Hair is a touchy subject. It’s something we want a lot of control over, but we ultimately have to give up that control and trust a stylist to give us what we want – I don’t know about you, but I always get a little anxious when I have to cut or color my hair. We’ve all had our fair share of bad haircuts. We go in expecting one thing and we come out looking like a hot mess. But this post isn’t about haircuts, it’s about coloring your hair. Like most people who have colored their hair, there are both positive and not so positive experiences. In this post I go through my hair journey and how I eventually took the plunge and dyed my (almost) black hair to a silvery grey.
Before I get into my hair coloring experiences, let me describe the situation that is my hair. I have very dark hair (almost pitch black) and I have A LOT of it. I also have Asian hair, so it tends to turn brassy very easily. Dying my hair is a process. I am in that salon chair for a good 4-5 hours and my hair will start turning brassy after a month or so.
My hair in its natural state
The first time I dyed my hair, I had no expectations. I didn’t even have pictures to show the stylist because I didn’t know what I wanted. All I knew was that I wanted to keep my natural roots and I wanted an ombre of sorts. I went to the Aveda Institute in San Francisco because I wasn’t about to shell out a few hundred dollars for something I knew nothing about. The Aveda Institute is a great place to try something new because it’s significantly cheaper than a salon and the students usually know what they are doing. There’s also a professional instructor there to make sure the student is giving you what you want.
Given this was my first time dying my hair, I didn’t want to go too crazy. I just wanted to see how my hair would react to bleach. I decided to go for a brown with a red undertone. After the stylist finished coloring my hair, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. Again, I had no expectations going in so I wasn’t sure what the results were going to be, but the stylist did a good job of blending the color into my natural hair. I wasn’t too thrilled about the color I had chosen, but that was on me because I gave the student no guidance as to what I wanted. I will say that the texture of my hair definitely changed. It was coarser and significantly more dry.
The color lasted pretty well. Since I had chosen a color with a red undertone, my hair didn’t get too brassy even though I washed it almost every day (I know, I’m not supposed to wash my hair every day, but some habits are harder to break than others).
After that first exposure to coloring my hair, I started to follow stylists on Instagram and saw photos of girls with beautiful balayages and ombres and it was kind of hard not to get caught up in that trend. I knew I wanted to go lighter and that it would take a lot of bleach to lift my dark hair, so I decided to go to a higher-end salon in San Francisco. I was paying a lot more this time so naturally, I had higher expectations.
I had a slew of photos saved on my phone of these girls with ashy brown hair that were beautifully blended into what I thought was dark brown hair. I didn’t want to dye my roots because I wanted something low maintenance and I didn’t want to continue going into the salon to get my roots touched-up when they grew out. I was aiming for a light ashy brown that would be blended into my naturally dark hair. Upon showing the photos to the stylist, she gave me the low-down saying that she could give me what I wanted, but I had to realize that in all the photos I was showing her, the girls had significantly lighter hair than mine and if I didn’t dye my roots, my hair wouldn’t turn out like the photos. I kind of brushed this statement off and was adamant about not dying my roots and we continued with our appointment. She showed me what color she was going to dye my hair and it was the shade of brown I wanted, so I wasn’t too worried at that point.
After the stylist finished blowing out my newly colored hair and showed me the final results, I was really disappointed. Not only was the color not the ashy brown she had shown me, it was horribly blended. The color was very one-dimensional and it was all concentrated on the bottom of my hair. It wasn’t the look I was going for. The color ended up being this caramel color with a yellow undertone and there was a huge contrast between my colored hair and my natural hair.
My hair after my coloring service
To add on to the terrible color job, the stylist managed to convince me to purchase this $30 purple conditioner. I wanted to buy a purple shampoo, but she insisted that I didn’t need a purple shampoo and it was the conditioner that I really needed. Needless to say the conditioner didn’t work and it was a complete waste of money. I reluctantly paid for my service and the conditioner and went on my way. After that appointment, I was out a couple hundred of dollars and I was left with brassy, coarse, and lifeless hair.
That was my worst coloring hair experience (it does get better) and it took me several months to even consider coloring it again.
After about 6 months, I couldn’t stand my hair anymore, so I decided to dye it again.
