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My “Hairstory”

This is my version of the ten year challenge. A pandemic positive tale.

I grew my first silver and sparkly strand of hair in high school. I’ll never forget it. We were on a bus heading to an opponent’s school to play a game (I can’t remember if it was volleyball or basketball at this point). The late afternoon sun was streaming through the bus window lighting many of us up in its cheery glow. A teammate looked at me and my sparkler glowing in the sun. Suddenly, she said “you have a white hair – I’ll get it” and yanked it out. For years afterwards, like many other people, I would pull the occasional sparkler out and go about my business. As adulthood progressed, so did the frequency of the sparklers. So again, like many others, I began to dye my hair so it would to continue to be the same lovely brown color it had always been. No one knew when I started dyeing my hair, and I didn’t think about it – I just did it.

People have been using hair dye since the time of the Roman Empire1, so it’s not like this was a new idea. It’s just “what you do”.

My hair grows super fast, so to keep up on top of it with no sparkly additions, I would have to “do the ‘do” every 3 weeks. I settled for every month unless I had a TV interview or presentation.

Did I enjoy the process? NO.

Did I wonder about the potential health and environmental impact or the cost? YES. (I already have a diagnosed dye allergy from when I was a kid – but that’s another story. It did add a layer of interesting steps to the process of finding the right dye for my hair. Regarding the environment, the salons I chose had policies in place regarding things like recycling, handling of chemicals, packaging, and so on.)

I had a couple of colorists I really liked over the years. One left to have a baby and one moved far away. I eventually got a colorist who dyed my hair the wrong color. Who doesn’t have a version of that story, right? It was so dark it almost looked purple in certain lights. UGH. The search began to find another colorist. I found her. She was awesome. We started the long process of returning my hair to what it was “supposed” to be. We had conversations about transition times, when it would be “appropriate” to stop dyeing it completely, and all the other types of planning conversations one needs to have when someone else is in charge of what your hair color looks like. We had a plan.

Enter 2020.

The “roots showing” jokes made their way around social media. (I especially liked the one with the Mona Lisa having a chunky white stripe down her famous part.)

The home coloring market soared2.

Fashion and “consumer” magazines provided commentary on what boxed home kits were best3. And so on…

I had tried the home box kits over the years. If you aren’t a trained professional, doing your own hair at home puts your person and your property at risk. I’m only half joking. Is it going to get in my eye? What if I splatter the shower curtain? I wonder if natural stone tiles will take the color? So. Many. Questions…but my hair was stubborn and the type of super sparklers I had would not take box dye, so this wasn’t an option for me.

You know what else happened? Some people just stopped. Like me.

A true, yet unexpected, “pandemic positive” for me was the option to quit cold turkey. Blam. Going to the salon wasn’t an option for anyone for a hot minute. Root stripes became common. Many other women were saying bye bye bye to the dye dye dye completely (visit Instagram – it’s amazing how many “hairstories” and color transitions are chronicled by people in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and up). Once the salons opened back up, I went in one time for about a three hour process to lift the darkest color out of my hair so it was a little more what I’ll call “Zoom friendly”.

I didn’t do this as a statement of any sort. I was not trying to prove a point that sparklers happen to people literally at any age. Knowing that I didn’t want to be a senior citizen with super dark hair one day decades down the road, 2020 just changed the game and provided new paths and timelines. I believe this is true for many things beyond hair color, actually.

The funny thing is, I’ve had more people talk to me about my hair and ask me how I get this color (I do not highlight although many don’t believe me), how long it took to transition from coloring (it was just under two years for me), if it got coarser and wiry (it didn’t, it actually got softer and more manageable), and if I use purple shampoo to keep it so shiny and white (I don’t).

I am not sharing this to cajole you into doing something new with your hair. I am sharing this because so many people have asked me about it that I thought it would be fun to write and share more broadly, especially as the ten year photo challenge has surfaced on social media. What I looked like ten years ago and today? My hair color is quite different. I liked my brown, I like my sparklers.

I’m also sharing it because I accept anything that a person wants to do to their own hair. Dye it. Don’t dye it. Highlight it. Try a color you always wondered about. Shave it. Cut it. Grow it. Wear a wig. That’s the beauty of hair. We have options. So. Many. Options. It’s kind of fun, don’t you think?

I used to be a brunette. Now I’m sparkly. I’ll forever be a brown eyed girl.

It can be fun to change your look. Confidence in doing so is relatively easy to have because you can always change it again.

To anyone who has stopped me in a parking lot to socially distance and chat through our masks to ask me about my hair or provide a compliment, thank you. Your cheery interest in my ‘do makes it fun to share the story with you.

As we make our way through the rest of the first month of 2022, ask yourself what you really want to try this year. It could be superficial like hair, or super deep and much more serious. Whatever you decide, have fun, stick to it, and bring a few friends and colleagues into your transition bubble to make a support system for yourself. Change can be tricky, even when it’s desired. Your trusted go-to people can smile with you on the fun/easy days, and encourage you on the challenging days.

Cheers to a truly happy new year! May whatever changes you desire become the changes you pursue and master.

  1. Hair Coloring. Available at Accessed 1/13/2022
  2. Mendelson, Seth. Drug Store News. Changing Shopper Behavior Creates Opportunity in Beauty. 10/1/2020. Accessed 1/13/2022.
  3. Wadyka, Sally. Consumer Reports. How to Color Your Hair at Home. 5/13/2020. Accessed 1/13/2022.

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.

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