Botched Hair Dying: Kool-Aid, Boxes, & Corrections

The timer buzzed. Twenty minutes had passed. I pulled the clip holding my semi-wet, just-dyed hair and stared in the mirror. Instead of the strawberry blonde streaks that usually resulted, whopper –sized blotches, like puddles of ketchup adorned my scalp. How could this happen? I’d followed the directions on the box just like I’d done many times. I followed the technique taught to by my sister Madeline: comb it through, scrunch it up, cut the time a bit.

Though I’d gone to a salon and have a favorite colorist, I’d gotten in the habit of doing my own hair. Usually the results from my inexpensive supermarket variety brand – and I often tried different ones– seemed no different than when I spent hours and many more dollars. Until now.

Crisis! I had a presentation the next day- my first book talk at my local library. I knew my regular salon was closed on Monday so I pulled the telephone book of the shelf- dusted it off, and began calling, from A to Z. No one answered! It’s a conspiracy—all salons are closed Monday! Panic! I went to CVS and bought another box, thinking I could cover over the botched dye job.  I diligently followed directions, set the timer and waited. The results were worse!  Like red wine on a white tablecloth, these ketchup blotches seemed to have spread even further, oozing into one another.

The next day, I began calling early. Many didn’t open until 9. I tried my regular salon at 8:45. Truly the stars were aligned. Dawn, the receptionist at Anthony Garubo in Maplewood, answered and there was an opening at 10:30 with Ashley—my colorist! She’d had a cancellation.

My sister warned me that I’d probably be admonished for doing my own hair. “Expect them to be really snobby,” she said.

Thankfully, Ashley didn’t pass judgment. She explained there were no guarantees and it would be a process.  She muttered “unbelievable” several times, telling me that the metallic salts in the dye had reacted with my hair. I agreed to anything. “Look, I’ll come back every day if I need to, just do something so when I speak tonight I don’t look like this!” I was prepared to become a brunette.

After two rounds of application of some substance that cut the color, about six shampoos, a half hour with my head wrapped in saran wrap under the dryer, a final color and glaze, and FOUR hours, and a rather gigantic bill, I was done.  Hair restored, colored- a bit carroty but it will fade, and even blown out, something I rarely do.

Signing a book.

Ashley mentioned she had another “correction” that day, the term they use to fix inept home colorists.  Returning to her station after my stint under the dryer, I saw a young teen, maybe about 14 and her mother. This girl had first used Kool-Aid that turned the last two inches of her long straight blonde hair a rosy pink. (I’m so uncool I’d never heard of Kool-Aid as hair dye, but apparently its very popular. I looked at a few YouTube videos on this- some have over 100,000 views! I should be so lucky!)

Back to this girl.

Adventurous but unsatisfied, she then bought a box, turning the bottom of her hair bright magenta. Her father declared she had to fix it; the girl apparently refused to cut her hair. The two inches would have hardly been missed.

I pity this family. Her parents have no idea what real worry is when it comes to raising a teenager. And she is so spoiled that she demanded the lengthy and costly hair treatment instead of the quick trim.

I’ve written about hair before: summer frizz and even wrote to Michelle Obama about her hair. I realize it’s vanity; and am grateful to have hair, whether it’s ketchup or carrot colored, curly or straight, unruly or tame.

In the end, it’s just hair.

PS. I read Train Dreams while undergoing my hair correction. It’s lovely, lyrical, poignant. I read a few paragraphs of The Pale King and back it went to the library. Still waiting to get Swamplandia. Stay tuned.

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8 Responses to Botched Hair Dying: Kool-Aid, Boxes, & Corrections

  1. beachbarb says:

    Would have loved to see the ketchup-splotched “before” as well as the stunning “after.”


  2. Well I saw the after and it was beautiful. However, I did mention your botched job to my receptionist who is going through this same process Her colorist told her that she was “never to use anything on her hair to color it and if she went to Duane Reade she was to avoid the hair dye section.” Her hair is 3 shades with a vivid red at the ends. It was suppose to be streaks. She has to wait to start the correction process. She has had us laughing all day. She is wearing a ” bun” to the wedding this weekend. When she asked if there was anything hat could be done before the wedding, she was told ” to wear a hat.” Thanks for the chuckle.


  3. gilla says:

    I knew that there had to be additional benefits to my wearing a wig……


  4. zannyro says:

    I’m speechless!! I have to get my hair done monday………eeeekkkk!


  5. valleygirl96 says:

    I do not yet dye my hair, but you have captured some of my worst fears about hair dye. My only experience was when I was 13 and tried to use “Sun-in” (do you remember that stuff) on my dark brown hair. Let’s just say it did not result the desired blonde highlights. My hair turned the color of burnt macaroni and cheese (and I think smelled like it too). Fun post!


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