Color Oops in Korea

lion mane animal roar teeth wild Photographer: Lemuel Butler

What’s in a Mane?

I’m willing to bet this will sound ridiculous to most of you, but my hair is like my mane.  I’ve never really been one to buy into the hysteria of the zodiac or horoscopes, but my August 6th birthday makes me a fiery Leo.  I’ve been accused of being a spy in the past because I change my appearance so often (thanks, Military Man).  Truth be told, I just like changing up my look.  If I’m feeling sad, I’ll pick up a bright and cheerful lipstick.  If I’m feeling a little worse for wear, I’ll add some highlights.  When I’m feeling like I need to take control, bold changes occur.  Sometimes I need Korea color oops, but we’ll get there.

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My Main Mane

My mum says that when I was born I had a healthy mane of beautiful wavy auburn locks.  On day 3, they all fell out.  They were replaced with a light brown which would be sun-kissed, chlorine-washed, and turned into a golden blond in the summer.  I found my first gray hair at the age of 14.  Well, it was found for me.  We were in the high school library and to my shock and dismay I found a friend pulling strand by strand until she found what she was looking for, slid down to the root, and yanked out the follicle.  If what they say is true, then that first silver strand was mighty popular and its family members continue to visit to this day.  My natural hair colour now is a medium to dark brown with lots of bright silver strands throughout.  I guess this is why I feel so comfortable as a chameleon.  Who would realistically want to let that grow out at 29?

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Blonde Ambition

When I moved from Busan to Seoul, I decided to try out one of the local hair salons.  What a mistake!  They took me from medium brown to medium blonde…with brown roots.  Time for Korea color oops then?  Not quite!  I actually found a salon supply store in my new neighbourhood and went to work fixing the damage.  Check out my Blonde in Korea post for more info.  I touched up and blended the roots, but only made it to the platinum you see up there over a course of about 5 months.  Then around new year’s eve after a tricky 2 weeks of post-break-up blues, I decided to do something rash.  The hope was to go back to medium brown erring on the chocolate side, but I ended up with practically black hair.

Korea Color Oops

When hair dye works a little bit overtime (as in the case above) or you don’t like the colour, there’s a solution called “color oops”.  You can get it pretty easily at the drugstore in North America.  It turns your hair a hideous shade of orange, then you can apply colour on top.  I’ve only ever used it once back in Canada, but it had the desired effect.  In Korea, however, getting “color oops” isn’t as easy.  I ended up doing what’s referred to as a “bleach cocktail” or “bleach bath” instead.

Bleach Bath Recipe

This weekend I put my hair through absolute hell.  I did 2 Bleach Baths (or Bleach Cocktails – my personal makeshift Korea color oops), did a set of highlights, and then dyed my hair twice.  I started with a bleach bath which is:

  • 1 ounce powder bleach (the blue powder, usually)
  • 1 ounce developer (usually comes with the package and is about 20%)
  • 2 ounces clear shampoo (I used the Innisfree brand)

Mix the ingredients together and apply to WET, towel-dried hair.  Don’t shampoo or condition, just wet your hair, comb is out, and then apply the mixture.  I left the solution in for 30 minutes.  My results came out like this:

Bleach Cocktail Results

As you can see above, my hair was carrot orange.  The Korea color oops I created at home had done its job by stripping away the brown, but I was stuck with some pretty rancid strands.  I applied my re-bonding solution and went to sleep.  Korea color oops step 1 was complete.

After applying “dark blonde” throughout my hair, my locks were pretty much rose gold.  I actually kind of liked the “My Little Pony” look, but it wouldn’t have been work appropriate.  I added some highlights using a cap, but they didn’t pull the colour as I had intended.  Korea color oops round 2 did not turn out as well:

I ended up with yellow roots, pink mid-shaft, and orange tips.  This was not the desired look either.  I applied my Makarizo re-bonding serum again and went to bed.  In the morning, I applied L’Oreal Dark Golden Blonde (6.30).  I know this doesn’t actually make hair blonde again as I had used it in Busan to achieve a light brown look.  That said, I wanted full coverage and knew this would do the trick.

