Dye Hard

14 Jul 2020 | 10:39

My bathroom looked like the shower scene from Psycho or the aftermath of afternoon tea with Freddie Kruger. A deep red viscous goo dripped from the shower walls, oozed down the mold-resistant shower curtain, pooled in the tub and on the floor, and stained the sink. There was a red partial hand print on the door.

This was my first attempt at coloring my own hair. After over three months in lock down, white roots were reaching up from my scalp making it appear as if a candy cane had melted on my head. While my eyebrows still retained the beautiful strawberry hue of my natural hair, my huge mass of wiry copper curls needed “enhancement” about every five weeks or so to remain red. But the salon was closed until further notice. I didn’t want to try dying my own hair. It wasn’t really urgent since no one saw me except for Face Time and Zoom friends. As an interim measure I’d started touching up the roots with a gold colored eye shadow I found in my makeup drawer. However, the makeup was running low and the ever-widening bandana I wore to conceal my roots had been stretched to its limit. I couldn’t stand looking at myself anymore, and decided to take a risk.

I called Kyprianos, my colorist, and asked if he could possibly whip up my formula and send it to me. Instead, he suggested curbside service. We agreed on a day, and at the prescribed time, he arrived at my apartment building, parked his car right in front and proceeded to concoct my special recipe, which was to be brushed liberally on my roots plus a gloss that would be squirted from a bottle on my entire head after the dye had set. He provided all the equipment including bowls, bottles, brush, gloves, and texted me detailed instructions. I ran upstairs and began my first foray into self-coloring.

I’d already prepared in advance a white, 13 gallon, extra-thick drawstring garbage bag as a smock with holes cut out for my head and my arms. With some trepidation, I snapped on the gloves and dipped the stiff brush carefully into the bowl of glop which Kyprianos had prepared. I raised it to my head, unsure where to begin. I’d heard that it was best to divide your hair into four quadrants in order to get full coverage. But since my hair is wild and would never submit to being corralled like that, I had to grab thick clumps and hold them straight-up in order to get to the roots. So many roots. Luckily, I have three adjacent medicine cabinet mirrors that open toward each other so I could see the sides of my head but not quite the back. When I was finished with the grabbing and brushing there was still plenty of dye mixture left. A good portion that was applied to my head was now dripping onto my garbage bag smock.

After 40 minutes of anxiously waiting for the color to set, my plan was to stand just outside the tub and stick my head, backwards, under the shower head, to rinse. I have so much hair that the sink would not accommodate it all. I also didn’t want to rinse face down with the dye running into my eyes. The problem I did not foresee was that the shower water would travel from my head down my back and all over the bathroom. Finally, I jumped in the tub, still wearing my smock, but it was too late. Red was everywhere. It looked like a battle had been waged and I was on the losing side. I finished rinsing the dye and emerged from the shower completely soaked. I stripped down and immediately applied the gloss, as instructed. When it came time to rinse again, I jumped again in the shower.

After all evidence of the chaos was cleaned up and my hair was done, I must admit, it looked pretty good. I sent Kyprianos a photo of the finished product and even he approved and only pointed out a few spots I’d missed. Regardless, my hair looked far better than it had earlier in the day. I felt empowered by the experience. Maybe next I can take a stab at cutting my own hair. What could possibly go wrong?

Mona Finston is a partner at MoJJo Collaborative Communications, a virtual PR firm in NYC. She is currently working on a book of essays about her mother and a screenplay about the fantasies of an older woman.