Friday, 11 November 2011

Strand Tests are for Wimps

Many years ago this blog started with me searching the internet for ways to save cream coloured cushions from a tsunami of red wine - I think I ended up soaking them in litres of milk - so it seems quite fitting that several years later history was pretty much repeating itself, only this time I wasn't scouring the internet for red wine/stain solutions but red hair/stain/I look like Sharon Osbourne solutions.

Some people get their thrills by partaking in adrenaline pumping sports.  Some people escape via the X Box. Some people get drunk and start fights (please, don't mention Birmingham). Some people leap off tall buildings attached to parachutes or plunge from cranes attached to pieces of elastic.  Women like me stuck at home with small children on a damp cold evening seek out that illusive thrill, that sense of 'what if?', that stepping into the void by.......

... well by dying their hair without doing the strand test.

Apparently 98% of callers to 'Hair Dye Manufacturer's Help Lines' answer 'no' to the 'but did you do a strand test question?'.  The other 2% are either lying or gaining background history for their 'My Hair Dye Caused My Face to Explode Like a Pumpkin' story in Take a Break.

Anyway needless to say I've never done a strand test in my life. Just as I never read instructions properly or terms and conditions or put the butter in the fridge or put my driving glasses on until it's dark.  And hey, you know, it's only hair! It's not like it really matters....

My hair first got dyed when I was about 14.  It was Badger Girl that did it (Quelle Surpise). I was having a sleep over at her house (only they weren't called sleep over then - it was just 'staying at your mate's house') and she'd bought a box of dye and between her and another girl they bullied me into it, killed themselves laughing as they refused to let me wash it off for about three hours and then - when her rather cross mother rescued me - insisted on washing out over the kitchen sink with jugs of warm milk (she lived on a dairy farm).  It was downhill from there.  Before you knew it was I was stealing fabric dye from Textiles lessons and turning bits red (it came out in the rain) and then it was Jiff Lemons to 'lighten' it and then, before you know it, I'd started on the Sun-In.

I'm not really sure what happened next. I know when I was 16 I let a budding hairdressing student perm it in the college common room. I say 'budding' - she never actually reached the blooming bit...... I've still got the photos of me grinning like a loon with the rollers in.  I'm sat on a gas heater and she's leering over me with a fag in her mouth.  I'm not quite sure what my mother thought when she picked me up at the end of the day with rampantly curly hair but I think by that point she'd stopped asking too many questions.  The perm fell out in about a week so we did it all again 'for a laugh' and then I think my hair started to fall out so we stopped.

On to University and I wanted 'highlights' (once perms are old school you go for highlights because their more grown up and 'posher') but highlights done by a proper trained professional (rather than some student who leaves you like a gloriously stripped autumnal badger) cost about the same as an entire term's cider budget so we did them ourselves.  With a shower cap we poked holes in and a needle to pull the hair through.  This could potentially have worked if I'd had short hair and wanted that fabulous '80s retro Michelle Fowler off of Eastenders' look but sadly my long hair was soon being ripped from it's roots by my well meaning friend so we took the cap off and just  put bleach through 'some random bits'.

And then I got a job and had more exciting things to do than mess about with my hair.

And then I had kids and didn't have a well paid job and didn't have anywhere to go in the evening so the fiddling came back.

But despite my lack of strand tests I have never had a disaster. I've always used permanent 'potential for disaster is immense' dye and never ever felt any sense of regret.  In the summer I went bright copper and have been happy with it ever since.

Until last week.

Last week I decided to be 'sensible' and refresh the 'copper tones' with a non-permanent 'more healthy for your hair' type of dye.  A gentle, non risky, Amber glow so I would look nice and shiny like a well nourished dog, for the reunion I'm going to with Badger Girl on Saturday and my graduation photos next week......

Tra  la la la la - dye on - wash off - dry hair........


Amber my arse.

More like Puddle of Mud.

It was BROWN.  With this awful type of artificial old lady reddy sheen.

It certainly got my heart racing.  Racing with the fear of having to go out with hair like Sharon Osbourne.

