EMBARRASSING FLASHBACK ALERT: What I’ve Learned From My 4 Biggest Hair Mistakes

Please join me on this traumatic stroll down memory lane.
Publish date:
March 25, 2014
extensions, ombre, bangs, bad haircuts, hair mistakes, bad hair color, streaky highlights

I’m pretty embarrassed to admit that the messes you are about to see resided on my head from age 18 to 23 (ugh, dumb accidental rhyme). That means that my first years as a living, breathing ADULT were spent looking like the “before” shots in hair ads.

I have naturally dark brown hair that used to be pin-straight, but after some experimenting with perms in the sixth grade, it adopted a pretty –- if sometimes kind of frizzy –- wave. I, of course, was having none of it, and spent my teenage years trying to fight both the color and the texture.

Unsurprisingly, my biggest mistakes took place when I was in university, living away from home, and -- most importantly -- away from the advice and good judgment of my mother. Left to my own devices, I wound up with hair that’s straight-up upsetting to look back on.

Here's a glimpse of my worst hair days -- at least I learned something from these mishaps!

Lesson #1: Hair Extensions don't necessarily make styling easier.

The story behind this is simple: an appointment for a trim turned into an impulsive chop, resulting in a long bob that I obviously hated. While it grew out, I used clip-in extensions to feel better about my hair, because at the tender age of 18, I was convinced that the longer my hair was, the hotter and more ~mYsTeRiOuS~ I was. Please take a moment to laugh maniacally at the fact that I thought this look added an air of mystery to me.

Anyway, I don’t have an issue with extensions today (though I don’t wear them because I currently have a bob that I’m at peace with, but we’ll get to that later), and that’s because I’ve seen how great they can look when styled well. When I tried my hand at extensions at 18, I assumed I could go about the same washing and styling routine that I used on my own hair -- that’s why I ended up with seven inches of barely wavy extensions poking out from underneath my curls.

Thankfully, I eventually learned that just because the clip-ins were attached to my head it did not mean they magically adopted my hair texture. They were a lot straighter and coarser than my thin(ish), wavy hair, so they needed more (and different) attention. For example, would the seven seconds I kept my hair wrapped around a curling iron be enough when it came to styling those extensions? Nah, son.

Lesson #2: Sometimes it's better to let a pro cut your bangs.

This photo destroys me. I am crying tears of laughter all over my computer right now. LOOK AT HOW HARD I’M STRUGGLING TO SEE IN THIS PICTURE. When I was 19, I started cutting my bangs myself, because I wanted people to think I was edgy, sophisticated and, you guessed it, mysterious. Side note: looking back now, if I wanted to seem so damn mysterious all the time, I should have just sat my ass at home all day long so people could have been like, “Hey, where’s Suzie? Haven’t seen her in a while.” THAT’S mystery.

Anyway, to achieve this look, I’d stand in front of my bathroom mirror, brush all the hair I wanted to turn into “bangs” in front of my face, and cut across. Then I’d take a razor (literally, like a goddamn Venus razor or something) and slide it up and down my hair, aiming for an undone, choppy look. I mean, mission accomplished, I guess???

Obviously, they were never straight. And they were ALWAYS too long because I was scared of taking off too much. AND they were really sparse because I wanted to avoid thick, blunt bangs. Essentially, I had prison cell bars for bangs. How’s that for a poetic metaphor?

Lesson #3: They make products specifically for color-treated hair for a reason.

Let’s just ignore the bangs because, well, you know the deal. When I was 20, I got a summer internship in the beauty department of one of the biggest magazines in Canada. I decided to lighten up my hair for both the season and to celebrate this exciting new opportunity. At first, the highlights were a pretty, warm caramel (the highlights themselves were still awful chunky streaks, though). But being the know-it-all jerk that I was, I decided that my colorist was just trying to scam me out of some extra cash when he insisted I should invest in shampoos and conditioners made for color-treated hair. (Clearly, I had not yet absorbed all of the valuable knowledge I’d later pick up at my internship.)

So, of course, I didn’t. I carried on using the same products that lined the shelves of my bathroom: shampoos and conditioners for wavy, frizzy and dark hair. I ended up with the brassy, greenish highlights you see in the photo above. I ain’t even mad. I deserved it.

Just for good measure, here’s what the stupid streaks looked like up close.

Lesson #4: Don't overcomplicate ombre.

Sadly, this weird-ass semi-ombre creature lived on my head a mere two years ago. I was but a wee lass, having just graduated from university, where I spent my first couple years as a chain-smoking, black beret-wearing (lol, seriously) tortured writer, and my last two years as a fashion and beauty writer at some of the most respected publications in Canada. Now that I think about it, this mess of an "ombre" job is quite the organic lovechild of those two personas, non?

If I knew then what I know now, I would have left my poor roots alone. My hair is naturally dark brown, and I wanted blonde tips, so I thought that lightening the top half of my head just a couple of shades and then going for full-blown blonde tips would be seamless. That's what I was going for -- SEAMLESS, YOU GUYS. Obviously, my actual roots started to grow in and I was left with a three-toned style that made me look greasy at all times. Anyway, if you're thinking about the big O, choose a color that's two shades lighter than your natural tone, and do yo' thang. Now, to conclude what is easily the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever put out into the online universe, here’s what my hair currently looks like:

Maybe I’ll hate it in a couple of years, or maybe not. For now, I’m really liking the versatility that comes with having a cut that’s asymmetrical when parted at the side, and symmetrical when parted in the middle. And it feels SO DAMN GOOD to be back to my natural hair color.