Dolly Alderton | Contributing Writer | Friday, 19 June 2015

An Open Letter Apology To My Hair For Treating It Like Shit

An Open Letter Apology To My Hair For Treating It Like Shit

The Debrief: Because we have such a long history, you and I, we’ve gone through so many upheavals.

Dear hair,

I hope you don’t mind me getting in touch out of the blue; it’s just I’ve had a realization recently and I’d really like to get a few things off my chest and generally reach out and make amends.

Recently, I took you to a new hair salon in Brixton (I had been told their highlights make your hair so warm and golden, it’s like your follicles have been kissed by Midas) and I voiced some concerns to the colourist.

'I am losing my hair,' I declared, sadly. 'It’s hereditary I think. My dad is completely bald. It’s so sad, I never understood how hard it must have been for him but now I’m going through it and I feel so helpless.'

'You’re not losing your hair,' she replied flatly.

'I am. It’s so thin and lifeless. I think it’s receding at the sides. You should have seen me when I was young. Head of hair like a dressage pony. It was almost too thick – it used to swing around with huge wooshes and – sometimes – I could barely get it all into one hair tie.'

'You’re not losing your hair,' she bleated again like she was reading off a call centre script.

'Well then why is it all fluffy and wispy underneath?' I asked, lifting up my thin, flat curtain of shoulder length hair to expose frazzled tufts underneath.

'How long have you been dying your hair?'

'Mm. 13 years?'

'And has that mostly been bleach or highlights?'


'And how many intensive treatments do you do a week?' God. That phrase. ‘Intensive treatments’. Falls under the same category as when they ask if you’d like any ‘product’ in the singular. All these words that make no sense that I swear are only used to remind you that you are neither classy nor glamorous enough to be invited into the world of hairdressing and manicures and naked mud wraps and general Regular Self Maintenance.

'I don’t do intensive treatments.' She shrugged in a sort of weary Robert de Niro way.

'Unfortunately this is what happens,' she says. 'If you take and take and take with your hair and don’t give anything back, eventually it’s going to give way.'

Take and take and take.

It hit me – that’s all I’ve been doing for all these years. I’ve paid so much attention to my body – letting it know I still care by dragging it around Hampstead Heath for three hour walks or pumping it full of kale juice. I’ve invested in the relationship with my skin – removing every molecule of makeup before bed no matter how gin-soaked my brain. But you? I’d forgotten about you, hair. I thought what we had was strong. I thought you would love me forever.

Because we have such a long history, you and I, we’ve gone through so many upheavals. The bouffant Courtney Cox disaster bob aged 11. The highlights, aged 13, 14, 15. The six months of henna, in my brief goth stage. Then another year of highlights until at 17 I made Our First Big Mistake. All over bleach.

What followed was our most difficult three years. At the poshest University in Britain, I was high on the jaegerbombs and peer pressure and started quiffing. Big, white, birds nest hair, nearly as long as my waist; back-combed and teased and lacquered with a can of Elnett hairspray, I looked like Barbara Windsor in the Jack Wills summer collection.

Then we reached rock bottom. My best friend’s 21st where I initiated a mass skinny-dipping into the heavily chlorinated family swimming pool. I plunged in like I was a guest of The Playboy Mansion and emerged as Kermit The Frog.

'There’s nothing we can do,' my hairdresser said, standing over me, giving me my terminal diagnosis as I cried big, salty tears of regret. 'This is the worst case I’ve ever seen of bleach reaction to chlorine. We can either cover the green with more bleach, which will most likely make it fall out. Or we cut it all off.''DON’T CUT IT OFF!' I said, through sobs. “Please don’t cut it off. Cover it with bleach.'

I wasn’t ready to lose you. I couldn’t.

Two days later I was washing you in the shower, when clumps started falling out. I dried you, carefully, handling every strand with the soft touch of a lover. But it was too late. I dried you and looked in the mirror – a head of white candyfloss, ending and feathering with the uneven edges of a fluffy cloud. I bought us clip in extensions.

We managed a year with those but they fell out in dance floors across London and I eventually came to view this as not an embarrassing show of hair-loss, but rather a fun party piece. I whipped them out in the pub and clipped them into my men’s hair. I took the ratty blonde strands out on the dance floor and lassoed them round my head.

And then I went on a date with the first boy I ever loved. And as he ran his hands through my hair when he kissed me goodnight, feeling every hair extension clips in my head like great big hard scabs, he suddenly said:

'You should cut all your hair off. It would look really good.'

OK!' I yelped.

Two weeks later I had a shot of vodka, went to a new hairdressers and I chopped you into a pixie cut.

Our relationship was regenerated in those pixie years. What fun we had! I shaved bits off, I gelled you into a Mohawk. We were Agyness Deyn! Mia Farrow! Billie Idol! Denise Welch! Some months, we were even Rhydian from X Factor! But eventually, I grew tired of it. I loved brushing my hand against your bristles, but I longed to once again twirl you through my fingers. And since then, I’ve slowly grown you out, hoping I had pressed reset and get you back to where we were.

But we’ve changed. And I’m sorry. OK? I am. I didn’t realise how much I’d put you through and I want to make it right again. I’m going for regular trims; I’ve bought an intensive weekly treatment. I’ve even stopped using the highest setting on my hairdryer. I’m changing. We had so many good years together before I made all those stupid mistakes. We can get back to where we were.

Yours always,


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Follow Dolly on Twitter @dollyalderton

Picture: Eugenia Loli 

Tags: Hair