Discuss: A Tale of Follicular Woe

Feb 17, 2012

I am a woman who is obsessed with her hair.  If my hair looks really good, you could drop a house on me and steal my Ruby Slippers and it would still be a good day.  If my hair looks lackluster, the day will be fine.  If I’m having a bad hair day, I will need donuts–lots of donuts–and if you don’t have donuts, well, just put the HAZMAT team on standby because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Recently, I spent 8 months growing out a bad bang trim.  I was finally loving my hair.  So of course, it was time to cut and color.  Isn’t that always the way?

It had been over a year since my last color, so I asked for this:

The colorist and I had a miscommunication.  It was both of our faults really.  And the result was that I ended up with my natural color, which I have been hiding away with dye and highlights since I was 14.  

It looked something like this:

It wasn’t what I wanted, but in retrospect, it looked fine.  Just dark.  And it was a big change that seemed to emphasize everything that I don’t like about my skin and hide away my favorite feature by making my hazel eyes look dark brown.

What I should have done at this point, was go back to that colorist and ask for a change, but when it comes to hairstylists, I am too impatient for my own good.  So once I realized that avoiding all reflective surfaces for the next two years while my hair grew out would be a real challenge, I dropped $235 on highlights at another salon.  Hoping to end up with this:

Instead, the second colorist made me look something like this:

Once the foils were removed, it was easy to see that things were not going as planned.  I asked her to tone the highlights to take away the harsh, chunkiness.  She agreed.  Problem solved, right?  

Well, toner needs to be left on for 10-20 minutes to do it’s job.  She left it on for less than 5 minutes. And when I asked her to tone it again, she nicely advised me that I should try to live with the highlights for a while and then come back the next weekend.  

Thinking that she might be right, and that maybe I was overreacting (I’d just had two different people dye my hair in less than 24 hours, evidence suggesting that I was not on an even keel), I decided to take a breath and wait a week.

Then, I ran into a friend who looked at me and said, “Wow. When did you decide to go blonde?”  This was not a good sign.

So I sent Miss M a cell phone pic.  “Well, I don’t think [the highlights] are awful.  But nobody’s really doing visible highlights anymore.”

When my parents called that evening, it was clear that I was in a full hair meltdown.  The kind of nuclear disaster not experienced since the summer of 2006 when I decided to get extensions and nearly wound up in a padded cell under a suicide watch.  So I sent them a photo hoping they could soothe my nerves.  

My Father’s exact words were, “Maybe you can bring hats back into style? Kate Middleton wears them.”

My reaction to that statement was to show up at St. Germain without an appointment, beg Teri’s forgiveness for ever going to anyone else and let Anna do her best to save my hair.  It was a valiant effort, and a major improvement given that the highlights were overprocessed in places, had bleed marks in others and weren’t touching the roots.  The end result of her hair magic looks something like this:

Do I hate it?  No.  Do I love it?  No.  Am I able to leave my home and walk amongst the living without fear of being recognized?  Yes.  In short, it’s good enough for now.

So class, what have we learned today?

Lesson 1: When you get your hair to a place where you like it, don’t change it.  Even if the ends are split and some of the highlights are bleached out, do everything you can not to change it.  

Lesson 2:  Always bring a picture to the salon.  You and the colorist speak two different languages.  Ask to see swatches, ask to see photos, never pretend you understand a damn thing that he says, because you don’t.  And miscommunications lead to an unhappy result.

Lesson 3: Never go to another salon unless you are afraid something catastrophic will happen if you return to the first one.  Because it is very likely that something catastrophic could happen at the second one (see above photo).

Lesson 4: Condition, condition, condition.  If you have to recolor your hair (esp. three times in two days), you better slather on the conditioner like the life giving oil that it is or else you’ll wind up looking like Sinead O’Connor.

