I’ve come to be known as having good hair. The problem is, as part of my thyroid illness my body doesn’t grow good hair, or nails. This means I’m in a constant state of ‘almost healthy’ hair, where I pay out for more expensive shampoos and conditioners to ensure it gets a proper treatment every time it’s washed. I’m not in denial, I haven’t been kind to it either. Years of chopping and changing between fantastical colours have left it bleach damaged, and basically dead. There is light at the end of the tunnel though!
First of all, I’ll take you through a journey of what I have put my poor head of hair through my life so far. For reference, I’m a natural blonde, verging on ‘dirty blonde’ but light and yellow enough to not be mistaken for mousey brown. This is the best photo I have to demonstrate my ‘virgin’ hair colour before I started dying it:
Now I was always lusting after the girls in Kerrang magazine with crazy colours and jet black emo fringes. I kind of agreed with my mother that black would be a step too far, but that’s where our agreements ended. From 13 – 15, she let me play with wash-in wash-out colours including a plummy purple that would run down my face when it rained! After working as a Saturday girl in my local hair dressers, I was treated to a rather chunky set of blonde highlights that faded fast and didn’t suit my style at all. I was ready to try something new, and I didn’t want to wait any longer!
My style crush at the time was non other than Gwen Stefani (of No Doubt fame back then) and her gorgeous platinum hair. When I was 16, I began to date a boy who lived in Dundee, and he introduced me to his flatmate who was a dab-hand at bleaching hair. My hair was in great condition at the time, almost boob length and quite thick. I needed no persuading to take the plunge!
I think I gave my mother the fright of her life when I came home with a full head of long white blonde hair! But I was living my Gwen fantasy, and regularly got compared to Anna Nicole Smith, which was an honour to me. Of course, my pin-up makeup talents were limited, and I look back with a feeling of pride at how I created my image, but horror at the products and techniques I was using! I loved my blonde hair, and had fun adding streaks of colour like green and red throughout the summer.
When I finished school in June, I was still only 17, and my birthday was in January. The cut off age for qualifying for schooling in Scotland is 6 months earlier than it is in England, meaning I had a year to wait to turn 18 and go to uni. I enrolled in Adam Smith College, Kirkcaldy, for a HNC in musical theatre. I met some incredible people that year, and learned to be more comfortable without makeup. Of course, 2 years of backcombing and using cheap hair products meant my gorgeous white hair had lost its shine. It was gradually snapping from all the home-bleaching sessions and my lack of knowledge about conditioning treatments. Eventually, I knew I couldn’t keep it up, and decided to lean towards ginger, which had always been a favourite hair colour of mine.
This is when my hair was at its worst. Dry, brittle, and snapped down to just 4 inches in some places, I had it lopped off into a bob and prayed it would grow. You can see even my fringe had snapped, and I basically gave up hope of having nice hair until it grew out a bit more. Then I could have fun again!
OK, so it looks like shit, but you can see how much it had grown. There are literally stripes showing all the bleach sessions growing out, and I can assure you that top 4 inches of hair was back to normal and perfectly thick. My perseverance had paid off, and I was ready to try something new. The college were looking for models for the hairdressing course, and with my hair in this state I figured a free cut and colour would be just the trick!
Look at that shine! The cut was short and edgy, nearly all the damage had been trimmed away, and this stunning cherry red colour brought me back to life. My blonde hair needed no bleach to keep this colour vibrant, and this gave it the recovery it needed. I kept up this style and colour as I applied for degree courses, and eventually chose to move to Preston and attend the University of Central Lancashire. As my hair started to grow longer, I was ready to experiment once more (and pay for a professional to do it with my first student loan installment!). I kept the cherry red, but added a chunk of blonde/yellow which I could flip with my parting to be more or less obvious. I like to call this my Paramore phase, where I began to fall in love with orange and yellow hair colours!
