My Hair Story – How I damaged my hair

It occurred to me the other day that I have yet to talk about my main beauty obsession, my hair. I have been obsessed with dying my hair for as long as I can remember and over the years have done some fairly drastic things to my hair in terms of both colour and cut. I’ve gotten past the drastic cut thing, but not the colouring!

IMG_1259 copyHere’s me with my bright pinky-red hair, taken two weeks ago.

I wanted to write this post to share some of my experiences with hair dye, as I’ve done a lot to my hair. I also wanted to start a bit of a series where I can talk about dealing with (and hopefully fixing) my damaged hair so that others can learn from my mistakes without having to make them themselves. I thought a good place to start was to explain why I dye my hair, what I have done to it and what damage this has done to create a good background to future posts.

Please excuse the various pose-y selfies used to illustrate this post! Haha!

Why did I start dying my hair?

One of my earliest memories is of asking my mum if I could dye my hair when I was three. I think my reasoning at the time was that being naturally a very bright orange ginger made it easier to be spotted during hide and seek. Like any good parent, my mum said no.

However, as the years went on, I got a lot of comments made to me about my hair from all kinds of people. I’m sure it’s not a surprise to any of you, but children are mean. I got picked on a lot through school for my natural hair colour, so much so that I now hate it and have done for years. That’s not to say that I hate all redheads, in fact I think it really suits some people, but I hate being one. This is what led to me starting to dye my hair.

How much have I dyed my hair? What kind of dyes have I used?

When first agreeing to let me dye my hair at 14, my mum wouldn’t let me near permanent dyes, but as I had quite deep auburn hair (it darkened as I got older from the bright orange I was as a child), a semi-permanent dye wouldn’t cut it. They only really tinted my hair and washed out straight away. So then I started on the permanent dyes. First brown, then brown with stronger and stronger red tints, purpley tones and any other brightly coloured box dye I could get my hands on. Then came the bleached in sections, usually under my fringe, whilst still dying the rest of my hair darker. Again, the bleach was boxed dyes I bought in Boots.

The last picture I’ve seen of me with my natural hair colour, albeit naturally bleached strawberry blonde from the sun, was the day I started my GCSEs, my first day of year 10. By the time I finished school, at the end of my A Levels, I had dyed my hair so much that it had become over saturated with dye, going almost black which made me look very washed out. To counter this,  I had started to have highlights bleached in. That was the beginning of me going blonde.

Over several sessions, done professionally by my hair dresser I ended up with enough blonde highlights on the top half of my hair to be called blonde, but the bottom half was still dyed brown. When I went to university, I started to bleach my roots myself with box dyes and also bleached out the brown section from the bottom of my hair. I stayed blonde for a year and a half, using creme dyes to put in coloured sections when I got bored.

301630_10150264959806583_7119299_n I painted my friend out of this one, as it was just a blurry eye when I cropped it!

Then, in the January of my second year, my house mate threw a fancy dress party and I decided to dye my hair to match my costume. I used Directions Poppy Red all over my hair, with the intention of going bright red for a poison ivy costume. It turned out pink. Really pink. If I’d known better, this might have been the first indication that my hair was damaged from the bleaching. Or it could be that the dye I had wasn’t pigmented enough to create a true red, hard to say. But either way, the dye didn’t take properly to my hair and as the dye was made up of pink tones, I was left with pink hair.

This faded out quite quickly, as creme dyes are only temporary dyes, but it stained my hair a dirty pinky, browny, blondey colour. My solution? Bleach it. This left me a lighter blonde than I had ever intended to go and it didn’t suit me. The problem with over bleaching the colour out your hair is that you can’t put the yellow tones back in without using a dye which lightens your hair, so sometimes they have no effect.

By now, I was finishing my second year of university and decided I had had enough of being blonde. I wanted to go red, properly. And not my natural red either, I wanted the bright unnatural scarlet red hair I had tried to get doing the poison ivy costume. This time, I spoke to my hair dresser (I’ve had the same one since I was 11) and she told me that I’d need to base my hair before she could dye it. I used the brightest non-Schwarzkopf red I could find in Boots, as Schwarzkopf had changed their dye formulas a few years before and led me to having my only ever reaction to hair dye. It came out a red tinted brown and washed out quite quickly but stained my hair ready to dye again.

redLeft: Box dye over bleach, Right: Professionally dyed red.

When dyed professionally, my hair came out a bright orange toned red which I really liked and lasted about a month. I then started a pattern of dying my hair every 3-4weeks, alternating between using red creme dyes (which always went pink) and red box dyes (which always went brown). Not being able to achieve the colour I wanted left me quite frustrated, so I went online looking for the answer and I found it. L’oreal Majicontrast in Rouge. You can watch this awesome video from LounaTutorials on Youtube which convinced me to use the colour. I bought the dye on ebay and 40 vol developer off my hair dresser and dyed it myself. The result? Amazing jewel-toned red. I loved it!

