Hair Color Disasters

Emily is 32 and lives in Boston with her funny boyfriend. She is a beauty school dropout who cannot stop cutting her own hair. She can be found obsessing about cheese and her cat at Pretty Crabby or talking about products endlessly at Tallulah Blue. She has not seen her real hair color since 1990.

Last week I was trying to decide what color I should dye my hair.

I have been brown for awhile (since I did what my friend Angela calls the Autumnal Dying of the Hair back in the fall) and it is okay but I have trouble keeping it the color I want for any length of time. I have tried using fillers and deep conditioning (like I suggested some other folks should try in my last post) but nothing seems to STICK for me for very long. The blond I have been doing for years and years always peeks through. My friend Suzanne calls this “trying to hold back the sunshine!”

All week I was thinking brown or blond, brown or blond? And I finally decided, okay I will go for something somewhere in the middle. This was my first mistake. I should know by now that no MIDDLE colors ever come out right. I think you have to go for something dark or something light. Don’t try to be wishy washy and be “somewhere in the middle”. It never works out.

I ended up choosing a color called something like “dark natural blond”. There is my second mistake. How can it be DARK and NATURAL BLOND?! I have never had blond hair which was either dark OR particularly natural. So my other tip for you is stay away from color names which don’t make any damn sense.

Dark Natural Blond on my head ended up looking something like Icky Weird Brown. It’s kind of reddish, kind of goth, way too dark. Not blond. Not natural. Ugh. One thing I did when I took the towel off my head (after I screamed that is) was to immediately wash my hair twice with dish soap. This is as unpleasant as it sounds but when your hair color comes out too dark it does help get rid of some of the extra dye right away. I think it saved me from looking too much like Evan Rachel Woods. At least I hope so.



Have you had hair color disasters? How have you made it through? You know, aside from booze and therapy.

  1. mel

    December 18, 2008 at 9:43 am

    just don’t EVER do what I did. i once dyed over highlights. which instead of brown…looked almost black. and dummy me when to sally beauty for dye stripper. F**KED up my hair royally.

    don’t do that. ever. go get it fixed professionally please!

  2. Rachel

    December 18, 2008 at 9:54 am

    I dyed my hair hot pink. NOT ON PURPOSE.

    I was going for reddish brown. My hair tends to really hold onto dye really well. Those “semi-permanent” 28 washings dyes usually last a good 3 months on me, and I wash everyday.

    I was 22, I should have known better. But my roommate and I decided to dye our hair at home. I picked a reddish brown color, same as my roommate’s choice. Her hair was already dark brown. My hair WAS dark natural blonde. Her hair looked the same after she dyed hers. My hair was dark magenta, but around my face where I had lighter blonde highlights my hair was HOT PINK. Emergency trip to the drug store for dark brown hair dye. Multiple washings. Much rending of garments and hysterical tears. Still HOT PINK.

    I ended up having to make an appointment to have my hair dyed by a “professional.” He dyed my hair BLACK to cover the pink. I still do not believe this was the only solution I had…but at least it wasn’t pink anymore?

  3. sara

    December 18, 2008 at 10:00 am

    after many years of great hair dye experiences, my hair stylist had a baby and ended up leaving the salon altogether. so, i got some recommendations and picked out a new place. my hair was medium brown at the time and i wanted to get blonde highlights, which i’d had lots of times before with no problem. i ended up being at the salon for 4 hours. she put some sort of paper on instead of foil to start out with, and after quite a while, it wasn’t lifting. then she put me under the dryer. still not lifting. finally, she decided to replace the paper with foil, and put me back under the dryer. it’s worth noting that i have super-fine hair; needless to say, large chunks of it completely fried off and the highlights looked HORRIBLE. there were actually stripes on my scalp. the thing that makes me the most angry about that was, i ended up paying full price. why? because i’m a pushover.
    about 8 or 9 months later, i finally got over the trauma of the blonde disaster and decided i was in the mood to go red. i explained that i’d like a dark, natural-looking red color, i ended up with hot pink highlights. yeah, no idea how that happened. i rocked the look for about a day and a half, then had to call back and schedule an appointment to have it dyed back dark brown. it turned out okay, but i was sad to miss out on the red. currently, i have blonde highlights which turned out waaay brassier than i would’ve liked. it’s been four weeks, so i’m going to get it re-done tomorrow. hopefully 2009 will be a better hair year for me.

