From Deep Chocolate to Red Velvet Cake: One Woman’s History of Hair Color

5

August 17, 2017 by Judith Liebaert

About two years ago I stopped coloring my hair. Well, technically that’s not true. I stopped, and let a stylist start. I was transitioning from full color to foils. It was all part of the effort to let my own hair color grown out to see its natural shade and how much of that dark brown had been overtaken by gray. The foils were to blend with the gray and break up the dark root line.

Age 58 - all natural

This is where it ended once I’d grown out all the color. Not as much gray as I had hoped. I know—who hopes for more gray? It’s my sister’s fault. She has the most gorgeous head of thick, wavy silver locks. It’s striking. My mother also went silver early. I take after my aunties on my dad’s side, who sport salt and pepper into their 90s. It’s not a look I like. It explains why they colored their hair into their 90s.

My mother was a hair dresser (that’s what they called them then). She didn’t color her hair and encouraged my sister and I not to either. “You just end up with a head full of straw,” she warned. The chemicals were so much harsher then.

My first foray into defying my mother’s advice on hair color (there were may other brands of defiance before that) came in a bottle of Super Sun In. It came when I was about 14, while we were on vacation in Florida. It came over the course of one day sitting at the pool, spraying the sharp smelling magic liquid into my hair, re-saturating it every time it dried. My mother was off doing something I can’t remember now—suffice to say she wasn’t there. Strangers who were poolside must have watched my hair going from dark chocolate brown (my natural color) to full on Bozo-the-Clown orange.

After her initial, silent shock evident by the horror stricken expression on her face, my mother smiled and said, “It’s hair. It will grow out.” Okay, it wasn’t quite Bozo orange, more like a very bright-copper penny shade (sorry no photos of that phase) and I actually had fun with it. When I dyed it back to my true color, I knew nothing about ash or golden base tones. My brown hair had a bit of a green tint to it for a while, which is what happens sometimes when you make an ash of yourself with home hair color.

At 34

I pretty much left my hair alone after that until middle age. This is me with my true-born color. I’m 34 here. I have given birth to three children here. I gained over 60 pounds with the first pregnancy. I was 31 when I had the last. Yeah—I’m bragging. Shut up, you would too. I’m just glad I have the photo to prove this rocking body was mine. But you should look at the hair. That was mine too—my true color.

So when I started coloring my hair it was all about the new fun colors in the 80s. I picked shades like Black Cherry, Uptown Tangerine and Bordeaux. Blame the artist in me. I mean seriously, the reason I’m envious of my sister’s hair is because it’s a blank slate. If I had that I’d be sporting a pastel hombre rainbow cascading in waves down my back.As strawberry Blonde age 33

Anyway, I usually go for the reds. This is me as a strawberry blonde (on the right). I was maybe 27 here. It was a good color. It was a good year. This was my first time in a community theater production. Who knew I was born to be on the stage?

 

As Redhead age 48

 

And about ten years later channeling Patsy Cline for another performance, with a more believable shade of red than the one that came from that bottle of Super Sun In.

Okay, history lesson over. Today I decided that the gray was making me look to flipping old—older than I am. I am not a senior citizen, I am post Middle Aged Goddess. I am not going gently into that good night of growing old gracefully. I am growing old powerfully. I’m owning how I put myself out there and gray panther isn’t it.Hope in a Box

I perused the new offerings that found their way onto the shelves of dozens of choices at the Super Walmart Center. After comparing shades and names of red that would make the heads of Crayola’s R&D spin, I chose Red Velvet Brown. Does it get any more delicious than that? Number 4.3. I’m calling it hope in a box. As in, I hope my gray doesn’t go hot like it did the last time I tried this at home and ended up with magenta pink hair. Or, do I?

Carrot Cake?I mixed up the potion. It looked a bit more like carrot cake than red velvet, but I’m a seasoned at home colorist. I know it get’s darker. Right?

I accidentally started adding the after condition to the developer but caught myself after the first few dollops plopped in. I put on my glasses, found the tube of color and squeezed it into the botttle. It would be okay. I was sure it would. Just a little extra conditioning in the mix. Oh, what the hell—life is short, live fast and hot. I’ve had orange hair before.

I don’t take the time for any of those tests they recommend, like putting the product on your skin at the inner wrist and waiting to see if you’re allergic, or doing a strand test to see what color my hair will be when the towel comes off. They don’t do that shit at the salon.That's Orange!

I just slathered it on baby—and yup, it was looking mighty citrusy on my noggin. Also in that little drip on my color shit. I have worn this T-shirt for every at home color job I’ve ever done. It bears the history of all my Clarets, Cocoas, Brandies, Brandy Wines, Burgundies and Golden Raisins. This makes me think I should have a similar shirt that I wear every time I drink wine. No. Wouldn’t work. I’d have to live in it.

History of colorHere’s a close up—just because. Over time and through numerous launderings, all my lovely wines turned brown. I don’t care. I still love my color shirt. I’d think about leaving instructions for it to be buried with me, but I’ve donated my body to a university hospital, so . . .

No, really I have. There’s a card in my wallet telling whoever happens to be around when my body dies to call the folks at the University of Minnesota Bequest Program so they can pick me up. I mean with the two marriages, kids and grandkids, I just want to avoid all of that fighting over who is going to give me a proper send off and where my body will find final rest. Yeah, right—that’s funny. The only fighting would be over who has to foot the bill.

So, final results. Did I get Red Velvet or Carrot cake? Well, I apologize that you can’t really tell from the lighting in this photo, but Red Velvet it is. I like my cake ala mode. Think I might need a new, LBD to top off this look. What say you?

Red Velvet

Yes, I did my eyebrows to match. I know, I know. You’re not supposed to use the product near your eyes. It’s not like I put it on my lashes. I have thought about it. Relax, I haven’t done it. And I think I should probably say – I do not recommend using hair color products on your eyebrows or lashes. Don’t do it. If you do—don’t blame me for any mishaps.

And I should have done full makeup before taking that last photo. But it’s late, and I’m tired and I have to go shopping for a new dress tomorrow. So this is what you get.

 

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5 thoughts on “From Deep Chocolate to Red Velvet Cake: One Woman’s History of Hair Color

  1. Bernadette Hohl says:

    Mad as a hatter or elegant as a Goddess approaching winter. You are a bright spot on my horizon no matter the hue of your hair.

  2. Pazzaluna says:

    Funny and appropriately timed. I had my hair cut and partial foiled today. I keep vacillating between full color and trying to disguise the grey and get closer to my natural color. Alas, while it seemed hopeful in the salon lighting it looks more orange/gold at home. My attempts at home color have met limited success and great discomfort. My husband all but begs me to spare us and just go pay somebody to get closer to “right”.

    • Now that I’ve stepped back into the wonderful world of color, and thinking of the upkeep, the blush is off the rose – or red velvet so to speak. Cut color and a pedi for good measure at $150 total might just give the ol’ boy a heart attack.

  3. Mary says:

    This is so funny! And I just had my hair colored Thursday. At 53, I too did not get my mother and 2 sister’s beautiful silver hair that let them age gently. I have patches everywhere. Loved your story!

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