Some day, my prince will come

By Mir
December 4, 2005

Yes indeed; some day, a rugged, handsome man with bulging pectorals will ride up on a white stallion. I will be standing there, gape-mouthed, probably wearing jeans and sporting several zits, and he will swing down off his steed and tower above me in all his glory. In one swift movement he will scoop me into his embrace and dip me low to the ground. His mouth will skim across my neck and come to rest just a hair’s breadth above my ear. While I gasp for air and try to regain my wits, he will whisper tenderly,

“I cut hair like Nick Arrojo, and have the perfect haircolor right here in my pocket.”

At that point I swoon and pledge my eternal love to him. We live happily ever after and my hair is FABULOUS.

What? It could happen.

In the meantime, I’m thinking of starting a new category for my hair adventures. I mean, really now. I cut my hair! Yay! I color my hair! It turns out black, oh no! I cut it again! ACK, TOO SHORT! I dye it again, and….

Oh. Um. You might want to get a drink and a snack. This could take a while.

After dying my hair black I polled every person I’ve ever spoken to and asked for suggestions on how to be more successful on subsequent dying adventures. The UPS guy seemed a little perplexed that I was asking him for hair advice, but I wanted to be thorough in my data gathering.

Everyone who seemed to know anything about it said: “Go get your hair colored at the salon.” Which, yes, is absolutely the right solution for anyone who can go that route. I considered it–I really did–but in the end I decided it was more responsible to feed my kids for the month than to achieve the perfect dye job. What can I say; I’m boring that way. So then those people rolled their eyes at me and gave me a plethora of home-dying advice.

The overwhelming majority suggested Feria by L’Oreal. Alrighty then. I will happily buy the most expensive color-in-a-box at this point, because 1) it’s still cheaper than the salon, 2) I will just hope more money = more better results (yeah, I’m aware that things can’t actually be “more better” but I’m talking about my HAIR here, people), and 3) lots of people recommended it and not everyone can be wrong! Right? Right!

[A quick recap, in case you haven’t been riveted to this tale for some reason: My hair is dark brown. It’s a lovely color, actually. I have no desire to change it. But I do want to cover up the increasing grey, because grey in dark brown hair pops up and says “HELLO! I am grey! And RIGHT HERE!” and makes me look too old.]

So! I thought I would buy myself some Feria! But what color? Hmmmm. Here is where I always run into trouble. I mean, there are eighty gazillion colors all claiming to be some variety of brown. And so I fell into an endless loop of indecision, for a bit.

Then there was a woman selling cheap haircolor on a coupon board I frequent. Mail me, she said. I have all kinds of haircolor! Cheap! Oh, cheap… my favorite word. I mailed and asked her if she had any Feria browns. Why yes, she said. She had a Feria brown called “Creme Brulee.” Did I want it?

Hmmmm. Last time I checked, creme brulee was sort of… caramel colored. But she only wanted $3.50 shipped, so what the hey. Sure! I told her. Send it along! Because I am on crack, and the lure of the bargain overrode the part of my brain that should’ve known that was going to be entirely TOO LIGHT for me.

But hope–and tightward tendencies–sprang eternal! I sent my money and I waited. And waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally, one day a small box appeared in my mailbox. It had to be my haircolor! I ripped off the paper in joyful anticipation of saying goodbye to my grey roots. Inside I found a box of haircolor.

Nice ‘n Easy 120B, Natural Dark Caramel Brown, to be exact.

I mailed the seller. She promised my Feria. I waited and waited and waited and waited and finally, my Creme Brulee arrived. And it looked too light.

I decided to make peace with going grey at an early age. That lasted about a week.

Finally, I took the advice of a friend who is wise in the ways of haircolor, and I set off on my quest: Feria Havana Brown. It would be perfect, I was assured. It would NOT turn my hair black, all the smart people told me. It was The Color To Have.

So of course, the first store I went to was completely out of it. I bought the last box at the second store. Woohoo!