  4. Emily

    December 18, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Oh no! These are all horrible but I am glad none of them are too terribly recent! We live, we learn, we find a better hair color.

  5. Kristabella

    December 18, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Freshman year of college, we all thought it would be awesome to dye our hair before we went home for Christmas. My one smart friend just went a little blonder. My stupid friend and I wanted to go DRASTIC. So I bought some supposedly auburn color, it wasn’t permanent. But I bought it for my natural color, which was a dark blonde. When I dyed it, I had bleach blonde hair because I went to Arizona State and we sat by the pool every day. So the “aurburn” color dyed my hair pink. My other friend had her hair turn purple.

    Now I drive 50 miles one way to a my stylist because she’s AWESOME with color!

  6. Anonymous New York

    December 18, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Anyone else have “Grease” stuck in their head now? Beauty school drop out… go back to high school…. But, uh, not directed at you, Emily. And my DIY peroxide hair dye experience in 7th grade was enough to leave the hair dye to the professionals.

  7. Anonymous New York

    December 18, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Oh, and the first time I went to a “professional,” I asked for “Nicole Riche” and got “Dolly Parton” — platinum blonde. Got what I paid for, essentially. Now I need a government bailout each time I want to go to the salon because it’s THAT EXPENSIVE.

  8. molly

    December 18, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    I’ve had some hair disasters. The first time I ever used permanent hair color, I was aiming for a color that was brown but with redish tints. I picked a color called vibrant red. Big mistake. I had punk rocker red hair for a few days before I had it professionally fixed.

    My other hair disaster occured when I was in college and decided to go for blonde highlights. I went to a new salon and stylist. I was there for almost 3 hours. Eventually, the stylist gave up on drying my hair because she said it was like a sponge. I left with damp hair that was totally blonde. No real evidence of highlights. Total waste of money.

  9. Beth

    December 18, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Yikes, gals. The worst dyeing experience I ever had was just a function of the red not holding well in my hair and me noting the lovely pink shampoos suds going down the drain on a regular basis.

    Then again, I’ve never attempted to color my hair at home and I never will. Therefore, I’ve always had fabulous color experiences. My colorist/stylist is a god.

  10. S

    December 26, 2008 at 10:06 am

    I had a roommate who had been to beauty school and worked as a stylist in rural SD as a “beauty operator”. (can’t make that up, people). She decided to lighten my dark brown hair to an auburn. The top half of my hair lightened to a vibrant red, whilst the bottom half stayed a dark dark brown. I looked like marilyn manson.

    We went to Sally Beauty Supply for a lifter so she could dye my hair back to brown and it made the red EVEN REDDER (did not know that was possible).

    After HOURS and multiple washings, my hair was like straw. We finally called it quits and I went to the store and bought OTC colour and went Goth Black.

    I stayed that way for years, since it was hell to let my natural colour grow out.

    Now, I’m all about NaturTint. It’s natural, covers grey, stays for about 8 weeks and they don’t test on animals. The colours are really lovely as well.

    And I don’t let roommates colour my hair. Ever.

