beauty

'My $1200 hair mistake.'

“I give you eight months. Eight months, and you’ll be back here asking for your blonde back.”

I should have listened to my colourist’s prophetic words.

But I’d been living in Europe for months, and the glossy brunettes gracing every piazza table, billboard and boardroom had swayed me. My blonde Australian look had started to feel cheap (although really, blonde is a very expensive colour). Still, it seemed unsophisticated. Even homely. I wanted to resemble a Lavazza ad, and I wanted it now.

The actual dyeing process didn’t take long; I read a magazine and by the last page I’d become a brunette. As the styling assistant blasted my hair dry, I caught my reflection in the mirror and had a subtle sinking sense that maybe that chocolate-coloured semi-perm wasn’t as sophisticated as I’d hoped. My dark eyebrows looked a bit lost with my dark hair; they had nothing to contrast with, so they no longer framed my face.

Grace's dark hair.

I thought going brunette would save time and money, good bye  lavender shampoo and bi-monthly split-end removals! But it was immediately clear that a different type of upkeep was necessary.

I'd never noticed it before, but clothes look different when you change your hair colour. The neutral and black tones that dominated my wardrobe went from chic to sombre and frumpy against my dark-haired look.

I sensed that I’d need more pops of colour - a red pencil skirt here, an emerald silk shirt there – to maintain any visual appeal whatsoever.

Not to mention a tan. Dark hair and dark eyes against pale of skin is quite a different look from the sultry Penelope Cruz vibe I'd been aiming for. Funny how I'd never noticed my light skin before.

It turns out if you're aiming to look Mediterranean, not being Scandinavian helps.

My hair did adopt a lovely shine after going brunette – blonde can never look glossy in quite the same way– but the  need to slather myself in St Tropez mousse every two nights to keep from turning into Morticia's mousy sister wore thin, fast.

When I returned home from Europe, magazine photos of Asher Keddie and Delta Goodrem took on a new appeal. There was nothing homely or cheap-looking about their hair: they looked young, vibrant, soft, and so damn pretty.

And so – almost exactly eight months after my hair transformation – I was back in a salon, demanding my old blonde look back. But I soon learned, going back to blonde - like coming home - is never as easy as it seems.

How Grace looked before her follicular ordeal

Stage One of my “journey back to blonde” – my Melbourne hairdresser emphasised that it was a journey – involved seven hours in the chair.

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For three of them a colourist painted chunky white stripes into my long, thick hair. Afterwards, distressingly, I appeared to belong in Taronga Zoo or stretched out across a road, helping children to cross safely. As soon as I was dried off, my colourist and I met eyes in the mirror and unanimously decided I needed “a few more lowlights to break things up.”

I did try to argue that, rather than breaking anything up I’d like to just BE BLONDE AGAIN PLEASE, but apparently that’s not how it works. Something about my hair falling out from all that peroxide, patience being a virtue, dull, dull dull.

The lowlights completely eradicated the white stripes in my hair, which was excellent. Except that I essentially left the salon two weeks rent poorer, with hair almost the exact shade I’d entered with.  I was also told I’d need to wait another month to take the next step on my extravagant journey.

Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen – so I cheated. The next morning, I took myself to the nearest cheap-and-nasty chain hairdresser, explained my dilemma, and demanded blonde.

And $250 later, blonde I got – sort of.

My hair didn’t fall out, much to my relief. But my previous shade of creamy, natural-looking blonde was nowhere to be seen: my head was home to so many shades of yellow, orange, red and brown that it looked like an abstract painting of the Australian desert.

Grace during the "transition" phase (note the head scarf)

Hats were bought, as were cutesy vintage headbands and head scarves (thank god retro was having a moment). My hair was a recluse for a whole month while, behind closed doors, I tried moisturising treatment after nourishing hair wrap in an attempt to comfort my stressed-to-fraying ends.

It was only after my third salon visit (at a new place; I wasn’t going back to the home of my $450-zebra-stripes), that I could bring myself to wear my hair out.

And at the hair appointment after that? I vaguely resembled my pre-brunette self. I was so happy I could have kissed my colourist.

My “colour journey” back to blonde took five months – the same length of time I’d been living in Europe, incidentally – and cost $1200, roughly the same as a low-season ticket to London.

Today? My hair still hasn’t completely forgiven me; it’s drier than it used to be, and from certain angles, tiny orange highlights hint at my misguided foray into brunettism.

What I got from the whole adventure was a very expensive lesson in who I really am - unashamedly blonde.

What's been your worst hair disaster?

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