Lesson 5:  When people tell you how wonderful the hair color that you loathe with every fiber of your being looks, smile sweetly and say thank you.  And then remind yourself that it’s only 38 more days until you can dye it back to something that doesn’t make you want to grab a fire axe and go Jack Nicholson on a mirror.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am taking the rest of the day off.  I think Jesus was trying to teach me an important, $700 lesson about vanity and patience and I, and these bottles of Piper Sonoma, are going to spend the entire three-day weekend pondering this opportunity for personal growth.  Capitol Hill Style will be back on Tuesday.  Hopefully, my sanity will be back with it.

Editor’s Note: The first colorist was Roberto at Bang Chinatown.  He was competent and skillful, but we had a miscommunication.  I should have gone back to him and asked for a redo, but I got impatient, and that’s on me.  He does The Princess’s hair and it always looks great. 

The second colorist was Nancy at Andre Chreky.  That did not go well, and I would neither go back nor recommend that other people go there.  She was nice and polite, but I’d rather let a Banshee style my hair than wind up with highlights that would have been fashion forward in Oklahoma in 2003.  

The third colorist is Anna at St. Germain in Penn Quarter.  She is my new best friend.  She was sweet and calming, and fixed things as best as anyone could have under the circumstances.  I’m sure that in 38 days, she’ll be able to do something lovely with my color.  Until then, the unholy darkness reigns.  Deep breaths.


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  1. Lawlala says:

    I assume this weekend's happy hour is a shot of some sort.

  2. Adrienne says:

    Sue and Eden at Bang Verizon are amazing. Sue did the best color treatment I've ever had, and my dishwater blonde hair has been color treated since I was 12.

    Coincidence that Andre Chreky is where Callista Gingrich gets her hair done?

  3. Ms. B says:

    Who hasn't been here!!!! Great Post!!! Thanks for putting into words and perspective how most of us have felt at one time or another.

  4. clara says:

    Ha! I actually took that photo of Kelly Clarkson with me to the salon the first time I got highlights to show the stylists what I did NOT want!

  5. Belle says:

    Adrienne: I do love Eden. She does my in-between trims.

  6. SC says:

    Color and eyebrows….I do not mess around! Good luck Belle. What a horrible experience.

  7. Kelly says:

    Ohhhhhhhhh – nothing erks me more than having a hack cut (or color, in your instance) job done only for another stylist to tell it to your face! I'm like, can I get this in writing so I can demand a refund?

  8. RS says:

    Definitely been there. Lesson learned.

    I was going to Andre Chreky for a while, but I think the chemicals they use for highlighting are way too harsh and smell a bit funky. They are not the friendliest people either, and they are definitely not cheap. I switched to Jessica at Jovance Aveda in Pentagon City and could not be happier with my lovely, healthy blonde highlights now.

  9. XR says:

    Belle, you poor thing. We've all been there. Another lesson I learned the hard way: when it comes to color, don't be cheap and think you can go to those training school salons that charge 20 bucks for color and assume you're going to get the same quality. Like you, I've been covering up my natural color since 14 and after a bad breakup decided to go more “natural” (another bad idea), which to me meant maybe leaving the toner on my highlights a little longer. What I got was straight up black hair so black it was almost blue. I washed my hair with dish detergent and coconut oil for days hoping some of color would rinse out. It took me almost two years to get my hair healthy enough to color it again.

    Sharbel at Rodi Salon in Tysons Corner is a masterful colorist, if anyone's interested. I think they got voted best salon for color by NoVA magazine. He got me back to a healthy, sunny color that warms my olive complexion up. I do cringe when I see girls with the Kelly Clarkson zebra stripe highlights, though.