Now here’s where I admit that my miserliness knows no bounds. Here’s the thing: my hair is really short, now. There’s enough in those home kits to cover even very long hair. It stands to reason that HALF the kit should be more than ample to dye my hair.

Do you know where I’m going with this…?

Hmmm. What sort of plastic bottle with a nozzle top could I find so that I could preserve half the activator for a second application…? A plastic bottle. With a nozzle. Hmmmmmmmmm.

I threw a box of douches into my cart. HOWEVER, you are not allowed to call me douche-head, because tonight I discovered that I still had some hermetically sealed baby bottles in my basement that came in a the free diaper bag the hospital gives out. (Theme: Don’t breastfeed your baby! Buy our formula! Or, you know, breastfeed and then use these bottles for haircolor in 6 years!)

So tonight I prepared a highly scientific method for splitting the activator and dye and “aromatic additive” so that I could use exactly half of the kit’s contents to color my hair. Yes. I have a tape measure! And a Sharpie! So it was all good!

I mixed up half the kit. In spite of the “aromatic additive” it made my eyes water while I applied it. I offered up many, many prayers while I was carefully applying it to my hair. Please, God, don’t let this turn my hair black. You know, God, even if this is just SORT OF close to my actual color, that would be fine. And of course–God, hasn’t my hair suffered enough?

25 minutes later, I obediently headed back to the bathroom for rinsing. I lathered, I rinsed, I conditioned. I wrapped a towel around my head and then stood in front of the mirror and took a deep breath. Slowly, I undid the towel. I blinked at my reflection in the mirror.

I looked… exactly the same. I ran my fingers through my hair and reviewed the color. It was just like my natural shade. Perfect! All hail Havana Brown! Marvelous! I was all set to do a happy little jig right there.

And then I continued parting little rows through my hair to check the coverage, and discovered that it hadn’t taken on any of the grey. None. Well; no. Maybe the grey is now sort of blonde. Which, hey, if the box was labelled “Effects a significant semantic change on unwanted grey,” then I guess I would be pleased.

Did I do it wrong? Was my halving method flawed, and it wasn’t enough activator? Maybe not enough dye? Maybe my hair is just not meant to be colored properly… ummm… ever? I may never know. It might be time to start accepting the fact that my hair is turning grey.

Or scanning the horizon a little more carefully. Either way.


  1. ToadyJoe

    Try again, 1 or 2 shades darker (use the numbers next to the color names) and use the FULL BOTTLE next time. You may have *resistant grey* and need to leave it on longer (by 10-15 minutes, read the directions) – but don’t do all 3 (longer, full bottle, darker shade) at once or you may turn out black again!

  2. DebR

    I would stick with the Havana Brown, but mix up the full bottle, even if it seems wasteful, and leave it on an extra 10 – 15 minutes.

    I mean I know you like to save money, but even Feria -admittedly the most expensive of the at-home stuff – is less than $10 a package. At least it is around here, as I know since I use it once every 4 – 6 weeks. ;-) You gotta figure being happy with your hair is worth $10 a month, yes?

    C’mon, Mir, you can do it!! Even without Nick Arrojo!

  3. Lisa(in California)

    Oh, for corn’s sake!

    I don’t think I have ever used that expression before, but it just seemed appropriate for this moment.

    Usually the instructions will say leave on an extra 15 minutes (or some such time) for color resistant grays. Maybe your grays are the really stubborn variety?

    Lisa :)

  4. Karin

    Oh the trials of hair dying. *G*
    I have found that Feria doesn’t cover the greys as well as some of the other brands and even some of the other L’Oreal ranges. Maybe the Havana Brown comes in one of their ranges that does cover grey better? Sorry I don’t know what they are called in the USA – I’m in Australia.
    My natural mousey mid-brown is so dull and boring I’ve been dying it since I was about 16. Currently it is a colour called cyber purple (a nice dark plummy magenta colour) and my greys go bright pink. Which is really cool. Especially now that I have added bright pink highlights as well. I’m being festive, that’s my excuse.