In 2009 a revolution happened: I discovered I suited the fringe. This became a regular feature on and off right up until 2016, but I miss being able to do certain vintage styles with the front section of my hair so I’ve promised myself I won’t get it cut again. Maybe. My hair grew into more of a 1960’s hair cut, and I embraced the brightest coppers my hairdresser could get her hands on.
With the Summer of 2009 came an amazing opportunity with my babe Hannah (peeking in the above image!). She hooked us up with her old friend Sandy Reid who runs Festaff, a festival staffing company who cover most of the UK’s biggest music festivals. This meant working up to 9 days per festival with limited shower access. Now, what I haven’t mentioned up until now is that along with my oily skin, I have oily hair. It almost always looks greasy after a night of sleep, meaning dry shampoo has become my best friend, but washing my hair every other day has become a must. Also, it is poker straight, which can often lack volume without abusive backcombing. The solution for working a summer of 10 festivals? I got a perm! And I LOVED IT!
As dying your hair as well as getting it permed is not a great combination, I let my copper fade and rocked this softer strawberry blonde colour until winter 2009. By this point, I knew I wasn’t going to continue getting my hair permed, but it would take another 6 months of growing out the curls and trimming the ends for me to get my straight hair back. After jokingly trying on my friend’s chocolate-brown wig, I was overcome with the urge to dye my hair brown. Voila!
2010 gave me another chance to reinvent myself, and after my perm had grown out enough I decided to go full goth, cutting off the last curly ends of my hair in the process. Having naturally blonde brows and lashes meant I looked hideously scary without makeup/tinting, but I kept up that tedious routine in the name of glamour. I had recently discovered Dita Von Teese and the more modern side of pin-ups, and knew at some point in my life I wouldn’t be able to resist the dark side. No time like the present, I thought!
OK, so I kind of regretted it. Only because of the brow/lash necessity for me to not look like a piglet! Eventually, my hairdresser and I gradually pulled the colour back to a warm brown, and began the process of growing it out again. My final end-of-year production at uni required my look to be a little less extreme, so over the last few months of uni, I returned to the hairdresser and we began lifting my hair a little. She agreed it was in good enough condition, and we headed back towards ginger with a little help of a few bleach baths.
You can tell the ends are a bit raggedy, but the black had been banished and I could focus on brighter colours once more. Settling on a bob length meant I could get my damaged hair cut off regularly while maintaining a style. In no time at all I was able to bring back my bright copper colours, and even added a panel of white similar to my Paramore Phase, where I could flip my parting to exaggerate the colour. I also grew out the fringe, and began experimenting with pin-up styles. By September 2011, I began working for Urban Decay, and you can tell my makeup gets a lot better from this picture onwards!
Throughout 2012, I knew the upkeep of the white stripe would basically frazzle a specific section of my hair while the rest grew healthy, so I went back to copper all over for summer. Still, I felt like I was getting stuck in the copper rut, and didn’t want this to be the end of my experimenting! The pastel hair trend had just began to hit catwalks, and I fell in love with the idea of lilac hair. My hairdresser lightened my hair up to a certain point, then attempted to tint it purple using a Fudge colour product. For some reason, it just wouldn’t stick, and left me with patchy blondish hair. After 2 visits to the salon, I was getting impatient, and in the whirlwind of Christmas 2012, I did this:
I know right?! Forest green has always been one of my favourite colours, so I took advantage of my semi-bleached hair and whacked on this bad boy. I wasn’t really thinking it through though. To maintain this colour, I would still have to get my roots bleached once a month so it was even all over. So I did the thing I thought I wouldn’t do again… used a box of HairB4 to strip the green and dyed it brown once more! I know, by know you’re thinking ‘Nikee, give your poor hair a break!’. I should have!
This time I knew my poor hair needed a break. For a year, I used semi permanent dyes to cover my roots, while leaving the ends to fade. This meant that my hair could grow back healthier in between trims, and I could use HairB4 a couple of times to get rid of most of the brown. By the end of 2013, I was back to ginger once more, and even had a set of micro-bead extensions put in for my best friend’s hen do in Benidorm. I didn’t like the extensions in the end, I found it difficult to style long hair after so many years of short, and they were hot and sticky in the Spanish sunshine! I took them out the day after I got back!
