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“Damaging” Hair to Make it Better?

By Amalah

I have fine hair, shoulder-length, with layers. It is pretty hard to style, and I am allergic to a lot of products, including the ones that say hypoallergenic, etc. My stylist suggested that I get it colored, even though I am fine with my current color (light-brown with blond highlights). He said that it would make my hair coarser and easier to style. I have a couple of questions about this:
1. Is it really advisable to color my hair just to *damage* it and make it more coarse? Won’t this make my fine hair even more fragile? Some little part of me thinks he is just trying to get me to spend more money with him.
2. What if I don’t like it? Do I have to go through a year or two while this new color grows out?
3. I figure this would cost me something like $1000 per year, regular color every six weeks. My husband says that is fine, but if I can have $1000 to spend on myself, couldn’t I just spend it on days at the spa or a cleaning lady?

It all depends on the kind of color your stylist is proposing. Single-process all-over color? Highlights? Both?
Our hair sounds very similar, and I can attest that yes, highlights definitely help my fine, wispy hair. They add thickness and an overall “real live grown-up hair” feeling to what otherwise would be baby-fine and totally annoying hair. Provided you use a good shampoo and conditioner for colored hair and get regular trims of your ends, the damage is beyond minimal. And provided you’re sticking with a natural-like shade, you only need to get them done about twice a year. So you’re looking at a $300 price tag, or so.
I can’t say the same about single-process color…which is harsher and requires tons of touch-ups. Unless you’ve got gray hair to cover or want to drastically change your color, I don’t recommend it. It’s a pain! It’s expensive! And the only solutions to a dye-job gone wrong are to either 1) put more dye in or 2) wait for it to grow out.
I’d suggest you go with highlights. Tell your stylist you’re just not ready to commit to single-process and want to see how your hair takes to ANY amount of coloring first. Keep it really natural — maybe highlights and lowlights that are extremely close to what you have now.
AND MAKE SURE HE DOES A PATCH TEST FIRST. Tell him about your allergies. And tell him you are serious. Do not let him proceed with the color until he tests out the dye on a small, inconspicuous part of your head. I am pretty sure you’ll be okay with highlights since they generally don’t touch your scalp (unlike single-process, so there’s another con), but whatever. Don’t mess around with that.

Published October 19, 2007. Last updated October 19, 2007.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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