[beauty blog] Project Redhead: Outing My Stealth Ginger

When I was sixteen, I had a very bad perm.

I know that statement sounds like it was made in the 70s and 80s, back when nearly every girl (and a few guys) had a bad perm, but my story happened in 2009.  That was the year I graduated from high school, and also the year quite a few of the girls in my high school got their hair permed.  It looked really nice on them, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon myself, resulting, after two tries (my hair wisely rebelled on the first go), in the 80s happening all over again, on my head.


Never again!

Obviously from the photo above, that choice was a complete disaster, and eventually the truth became clear even to my dense sixteen-year-old self, so I started cutting my hair progressively shorter in order to speed up the process.  Along the way there was a disastrous *third* perm (note to all my readers: DO NOT GET THREE PERMS IN FOUR MONTHS.  DO NOT.  BAD IDEA.), which set me back all over again, but finally I got it to a length where the curls could safely grow out, and where it looked slightly more modern, though honestly still nowhere near a “good perm.”

The only *good* thing that came about from my year of hair experimentation, frankly, was an odd discovery by my friend JV, “The Doctor.”  Being freshmen with pre-enlisted schedules and really strange, four-hour breaks in between chunks of classes, the lot of us had a ton of spare time on our hands, which we spent taking photos of each other.  Or, rather, me taking photos of them and them playing along with it.  After one of these “photoshoots,” JV, being British, started referring to me as the “Asian ginger.”  I didn’t understand why, until I took a look at my photos from the album.


 Ladies and gentlemen, the Asian ginger.

Just to be clear, I have never actually colored my hair.  Ever.  So what you’re seeing above–as much as you don’t believe it–is my actual color.  There aren’t any filters applied to any of the photos either.  Granted, it’s the photo where the “red” is more obvious–other pictures look like I’ve had a balayage ombré (more on that later) technique done with dark brown roots gradually brightening to the auburn-red you see in the above photo–but otherwise this is really what my head looks like.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, really, because I’ve known my hair to have copper-y highlights when the sun hits a bit of it–usually the standing or baby hair near the edge of my more conventionally Asian dark-brown mass–but to get this intensely pigmented hair was a bit of a shock.  My theory–which my mum, who gave me this hair in the first place, agrees with–is that it was a result of the perm making my strands stand apart more, allowing the sun to filter through my hair and reveal the red.

Eventually, though, the perm grew out, and my hair returned to looking largely black in photos and dark-brown in person.  I never did forget my stealth ginger, though–The Doctor (JV) eventually declared me his Amy Pond, which made it easier to remember–so when 2014, my graduating year, finally rolled around, I decided to take the plunge and be a “secret” redhead no more.

My mum didn’t take too kindly to this, but after much convincing and a promise not to dye my hair any color that did not naturally appear on a human head (pink, purple, green, etc.) at my age (white/silver blonde), she agreed to let me unleash my inner ginger goddess after my graduation in June.  June 7th, to be exact.

If I needed any more motivation to work on my thesis, that would be it.

Image Karen Gillan: doing for redheads what Matt Smith did for bowties.

Since I definitely want to go the Amy Pond route in terms of general effect (if not the color match–more on that later), I’ll need to give my arrow-straight hair some curly volume.  The exact look I want is usually achieved with a curling-iron, but after battling with one for a couple of weeks I decided that the smell of burning hair is not how I want to begin most mornings.  Thankfully, there is a more…permanent beauty solution.

A perm.

The word alone was enough to give my flashbacks of my version of the 80s (a.k.a. 2009), but after doing a bit of research, I discovered the power of the digital perm, which sort of combines the power of a standard perm with the look of a hot iron to produce something like this:


Photo taken from Skin So Deep.


How a digital perm looks like without styling product.  Photo again from Skin So Deep.

I definitely have to do this before I get the color, because the perm chemicals can strip artificial color from hair, so I figure this is “Phase 1,” and I’ll be doing it sometime after I finish my thesis defense in April.

After doing a bit more research–I am really invested in this transformation; my band Stories Told has already taken to calling me “Hayley Williams” on occasion–I also managed to find a technique that would suit my low-maintenance laziness best: balayage, a hair-painting technique which blends the eventual grow-out with the hair, meaning longer times in between touch-ups.  There aren’t many salons in the Philippines that do it, but thankfully the salon my friend Annika recommended to me, Hairshaft, apparently does it, as does Hairworks, the L’Oreal-run salon in Makati.  After that, my only concerns will be having to wash my hair with cold water to delay the eventual fading–something I’m not too concerned about, to be honest; I’ve already started practicing washing with cold water and it’s not so bad.

Which leads me to the final consideration in this whole Project Redhead process: my shade of red.

According to Fashionista.com, the rule goes “The darker your skin tone, the darker the red hair color should be.”  For people with more yellow/olive undertones like my Asian-pale self, colors should be toward the more copper and ginger shades, with auburns and chestnuts being the *safest* option (but since when have I played it all that safe?).  Since copper/ginger is definitely the end of the red spectrum I’m aiming for (or, rather, Amy-ing for), this is fine by me, although if possible I’d prefer to bring out the color of my redhead photo above, since it’ll obviously be the most natural on my skin (since, well, it’s already there).

Other than that, here are two of my other redhead pegs:


Ashley Clements, star of the hugely popular, Emmy-winning webseries The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.


Some random redhead from a wallpapers website.  This one kind of looks more like my “red,” I think.

According to a study by Pureology, a hair-color line, redheads are much more likely to consider themselves as“fearless,” “self-confident,” and “sensual.” (Fashionista.com, 2013; that has got to be the first time an APA citation turned up on my blog)  I am none of those things, but I’d definitely like to be, and while I’m not silly enough to think that red hair will magically solve all my insecurity issues, maybe taking the plunge might help.

Well, that’s that!  I’m definitely going red in 2014!  For all you artificial redheads out there, how should I prepare?



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