From Black To Blue & Back: How To Recover From Unicorn Hair

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
She looked like me — the brown eyes, the round face, even the dark hair. But, the girl in the salon mirror didn’t feel like me. Or, at least, the most recent version of me: a unicorn.
This past June, I, of fine strands and black tresses, decided to take a break from my 27-year relationship with the dark side. I wanted to experience what so many girls in Asian subcultures — and, really, 75% of all women — seem to thrill in: the transformative powers of hair dye. But, going brunette or red or even blonde wasn’t enough. I wasn’t about to take this cosmetic plunge for something expected. And, so, gray-to-blue-ombré I went.
Little did I know how arduous, painful, and expensive going blue would be. But, who would’ve thought reverting back to my natural color was just as hard? Apparently, just adding black dye on top of blonde hair could turn my mop green. One colorist even told me that because my hair was so damaged and multicolored, it would take three sessions at a rate of $300 each to correct my hair. Needless to say, I was thankful I got a second consultation. But, even from there, it was a journey — going from black to blonde to blue to blonde again and back — but on it, I found myself. A new self, a better self.
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
I wasn't aware of this evolution until Salon SCK colorist Mark Sweet ran the first brush of filler on my bleached-blonde locks. As I watched him massage artificial pigment into my hair, filling in the stripped-out color over and over again, I flashed back to those lively and empowering days of blue and gray.

At first, it was as if this dormant edge I had bottled up inside suddenly manifested on my head. I felt like my mother after she slipped on her first pair of skinny jeans — I was “cool.” I could finally wear Opening Ceremony without feeling like a try-hard. In a sea of alt kids and neon-wearing frat bros, I almost felt like I belonged at Governors Ball…almost. My mentality then? Blue hair, don’t care; now let’s have fun with it.

But, back in the salon chair, with wet hair and filler rinsed out, I could see dark hues coming back. Sweet was adding a tint of warm base notes, which would get that natural, shiny effect seen in healthy hair, he explained. The ashy blonde my hair had faded into was almost entirely gone. And, surprisingly, I started to miss it.

I’ve spent a lifetime practicing the art of wall-flowering, so it took me a while to get used to the stares and compliments, even when my hair just faded to basic blonde. Slowly, however, I followed the light; I could feel myself being…bubbly. It wasn’t so much happiness but confidence. My Instagram must’ve felt it, too, because the selfies started outnumbering the usual scenic shots. I’ve always been wary of vanity, but if there’s anything going blonde taught me, it’s that it’s perfectly okay to like how I look — and flaunt it a little, too.
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Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
I was really starting to love the blonde, which is probably why my brain almost didn’t recognize me with this brand-new dark-brown hair. Post-repair treatment, I thought I looked a little weird, pale, exuding some dark, vampiric energy. Thankfully, Salon SCK stylist Clint Wilson interrupted these insecure thoughts. “I don’t care if your hair is to your butt as long as it’s healthy-ish,” he added, before slicing off a good four to five inches in one cut. Wilson held out the remnants for me to touch. My throwaway ends felt like dry, broken straw.

At this moment, I remembered why I wanted to revert to the dark side: the lure of luminous, healthy hair. Sure, my damaged locks created texture and, therefore, volume. And, when it faded to blonde, with a little bit of black roots showing, I channeled some Nicki Minaj sass. But, not being able to smoothly brush my hair from root to end without a ton of entanglement meant serious breakage and flyaways. I was verging on Christina Aguilera “Dirrty” status, and it wasn’t sexy. I also remembered how uncomfortable I could get with all the extra attention. I walked with my head down as men hollered at me in the subway tunnels. Sometimes, I could feel curious eyes fixed upon me, the Asian girl with blue or blonde hair.

So, when I finally stared back at the girl in the salon mirror, the dark-haired chick with a new, sleek bob, I didn’t see a blonde bombshell or New York cool kid. It was better. I was the real me, the genuine, inherently edgy, subtly beautiful lazy girl. I wrote in my original pastel-hair story how everyone deserves to feel special. But, you don’t need unicorn hair to feel unique. It took me three bleach jobs, toner, blue and gray dye, filler, tint, hair masks, a repair treatment, and a major cut to remember the magic is within. Well, there with the help a couple of badass hair pros, of course.
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