30 Ways I’ve Changed My Hair By Age 30 — And What I Learned
I went through all of my photos on Facebook recently (yes, all 2,000+ of them) and realized: Man, I have changed my hair a LOT in the past several years! To be honest, that would actually be an understatement. When I was growing up, I remember wanting hair like Ariel the Little Mermaid. I wanted long, flowing, red hair… and I wanted something different in general. And so, when I became an adult and went to college, my hair changes began. Now that my mami wasn’t holding me back or, let’s be honest here, trying to give me good advise about not abusing my locks too much, the world was my oyster and I was going to take advantage.
But what struck me the most as I went through all of the photos of my hair changes in the last decade and a half is that my hair changes are kind of predictable. I often go from brown to red to brown again. I often make dramatic hair changes when my life is stable. I often keep my hair the same when my life is up in the air. I often like to experiment, then change my mind a few months later and go back to something tried-and-true. I’ve never known what it is like to have a signature hairstyle because my only signature thus far has been to change my hair. And so, as my hair continues to change (maybe?), here are the 30 ways my hair has changed — and most importantly, what I’ve learned from it all.
1. Before college, I chopped off my hair and dyed it red. It felt like a fresh start.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
Like many of us, I felt that going to college was a big transition for me. I was moving from Florida, where I grew up, to New York City. Things were exciting and I was ready for it. And so I made the first big hair change of my life: I cut my hair short and dyed it red. I was ready for something new.
2. I let it grow long and kept dyeing it red. For the first time ever, I truly loved my hair color.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
During college, I went through a lot of growth and understanding of my identity. One of the things I struggled with early on is my identity as a Latina and what it means, especially because coming from a small Cuban family made me question my Latinidad. I also didn’t particularly love my hair, so dyeing it red felt like I was choosing who I was — and figuring that out at the same time.
3. On a whim, and because I never tried it before, I got a perm because I wanted curly hair.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
I think every girl with straight (or slightly wavy hair, like mine) dreams of having curls, just as many curly haired girls dream of having straight hair. None of us have perfect hair, so I tend to think that it is a “the grass is greener” type of situation. Still, just before turning 20, I permed my hair to achieve those dreamy curls I wanted. However, I quickly discovered that it was not right for me due to the texture of my hair and the damage it had already endured (since I had dyed it quite a bit).
4. And then I decided to experiment with straightening my hair when that didn’t take.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
My curls didn’t quite take everywhere and were honestly a pain. There were chunks of my hair that were barely curly and other chunks that were super curly. Honestly, I blame my hairdresser at the time for not completely informing me of what I was in for. She didn’t warm me nor did she express concern over how a perm might damage my already damaged hair. And so, quickly frustrated, I eventually cut my hair and experimented with straightening it during this time.
5. Unfortunately, I ruined my hair with all of the experiments and had to chop it off pretty short.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
When I made hair changes, I made a lot of them all at once. While my hair was permed, I went from red hair to brown hair to red hair again. Unsurprisingly to me now that I know better, my hair basically burned off. It was brittle and weak, and I could pull apart some strands because of just how damaged it was. Here’s a bit of advice: Do NOT try to change your hair six times in six months. Finally, I had to make the big chop in order to get rid of all the damage I had done to it.
6. Traumatized, I started to grow out my natural hair color for the first time in my adult life.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
I’ve heard this from many ladies who have gone through hair trauma and I was no different. After doing so much to my hair in such little time, I decided to do NOTHING. For years, I simply let my hair grow. It was a long and grueling process, but luckily I had the end of college and the start of my career to keep me busy. With so many other changes happening in my life, it was nice to have some calm… even if it was just in the form of the hair on top of my head.
7. My hair grew long and was healthy (and untreated in any way) for a few years.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
As I transitioned from being a college student with red hair to a long-haired brunette in my early post-college years, I went from being an intern to getting my first job just before the recession hit. With so many changes happening to everyone around me, my hair didn’t change. It was a constant in my life and I let it do its thing, untreated in any way. Honestly, I barely even blow dried it at this point in my life.
8. And then I decided to dye it blonde… at home.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
Finally, I cracked. After years of changing my hair and years of trying not to change my hair, I decided that I wanted to try going blonde. I don’t know where I got this idea, but my life was finally stable enough that it seemed like a great time to try experimenting. At this time, I had my first boyfriend and a great group of friends. Plus, my virgin hair was easy to manage, so I went blonde from a box at home. It actually came out really well and everyone (including my hair dresser) was impressed. However, I would never try this again…
9. The blonde was fun, but wasn’t for me, so I tried going back to my natural color.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
Eventually, I saw the damage that the blonde had subtly done to my hair, so I decided to go back to a dark color. I wanted to grow out my natural color again but also a bit of a change, so I got a haircut to cut off some of the damage and some subtle bangs. I thought it was just the right chance but, as my first relationship began to get rocky, I needed more.
