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I’m Louise. Blogger. Wife. Designer of TruLu Couture Veils + Accessories.  If you’d like to know more, check out my bio.

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« Fighting the Big Fight, T30SB vs. TWC Smackdown | Main | Local Loveliness »

I’m Afraid to DIY!

So things are pretty much on schedule. About this time last year, The Candyman and I sat down to do a review of finances. It was painful, as these discussions always are with us. We needed to figure out what our future expenses were going to be, how much money we’d have coming in, for how long and when we’d have to dip into our beloved savings to stay afloat. We had a good, bad and worst case scenario.

Let’s just say we’re right on track. *sigh*

The reality is we’re going to have to tighten the belt in yet another notch. *double sigh* And my car needs new tires. And Christmas is coming. And….blah blah blah. I don’t think there’s a person alive right now who doesn’t have a lot of the same concerns, issues, headaches. The sad thing is that it’s all-consuming, no? I wish the money chatter would get out of my head. Seriously, every now and again I think I could use a break from it. Sheesh.

One of the things I’ve decided to give up is my professional hair color. I can no longer justify the cost against my vanity. We need to save that money. Period.

I went through this madness a year ago and attempted to DIY my hair color right before I left Nashville to come to Charlotte. I was trying to jump the gun on that savings. I had called my hairdresser to ask her professional opinion regarding at-home products she might suggest. Let’s just say this: the bitch was no help at all. In fact, I do believe she was pissed at me for even calling. As a side bar, this TOTALLY pissed me off. I had spent the last SIX YEARS paying her an exorbitant sum of money plus a 20-30% tip as well as buying hair care products from her. The least she could do was give me a phone consult. And it’s not like I was dropping her for some other stylist (which I should have done long before), I was MOVING for crissake. I totally should have followed my gut on that one, but was too scared that someone might jack up my hair again (which is why I went to her in the first place. She does do good hair!).

ANYWAY, she was of no help whatsoever. I went to the Target, got totally overwhelmed by my choices and bought what I thought was the right thing and it totally wasn’t. I ended up with very scary, super-dark brown hair that looked like dark brown, dull, somewhat-ashy straw. I ended up going to J.Bangs Salon where I got my wedding day hair done and they fixed it up for me. Of course, they had to strip the color and all that kind of crap. It was a nightmare. I got scared again and kept paying to get my hair done.

Since then, I’ve done a little bit more research and now know that I should have used semi-permanent instead of permanent color. It turns out that folks with brown hair who have some gray (*ahem*) shouldn’t use permanent color for all sorts of reasons, noticeable root growth being one of them. A semi-permanent color makes your grays fade into “highlights” versus roots. I mean, that sounds like a no-brainer, but I just didn’t get it.

In my research I found that Good Housekeeping, Redbook, TotalBeauty.com  and Consumer Reports all listed Clairol Natural Instincts in their top ratings. Consumer Reports actually listed their Natural Instincts semi-permanent color for women, hair color for men and hair color for women of color as the best all around. Good to know. I trust those guys.


So Clairol Natural Instincts SEMI-permanent color is what it’s going to be. I’m terrified to do this, y’all. What if I pick the wrong color? I think I might turn this into a T30SB DIY experiment because if I’m taking pictures and thinking about how I might write the post, it might help dilute some of the terror involved in doing my own hair.

The reality is this: I have a shit-ton more gray than I think I should have at this age. However, I’m probably just in denial about this age. I’ve got these natural highlights at my temples that I’ve always referred to as my racing stripes. BG (Before Gray), they’d get super-light in the summer and if I pulled my hair straight back, they’d literally show as two lines down my head in a very Bride of Frankenstein sort of way that I thought was cool.


The sad thing is that as I look at my hair now, those stripes are clearly more gray than “highlights” and I’m guessing the B of F look will be adopted sometime in the future. The future being like 20 years from now when I can go gray and perhaps not feel so much like a 12 year old trapped in a 41 year old package.

