Why I Stopped Coloring My Hair (+ Why I’ll Probably Start Again…)

April 2, 2019

Meghan Donovan in Brooklyn Heights in a Herringbone Plaid Jacket I wit & whimsy

Last year – somewhat spontaneously – I decided I wanted to stop coloring my hair. I had been highlighting my hair blonde since 2005 (with the exception of one incident in 2012 when I did single process brown/red-ish color and it was awful) and suddenly I was tired of the whole experience. The joke when I was living in California for eight years was that I was going progressively blonder every year. It wasn’t wrong! I’ve been a variety of shades of blonde for a while now and I realized last year I had no idea what I looked like with my natural color anymore.

Hair Inspo I Meghan Donovan of wit & whimsy

Costa Nova Day Trip - Portugal I wit & whimsy

Club Monaco Heleni Coat I wit & whimsy

Affordable Outerwear I wit & whimsy

Fall in Central Park

After deciding this last year, I had an evolution of hair color identity crises as seen from the above photos! I was growing out my roots but trying to make it look somewhat presentable by doing some balayage vs. foil highlights at the root. I by and large didn’t like how it looked last year but it was necessary to start growing out the color. This past January though I was invited to Nexxus Salon in Tribeca to get a gloss and the colorist asked me “do you like how your hair looks right now?” and I replied promptly “I mean, no” and proceeded to explain I’d been growing out the color since August of 2018 which was the last time I’d added any color to my hair. She recommended matching the remainder of my colored hair to the few inches of un-touched hair I had at my roots and I decided to trust her to do so. The photo at the onset of this post is how it turned out and therefore since January 24th I’ve been living life as a brunette instead of a blonde. I’m so glad the colorist made this recommendation so I could speed along the process and get to the point I had been working towards. I now know what I look like with my God-given hair color.

As a bit of background, before I started this journey, about four times a year I was spending at least 2 hours (and nearly $200) in the chair getting my hair highlighted. I always loved the results afterwards but a few weeks later my brunette would be peeking through and I’d feel stressed over it. (Which felt silly). So I figured it was time for a change.

Since I stopped coloring my hair my hair has felt so much healthier and so much shinier. I don’t stress over my roots or damage being done to my hair by the bleaching involved with blonde highlights.

That being said, an unforeseen side effect popped up. I came to realize that the volume I got in my hair was due to the color that had been applied. My hair styled so much more easily when it was highlighted and truth be told I’ve really struggled with styling it since it’s been more au natural. I did recently start using the Nexxus Volumizing shampoo and conditioner and LOVE them, though. I definitely see a difference in my hair when I use it combined with this Alterna mousse. I had seen on Instagram a hair stylist say mousse is they key to volume at the root of the hair and have been basking in the glow of this recommendation because I finally am seeing some volume when I style my hair. I like how light and non-sticky this mousse is, too. Finally, to combat the thinner hair I was seeing, I also started taking these vitamins earlier this year which I think has helped combat this new-found fine hair.

All this aside, I also think I’ve realized I like how I look better as a blonde. It seemed to suite my skin tone and overall coloring and now I am finding I kind of miss being blonde! It means 2018 was a bit of a wash of bad hair color as I grew it out but in the end, I am glad I gave myself a break from the chemicals, from the time and from the cost. I am not sure when I’ll start adding blonde back in but I do know I’d like to be doing something more low maintenace in the future. I’m pinning some inspiration here in the meantime.

Do you guys have a preference on me? Blonde? Brunette?

p.s. things to do know about coloring your hair and my holy grail hair products.

comments +

  1. Am I allowed to say that I love it both ways? I love that you grew it out and gave your hair a break though; I wish I could but as I’ve had greys since I was 16, I am definitely too grey (and not ready to embrace it) to go au-naturale, but going progressively blonder over the last 10 years has definitely helped disguise the regrowth so that I can stretch out my appointments, and both my hair and my bank balance has thanked me.

    I think since you’re starting from almost natural hair, I’d keep your natural base colour and just add a few balayage highlights (maybe a quarter head that gradually blend to your own colour about an inch out, rather than all-over highlights right to the root) so that way you can get a bit of lightness around the front, but it will grow out so naturally you only have to get it coloured a couple of times a year.

    Either way, you look beautiful!

    Briony xx

  2. Shirley says:

    I like both ways as well- but certainly relate to the volume and “stylability” of highlighted hair. It would be an interesting post if you went to three different professionals and did color consults with each one- addressing all of the factors you discuss here. I think we could all benefit from that type of advise.

    You do look great either way- so it is a win win situation no matter what!

  3. GF says:

    I actually love your brunette hair, but of course you do you, girl! both look great and what’s most important is that YOU love your hair, so go blonde if that’s what you prefer!

  4. Yana says:

    I really love the balayage look on you.

  5. Melanie says:

    I love all these looks on you! That being said, I’m also addicted to being blonde, no matter the cost, LOL. I haven’t been my real natural color in years, and recently went red because… why not?! I’d always wanted to try it out. That being said, I usually get balayage like twice a year and then just get a base breaker in between to help lighten up the roots/help with grow out. I also love everything from the Kristen Ess line at Target and she has some good volumizing products and glosses! I used the red gloss and loved it, made my hair sooooo shiny and soft. I haven’t tried her texturizing powder but my hair stylist used something similar for my hair on my wedding day and it was fantastic. I’d love to see a round up of hair products and your process as you go forward! Totally understand the pull to be blonde, I think it goes better with my very pale skin and makes me look less washed out all over. I could also see you looking lovely with like a dark blonde/caramel color as opposed to a lighter blonde. Have fun experimenting! Hair makes SUCH a difference to me and it’s somewhere I won’t skimp on spending!

    • Meghan says:

      How fun you just went red! Love that you have fun playing with hair color. I too love glosses and think they add so much value when you color your hair! I definitely am probably due for an updated hair products post – will file that away onto my list of forthcoming posts!

  6. Kristin says:

    I am not much different than you. I am a natural, oh so lovely shade of dishwater blonde that I religiously highlighted blonde for YEARS. I stopped doing that heavily about 5 years ago and have noticed my natural color has actually gotten dark enough to be a very light brown. In September I did red low lights and loved it but red washed out so quickly so spent the rest of Fall & Winter not coloring my hair and letting it just grow. I finally had my stylist put some caramel and blonde highlights in my hair in March solely to cover up my gray hair poking through. I don’t regret it but I only want the color to accent my hair not be a means of coloring. But i miss how soft and shiny the uncolored hair was…

    • Meghan says:

      Sounds like our journeys have been so similar! I always called my natural color a “mousy brown” so I laughed out loud at your “dishwater blonde” commentary!

  7. Jilly says:

    I’ve always thought that blondes can throw their hair in a pony and it looks “done”! I love you no matter what – blonde or brunette!

  8. Margo says:

    About a week ago I noticed that your hair seemed darker. I like it both ways. Now that I’m older I get blond highlights to cover the grey hairs. I just find the expense and the time involved gets tiring. Until I’m more grey than anything else I guess I’ll keep on colouring

    • Meghan says:

      Totally hear you on the time and expense. I felt the same. And while I haven’t gotten too much gray yet I know it’ll come one day 🙂

  9. Libby says:

    I have this same struggle!!! I used to be more a natural blonde, but as I age, my hair comes in darker. A few years ago, I started to balayage. At first, I was scared of how it would grow out, and did a subtle honey-ish blonde. The first color last for almost one year!!! How crazy!!! Now I am a bit more adventurous, and go way more blonde, but keep it warm. The bolder I go in the balayage color, the longer it lasts, which is insane! I only touch it up about once a year, and justify the expense because it’s like $150 once per year versus that or more for highlights several times per year!!

    I also agree that my hair styles better when it is bleached and processed vs natural. I have A LOT of fine hair to begin with so styling can still be a challenge ahah. But, if you want to be more of a blonde, I highly recommend balayage!! I love both colors on you :))

    xx Libby

    • Meghan says:

      Love balayage for being more low maintenance! I think it can be done really poorly though sometimes when the color difference is too stark so it is important for the color gradation to be subtle to ensure it grows out well1

  10. Emily says:

    I’m a new reader and haven’t seen your more blonde hair at all, but the brunette looks really lovely! I’ve never colored my hair–I just turned 30 this year and I don’t intend to start anytime soon (or maybe ever!) I actually have my “dad’s hair” which sounds funny to say, but I look exactly like my mom in every other way. I’m a brunette and have always loved my hair, and compared to others that color or heat style their hair, mine has always appeared to be healthier and shiner naturally. I think whatever makes you feel best is the option you can never go wrong with! For me it’s natural, for others it’s coloring. Also, what makes you feel best and beautiful can always change, so trust your instincts! That’s my *preach* for the day 🙂

    • Meghan says:

      You are so smart and so lucky to have virgin hair! I kind of wish I had never started in the first place as it is hard to stop! Also so glad to have you as a new reader 🙂

  11. Amy says:

    I’m a fairly new reader as well. Personally, I like the blond highlights. Either way, you look lovely and you can’t go wrong. Coloring is such an expense and time killer. I’m older than you and do it to cover gray. The older I get, the more I think about just stopping it all and going natural. There is one woman I know who did this and she looks gorgeous. I’m sure it felt good to take a break for awhile.

    • Meghan says:

      Aw thanks, Amy! I appreciate it! I haven’t encountered too many grays *yet* but know one day it is coming and the coloring will most likely have to amp up. I am grateful to have you as a new reader and so appreciate your comments!

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