Dye my blues away.

by Ranim Elborai

Yesterday I went and did something I’ve never, ever done before. Something I never thought I would do.

You could say it was part and parcel of trying to fulfil that stock New Year’s resolution that I would venture 47% of us have written down on a legal pad somewhere: “try new things.” Or its bastard, pop-psychology inspired sibling: “leave my comfort zone.”¬†Ugh.

I went ahead and dyed my hair.


I know, you either are thinking, “big deal!” or you’re immensely disappointed in me. Whether or not you cared, I was the self-proclaimed champion of natural beauty, warts and all.a I was the woman who would patiently and proudly go grey.

But this isn’t about greyness, or fighting the ageing process. My own greys, all three of them, are still here. I checked.

It was about shaking things up. It was about shaking me up. I was tired of me, and this seemed like a way to alter the me I was so tired of, fast.

So I copped out of my “never say dye” stance (and indeed, you should never say never), and got some “low-lights” put in.

Now, if you’ve never had your hair dyed professionally before you may be wondering, “what the fuck are low-lights?”

I too was in the dark about “low-lights.” I’d heard the term before, because my sister had had some done like, a decade ago. But I had no idea what those mystical “low-lights” entailed, and somehow I doubt that she did either.

A low-light, my friend, is similar to a high-light, but different. We have all seen highlights before. In fact, we’ve mostly seen bad highlights before; wispy strands of hair bleached to a brassy blonde as contrasted with the chestnut brown hair they’re interspersed in, or my favourite, chunks of a jarring, unnatural red-orange strewn about in the midst of a helmet of black hair.

brown-hair-with-blonde-highlights-tumblrRemember this look? It’s still around, unfortunately.


Is this even a real woman? I can’t be sure anymore. I was going to use a photo of a real woman but then I felt bad.

A low-light is similar in principle, in that individual strands are singled out for colour, as opposed to swathing your whole head of hair in a different colour. But the choice of colour is far more restrained: the palette’s range covers a series of “natural” browns, suitable for the tired brunette seeking to break the monotony of it all, attempting to find meaning and fulfilment through their hair.b

So, tasteful. Tasteful was important, because I’ve witnessed bad dye jobs happen to good people. A few months ago a friend’s raven black hair was punctuated by strands of olive-green/sickly-blonde highlights — a look she had to bravely walk into work with over the course of the next week until an appointment with a more capable colourist came up.

Then there was my sister’s nightmare experience of three years ago. She had brought along a magazine cover featuring Alexa Chung’s milk-chocolate locks as inspiration. She left the salon some six hours later with hair the colour of aubergine — yes, literally, eggplant coloured hair — much to her horror and my amusement (but also horror).

UnknownPoor sis. It took forever to grow out.

Had I not learned from the harsh lessons of my forebearers? I thought I had. But I guess I didn’t.

My stylist, Kevin, a gaunt Irishman with forearms covered in amazing rockabilly tattoos, suggested that we go for two colours. One would be just a shade lighter than my rather dark hair, and the other a full two shades lighter. Which meant that it was still really dark. He assured me that it would be subtle, yet helpful in defining my natural waves, give my complexion a little bit of lift, and break up the monotony. Of my hair’s singular colour tone that is, not my life.

He sounded like he knew what he was talking about so I gave him the ok.

He went about colouring 50% of my hair, splitting it evenly between the two shades, and very quickly I found myself with a pile of folded over tin foil slivers rustling about my head. I finally felt like all the older women at the hair salon I’d seen growing up. I felt special, adult, but also quite silly, because I had a bunch of tin foil in my hair.


I sat waiting, approximately 30 minutes, as the dye set. I tried to flick through the “trashion” magazinesc that Kevin had so kindly provided me with, but I was too excited to focus, even on news of Kim and Kanye’s harebrained schemes of matrimonial domination.

I wanted to see my hair. I wanted to see it NOW.

All finished, he shampooed the dyes out, give me a quick trim, then dried my hair quickly.d Finally, the big reveal!

And…nothing. There appeared to be no difference.

If I burrow into my hairline, I occasionally found a 2 shades lighter strand, but even the difference there is not dramatic.

I was still the same old me, and apart from the trim, largely unmodified.

I guess that means he did a good job.

  1. Not true, you should all zap your warts and unsightly moles. They’re ugly.  (back)
  2. Or so my hairdresser told me–but this website says that lowlights use colours darker than your natural shade. Technically, they can be both right, in that the shades are always on the darker side of the spectrum, but when used on hair as dark as mine, it still lightens it up.  (back)
  3. I’ve coined a new word people!  (back)
  4. No, I didn’t get a blow-out, because these horrible little hairs always make their way into my collar and that means that I have to shower directly after a haircut.  (back)