  10. Ellie says:

    I've not had quite that kind of hair disaster (came close once back in my freshman year of college when I got bangs from a student salon). But have to agree with SC, eyebrows are sooooooo important, don't just let anyone slather on some wax and rip off! it took me over 4 months to get mine back to normal after they were waxed to within an inch of their life when I was out of town for a wedding…

  11. Mary says:

    Hey Belle! I'm so sorry for your troubled tresses! When I lived in DC I religiously went to Jobi at PR at Partners in Metro Center. He is INCREDIBLE! Before I found him I hopped around the District and pretty much hated every salon. Now that I'm in Chicago I'm doing the same thing. Jobi is really THAT good and set the standard so high! If highlights weren't the price of a plane ride to DC I would definitely go there just for his magic!

  12. KC says:

    Anyone have any good recommendations for an eyebrow wax in DC? I'm looking for a real re-shaping – not just a clean-up. And Belle and fellow posters thank you for the advice and colorist recommendations. I've been considering highlights for a while (I'm 26, and with the exception of a half bottle of sun-in in 7th grade, have NEVER touched my hair color…a rather mousy brown…)

  13. CynthiaW says:

    At least you didn't try to fix it yourself with color stripper and then re-dye it within 24 hours. That's how I ended up with hot pink highlights – the only good thing about it was that my 7th graders thought that it was the coolest hair ever and their mothers commiserated with my mishap. So, at least everyone didn't think that I was a total moron who wanted hot pink highlights.

    I now leave my coloring to the professionals – and it if occasionally ends up a little on the dark side, I either go back to the Traci the next day or live with it for six weeks until it's time to do a touch up and I can lighten up then.

  14. MT says:

    I have never dyed or highlighted my hair at 26 as well. I have a golden-y brown color that looks good most of the time, but I think it washes out my very pale complexion in the winter and looks a little brassy in the summer. I want to go a bit darker but still maintain warmth of my original color. Given my lack of dyeing experience, I am unfamiliar with the terminology and am terrified of drastic change. Do I want low-lights? Highlights? Someone mentioned something called a gloss? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  15. Aunt_Pete says:


    For eyebrow waxing I like Blondies in Dupont. I usually do threading now though. The sound is a little hard to get used to but I think it looks better in the end. Threads DC is quite good.

  16. NH says:

    Two Oklahoma jabs in a week? I get the stereotype, but some of us out here read you often.

    On another note, these are good tips. Thanks.

  17. marit100 says:

    Andre Chreky is the worst! I tell everyone to avoid them because they gave me crazy skunk-like orange highlights. Yuck. Plus, they aren't even all that friendly. I am however, appreciating the suggestions as I am yet to find a hair person I love here in DC (and I've been here 8+ years).

  18. Nina says:

    Wow. I love, love, love Roberto and don't consider myself a 'hair person' and we have never had a miscommunication. He is the first stylist I have ever stuck with for more than two cuts and my hair looks better than it ever has in my life. And I always have a hell of a time booking him.

    Just to be sure I'm reading your post correctly, you asked for the color in the first picture, but you didn't actually bring in or show him the picture? I can see how this went off the rails. Roberto, though a most excellent stylist, has a kind of extreme personal style himself so I can see how he would have taken things darker than you intended. It sounds like the real disaster occurred at the second salon. That is some serious 1999 fug.

  19. Kate says:

    Belle, your first sentence sums me up perfectly. We must be hair-mates. I've finally grown out my cropping from last winter (I shouldn't think I can cut bangs) and my hair is almost chin length and trying to be curly. The problem is the lady I normally go to at Bang and then the attempt of a new stylist at Trim, do not produce the results I want. My hair should probably be cut dry and as much as I want it to look amazing like a good friend of mine, I do not have the money to hike up to NYC to go to Devachan. I should have known better to stop them as they escorted me back for the shampoo and ended up with shredded, wimpy pieces of curls. So now I wait to grow it out…again until I get fed up and chop it all off…again. This morning, in order to get my curls back, I actually considered…A PERM (dunh dunh DUNNNNHHH!)

  20. Isabel says:

    Kate–I have curly hair and I get a dry “curly girl” cut from Abbey at Parlour Salon. She's wonderful (and has a really cute personal style, to boot).