  5. Amy-GO

    What about Grecian Formula? *Ducking*

  6. KimberlyDi

    I’ve done the Feria Creme Brulee. Way too light. I actually have had great success with “Light Ash Brown – L’Oreal Superior Preference Hair Color” this last time. I’m a Brunette that turns reddish when dying so my hair stylist told me to look for a product with “ash” in the description. I confess that I bought the product because Susan from Desperate Housewives advertised it on TV. It comes with a weekly conditioner that really keeps it soft and shiny. You like shiny, right?

  7. Theresa

    Given that any time I get within 6 inches of a home hair coloring kit of any name or color, I end up with orange hair, I refuse to give any advice at all!

    So you’re saying you ended up with blondish highlights, sorta?

  8. laura

    Feria doesn’t do jack for covering up my gray. I had to move on to the Loreal Excellence Creme…”Gray? What gray?” I used a dark medium brown for a while until I got too old to pull off all dark medium brown hair, and now I mix that one with a medium reddish brown, which seems to complement my age spots, sun damage, wrinkles, and adult acne a little better.

  9. Brenda

    I’m one of the people that recommended Feria. It works great on my gray hair (but my hair is medium fine, and takes color very easily), but I think there’s a note on the box that if you are more than a certain percentage gray, that you should use a different L’Oreal product. I’ve heard good things about Preference.

    Since your natural color is darker than mine, you probably have a slightly coarser hair strand, which will be resistant to color, and will require you use the whole box and leave it on longer.

    I agree with DebR: $10 a month is not much for great-looking hair. Remember, your hair is right there above your face, and you want it to look good. I’ll light a candle for you for next month’s attempt.

  10. ben

    One fantastic thing about being a male is that I really don’t know what is going on with my hair and I’m perfectly fine with not knowing.

    If it gets too bushy (or long or whatever) my wife or my mom will make a comment and I go get it cut. $7. I always tip well ($3, at least) because the lady that cuts my hair is oriental and talks to me the entire time and I can understand only about one word out of sixteen, so I consider that a bonus. I just smile and in five minutes I’m presentable again (meaning: my mom will quit bitching) until next time.

    I haven’t a clue what color it is! Dark, I think.

    Yes, if there’s anything about being male that is good, this would be it.

    But I’m not bragging or anything; no, I’d never do that :)

    (I hear the Sinead O’Conner look is coming back. Just sayin’)

  11. Rae

    Never be miserly when it comes to your hair hun… take it from the girl who’s had hair every colour in the rainbow and has tried every color and company known to man…and also have hair down to my butt…I’m one of the “have to get two packages to get all the hair” girls…

    oh yeah and make friends with a hairdresser… a retired one… one who doesn’t work in a salon anymore… or one that doesn’t mind doing her work at home… its the best thing I ever did… ;)

  12. jena

    Hi, I just had to say something about this one. I have learned that in order to cover gray, I mean really cover gray, you have to go to a salon. The same is true if you want to return to your natural color after being platinum blonde. Natural being a dark auburn. I, being cheap, have given up trying to dye it at all and embraced the gray. A sad, sad day when you consider I was 28 when I made that desicion.

  13. Patricia

    I’m so sorry you are still having issues with your hair. I am a master of the dye thing. I began going grey in high school — yes, I said high school. Now being a few years younger than you, I am more than 50% grey. I tried to make peace with it — can’t be done. I’ve tried it all.

    Here’s what I know:
    1. Feria doesn’t cover my grey or anyone I know. It has great color — but the one time I got it to sort of color a gray, the color washed off in the next shower.
    2. If you are shooting only to cover the gray you have, you MUST look at a level 3 Permenant.
    3. Color — this is the tricky part. I always say shoot for a shade or two lighter than your natural color, to avoid the black thing. I also firmly believe in my formerly med brown hair being dark blonde now because — gray doesn’t show up as much on lighter hair!!!
    4. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS — leave the color on for the MAX time — this is key for those grays — also start by putting the color in the areas you are most gray.