My hair before it was color corrected – very brassy and poorly blended
This time, a family friend who hadsimilar hair to me recommended me her stylist. Her prices were really reasonable and I liked the hair she did on Instagram so decided to give her a try – nothing could be worse than my situation at that time.
The stylist ended up being great! At this point, I wanted to go for something more natural and basically Ctrl-Z what the other stylist had done. I showed her pictures of what I wanted and what I originally trying to achieve and she knew exactly what happened at my first appointment. She was really patient and explained that to get my hair to what I originally wanted would take multiple sessions. I had to take the pictures I was showing her with a grain of salt – I didn’t know the people in the photos so I don’t know the exact process it took to get their hair to that picture. Long story short, I had to be more realistic with my expectations.
She had to do a color correction, so my entire appointment took about 4 hours. She gave me a medium-toned brown and it was so much better than what I had expected. My hair was still damaged, but it felt and looked a lot better.
My hair after the color correction
She also recommended me a BOMB purple shampoo. With continuous use of the shampoo, I was able to keep my color for about 2.5 months before it started to get brassy. I went back to her one more time to get my hair toned. We toned it to an ashier brown and I loved the way it turned out. The toning process only takes about 30-45 minutes, but after that toning session, I noticed my hair was really damaged and dry beyond repair.
My hair after the toning session. It’s hard to tell in this light, but my hair was a lot ashier than in the original color correction session
I decided to grow out my hair and cut 3-4 inches every time I cut it. After 2 years, all my colored hair was gone and I was left with my virgin hair. You would think that I would give my hair a break given that I had to wait 2 full years for my hair to be healthy again, but you would be wrong. Once I was left with only my natural hair, I was itching to dye it again.
I was watching a Korean blogger/vlogger and she was getting her hair colored by Cherin Choi and she said that Cherin was the only stylist that didn’t make her hair brassy. That sentence had me sold. I immediately started following Cherin on Instagram and I loved her work. Every client in her photos had hair that was beautifully blended and a lot of the captions mentioned low maintenance hair and how a lot of her clients only saw her once a year.
Cherin is based in LA, but she travels to San Francisco every 6 weeks. The last time she was in San Francisco, I decided to make an appointment. At the time I made the appointment, I wasn’t 100% sure of what I wanted. I’ve been wanting to dye my hair grey or lilac for a really long time, but the amount of bleach it would take to lift my hair really freaked me out. Also, those are not “natural” colors. Cherin has a ton of experience taking her clients grey so I totally trusted her to give me what I wanted if I chose to go that route.
When it came time for my appointment and she and I were discussing what I wanted, I had a “Fuck It!” moment and was basically like, “I’m turning 25 at the end of the month. If not now, then when?” I was going for it. I was even going to dye my roots because, why not?
Cherin was super friendly and she and her assistants explained the whole process to me. She took her time and was really patient. She did the initial placement of the lightener and then her assistants continued to add it to my hair so my hair would lift enough to take the grey toner that would be added to my hair later. They also used Olaplex, which is used to protect the integrity of your hair during the coloring process. The whole process took about 5 hours with the bleaching process taking about 4 hours.
When the toning process was done and all I had left was the styling, I was kind of in shock and I had a “WTF did I just do” panic moment, but once the assistants started blowing out my hair, I felt so much better because although it was a drastic change, I loved it. Although a lot of chemicals went into my hair, my hair still felt soft and healthy. The Olaplex treatment was a huge help in protecting my hair.
My hair after my appointment with Cherin
Cherin and her team were super honest about the longevity of the grey color. It doesn’t last very long, but it fades to an ashy blonde. I also started washing my hair every 2-3 days because I wanted the color to last as long as possible. It’s been a month since I got my hair done and almost all the grey has washed out, but my hair isn’t brassy. I continue to use the purple shampoo and my hair is just an ashy blonde and it’s growing out quite nicely.
Going grey was an experience – a long and expensive experience, but I don’t regret it one bit. I still love my hair and the grey/ashy blonde adds a ton of dimension and texture to my hair, so whenever I do style my hair, you can actually see the style.
What was your best and worst hair experience like? Leave a comment below!