances Bean restraining order days.

My roots were growing in.

This was no ombre root, either. This was a stark, dirty-looking root that needed to be colored, I realized, almost immediately.

Readers, I was bested. It was once thing to get into the make-up and the heels. But to have to touch up my hair, in a salon, more than once every few months was simply more than I could give.  I was an au natural kind of girl after all.

Mournfully, I put down the red lipstick, and I admitted defeat.

At first, I just let my hair begin to grow out on its own, and went back to highlighting it. But soon, it was clear that big secret of the Harry Potter movies isn’t where the final horcrux is hidden, it’s that Draco Malfoy’s hair is damaged beyond repair, and eventually mine, too, began to feel like straw. It was over.

I went to a new hairdresser, and with a heavy heart, asked him to dye my hair back to its original color. I had reached the extreme, touched the stars, seen the view from the top of the mountain, and it was time to climb back down.

During such trying times as the one I’ve described, we learn how far we can stretch, how much we’re willing to sacrifice and to what end, and for better or for worse we come to know ourselves more intimately. I now know that I’m no Angelyne. And I don’t dye my hair anymore.

Although these days, I have been thinking about maybe just a few highlights.

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    • Amanda Chatel

      I understand this all too well.

      I was platinum in college. I kept it pixie short, and when my roots came in my roommate would “take care of it” with products she had taken from her sister-in-law who was a hairdresser. I loved the look. In NH, I was in the minority and it was so much fun. I was the bitchy girl with the platinum hair on campus… it was like heaven.

      When it started to break-off, I shaved my head and let it be natural.

      After moving to NYC I decided to do it again. I was platinum for almost 2 years which meant having my roots done every 3 weeks tops. After a break-up, I shaved it (again) to start over. I’ve been natural ever since and honestly, I think I look way younger than I did then.

      But oh, how I miss it… besides my magenta, blue and tangerine stages, it was my most fun.

    • Bjorn Nasett

      As a hairdresser for many years, hell, decades, I must protest the use of the word “dye” in this post. Dying implies imparting pigment into the hair, and lightening implies removal of pigment. Every time I see the word “dye” used to describe blonding, or lightening of any sort is just rankles me in some way because it is not proper terminology. Just saying……..

      • anm

        Well, technically you’re toning (adding color) to get platinum, no amount of bleach will give you a platinum finish, so dye is the correct terminology.

    • Emery

      This hilarious post just saved me a lot of money, frustration, and scary, white sheet face moments. THANK YOU.

    • Chew B

      This article describes exactly how I feel. I’ve been contemplating going to back to my natural color which is a medium blonde, because the roots are a lot to keep up with as is “the look.” I know exactly what you mean about having to wear lipstick in order to look like you are, in fact, a living human. But put on that lipstick, and damnnnn you look like a superstar! Since dying my hair my wardrobe has gravitated towards reds and a lot of black. All of the white’s and cream colored tops in my closet are completely out of commission. I’ve been platinum for 4 months now and whenever I need to choose between a root touch-up or all over dye back to my natural color I just can’t let the platinum go! It’s so fun when you do it right. But it’s so not fun to keep up with. I just got the hang of doing a two process touch up on myself, bleaching re-growth and an all-over toner to reduce brassiness so I’ll probably stick with it for now.

    • Chew B

      EDIT….”Since dying my hair my wardrobe”….. Since bleaching my hair***

    • jkramer62

      I spent 4.5 blissful years as a platinum blonde. it was fun and sexy and every time I looked in the mirror I loved who looked back. I finally felt like “me”. unfortunately it is
      very expensive to keep up and although I enjoyed the grow out phase and reveled in my rock & roll roots my hair dresser insisted I re-bleach at least every six weeks = big $$. Just a few days ago I went back to brown and it was a huge shock. I am beginning to come to terms with it and honestly have received many compliments on my darker do. I can’t say I’ll never go back but I do have to admit that I looked older as a platinum.