10. Then I realized that I missed the red I had earlier, so I got bangs and dyed my hair again.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
Going from brunette to blonde to brunette to red hair again was quite a challenge, but I did it. This time, however, I asked a professional and she did a great job with my hair. Needing a bigger change as my career was changing and my relationship was at its end, I got dramatic bangs and went back to a dark red that I had loved in my early college days. I wanted to recapture some of that optimism, I think, and it worked. Briefly, anyway.
11. And yet again, dyeing my hair so much (from blonde to dark brown to red) ruined it, so I cut it short.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
This is a lesson that I have learned over and over in my life: Dyeing your hair in quick succession is not good for it. This is especially true if you are going from a dark color to a lighter one and back again. There’s only so much dyeing and change that your hair can take before you have to, well, cut it again. But along with my haircut came the end of my relationship, so when I shed my locks, it felt like I was shedding that relationship too. I felt freer and celebrated with many friendly picnics that summer.
12. I tried highlights briefly. But, honestly, they were kinda too expensive.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
As I entered my mid 20s, things began to change. My career was starting to take off and I was happily single. As a treat to myself, I got highlights for the first time in my life… and loved them. However, as with many things I love, they were too expensive for me to maintain. Sure, they looked great, but I also wanted to be more responsible with my money. I opted not to keep this hair even though it was one of my favorites.
13. So I went back to dark red, which was my favorite color on me for a long time.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
Going back to dark red hair has become my go-to. It’s how I stabilize myself when things are changing and the color that I most loved when I was younger. It’s the color that always calls to me, even though I am a brunette by nature. But, as I hashtag often, #redheadshavemorefun. Do you have a color that speaks to your soul? Because if you do, then you know how I feel about being a redhead.
14. In an effort to change things up again, I started parting my hair in the middle for the first time in my life.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
As I approached my 25th birthday, I was finally doing the kind of work I love. I also wanted to change my hair without changing it too much, so I came up with the perfect solution: I started parting it differently. I first tried this with my highlights, but did it more seriously during the months leading up to that quarter life birthday. It felt like a huge change for me.
15. Then, around my 25th birthday, I decided to try going back to my natural hair color… again.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
After a few months as a redhead again, I decided to try to grow out my natural color… again. I seem to go back to this as a safe-haven, which is precisely what I did around this birthday when my career was going well but my personal life was not. I was in a rocky relationship that would last another six months, and it seems that going back to my roots was a way for me to calm things down.
16. It was also around this time that I was going through a lot of changes and focusing on my career.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
I went through quite a quarter-life crisis at this time, and I’m not ashamed of that. My career was going well but I was also focusing more. As a journalist, I thought that I had wanted to just write about entertainment for my entire life but it is at this time that I realized that I had a big passion for food and healthy living, so I began to implement that in my work. It was a big change and, with many changes in my life, came very little changes for my hair.
17. Then, once more, I lightened my hair and tried parting it in the middle. Why, oh, why?msirinagonzalez/Instagram
Remember how I cut my hair short after my first relationship? Well, in this case, I decided to lighten it again even though I hadn’t quite reached my hair goals yet. I also decided to start parting it in the middle again, a move that I forever regret because of the weird cowlick I discovered on my forehead. It’s not a big deal looking back on it, but I hated it shortly after I tried this style.
18. But the lighter hair wasn’t exactly what I wanted, so I darkened it and got bangs instead.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
However, I didn’t love the lighter hair this time and I definitely wasn’t into parting it in the middle, so I went back to something I had only tried a few times before: Bangs. What girl hasn’t gotten bangs as a reaction to a breakup? They’re not my favorite but, I have to be honest, I have never regretted getting them either. they’re always a fun and easy change to the way my face looks, and I enjoyed a brief month with this style.
19. And kept trying to grow it out. Here it is actually well past my chest and I loved it.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
You can’t quite see it here, but this is the longest my hair had gotten in my adult life up until this point. It was just below my breasts, and I loved it. It was a bit darker than my natural color but I liked that, too. I felt seductive with this style, and it was fun to experiment with it. However, I soon realized that it looked its best when there were a lot of hairstyling products involved… and I was quickly losing patience for those because my career was doing better and I wanted to get to work earlier.
20. However, I missed the red hair so I dyed it once more but had to cut it short to get rid of all the damaged ends.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
Once more, I completed my brown-to-red-to-brown-to-red cycle. I just can’t seem to break away from this one, and so I decided to chop off my long, almost black locks and go back to red. That New Year’s Eve felt like it was completely new. For the first (and last) time ever, I ran a 5K as the fireworks exploded over Central Park. I felt a renewed sense of energy as I started a new year and, shortly after, a new job.
