I’ve been delaying the inevitable for years now. Decades, if we’re being honest. And for all of the oversharing I regularly do in this column, I’ve been avoiding the elephant in the room for too long. So I’m just going to say it. Ready? Here it is: I’m going gray.
So what’s the big deal, you’re asking? There isn’t. I spotted my first grays when I was in middle school, and though they were a small but growing minority, they were easy to ignore. I always knew that one day I’d have to do something about them, and one day finally showed up about six months ago when I spotted the beginnings of a Cruella de Vil streak springing up from my hairline. But still, it took me six months to come to terms with the idea of hair color. Why? Honestly I have no idea, but I do know that I have a paralyzing fear of commitment when it comes to dyeing my hair. I’m pretty good at committing to other things: healthy eating, sending birthday gifts on time, keeping the ‘80s alive in my clothing and lifestyle choices. But for some reason, even though I make bi-monthly trips to the nail salon, being tied to a hair salon every five weeks has always seemed more daunting than I can handle, despite the fact that 95% of the women I know (and quite a lot of men, too) color their hair.
In this six months between realizing that my Cruella streak needed attention and my taking action to fix it, I came to terms with a hard truth – it wasn’t that I needed to dye my hair that bothered me, it was that “some day” was finally here, that I was at a point in my life when I was starting to hit my “some days.” I’m lucky, though. I made it to 34. I have friends my age who have been coloring for ten or more years.
When I sat down in Nora Castrignano’s chair at 43 East, the stylish salon off Wickenden Street that opened earlier this year, she asked me what I wanted to do. “I don’t know,” I said, waiting for her to notice the 101 Dalmatians situation on top of my head. “Maybe there’s… something you can do about all this gray.” I explained my hesitations to her – that I didn’t want to deal with roots in a month, that I was worried about changing the texture of my curls, that I didn’t want to lose the natural highlight in my hair. “You won’t,” Nora said confidently. “I can do an exact color match, and just do those roots and the actual gray strands. You won’t even notice a change to most of your hair. The dye won’t touch it. And it will fade gradually, so you won’t have an abrupt line.” It was all the right things. So she poured me a glass of wine (hey, it was almost five o’clock) and went to work.
Nora applied Milkshake Creative Colour to my hair, and told me about the salon. She and two of her coworkers, Shannon Raymond and Eduardo Marques, had been at a big salon that abruptly closed last year, and they made the decision (over the holidays, no less) to go in on a new place themselves. 43 East is a gorgeous space, with bright, glossy turquoise floors and huge windows that looked onto East Street in upper Fox Point, letting in the fall sunlight and making the whole place sparkle.
When the color was set, Nora washed my hair with Neuma shampoo and conditioner, which is sulfate free (good for color), paraben, fragrance and carcinogen free (good for your health), and free of environmental pollutants and made with recycled materials (good for life as we know it). She gave me a cut that kept my general shape, which I asked for, but reworked the interior structure of the cut. “This is going to look similar, but feel a lot lighter and easier to manage,” she promised. A little bit of Milkshake Leave In Conditioning Mousse and Redken Ringlet, and I was ready to go. Usually, when I go curly after a cut, I need to plan on going home for the night. Most stylists can’t style my curls well, and I’m left with a puffball or crunchy worms on top of my head. That day was one of the only times I’ve ever left a salon looking ready for the evening. And the color? Completely fine. No one even noticed – which is exactly what I was hoping for.
43 East Salon
43 East Street