Being genetically half Irish and an eighth Scottish, I have green eyes and curly brown hair that used to have a fair bit of red in it. The first white hair showed up when I was 19, much to my horror, and my Mum’s reaction wasn’t much help: “Oh, your granddad was completely white by the time he was 30”, she said reassuringly.
I fought the good fight for a few years, yanking out the white hairs whenever I saw them (easy to do, as they’re not as curly as the coloured ones, so when they grow back in they stick straight out of my head at a jaunty angle). But it soon became apparent that although I hadn’t inherited my granddad’s unfortunate condition, a) I’d soon have bald patches if this continued, and b) it was only the red hairs that were turning white. I started dying my hair when I was 22 with just a strong enough red to make the white hairs red again and the brown hairs slightly reddish brown; being an impoverished grad student, I bought a kit and did it myself. The first reaction – “have you been putting dye in your hair?” – from a postdoc in my lab made me worried that I’d done something awfully wrong, like a kid trying on their mother’s makeup, but this turned out to be just another quirk of the local Scottish dialect that is equivalent in
polite society English to “have you dyed your hair?” Thus encouraged I kept the practice up, albeit with reduced frequency after I got married and lazy as I became self-confident enough to overcome my childish vanity.
I’m heading out of town for four days tomorrow, so I decided that this morning would be a good time to banish the white hairs that had grown to about halfway down my hair’s full length. Having done this a million times before I approached the exercise with a certain confidence that all would go smoothly. But here’s what happened:
- Set up all supplies as usual, and read the instructions in case anything had changed. It hadn’t – all normal.
- Mixed the two solutions and started putting it in my hair. Everything still normal, except that I managed not to make the bathroom look too much like the aftermath of the shower scene in Psycho this time.
- Took off the dye-covered gloves, thanking my lab training for my ability to do so without getting a single spot of dye on my hands or anywhere else.
- Set timer for 15 minutes, wiped all the bits of dye off my face and shoulders, and grabbed a book. Everything still normal.
- Heard alarm, turned it off, jumped in shower, turned on water.
- Hot tap wouldn’t work.
- Seriously – the screw thread must have broken off or something, because the tap just span freely in either direction with nary a drop of water coming out.
- Ran frantically through house, dripping dye everywhere, looking for Mr E Man’s screwdriver (he’s out of town and wasn’t answering his phone). Failed to locate said screwdriver.
- Realised the dye just had to come off before it scorched my hair and scalp. Turned cold water on and stuck head under tap, as just couldn’t bear the thought of using the shower head and getting freezing cold water all down my back.
- Started gasping for breath due to the shock of the cold. Seriously couldn’t breathe. Pulled out, recovered, stuck head back under tap, repeated x4.
- Realised this was ridiculous. Wrapped myself in towel and ran down to the basement suite, which thank goodness our tenant never locks up when he leaves as the flimsy internal door is nowhere near as sturdy as the deadbolted external door. Used his lovely warm shower until I thought the water was running clear.
- Wiped dye splashes off shower wall, curtain, and bathroom floor.
- Went back up the stairs, wiping up splashes as I went.
- Re-entered own bathroom, looked in mirror, realised the water dripping from my hair was still quite pink.
- Ran back downstairs, repeated rinsing and splash wiping procedure.
- Came back upstairs, managed to find a drill bit that fit the screw that goes through the hot tap (just the bit, no drill), tightened it back up using pliers to turn the bit.
- Looked in mirror. Hair drips still coloured.
- Swore loudly
- Shampooed hair three times, which you’re really not supposed to do to freshly-dyed hair, each time confirming that the water drips were still slightly pink.
- Eventually thought “fuck it” and made sure to select a dark-coloured top to wear to work.
My hair’s still drying, so it’s too early to tell if it looks as disastrous as the rest of the splash-covered house… Oh well, I bought a very nice straw hat in Cuba and can wear that for a few months.
In conclusion, I have realised that I am no longer an impoverished grad student or postdoc, and will stump up the cash to pay a professional next time.
Well, taking the photo wasn’t easy – got lots of close-ups of half of the top of my head before deciding that this was the best option:
The white bits are much redder than usual, and the brown bits look much darker. Given that the white hairs tend to cluster in patches it looks a bit silly and uneven, but overall not as bad as I was expecting. Clearly, a delay then five short bursts of freezing cold water then a delay then a warm shower then a delay then another warm shower then a delay then three rounds of rigorous shampooing are not as good as the recommended immediate and uninterrupted long warm shower…
The patchiness always happens to some extent, and usually starts to even itself out after a few washes. It might take longer this time, but I can definitely live with it until then!