1383739_10151671427451583_836701308_nMajicontrast Result

However, thanks to all the bleaching on my hair and red being notoriously quick to fade, I ended up with some interesting hair between dyes and decided to mix it up for one dye time and go purple. I used a Wella professional dye, again from ebay and mixed it up with my 40 vol developer. My hair went really purple and I liked it quite a bit, but not as much as the red. However, the purple had stuck to my hair and wouldn’t fade out as much as the reds had before. Typical that the one dye you don’t want to stick does huh?

This led me to making probably the stupidest decision I have ever made in regards to my hair. After a couple of months (yes months!) I went back over my hair with the last of my majicontrast and to help lift the purple colour out, I decided to add heat to the dye like I’d seen my hair dresser do. Big mistake!

Although my hair went red, this time a deeper one due to the purple base, I had really damaged my hair. One patch on the top of my layers on the right hand side of my head had actually gone white, elasticated and snapped off. Fortunately, I got my hair cut not too long after this and could get the white patch removed, but this is when my hair problems really started.

purpleLeft: Purple, Right: Majicontrast over purple

Since then, I have continued to dye my hair red, but now using Affinage bRed as it was a much cheaper alternative to majicontrast. (Also on recommendation from LounaTutorials) My hair holds colour slightly better than it did before, it still fades to a pinky colour, but at least it now blends through to create an ombre effect. As I write this, the top of my hair is a pinky red, which goes into a slightly purpley patch, then to a dusky pale pink.

So what problems have I had with damaged hair?

Other than the white hair snapping, I began to get really bad split ends, colour still doesn’t stay properly in my hair and the split ends make hair more difficult to style as my hair just doesn’t want to behave. My hair dresser manages to get it to sit all nice, which she says shows its just colour damage and that I’ve otherwise taken good care of my hair, but I always get fluffy sections that don’t want to straighten down.

How can you avoid damaging your hair?

Based on my years and years of experience dying my hair, I can safely tell you a few things I’ve picked up along the way to help you avoid damaging your hair when dying it.

  • Do not bleach over bleached hair. Tempting if you want to go lighter, but you’re damaging your hair shaft.
  • Do not attempt to add heat when dying your hair at home.
  • Do not keep using high lift products when dying over lightened hair. What do I mean by this? Well, using a 30 or 40 vol developer pulls apart your hair to strip colour out before depositing more. Doing this repeatedly damages your hair a lot. Use a 10 vol developer over bleached or otherwise lightened hair when redying. This also applies with box dyes, as they use a strong developer so repeatedly using a box dye all over isn’t good.
  • Get regular hair cuts. Whilst at uni, I went three months at a time without getting my hair cut, this lets any damage you have on the ends travel up the hair shaft and leaving my split ends is one of the biggest mistakes I made.

If I damaged my hair so badly why do I still dye it?

Because I’m quite obsessed with the actual process of dying my hair and it genuinely makes me happy. Some of my friends and I have regular discussions about how dying our hair is kinda addictive for us. It’s even been said to me that the more roots I have the moodier I am (sorry!). I enjoy mixing up dye and applying it, I get excited to see how its come out and I get really happy when it comes out nice.

I think I have some kind of unhealthy link between how my hair looks and my personal happiness. A bad fringe cut left me feeling incredibly self-concious not too long ago.

Is my hair still damaged?

Yes. I currently have a few split ends and the parts of my hair that were bleached still don’t hold colour properly, although that has improved in the last year since I stopped bleaching my hair.

damagedMy hair today, the paler patches are most damaged.

Well, that’s all from this incredibly long post. Sorry about that. Hopefully you found it a helpful and interesting read. I welcome any questions you have on this, any product suggestions to help my hair and any requests you may have about what you’d like me to cover in the My Hair Story series.

11 responses to “My Hair Story – How I damaged my hair

  1. Cool hair color.


  2. I loved seeing all your hair colors. I damaged my hair with bleach too. Finally grew out the damaged bits and chopped it off


    • Bleach is so easy to damage hair with! I’ve been getting my hair cut more regularly since finishing uni, partly to remove my split ends, but I’m slowly getting rid of my bleach! I know my hair will be so much healthier for it x


  3. I have to say, that purple looks gorgeous on you.
    I highly recommend Joico K Pak Reconstructor followed immediately by a protein hair mask (their moisture one is good). My hair went berserk on me and those two treatments (used with a hot wet towel to open the cuticles) really helped the condition of my hair.
    Great post. You’re lucky your hair is so thick!


    • Thank you! I’ve heard good things about Joico K Pak, definitely on my to try list! I’ve got a protein treatment to try which is meant to even out hair colour and I’ve heard good things about the Schwarzkopf essence ultime intensive mask which is on offer at Boots at the moment so might have to go pick it up! x


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