My hair is now coppery red.  I’ll keep this until my roots grow in, then I’ll do all over highlights once more.  I don’t want to go back to platinum blonde, but I think I would like to head back in the direction of a medium ash blonde.  I love being a hair colour chameleon and will probably never stick with one colour for over a year, but we’ll see what happens in the future!

Do you have any experience fixing dramatic hair colour at home?  Have you ever done a DIY hair experiement in another country?  Let me know in the comments!

Blonde Ambition: How to Get Golden Tresses in Korea

Every week on the message boards of Expat Women in Korea I’ll see a post about the plight of being Blonde in Korea.  Maintaining luscious, golden locks isn’t so tough if you have the right tools (or the right stylist – Kimchi Days and Soju Nights recommends JP Hair).  To all the blonde and/ or DIY (Do-It-Yourself) women in Korea, there are two salon supply stores in the Sincheon area (near Jamsil, not Hongdae).

How to Go Blonde in Korea - That Girl Cartier

How to Go Blonde in Korea - That Girl Cartier

The reason I’m actually blonde in the first place is due to a Korean hair salon f*ck up.  The first time I went in I wanted some warm highlights.  They did a great job of lightening up my practically black hair.  I was so thrilled, I even wrote a blog post about the experience.  Fast forward a few months to about this time last year.  I was heading up to Seoul from Busan to see my boyfriend at the time (he was a military man, but was one of the good guys – they exist!).  I asked that they give me all over highlights.  What I got was not at all what I had asked for!

Being Blonde in Korea - That Girl Cartier

I ended up with auburn (read: orange) hair, and was pretty peeved.  When I moved to Seoul I was told that hair dressers were more familiar with western hair, so when I went in for a cut and the stylists suggested highlights I was more inclined to go for it.  I have no photos, but the colour turned out the opposite of what you see above.  I had blonde hair and chunky dark brown roots.  After hair fail upon fail I took matters into my own hands.

Here are the directions for the salon supply store in Sincheon (by Jamsil in Seoul): take exit 4 of 신천 station. Walk directly out and turn left between the Lotteria and the McDonald’s. Walk about 3 blocks and you’ll see this shop on the left hand side.  The actual address is in the photos above (25 Olympic-ro 12-gil).

The lady speaks a bit of English and is pretty knowledgeable about colours.  She even helped me tone out pineapple yellow with dye since she doesn’t sell toner. The brand is one of the l’Oreal lines (Majirel) so it’s a lot less damaging (and has a lot less copper than typical box dye).

If you’re pulling colour from very dark hair, you’ll likely need to use a bleach.  My personal recommendation (I’m not a hair stylist) would be to get a highlighting cap.  This way you can subtly go from dark to light in a few steps.  Since you’re not paying a hair stylist, you can afford the time and effort it’ll take to go from dark to light safely.  Don’t be hasty, don’t be cheap, take care of yourself.  If you have to do it in a weekend, here’s a how-to guide.  My naturally dark brown hair always goes a brassy orange (because red is tough to pull).  To offset the orange you’ll need to apply colour with a hint of green (check out the color wheel).  I know that’s terrifying, but it works.  I usually combine a 10 and a 7 or an 8 when dying my hair.  My roots are almost always a different colour than the rest of my hair, but I try to ombré so that it doesn’t look chunky. It’s not perfect, but being blonde in Korea is tough!

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Vanilla gold?  Give it a hard pass.  This blonde in Korea box colour, especially in foam form, isn’t going to give you the change you’re looking for.  It’s just not strong enough to do a dang thing.

I have found a second salon supply store that’s actually closer to my gym and my apartment.  Sincheon is on an angle, however, so instructions would be difficult to follow.  If you’re looking for a greater selection please feel free to message me on my Facebook fan page (and give it a like while you’re at it!).

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