  11. fanny

    January 1, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    I should definitely know better, but when I get this curious itch, sense of boredom, the urge to dye at home comes out. I thank God I have what seems to be pretty indestructible hair. So far. This spring my reddish highlights were growing out so I bought a box of dark brown and it turned out goth black. Terrible color on me. I washed my hair with dish soap, used a mix of lemon and baking soda, something from Sally’s that some super-stripping treatment, EVERYTHING to get it to lighten up. Finally I went to Rite-Aid, bought a box of something that removes all the dye from your hair and used that. It was an interesting look, with these different colors from the peroxide from the highlights and different dyes, somebody somewhere pays a lot of money for that punk look. After admiring that, I put another box of (much better suited) color on top. AND! My hair didn’t fall out, split, or break and was much softer than when I had started. Let’s talk about a very bad reinforcement…

  12. Alli

    April 9, 2009 at 3:24 am

    All these stories sound bad, at least for not getting what you expected. I’ve been changing my hair color since 1996 (14yrs old with mom’s permission/help) and only once have forced myself to grow out my natural color. Oh gosh that was hard but sometimes miss it. I started out with hydrogen peroxide mixed with water and conditioner and used it as a spray in to go from medium brown to completely blonde in about 2 weeks. That was awesome. My hair handled it well, didn’t fry, and looked as if I had just sun bleached it. THEN, my mistake came when I went to dye my hair black for Halloween. Now that can be kinda tricky, especially if you don’t go to the salon. The worst choice was the TEMP black dye. Instead of black, it went from golden blonde to a dark moldy green. Yeah. Luckily I got over the mortification, and just went with it for Halloween. I was dressing up as a witch anyways! Lots of washing and back to brown after the big night, and it was as if it never happened. :)
    Since then, I’ve gone true bleach blonde, semi natural red dyes, true black, red black, blue black and all inbetween. And in the past 4 yrs, I’ve had my hair Fire Engine Red, on purpose. Kept it that way for a year. I’ve added black, and in a few minutes gonna turn my blonde blue. Hopefully. I’m pretty gutsy when it comes to hair color. And I hate going to a salon for coloring cus its soo expensive and I’m confident with doing it myself.
    My personal opinion, more people should try funky hair colors, if it doesn’t completly clash with your skin tone, it really brightens up your day whereever you go. Most people really get a kick out of seeing it.

  13. Kathryn

    July 14, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    When I was younger, I’d spent a couple years highlighting and gradually turning my dirty blonde hair into a lighter, almost white, ashy blonde. I wanted to get a specific hair cut that would look good if I had brown strips of hair… So I told the colorist I wanted blonde hair with brown strips.
    First of all, she got it backwards!!!!!! Second of all, she didn’t even use brown, more like nearly black! So I got black hair with big white stripes. I looked like a skunk!
    After a year of slowly turning my hair from orange, to red, to brown, to yellow, it’s finally back to dirty blonde, and I’m having to start all over on my white-blonde mission.
    Talk about suck!

  14. Em

    September 27, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    I had very light blonde hair (color)…..I used Garnier brown…….it turned lavender.


    I had to put a box of soft black on it to get rid of the lavender/blue.

    I am a color fiend, and like to change colors a lot. This, however, was quite a new experience.

  15. Nin

    October 18, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Naturally I have a beautiful ashy brown/goldenish hair color and i cant forgive myself for dying it.So, i got bored with my straight hair and went to the salone and did my chemical curls about year ago which was the BIGGEST mistake in my life! My soft, silky hair became frizzy, dead, dull, and blonde! with oringe undertones! So, i stayed like that for about a year, then i went to the salon, with pictures of my real hair color. And told the lady i did not want ANYTHING with red or oringe tints in it. I also chose the hair color from the pallet that was NOT redish. But afteer she washed my hair, i noticed the oringe tones on my forehead..i thought it might be fine when it gets dry, well she dryed my hair, and somehow that that moment i liked it. It looked brown. But after i got home, went outside, i saw it was CHEERY RED!!!! DARK DARK CHERRY RED! HORRIBLE COLOR ON ME! I am still recovering from the trauma! and i have another apointent in 2 days, and I AM SO HOPING THEY WILL FIX THIS CHERRY ON MY HEAD! IF they will, i am NEVER going to dye my hair ever again!
    It was so helpful reading all these, to see that i am not alone in this =)I feel better. :)