October 6, 2022

woman with colorful hair

A year into the weirdest and most tragic time in modern history, every person has developed their own assortment of coping mechanisms to help get through each day. Some coping strategies, like snacking, have been fairly universal and experienced by most people. Others—such as a friend of mine who’s been meticulously planning next year’s vacations down to each meal—are a bit more individual. Enter my own top mechanism for dealing with the doldrums of nonstop home life: dying my hair a brand new color every month.

How It Began

I’ve had blue hair for much of my adult life. It’s my favorite color overall, and I’m particularly into denim hues for hair. I colored my own hair in my youth but gladly paid a colorist for years since because it’s a messy, odorous thing to do that comes with the risk of potential hair damage. The damage risk holds especially true if you have naturally black hair, as I do, and also lack patience. I had a several-year run with dark denim hair until summer 2019, when I dyed it magenta for the season, then returned to blue by that fall.

When quarantine was right about to hit in March 2020, I saw my colorist and asked for a change to dark green, mostly to distract from my already-beginning sense of impending doom. Los Angeles shut down completely within the week, and by April, I was laid off and in need of projects. I transitioned my hair color on my own to a bright blue, and my color journey took off.

How It Progressed

As it was for many, last spring is a bit of a blur for me. I can’t say exactly what in-between colors were involved in the color transition, but by June, I had dyed my hair (and processed my own roots) a metallic pink, with dark green becoming a distant, pre-quarantine memory. Throughout the summer, my hair was at varying times cotton candy pink, rose gold, lilac, and lavender.

By fall, I was feeling autumn vibes. I was not, however, seeing any autumn vibes. In L.A., our weather is known for being fairly one-note and not involving actual seasons. My favorite extrapolation of this is a line from a Jenny Lewis song: “I guess it’s spring, I didn’t know / It’s always 75 with no melting snow.” I love the eternal spring nature of L.A., but I’m also an avid traveler. I usually experience “real” autumn by visiting my parents in their tree-laden state or trekking around cities like San Francisco and New York City. 2020, of course, didn’t involve any autumnal travel. So, I turned my hair into autumn.

I dyed my curls cascading red, orange, and yellow and cut the grown-out bob into a shag shape, which I watched YouTube videos for instruction. My urge to see fall foliage felt as satisfied as possible, all things considered.

We’re heading into spring again, and I’ve run through every shade of blue—from dark denim to powder—throughout the winter. Currently, it’s a bright, pop art iteration of my favorite color. How has this seemingly trite activity palpably brightened my pandemic life, let alone to the point where I credit it as a top coping mechanism for keeping my sanity? There are a few ways.

The Thrill of Yes

Pandemic life is rife with no’s; from every activity we can’t do, to every friend and loved one we can’t hug. Wanting to do something and telling yourself that “yes, you can,” is a warm welcome of respite amongst all those no’s. Every time I think up a new hair color, I tell myself yes. If I don’t have the color on hand, I buy it online, and even the most expensive salon brands of direct dye cost less than $20 each. With the multitude of colors I’ve purchased this past year, I’ve scarcely spent more than I used to on one single professional hair color appointment, meaning there is always room in my wallet for another tube of fun. The ability to tell myself yes to something I want, then follow through by doing it within days makes me feel happy and empowered. Buying dye is a small purchase, but it brings great satisfaction.

The Restlessness

This past year has involved an intensive lack of change for many. We often hear about home redecoration or DIY construction of rooms into gyms, saunas, and more. As a renter, the latter is out of my reach. For redecorating, my living room is an odd, hexagonal shape, so I haven’t been able to rearrange my furniture, which I’ve had a strong desire to do. My bedroom is the same shape, and thus, an equally immobile situation.

I go basically nowhere except on walks, so the place I’m the most likely nowadays to experience life change is in my imagination, by way of the novels I read (which during my pandemic unemployment was upwards of one a day, and now lies between two and three a week) or the tv I watch. Seeing something drastically different when I look in the mirror has assuaged my need for change. I’ve been changing my color often enough that by the time I get used to my reflection, I switch things up again within the week. This often makes me do a double-take when I see myself requiring a moment or two of processing. That moment or two sounds trivial, but it’s huge.

Visual Stimulation

I love bright colors, and unlike many people, I love to be bright colors. Nowhere is this more evident than on my own body, where dozens of rainbowy tattoos reside on my skin. I also love cityscapes, sunsets, flower gardens, and dense, populated areas filled with more signs than I could ever read. My home’s rooms each have thematic colorscapes, with my living room decorated in only primary bright red and blue. I enjoy seeing color, and even more, I like the visual stimulation of new and different colors. Nothing much changes in my home, as mentioned, and tattoos aren’t exactly a pandemic priority, so my hair has been a natural go-to for color stimulation.

Projects

If you’ve ever tried to keep naturally black hair that’s been processed to nearly white healthy, you know it’s basically a part-time job. This past year, I’ve become adept at protein treatments, allowing for the perfect pause in time between doing my roots not to weaken my hair too much and transitioning between hair colors without using harsh color removers (the secret: powdered vitamin C). I was already adept at doing my own extensions but had never played around with dye color combos or difficult to achieve colors like metallic pastels. Some took multiple tries and/or multiple brands to achieve. Many hours have been spent, and many wins have been had. The beauty of not achieving the look I wanted is that I can go right back into the bathroom and try again.

If you’ve found your own version of cycling through the hair color rainbow, you likely understand where I’m coming from. If there was ever a time to take pleasure in small victories and to learn how to please ourselves, this past year has been it.