Dying hair as a form of self-expression

Story and photo by Ashley Probst

Bri Isaacs was filling up her gas tank when she heard a crash—someone had rammed his car into a bank because he was staring at her bold, blue hair.

People of all ages, including Isaacs, dye their hair vibrant colors as a way to express themselves.

“I feel like I have different personalities with different hair colors,” said the senior sociology major. “With blue I kind of feel like I’m a little more edgy and I like the weird attention that I get from it.”

Isaacs said she tried to dye her hair blue on her own, but it didn’t turn out the way she had imagined. She then asked her friend, who’s a professional hair stylist, to touch it up for her.    

Veronica Rosales, a hairdresser at The Plaza Salon on Chapman Avenue, said that she recommends people see a professional when applying funky colors because they need to bleach their hair before adding the color.

“I’ve had so many color corrections that I’ve done because people try to do things at home,” Rosales said. “It’s twice the hassle and it’s twice the work. It can be fixed most of the time, but I probably wouldn’t recommend you do any heavy lightening at home.”

Rosales said she doesn’t mind working with dirty hair, but warns against using heavy conditioners because they’re more difficult to wash out.

“We’re recommended to detoxify the hair so it’s a quick rinse with a shampoo,” Rosales said. “That clears out anything that will impede color from going into the hair and it will stay in there for a longer amount of time.”

The condition of the client’s hair is important for Rosales to consider when dying it.

“The more porous the hair is, the more it’s going to drop color,” Rosales said. “A little bit more damaged hair tends to not keep color in as much.”

She said virgin hair, which has never been dyed before, is most likely to keep color that matches exactly what the client desires, but Rosales said it’s important for colorists to customize color to hair type.

“What really matters is how you formulate,” Rosales said. “If you have a good formula for a specific hair type, that’s really what is behind being a colorist. You can’t really use the same thing for everybody.”

Pastel colors are popular right now, even among the older crowd, according to Rosales. She had just given a 30 year-old woman a lavender pixie cut that morning.

Rosales advises her clients with bold colors to use products that fortify the color every time they wash their hair.

“Treat it like it’s your baby because the more that you take care of it, the more you can do with it,” Rosales said.

For all-over color, Rosales charges anywhere from $95 to $155 and dye jobs that require lightening can cost more than $175. Just dying the tips would be $65 to $80.

As far as Rosales is concerned, dying hair bright colors isn’t a trend, but a lifestyle.

“Weird is a good thing. If you’re a little different, that’s weird and that’s cool,” Rosales said. “It’s become more acceptable to have funky colors in your hair.”

Nathan Nociar, a senior theatre performance major, has dyed his hair many different variations of blue, black and indigo, and said how people react to his hair divulges a lot about their character.

“After my experience with people from different walks of life and different ages, I’ll just say that it’s a personality test,” Nociar said. “From the way people approach me and their reactions, it tells me something about them.”

Nociar doesn’t think bold hair is meant to express something about the individual in a way that isn’t conventional, but also doesn’t come off as provocative. He said that it’s a form of self-expression and he chose to dye his hair now that he’s a student and not in the professional world.

Nociar has tried dying his hair at home and going to a salon. When dying it himself, he puts newspaper down on all the countertops and a paint drop-down on the bathroom floor, he applies petroleum jelly to his skin to ensure it doesn’t stain and covers up with clothing to further protect his skin. But he prefers going to a salon because they can lighten his hair without causing too much damage, although sometimes it’s difficult to communicate what he wants with the colorist.

“They tend to think of a different hue than I’m thinking of,” Nociar said. “But I’ve accepted the fact that you can’t really expect what you want and you just live with what you get.”

But once he found someone who could create the color he was looking for, he wanted to keep it looking fresh for as long as possible.

“What I found to be kind of a secret among people with bold colors is we don’t wash our hair that often because it tends to fade,” Nociar said. “I’ve gone with a product called Hairtrition, which doesn’t have any sulfates in it so that way it doesn’t pull the color out.”

Incorporating such bold colors into his wardrobe has caused Nociar to make some considerations when picking out his clothes.

“I don’t like to clash that much, so when I have a certain hair color it kind of effects what I wear. Not necessarily style, but color,” Nociar said. Nociar said he can’t wear one of his favorite green dress shirts because the color doesn’t mix well with his bright blue hair.

Clarissa Hampton, a junior art history major, chose the color pink to put in her hair because she didn’t think it would clash with a lot of her clothing.

“I don’t wear any pink and thought it’d be a good complement,” Hampton said. “I felt really stressed from finals and I was like, this is a good creative outlet.”

Hampton was inspired by photographs online of women with dusty rose-colored hair, but she said she wasn’t worried about the color turning out exactly like the pictures. She went to a friend who’s a licensed professional, who bleached her hair twice with basic wholesale bleach before adding a semi-permanent pink color.

“I’m lucky because I have really oily hair, so as far as the bleach goes, my hair isn’t as damaged as other friends I’ve had who have dyed their hair crazy colors and it gets really brittle,” Hampton said. “My hair does OK, it’s just a little dry but my ends don’t break off.”

For Hampton, the only downside to dying her hair is the upkeep because she constantly has to keep dying it.

Isaacs dyes her hair every couple of months when it’s her natural dirty blonde color, and touches it up every couple of weeks if it’s a bold color. She said her next color will probably be light pink, and she also wants to try lavender. No matter the color, Isaacs has a trick to keep her hair looking vibrant and healthy.

“If you have brown or any other color, you want to keep (the hair dye) in your conditioner because that way it keeps your color,” Isaacs said. “I leave that conditioner in for an hour just so it will stay.”


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