Blonde to brunette before and after: my makeover set me free

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My life changing blonde to brunette makeover began many moons ago with the complete opposite transformation. When I got lice in sixth grade, my Mexican mom said she knew the best way to cure them and bleached my brown hair blonde. This was the first of countless transformations to come: I would spend decades dying, styling and suppressing my natural brunette mane to evolve into an everlasting beachy blonde wave, complete with extensions to cement the aesthetic.

After the lice came puberty. I had grown several inches in all directions, and by the time I was 11, grown men were whistling when I walked by. With that, I fully invented my identity as a “busty blonde” and wore the task like armor. I figured if I nailed the stereotype, I could subvert and shield it. The irrational ideology intensified when I was sexually assaulted by a group of friends as a teenager, a memory I buried until college when I began experiencing symptoms of PTSD. And as I began therapy, I also got blonder — adding highlights with every repressed memory. Maybe I aspired to be Barbie: a blond but lifeless body that couldn’t see anything.

When I turned 30, however, something changed. I was no longer enjoying my Princess Peach cosplay skills and woke up with an undying urge to return to my brown roots. While this decision seemed to come out of nowhere – genuinely shocked friends and family – it accurately reflected my inner state. I had just become a beauty writer and I was constantly thinking about aesthetics and hair and how little (or much) importance they held. It turns out things are only as important as you let them be and that was true of the importance given to my hair. With that clarity I knew it was time to let go.

Blonde to brunette makeover

Courtesy of Danielle Sinay.

A sudden desire to change hair is common among survivors. “The act of changing hair after trauma is one way we can regain our strength.” Amira JohnsonLMSW, a therapist at Berman Psychotherapy, tells me. “Although the action may be unaware and seem relatively impulsive when it happens, there is a part of us that is committed to putting the power of self back in our hands.”

Consider the common trope of cutting or dying your hair after a breakup, or how I cut my long and luscious hair into an ear-length bob after being attacked in ninth grade. “Changing one’s hairstyle could mean entering a new era or a new chapter in one’s life.” Kara LissiLCSW, clinical director and psychotherapist at A good spot therapy, explained. “The shedding of our impasses that have seen us through many difficult months or years is a sign that we are starting over with less weight on our shoulders.”

“What do you mean? Her brand is blonde!”

Hair transformations can mean inner healing and shifting from one state of being to another, Johnson adds — and I’ve certainly changed. In 2021, I suffered something reminiscent of what happened when I was young, as well as an unexpected pregnancy loss. Despite the mental impact of lockdown, I managed to get my masters from Columbia and even started running after a lifetime of believing I couldn’t. Returning to my darker roots felt like the natural next step (or leap) in my long line of transformations against all odds.

blonde to brunette before after

Courtesy of Danielle Sinay.

I texted my trusted colorist, Jaclyn Curtiand stylist, Marc Mena. “I want to have a hair transformation,” I began. “I’m going to… darken my hair and I want a shag cut.” I half-expected another annoyed response (my friends yelled, “What are you doing mean? Your badge is blonde!”), I was relieved to hear that both Jaclyn and Marc were on board and looked forward to my overhaul.

Within a week, I was sitting intently in Curtis’ chair, watching as she first dyed my hair bright red—it had to be “filled in” for the brown to hold—then added a brunette shade that most closely resembled that of my childhood photos . She added a few highlights around my face to brighten it up a bit, but overall my hair returned to its natural state. Or at least the way it looked on my seventh birthday.

As with running, I planned to start my transformation with interval training: having just gotten a tan would just be too much to lose my long length at the same time. Physically safe, but mostly emotional. When I saw Marc we decided to install a new, darker set Extensions by Great Lengthswhich he would then layer into a very light shaggy. This would allow me to maintain the length while still counting as a big change (at least in my eyes) which would allow me to make my way to wearing natural hair within a few months. Slow and steady wins the race.

blonde to brunette before after

Courtesy of Danielle Sinay.

As I sat in Marc’s chair, my new hair – and myself – manifested themselves in the mirror. I didn’t recognize my reflection, and neither did Marc – a stylist and friend who has known me for years and even did my hair on my wedding day. “Who are you?” Marc asked, half joking as he brushed my freshly cut strands. “You are not the same person who walked in here this morning.” We laughed together and kept asking who this new woman was. Friends who saw my paintings repeated the feeling: I was someone else entirely. i was free

then blonde to brunette

Courtesy of Danielle Sinay.

But just like my skin color, it’s not like I’m a “new” person. For as long as I can remember, I haven’t felt like myself, but no one could know that: I’d kept secret, buried and bleached what felt too painful to bear, and dressed in blonde curls like camouflage. But when they were washed away, so did the shame. And so today I’m happy to introduce myself again and make friends with my unfiltered reflection. roots and such.

STYLECASTER | Ashley Benson Interview Blonde to brunette before and after: my makeover set me free

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