What Happened When I Stopped Hiding Under Hair Dye

Growing out my hair lead to growing into myself.

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When I say that my hair has been every color imaginable, I am not exaggerating. Every natural shade from black to blonde, every hue of red, and countless neons and pastels have all graced my head at some point in the past decade.

My hair was not a fan. One year, I had to cut my long locks to just above my shoulder to remove the damage I'd caused. But, like an idiot, I persisted with my bleach-and-dye habit, and my brittle hair continued to disappear, inch by inch, with every visit to my hairdresser.

I bleached my stubborn, dark hair to death for this neon turquoise color, but I grew sick of it within weeks.
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Eight months ago, I finally gave in. There would be no more damage-causing color changes until my hair was long and healthy again. Forcing myself into full dedication, I dyed my hair black—there is no coming back from black. Since then, my hair has faded to a shade of brown not unlike my natural hair color, and I proudly sport several inches of visible roots.

Earlier this year with dry and brittle ends, just before my hair-dye habit met its demise.
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I hadn't realized it then, but my life revolved around my hair. Quitting my high-maintenance habit taught me more about myself than I'd ever thought possible.

Realization No. 1: Dyeing My Hair Was a Band-Aid for Other Problems

It only took a few weeks without my usual hair-maintenance routine to realize my constant dye jobs weren't just for fun: they were my way of coping with boredom, stress, anxiety, and most of all, self-consciousness. I couldn't control the world or its opinions of me, but I could control my hair, and that gave me power. Now, without that power, I have to rely on sheer determination to solve my personal issues instead of drowning them in dye. To quote Britney, now I'm stronger than yesterday.

Realization No. 2: My Hair Had Become My Identity—In a Bad Way

I changed my hair color so often and so sporadically, it became my most defining characteristic. Acquaintances barely recognized me on the street because the most notable part of my look was completely different every time they saw me. It was a point of conversation I was tired of addressing month after month—yes, it was different last time I saw you; yes, I do like it; no, I don't know if I'm going to keep this one. With one constant color and cut, I'm finally free to talk about something other than my hair, which leads to deeper and more substantive conversations, thank heavens.

Realization No. 3: My Hair Was Not the Strong Survivor I Made It Out to Be

"If I use Olaplex and deep condition my hair with every dye job, my hair will be fine," was a lie I told myself very often and very convincingly. In reality, my hair was dead in every sense of the word. It had no shine and stuck straight out of my head like straw. If my life somehow depended on its ability to hold curls or volume, I'd be gone in seconds. A few inches of slow but steady growth into my journey, my hair's softness and naturally wavy texture have returned after years spent hiding in the depths of my scalp. My former self would have denied it, but I missed it dearly.

Realization No. 4: There Were Better Things I Could Have Been Doing

I never had to worry about time or money in my teenhood, but as a recent college graduate adjusting to the working world, I have to be sparing with both. Looking back, many of the nights I spent applying expensive, pigmented goop to my every last strand could have been put to use studying or hanging out with friends from whom I would soon be separated. I feel a huge wave of relief wash over me at the realization that I now have hours to spare every week. I plan to use them much more wisely.

How are you changing your hair this year? Tell me @nikkidallasen!

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