I Tried This Major Hair Transformation — & This Is What I Learned

Beauty with Mi, hosted by Refinery29's beauty writer Mi-Anne Chan, explores the coolest new trends, treatments, products, and subcultures in the beauty world. Follow along on her wild beauty adventures here.
Last year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alice Longyu Gao, a NYC-based creative producer who has made rainbow hair and makeup her signature. Gao said a lot of inspiring things during our hours-long chat, but her approach to hair is what stood out. "I've had purple hair with pink and blue highlights, bright blue mixed with red and fuchsia shades, and pumpkin-orange hair, too," she said nonchalantly. And then she added: "If my hair gets unhealthy, I'll just shave it all off."
I was taken aback by Gao's candour: The thought of shaving off all my hair because I'd dyed it to oblivion sounded like something I would definitely regret, but she was dead serious. It was this mantra that finally encouraged me to make a change. See, I've been thinking about dying my hair for over a year now and, despite encouragement, I've always made excuses when it came time to pull the trigger on a new 'do. This month, however, I finally bit the bullet and booked an appointment with colourist Madison Garrett at Spoke & Weal salon to dye my full head of virgin hair. What's more, I decided on one of the most daring shades around: pink!
Check out the entire process in the video above, then keep scrolling to read a few things to keep in mind if you're planning on going under the bleach bowl, too.
1. Do Your Homework
No matter what sort of dye job you're looking for, it's best practice to do your homework first. Before you even think about booking a session, find a colourist you think will be able to bring your hair dreams to life. Scour the internet, read reviews on Yelp, ask friends and colleagues, and scroll through Instagram to check out a prospective colourist's work.
Once you've landed on one, book a consultation so that you and your colourist are both on the same page. This should only take a few minutes and should be free of charge. This is particularly important if you're going in for a double process like I did, which involves lightening your hair more than two shades.
Once you've booked a consultation, make sure you come with plenty of reference images. Tell your colourist what you like and dislike about each image. And remember, this is your hair so don't be afraid to ask questions. This is also when your colourist will give you some pre-appointment tips, like masking for better hair health and not washing for a few days before so the oil from your scalp can help protect your skin.
2. Know What To Expect
According to Garrett, the one thing she makes sure to let her clients know is that a double process will take time — especially if you have very dark hair like mine. Don't expect to be in an out of a salon in a couple of hours. My entire dye job took six hours — which is short — and even then Garrett explained that we were lucky that my hair happened to lift easily with bleach. According to Garrett, everyone's hair bleaches differently (as a rule, virgin hair is easier to bleach whereas previously-dyed hair can be more difficult), so expect to spend a good chunk of your day (or even a couple of days) in the salon.
One more thing: Your hair texture will likely change a bit after being bleached. "If you have straight hair, you can expect more texture, but if you have curly hair, your curl might soften a bit," says Garrett. Since your hair will be drier after bleaching, most people find they can go more days between washes. That's because your hair will soak up a lot of the oil produced by your scalp, Garrett adds.
3. Take Some Time To Adjust
You might love your hair as soon as you walk out of the salon, but don't freak if you don't. Garrett says most clients take three to four days to fully adjust to the shock of their new 'do. "You'll look in the mirror and you might not even recognise yourself," Garrett warns. After a few days, if you're still not happy with the colour, don't hesitate to reach out to your colourist for an extra round of gloss to soften, lighten, or darken things up.
4. Maintain Your 'Do
Having what Garrett calls "fashion hair" — that is, creative colours like pink, blue, or red — isn't easy. It requires a lot of upkeep and monthly touchups. With every wash and dry, your colour will fade, so Garrett suggests investing in a dry shampoo (Klorane's non-aerosol dry shampoo is a new favourite of mine) to keep your hair looking fresh between washes. When it's time to wash your hair, reach for colour-safe shampoos like Ouai's Repair Shampoo and Conditioner. You can even purchase coloured treatments like Uberliss' Bond Sustainers that you can mix together and apply to wet or dry hair to revive your colour.
It's been two and a half weeks since I went pink and I can honestly say it's the best hair decision I've made to date. Sure, I may not stick with it for the rest of my life, but I'll look back on this time with the assurance that I took a risk and, in my opinion, it totally paid off.

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