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The high (and low) lights of changing your hair colour

There’s something about the springtime that makes me want to dye. One of my favourite songs in Grease is Beauty School Dropout, which begins when the lady who runs the diner informs Frenchie, “I hate to tell you this, but your hair looks like an Easter Egg!”

Her candyfloss coloured barnet is supposed to be the result of a big beauty mistake, but I think it looks magnificent. Who wouldn’t want to look like an Easter egg, and have hair of glossy chocolate, or pretty pastels, or bright shiny foil? Of course, it’s great to embrace your natural hair, and to choose not to alter a strand that grows out of your head. But if you fancy it, it can be fun to treat your follicles as though they’re a gloriously blank A4 pad for you to play with, and there is nothing to limit you but your imagination and the products on offer in the hair care aisle.

When I was growing up, plenty of people told me that if I were to dye my hair platinum blonde, or bright blue, I might regret it. But looking back, I wish I’d experimented with my hair more. Now that my Mum and my teachers can’t tell me to leave it alone, I’m making up for lost time.

My first hair dye experiment was a disappointing disaster – and not because I turned my hair a crazy colour. Aged 13 and short on time, money and opportunity, I decided to try and transform myself during the school German exchange. I truly believed that my 99p sachet of Wella Shaders and Toners would turn me totally blonde, even though my hair is naturally very dark brown. More importantly, the packet promised that the colour would wash out in a week. I’d have beautiful bright hair on the school trip and be back to my natural colour by the time we got on the plane and came home again. Mum would never know! (As long as I wore a hat in all the photos.)

The trouble with this plan was that it meant I needed to do the deed as soon as we landed, or it wouldn’t wash out in time. And as soon as we landed, we went straight to a giant swimming complex. This wasn’t a standard leisure centre with a training pool, a squash court and a broken vending machine. This was a spectacular aquatic arena! There were slide pools, plunge pools, hot pools, outdoor pools! And a single communal shower area for misguided English idiots to stand about with blue gunk on their hair, awaiting transformation.

I read the back of the packet after I’d put it on my hair – always a bad idea – and I learned that I needed to wait for 20 minutes. I had no way of telling how long 20 minutes lasted, but I’d guess that it’s the time it takes for nine grumpy German women to ask you just what you think you’re doing and why it’s taking so long. At least I left the shower with glorious golden tresses, feeling like an old timey Hollywood movie star. Ha! Not really! The dye did not change a single strand of hair. In fact, it seemed slightly more dark brown than before.

It was time to try something different. I’d been hearing about a new product called hair mascara – and at the very end of the 90s, “mascara for your hair” sounded as thrilling and unlikely as “a tiny computer for your pocket that lets you talk to anyone in the world”. We were a few years away from the iPhone so me and my friends spent our spare time painting streaks of colour into our fringe instead.

But the trouble with hair mascara was that in order to get the total transformation I wanted, I’d need at least ten tubes – and this wasn’t an option when the L’Oreal one was £8.99. Then our local market started selling it for a pound a tube, and my little sisters ruined a sofa with it, and hair mascara was banned from the house.

Then came a disastrous relationship with Sun-In, a product that promised to give me “holiday hair” by doing a summer sunshine’s worth of work on my roots in half an hour, with a hairdryer. It turned my hair a curious shade of copper, which didn’t suit me and wasn’t what I was going for, but I looked different enough to decide the experiment had been a success – even though all that heat and bleach meant my hair felt a bit like a scratchy army blanket, or cheap loo roll.

Finally, a part time job and an advert for hair models in the local Toni & Guy meant I could have what I always wanted – proper highlights, for 20 quid – and for the next few years I let the professionals take over. Then I discovered hair chalk. Like a dry poster paint for your hair, you seal it with hairspray and it can be brushed out when you get bored! I could have a different colour for every day of the week! Sometimes, I do!

You’re never too old for pink hair, and hair dye exists because we’re allowed to change our looks as often as we change our minds. I wish I’d been a bit bolder, braver and more experimental with my hair when I was in my teens, but I’m glad that I’m making up for lost time now.

Picking a dramatic new hair colour takes confidence, and as we become more sure of ourselves, we become better at trying things that are brand new. Sometimes we have to take risks to work out what we want, and we might make mistakes. But we’re allowed to make mistakes with our hair in the name of creativity. It grows.

My home hair dye heroes…

Lilac hair chalk, £2.99, Superdrug

This pretty pastel shade will make you feel as though you’re starring in a Katy Perry video, and it’s only three quid!

Bleach London Big Pink hair crayon, £4, Boots

If you loved the colouring book craze, you’ll love experimenting with a crayon for your hair.

Stargazer UV hair mascara, £3, Amazon

They still make this! It transforms hair of any colour, and it washes out straight away, so your Mum probably won’t mind.

L’oreal Colorista Semi-Permanent Colour, £6.99, Superdrug

It comes in a full range of unicorn colours, and has a hair masque base to keep your locks nourished.Aussie 3 Minute Miracle, 99p, Superdrug

If you’re colouring your hair, you need to raise your conditioning game. This is easy to apply, fast acting and smells fruity and fabulous


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