But it's OK right because this is NOT permanent. Yeah? So I just have to wash it out as quick as I can.

So I searched the internet for ideas.

1. Fairy Liquid - washed it twice in this - no freaking difference. Other than I'm covered in bubbles.

2. Bicarb of soda - washed it twice in this - guess what? No difference. Other than I'm covered in white powder.

3. Warm olive oil - bunged it in the microwave for a minute and poured it on my head.  Ow.  Turns out 15 seconds is all you need.  No difference other than a burnt scalp, rivers of oil running down my body and all over the floor.

4. White wine vinegar - I don't have this, only cider vinegar - but guess what!? NO FREAKING DIFFERENCE.  Only now I'm covered in olive oil AND vinegar and stink like a Greek salad. Chuck some croutons and a few olives into the mix and dinner is served.

By this point it's 1am.  The adrenaline is starting to leave my body so I go to bed only to be woken at 4am by a howling child and lie there in a confused state wondering why all I can smell is salad dressing and where all the white powder came from.

6am get up and hope the hair has 'grown on me' or magically gone back to copper.

Nope.  It's Dawn of the Freakin Dead looking back at me.

Take children to my mums.  She comments my hair is 'very shiny'. Yes mum that will be all the olive oil I can't wash out of it.

Decide it's too oily for work but can not face one more minute of hair washing (having washed it about 19 times in 24 hours) so put talc in  it to soak up the olive oil.

I now have volume to die for but on the other hand you could turn me upside down and deep fry my hair as Tempura batter.

TRY to live with the hair for 2 more days.  Someone at the hospital compliments me on the way I've matched my hair to my BROWN top.   It still looks like Puddle of Mud with 'berry' tones and then I see Janet Street Porter on TV and realise I'm potentially channelling her look and freak.  Borrow my mum's Vosense (possible the harshest shampoo in the world) and wash it twice more...... Nope - I've had tattoos less permanent than this hair dye.

So after a whole week of excitement I give up and strip it with proper stuff from a shop rather than ideas off the internet.  This involves spending an entire afternoon walking round in a bin bag and shower cap smelling of rotten eggs only to then have to spend 30 minutes under running water.  I never want to wash my hair again. Ever.   Some people will do ANYTHING to avoid housework......

And after all that my hair is.....exactly the same colour it was before all this ridiculous carry on. Back to a sort of Auburn blonde.  Like my Scottish grandma.

My mother was right all along - I should never have messed with it in the first place.  But since when did anyone ever listen to their mother?

Maybe I need to take up Base Jumping?


  1. ROFL....what an end to the week. I had to laugh, having had my own share of bad hair days..none quite as extreme as yours though.
    Hugs xx

  2. Hahaha Love your ability to laugh at all your mishaps.

    Another that has never ever done a strand test in her life - and never likely to either.

  3. Having been there and done it and never done a strand test lol.............. I was in stitches at your story and could relate to it all, thanks for sharing this
    Tilly x

  4. Stickhead, I just love your blog!!!

  5. Hysterical:)

    I have also been there, done that. Being American my first standby was washing my hair in TIDE laundry soap.My husband has a motto when it comes to my hair ,it is "leave the shit alone! "
    But ,then I'd be drab, wouldn't I.

  6. Another who's never done a strand test. Can totally relate to this! The only difference is that I am no stranger to completely stripping the colour and redying it at home. The first time I did it it went a nice Ronald McDonald orange with white roots, but I soon learnt that was normal. Home colouring holds no fear for me now I know that a £4 box pre-lightener and a box of dye can change pretty much anything. The trick is not to look at the colour until it's all done.

  7. has anyone met anyone who's ever done a strand test??

  8. I'm never sure quite *how* you're supposed to do a strand test, given that you're supposed to open the pack, mix the solutions, put a bit on and leave it for 24hrs....but you can only keep the mixed-up solution for an hour. So who in their right mind is going to buy TWO boxes of the stuff, one to do the strand test with and just bin the rest, and the other to use when the strand test turns out ok??? I mean, come ON, is it ANY wonder that noone does them?!