  21. Jenn says:

    You deserve a drink after that crazy day! Hope everything with your hair color goes ok.

  22. Kate says:


    I did some hunting and found that Fiddleheads and Parlour both have Deva trained stylists. The question is: go get it fixed now or wait another month or two until there's more hair so the curls are more evident?

  23. CH says:

    KC – I love love love Michelle at Bang Chinatown for brows. She'll shape them beautifully without waxing them into oblivion.

  24. CB says:

    KC–Semra in Georgetown is an eyebrow goddess. She is pricey but worth it. She shapes brows that enhance your face and features. Amazing.

  25. EK says:

    Throwing out another colorist recommendation – Tyler at Immortal Beloved. Another Hill staffer made the recommendation and I've never looked back – I trust him to keep my hair light blonde without entering Gwen Stefani territory.

  26. TransplantedOkie says:

    Damn girl – what did Oklahoma do to you that merits two snarky cracks in one week?

  27. Amy says:

    Funny about Oklahoma because my roommate/close friend is an Okie and has the most gorgeous natural shade of red hair. I have even debated taking her photo into a salon and trying to copy it but I don't think anyone could match it besides Louis Licari or whoever did Coco Rocha's transformation from brunette to redhead.

    I did, however, get ugly brassy copper highlights once when I asked for a “redder” shade in my dark auburn-brown hair, and those took two additional colorists and an unflattering muddy blown glaze to tone down. So I feel your pain, Belle. The good thing is that the darker Anne Hathaway shade is really nice and (although probably darker than you're used to, which again I understand feels strange) easily brightened in a month or two with subtle blonde highlights.

  28. Lexi says:

    Unfortunately, I know that feeling well! As an “in-betweener” (literally in the middle between blonde and brunette), it's best for me to stay on the blonde side. I love my OC, California, home, but I would die if my highlights ever looked like that. For natural looking lights, and a willingness to get you in within 24 hours if something isn't as you want, I say go see Alyssa or Hiwot at Salon Revive on 9th and U. Good luck!!

  29. elz says:

    I got my hair colored for the first time in YEARS last weekend. And, the first MAJOR change (from Anne Hathaway to Emma Stone). It went well. THANK GOD. But, hair color can be frightening and depressing if the results are not as planned. Good luck!

  30. J says:

    Roberto f-ed up my hair royally. I went to him twice, and the first time was ok, and the second time he cut it uneven. Like, it was longer on one side than on the other. Looked ridiculous, and the salon was a huge pain when I called and asked to have it fixed, like they were doing me a huge favor by letting me come back to have it fixed. And in the end my hair ended up two inches shorter than I wanted it, and it is on the short side, so this was a huge difference. Stay away from Bang Chinatown.

  31. J says:

    PS – Callista Gingrich doesn't go to Andre Chreky. She goes to Tatjana Belajic at the Sugar House Day Spa and Salon in Alexandria,.

    Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/fashion/weighing-in-on-the-callista-gingrich.html?pagewanted=2

  32. JD says:

    I had one over-priced haircut at Andre Chreky a few years and hated it. It was a strange soccer mom bob with just waaaay too much volume. I, of course, had the appointment over my lunch break and ended up in the bathroom back at work trying to comb it down, add a bit of water here and to deflate the style…definitely a disaster. I think their styling is stuck in the 90s.

    Not too mention she decided to squeeze in another appointment so cut my hair in literally 10 minutes…talk about a lack of attention to detail.

  33. Belle says:

    I used to get good cuts from a stylist at Chreky named Adil. No idea what happened to him, but I think it's been on the downswing.

  34. mpg says:

    Adil has his own salon with another former-Cherky colorist Didi. They do a great job and the prices are good for the results. North 10th Street Arlington- Didi and Adil…

  35. Carly says:

    SUE is the best at Bang salon, I ve been getting compliments for years on my ever changing style. No ego, just a great stylist who listens and makes it happen… No suburban streaks coming form her chair!!!!

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