So I let the ginger stay, and continued to grow out the damage over winter. By Spring 2014 I was getting the urge for change once more. I had been reunited with Katie, my hairdresser, after meeting her when I first came to uni. She’s the most talented hairdresser and most beautiful person and I adore her! She evaluated my hair, and has been doing it ever since! I looked back at all my hair experiments, and knew what I wanted to do again. With professional care and products, I was a deluxe version of my 15-year-old self!
I kept this up for a solid 6 months, before Katie and I decided my hair could handle continued bleaching. This meant I could finally have the hair colour of my dreams. You see, when I was 15, I bought a cheap wig from ebay, just for dressing up and taking MySpace photos. It was a luscious mint green, and deep down inside I knew it would forever be my #hairgoals. In Autumn 2014, my #hairgoals became a reality! This hair needs a collage, as I kept it this was for a record-breaking year and a half!
Now throughout that time I was using ‘Seapunk’ by Bleach London. It was the perfect colour for me, always even coverage, and extremely affordable. The problem is, towards winter 2015 it became harder and harder to get hold of. Even online was always out of stock. I took this as a sign, and decided a change was in order. I wanted to be more commercial as I focused on modelling opportunities, so Katie introduced me to some new colours her salon had in. It didn’t take much to shift the mint green, as Bleach London are semi permanent colours.
A beautiful, steely, warm grey with glints of peach and pink yet lilac. It was indescribably beautiful. The problem was, it lasted 2 washes. No matter how often we applied it, it would just strip to white. I carried on using toners until we decided what to do next.
Now it is styled in that picture, but don’t be fooled, once again my hair was suffering from too much bleaching. Katie needed a model with white hair for her final project of a prestigious colourist qualification, so I let her use my barnet. She cut a fringe in once again, and created an incredible tie-dye sunset look. This looked amazing in editorial pictures, but not so practical in real life. The yellows and oranges washed out quickly, but the pinks and purples were very stubborn. As I was about to travel to London for catwalk training, I needed a quick but not too permanent solution that would even out the blotches and not wash me out. I also got a quick and short bob chopped in with my fringe.
As this pink faded, I made the decision I would go back to my old faithful copper. It still felt a waste to darken all this pre-lightened hair. It seemed natural to let the pink fade, and end on a note of peach. This provided me with a lovely transition back to copper. Though it was fun while it lasted, I’m not a pink or peach kind of girl.
Now, I decided to just chuck some copper on my head and let nature take its course, growing out as much of the damage as possible. I tried to get trims when possible, and styled my hair to hide most of the damage. Keeping my fringe helped get rid of a lot of the damage near the front.
You can see I’ve stopped bleaching the roots, but the ends are still very light as the colour fades. I started using darker auburn shades to combat this fading, which I have almost grown out now. For a long time since my weight gain, I had thought that keeping my hair jaw length or longer has helped hide my double chins. Finally, I decided enough was enough, and I could no longer deal with the wefts of dry, dead hair hanging round my face. I went for a shorter cut about two months ago, and couldn’t believe the positive reaction. I had both friends and almost strangers remarking on how much I suited my shorter hair. It didn’t make me feel self-conscious at all about my chins, and I can see while people have commented that it slims my face down compared to previous haircuts.
My natural blonde is coming through, which is why my roots look so dusty! It’s lovely and sculpted at the back, and I know what my aim will be when I grow it out. We are going to gently lift it enough so that my natural roots don’t look so obvious, then you’ll have to see what is in store in the new year!
Phew! That was very time-consuming and also quite an eye opener! I really do feel sorry for my poor hair, but at the same time I’m quite proud of it for going through all of that. I think once Katie sees this post she’ll give me a good scolding!
What was your favourite colour/cut?