21. I lived that way for a while… Until, on yet another hair whim, I decided to go super short and super blonde. Wowza!msirinagonzalez/Instagram
With my new job going really well (my dream job at the time, really), I decided that it was time for another hair change. This time I wanted to do something dramatic that I had only briefly toyed with before, and so I went blonde and short. I was actually inspired by Beyoncé going blonde and short around this time, and I loved this hair. It was a really fun experiment, and I especially loved that my hairdresser did such a phenomenal job with the highlights.
22. After a few months of going blonde, I went back to my natural hair color.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
But all good things must end. Being blonde was fun, but I discovered after a few months that it wasn’t really my thing. Red was still my favorite color, but I figured that I should give myself a break and go back to my natural color. My hair had taken a lot of abuse in the past few years, and it felt like the right thing to do. This time I would actually grow out my color (which is what you see here) instead of just dyeing it dark and hope that is good enough.
23. I grew it out for a while, then decided to try ombre hair.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
After almost a year of working at my dream job and growing out my natural color, I wanted a change again. Things were happening in my life that I wasn’t yet ready to talk about, and I was really stressed out. I got ombre hair in an effort to calm some of my anxiety and make my life better. But, unfortunately, hair is just hair. It looked good, yes, but it wasn’t going to change my life. That would come after.
24. Shortly after, I realized that I needed to go to rehab. After getting out, I went back to red hair because I felt that I needed another change.
It turned out that, right around this time, what I needed wasn’t a hair change but a BIGGER change. My anxiety had gotten the best of me and I had developed a drinking problem. You see, I was using alcohol to calm my anxiety and work stress, and it was getting worse. So, I went to rehab. When I came out of rehab, I needed something to symbolize the huge changes I had gone through that summer, so I dyed my hair red — except this time it was a much lighter red than I had ever tried before.
25. Around my birthday that year, I decided to get boudoir photos taken on my own and they styled my hair.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
As I conquered my fears of my alcohol addiction and began to seek treatment for anxiety, as well as live my life as a person in recovery, I decided to do something else that I had always wanted to do: I got boudoir photos. Although it wasn’t a huge hair change for me at the time, it represented something huge in my life. I got those photos for myself, to show myself that I could, and because I was finally starting to love myself. It was a really big moment, and I will forever love the hair that showcased that.
26. After my birthday, I moved in an effort to support my recovery from alcoholism… and went back to having bangs.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
However, after almost a year as a person in recovery, I relapsed. That’s when I decided that I needed to leave my environment (my home of 12 years by that time, New York City) and move back home to Florida. I needed a break and some time to figure out my new life. I was still loving the light red hair that I was dyeing my hair, so I kept that color but added bangs as a symbol of the change I was going through.
27. As I kept growing out my hair, I decided to dye it what I called “Little Mermaid Red” because she had inspired my red hair in the first place.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
My first year living somewhere else for the first time in my adult life was hard, but also wonderful. I met my now-husband and started a career as a full-time freelance writer (something I could only ever dream about before). I went through a lot of changes during this time, and one of the things that I really wanted to do was change my hair again. This time I got what I call “Little Mermaid Red” hair because I wanted to show off the color I had always dreamed about as a little girl when I first thought about changing my hair.
28. Then I realized that my new home in Florida was too hot and frizzy for long hair, so I chopped it off again.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
After almost two years in my new home, I realized that my hair was long and unruly. To be honest, despite growing out my hair for the past three years, it didn’t seem worth it anymore. I was in a good place in my life and so it felt like a good time to make a more dramatic change and chop off several inches of my hair. At the time, it was the longest ever… and I went back to shoulder-length. It was a big change but I loved it instantly.
29. Then I got it into my head that I wanted to do something “edgy” so I got an asymmetrical cut and a pink streak in my hair.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
For some reason , as I approached yet another birthday, I decided that I wanted to do something “edgy” with my hair. I had some pink streaks in my hair before, but this time I wanted to do something BIG and more dramatic than just chopping off my long hair as I had done a few months before. This time… I went asymmetrical. I also got a hot pink streak put in my hair, and kind of liked that. But to be honest, it felt like too much. I realized almost instantly that I made a mistake with my hair and spent the next few months feeling BLAH about the whole thing.
30. Finally, I realized that my hair doesn’t need to make a statement… so I went back to red (lighter this time) and short.msirinagonzalez/Instagram
After several months of torturing myself with an asymmetrical haircut, I realized something big about my hair: It will always make a statement but it doesn’t need to be a dramatic one. My hair, and hair changes for that matter, is one of the things that has made me who I am today. As my life continues to change, now with a new marriage and a new-ish career (or more an adjustment to my previous career, really) and a new home, I have a craving to make my hair stable. Who knows how long that will last… But for now, I’m really happy with where I am. And more than that, I am happy for all of the lessons I have learned in my years of experimenting with my hair and, well, living my life.
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