So now’s your chance. Give me your at-home thoughts ASAP because this shit is about to happen. PLEASE don’t tell me not to do it because that decision has already been made and I must. If you tell me not to it will only make me feel bad. And that “feeling bad” mental real-estate has already got a mortgage payment that smacks of  a 2007 Fannie Mae subprime adjustable-rate loan.

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Reader Comments (8)

May I recommend henna? It might be too hippy dippy for you and it smells gross, but it's actually good for your hair rather than nasty for it. You can get it in shades of brown, copper, red, blond, etc. I like the rainbow brand. I find that it brightens up my hair, boosts its natural color (red-brown), and the gray strands (of which I have many) turn bright copper or red depending on the color I use.

September 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterindependent clause

I don't have any advice- I've always been too afraid to color my hair at all, so it's always been brown, but I understand the belt-tightening. I just wanted to send you encouraging happy thoughts as you delve into it!

September 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

Good tip, 30SB! I still spend too much on my hair. It's very silly, really.

September 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKim

It will be OK! As someone coming from a family with parents who BOTH color their hair at home (both of them went from strawberry blondes to dark ashy blondes somewhere in their 30s), it IS doable, and it will save you a ton of money. Here are my tips:

1) If you're just starting out, I highly recommend you have help. If you can, ask a friend or hubby to do it for you...someone standing over you will have a better view of how the color is distributed through your hair than you will get by looking in a mirror.

2) Make sure your hair is combed free of any tangles first, and use a somewhat wide-toothed comb to spread the color. Even if your squeeze bottle of color has a little comb on the top, I'd still recommend a separate comb. It will get trickier through the process to get the comb through your hair, but just be gentle and it works SO much better!

3) If you want to cover grays, make sure your color is designed to do just that. My dad uses a specific Garnier hair color because it *doesn't* cover his grays/whites.

4) Don't get the root touch-up kits. Chances are that by the time you have roots showing, your overall color could use a little refreshing too. Get the regular box, but start applying color to your roots first. You'll get a result that looks more professional and matches more cleanly than a touch-up kit ever will!

5) (sorry, these tips are horribly out of order) When picking your color, ignore the pretty little loops of hair on the displays. They won't help you at all and, to an extent, neither will the picture on the box. On the side or back of each box is a little chart showing a few natural hair colors and what approximate color your hair will be after using that box; use this as your guide. Even given that, it might take a couple of different tries to find the formula you really love, but make sure you give each color AT LEAST a couple of days before you try another.

6) If you hair is super-long and thick, you *might* need 2 boxes. It's less likely to be an issue with hair color, but I did run into an issue once using a hair color remover on a roommate (who had like 10 different layers of permanent color in her hair with rainbow tips, but wanted to go all pink....fun times!) and we had to make a quick run to Wally World halfway through to get another box of the color remover. I remember my mom had semi-long hair for a while (and we both have SUPER thick hair) and she never needed a second box...but you never know.

That's all I can think of at the moment. It's really not that bad; you'll be fine! Good luck, and pop me an email if you think of any specific questions that I missed.

September 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCathryn

since you're hair is super long, wait until the hubs is home to help you get the back, it will go a lot quicker. also, have you tried Aveda Institute? i get a cut & color for $50.

September 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlindsay h

Lots of good tips above, but here's another. If you find one color too dark and the next one up too light, you can MIX them. You may have to play with the ratios to get to the one you like. For instance -- I used to mix "light golden brown" (too light), with "medium golden brown" (too dark), to get an in between color. Happy hair coloring! It isn't as scary as you think. :)

September 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMom

I love Natural Instincts! And I can attest that semi-permanent is MUCH less scary. Might have to get two, though - looks like you have lots of hair.

September 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennie

Rpeat after me..."It will be o.k." I have several friends who do at-home color. They always look great! As for the rest of the budget blues, I know how you feel. Here's my trick-I try to focus my energy on being content with what I have rather than worrying about the what if's. Easier said than done sometimes. I've fallen off the bandwagon once or twice but I've caught up to the wagon train again & I'm hanging on to the tailgate with all my might . And here's the interesting part, when the budget blues fade & life is prosperous again, I realize that I can be happy with little or much and usually the "skinny" times are more rewarding in the long run.

September 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmyT

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