    Hope this helps,

  14. Justin

    OK, I usually just lurk but you’re making me crazy. Go to a Sally’s or some other type of Salon shop that sells to professionals. Buy the bottles of color and the activator indivdually. That way you can mix up what you need not a full bottle. If you want to use Feria, which does have lovely color but you have hard to dye gray you’ll need to get some Gray Magic. You add a few drops to your color and it makes any type of hair dye cover gray. Take it from a cheap fussy gay guy. You CAN manage good hair color on a budget. Good Luck and Go Bless.

  15. Kathy

    What if you took the left over and mixed it up and applied it just to the gray hairs? Leave it on a bit longer?

    I colour my hair at home all the time (with whichever brand is on sale) – it always comes out fine…but I don’t have any grey…yet.

  16. Rae

    Oh dear. I dye my hair red to cover the grey that started coming at 17, very stubborn. Here’s the deal. I would recommend Clairol (yes, Nice ‘n Easy), because it is a little harsher for the hair (higher peroxide to dye ratio), it COVERS THE GREY. :-) This isn’t a job for Nutrience Herbal Essence Gently Taint Your Hair One Shade Lighter, or even Feria for that matter (‘m naturally strawberry blonde, the Feria washed out in two weeks, but reds are harder to keep than other colors).

    Tips: mix the full bottle, you can’t reuse the other stuff as it is, once it’s opened it expires rather quickly; pick Clairol or at the least L’Oreal, and leave it one for the full time (in your case around 40 minutes). Wait about a week before you try again, otherwise it’ll damage the hair too much with back-to-back dyeing attempts.

    Pick up a cheap 1.00 hot oil treatment in the meantime for your hair, it’ll help prep it for the next go around. :)

    Hope things go better next time!

  17. Em

    I haven’t started dying yet, though at this point I am just delaying the inevitable, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

    What about a hair styling school? Is that too ghetto? From what I have heard, they only let those closest to graduating work on real people and I’m sure it cost less that a salon. I bet people all new to the profession would be excited to share what they know as far as the best over the counter dyes and which color would suit ou best. Good compromise?

  18. Crystal

    More advice, although you didn’t ask for any. Dontcha love the interweb?? Anyway, go with Nice and Easy, it’s better for greys. Do you have red highlights naturally? If so, go with a straight medium brown, one shade or so darker than your natural hair. If you are a true brunette, go with a warm brown with a touch of red. Avoid “ash” colors, they come out yucky.

  19. blueprincesa

    That reminds me of the time I tried to dye my hair black when I was 14 and thought I was all gothic and punky and stuff. It went snot green, and there were still little snotty green streaks in my hair a year later.

  20. BNA

    Just one more suggestion? I like Garnier’s hair color better than L’Oreal’s versions. The colors come out with more depth, somehow. And yes, it covers my greys. I like Creme Brulee.

  21. Miss Kitty

    Thanks for sharing your woes with us. I just bought L’Oréal’s Havana Brown and my hair is dark brown almost black. I don’t think it’ll make a difference now after reading what you’ve gone through. I think it would be wise to go to a salon and get your hair done, they tend to have dyes that are strong and longer lasting, not to mention a variety of shades you may not find in the store. Thanks for your help! Best of luck next time. :)

  22. Liz

    After a recent “budget summit” meeting with the hubby I have decided to cancel my salon coloring. You’re right — feeding the little babes should rank higher on the old priority list. It’s been forever since I “tried this at home.” I’m scared. I remembered your post here and had to come back and review the advice. At least now I have some ideas. Can’t remember, but I think your most recent foray into home coloring was more successful?? Or was that just a better cut? Oh well. Here goes….

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest