The Hair Trap

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It's February I'm totally hating my hair right now. And if I didn't have a blog that records my life and my hair journey, I likely wouldn't realize that around the end of February, I hate my hair. It looks damaged, it feels boring, the color is wrong, and I am in desperate need of a change. I call it The Hair Trap.

We've gotten through the resolutions; in fact, most have already been forgotten by this point. We're in the deepest part of winter; here in the Washington, D.C. area, this is when we finally experience snow and below-0 temps. Skin is pale, dry, and missing the sun. Hair is affected by the dry, cold air and too many days in caps, giving us static electricity and frizz.

I look in the mirror, and I hardly recognize myself. I realize just a few weeks ago I made promises to change my life for the better, but here I am, the same person with the same makeup, the same skincare, and the same tired hair. If I change my hair, it could be the kickstart I need.

cover of teen magazine in 1989 with Tiffani Amber-Theissen n the cover
Wrong season, right hairdo for my haircut inspiration

I have been doing this dark winter Hair Trap for decades. In middle school, armed with one of the many teenager magazines with Tiffani Amber-Theissen on the cover, I headed to my mom's hair salon and asked for a layered cut with Bangs just like hers. I mean, who didn't want to be Kelly Kapowski?

April and Krmt Ashpes with a friend at Ferry Beach in Saco, Maine, in the 1980s
My mom loved her '80s permed shag so much, she cut herself out of this photo to put it in her wallet to have at the ready for each hair salon appointment.

I didn't realize at the time that my long, frizzy tresses were, in fact, curly, and my hair bounced up into what looked like the shaggy perm my mom and all her friends sported.

In 9th grade, inspired by the lead singer of Roxette, I headed to the salon for a short pixie that again curls up, and with my red hair at the time, I look less like Marie Fredriksson and more like Harpo Marx. In the dark days of the winter, armed with a box of Nice-n-Easy Blue Black, I dye my Harpo Marx curls (and my forehead, the tops of my ears, my deck, and parts of my mom's bathroom).

Falling into The Hair Trap

One Valentine's Day spent alone, I gave myself baby bangs. On another cold February, I put my hair in a side ponytail and cut it off to achieve a shaggy asymmetrical cut. Winter has made me a blonde, given me canteloupe-colored tresses instead of auburn, and a few more situations with Regret Bangs. It's The Hair Trap, the belief that new hair equals new me.

Once I realized how I fell into The Hair Trap, I began trying to fight it. No, I won't take cuticle scissors to my hair at 2 am after staring at my reflection for an hour, analyzing new wrinkles and spots. I'll open my laptop and buy a deep conditioner, a gloss, a hot tool, a new product that claims to give silky, bouncy, perfect tresses.

This was not an escape from The Hair Trap, but a different form of entrapment. The belief that if I throw money and products at the problem, it will solve itself. Sometimes, my hair would look or feel better, but usually, my beauty boutique shopping spree would just leave my wallet empty and my shower overflowing with half-used products.

Escape The Hair Trap With a Stylist

You know what helped me from falling into the Hair Trap? Regular appointments with a skilled stylist. A voice of reason, skilled hands with sharp shears, professional-grade products and the know-how to mix to the perfect shade and tone, and years of clients who have also fallen into the Hair Trap and knowing how to pull them out.

It's not easy to find the right hair stylist. Just because someone is right for your mom, your sister, your neighbor, or your bestie does not mean that stylist is right for you. Just because a stylist is cool and charming and works in a popular salon and does the hair of some stylish person does not mean that stylist is right for you. And just because the stylist is your friend and knows all your secrets and goes to your church and dates your cousin doesn't mean you need to stick with that stylist.

Any stylist confident in their skills will prefer you go to someone else than leave their chair disappointed. No need to ghost, just let them know you love them, but your life is in need of a shake-up. Look for someone who is skilled with the kind of hair you have. Use social media to check out salons and see if the pictures they share show the kind of styles you'd feel comfortable wearing.

For first-time appointments, have the discussion on what you want before your hair is washed or wet down. Bring photos of inspiration, but also times when your hair made you happy and when it made you really sad. Admit you're in The Hair Trap, and you've realized this time every year you're desiring a change and often regret it. A good stylist is like a therapist; the more you share the more you will benefit.

Escape the Hair Trap with Makeup

I remember reading a piece on Man Repeller (R.I.P.) where Leandra Medine felt she looked ugly and old and sickly and realized it was the dead of winter and she missed her tan. By adding bronzer, she felt more herself. I'd link to this but cannot find it online any longer.

Anyway, that made me realize this isn't a me issue but an issue that is universal. And it would be a lot easier to wash off bronzer than grow out bangs. So I went to Sephora and asked an employee to help me find a bronzer for my paler winter skin. We tried creams, powders, and liquids. They showed me different application techniques, and different colors of blushes. I saw how this subtle change gave my face a whole different effect. After that, I began celebrating my January birthday by splurging on some sort of makeup that would update my face for that season.

Escaping the Hair Trap

The first step to escaping the Hair Trap is acknowledging its existence. It's not your hair, it's not your skin, it's not your age, it's not you, it's the season. It's shorter days and longer nights, more time spent indoors, the post-holidays hangover and the disappointment of not sticking to unrealistic resolutions.

Change can benefit your mood, but it's important to change with care. Change should be beneficial, not detrimental. And sometimes a second opinion, a talented expert, or an unbiased stranger wielding a pair of scissors or a fan brush can be just what you need to get our of your funk without having you fall into The Hair Trap.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. nice post! A good haircut is so worth it! It can give your hair proper volume and body and save you loads of time! If I need three zillion styling products in the morning to look good, i need a good haircut!

  2. I have often passed on a perfect item because it seem extravagant, and spent the same amount on 3 less than perfect items. I think that most of the time you get what you pay for. Shoes from Nordstrom cost more but usually last longer than Payless, and if they don’t Nordstrom will always take them back. Most drugstore makeup wears off within a few hours, while the department store brands stay true most of the day. Lancome mascara doesn’t smudge or flake and the cheaper brands are smeared under my eye by noon. A good hair cut is the ultimate accessory. I pay $125 for color and cut every six weeks and it’s only $2.40 to look great every day. It’s worth it to me.

  3. dilly, you’ve not only inspired me to make a hair appointment for next week, you’ve also inspired me to try out a new stylist. I’ve had it with my erstwhile stylist; right before Christmas, she butchered me. So I am trying a new guy who comes highly recommended, and I will go to the appointment armed with photos of myself from when I liked my hair.

  4. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to have my hair cut every six weeks…like you, I let it go too long and then it costs more in the long run!

  5. I get what you are saying and I have done the same – buy cheap and then toss and then buy more and at the end I would have probably SAVED if I bought the right thing the first time around. I am going to go get a haircut too!

  6. I’m with you girl. I’ve recently purged my makeup chest and am slowly accumulating higher quality products. I used to have 25 random cheap eyeshadows and now I have 5 really good ones that stay on my eyelids and flatter my eyes. And as for the previous comment, just because the boots cost $100 doesn’t mean they were quality. You can find boots for $100, or more or less, that are incredible and better than payless that will last you forever (I got mine for $60). I think that’s Dilly’s whole point. Do some research, don’t do any binge shopping and you’ll get more for your money.

  7. $100 for cut, colour and highlights is awesome!

    As for shoes, this year I broke my rule and bought expensive boots, since my Payless ones (I love Payless, it means I can have more shoes) fell apart by December…well, one pair-the short ones-did anyways. I wanted Slouchy high boots. So, in January, I bought Franco Sarto low boots and high ones from Zigi…both over $100 on sale. The low ones lost all the leather off the toe in a matter of days, the high ones have one heel taped on with electrical tape-and yes, I used spray. I am no longer convinced expensive shoes are better…I have some Payless shoes I have had for years. Now, I don’t expect this with boots given the elements and such…but my expensive ones last no longer than my Payless ones…in fact, the high Payless ones I got this year are still in good condition, I just wanted slouchy ones.

  8. I must clarify, $100 is for my cut, my color, my highlights and lowlights. I have gotten amazing haircuts for $25 as well. No need to go to the trendy high-priced salon; just to a person who listens and performs.

    I hardly own a single designer item, no super fancy garments and some of my highest quality pieces are from discount places. I just know many women who find $60 pumps too expensive so they buy 3 pairs of $15 from Payless that are not quite right and end up disposing of them in less than a year. Friends who buy a dozen tee shirts from Wal mart that are less than $10 but eventually donating them for fading, being misshapen or never right in the first place.

    Quality is not found by pricetag or brand name. It is found by taking time, being aware, and being a savvy shopper.

    Sincerely, the woman who sports a $9.99 (fabu sale) high-quality calf-length suede coat that is almost a decade old, but brings daily joy! 🙂

  9. I agree with you up to a point there. A good cut is important, but it doesn’t have to cost tons. My hairdresser charges $25, and my hair looks great. I think there is a point, a dividing line, where you are paying for quality – and above that, you are paying for advertising and brand. A $2 t-shirt from the supermarket is not the same cotton or cut as a $30 t-shirt from a good store, but the $150 t-shirt from the hip boutique is not any better cut or fabric than the $30 t-shirt. If you can afford the $150 t-shirt – go for it, but don’t pretend it is inherently better quality than the $30 one, cause it never is.

    I am satisfied with cheaper clothes as long as they fit well. The stuff I have from discount retailers makes me happier than the high-end stuff. I like knowing I have a lot of stuff and can just change if my clothes get dirty, and I love not having to always be worried that I’ll ruin my pants when I cross my legs if the table is not perfectly smooth. If I do ruin them, I have a similar pair and get another similar pair. Of course, if a person is unhappy not having the $3k handbag or the $800 shoes, then they should just go out and get them, but I don’t care for status symbols.

    My $500 designer winter coat (a gift from extravagant mom) only causes me grief. I wore it to a wedding and the videographer walked by and got the velcro on his camera bag caught on it. Not only was the party ruined for me after that, but I had to spend hours with cuticle scissor cutting out the piling that caused. The similar coat I have that I paid $80 for only brings me happiness, and I know if someone ruins it, I can just buy a new one.

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