In 2015 my husband and I moved from our home in Marin County, California to Salt Lake City, Utah. We were ready for a change and a six-month long road trip had convinced us that Salt Lake City could offer us the lifestyle we had been looking for. Namely, city life for me, outdoor life for him.

But this was a big life change from the life we had been accustomed to. Living in San Francisco’s north bay was not a far cry from living at burning man. Costumed characters frequented the grocery store by our house and I once witnessed squirrels gathering around a turbaned man playing a lute in the park.

For awhile it was fun and entertaining. We embraced our town’s eccentricities and even adopted some of our own. But after a time, the “hippie culture” grew wearisome. We were a young, active couple interested in culture and community, so we set out to find that lifestyle for ourselves. We moved to Salt Lake City on Valentines Day 2015 and it completely changed our life for the better.

The before picture

I went platinum (big mistake)

As Coco Chanel says, “a woman who changes her hair is about to change her life.” So, just as Taylor Swift did when she broke up with Calvin Harris, I cut off my long, darker, California hair in favor of a short, platinum, Utah bob. I think both of us can agree that was a mistake.

March 2015 right after my first peroxide treatment

At first, I thought my hair looked great, but little did I know what it would take to “keep it white.”  From March 2015 to July 2016 a succession of stylists proceeded to color it too blonde and bleach it too repeatedly, damaging my once lustrous locks beyond repair. At one point, a stylist ran her fingers through my hair post-peroxide (!!) only to have a huge clump of it melt off into her hand (traumatizing I know).

Distraught over the state of my hair, I threatened to fly back to see my stylist in San Francisco (Nina Pelfini at Bilancio) for my 12-week appointments. Then a small ray of hope. My favorite hair icon Kim Jacobson published a post to Instagram. “Nothing better than a fresh haircut…” She said, “Thanks to my girl Parker @LandisSalon for always taking care of these locks!”

Landis Salon? I thought. I knew that place!!! Though I hadn’t realized it up until that post, Kim was a local and the salon was only a ten-minute drive from where lived. I immediately called up the salon and made an appointment with Parker. I am now a devotee to Parker at Landis Salon and my hair is on the mend because of it. But finding the right hairstylist only stopped the bleeding. I knew the healing process was a long road ahead.

May 2015 after my second bleach treatment

By the end of 2016, my hair was so brittle that the top layer had completely broken off forming a bowl cut pattern that encircled my head. My hairstylist tried to disguise the breakage as layers, but there was no denying the facts…  I had a mullet.

Overtime, my hair had become my worst nightmare—and the only thing I could do was rehab it back to health and wait for it to grow back. So I started with the basics: My colorist and I finally found the perfect blonde shade that wouldn’t damage my hair (Aveda color is far less damaging that competing products) and we scheduled twelve week appointments to color (only the roots), cut, gloss treatment, and deep condition my hair.

October 2015 after my third bleach treatment

So I bought all of the fancy hair products

It should be mentioned that I have been an Aveda devotee since I was thirteen years old—they are literally the only haircare products I will ever buy. Early on in our relationship my husband used to joke that for all the Aveda products I buy, he could buy a fancy new mountain bike. But now my Pure Privilege rewards points are so high we almost have a free vacation to the Caribbean—who’s joking now? (Ok, ok, it’s probably me—that means I’ve spent a lot of money there over the years!)

Needless to say, I stocked up on all their most nourishing products. I use Damage Remedy Restructuring Shampoo followed by Damage Remedy Intensive Restructuring Treatment for my shampoo and conditioner—but because that conditioner contains protein (and too much of a good thing can actually cause your hair to break more)—I alternate my conditioner with the Dry Remedy Moisturizing Masque. If I shower at night, I leave the conditioner in overnight and rinse it out when I take a shower in the morning.

June 2016 after my fourth bleach treatment the front pieces of my hair start breaking off

For awhile, I tried to go 4-5 days without washing it, and chose to keep my hair in a high bun most of the time so I wouldn’t have to heat style it. But because I am currently doing Kayla Itsines workout program BBG Program my hair gets sweaty every other day and so I need to wash it. Though sometimes I skip the shampoo and just use conditioner if my hair is super dry. If I am somehow able to extend it longer than two days, I use Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo to keep it going.

Then there are the finishing products. If it’s a hair down kind of day I use equal amounts of Damage Remedy Daily Hair Repair and Smooth Infusion Glossing Straightener (about a quarter size in total) on my ends before I blow dry. If it’s a hair up kind of day I use Dry Remedy Daily Moisturizing Oil on my ends. Because my hair is short, I don’t use the oil when it’s down because it might end up making my whole head look greasy.

Then, about once every week or every two weeks, I break from Aveda to use Banyan Botanicals Hair Oil which is seriously a miracle treatment. I’ll saturate my whole head with the oil whenever I’m taking a Sabbath day and doing things like catching up on The Bachelor or doing my laundry. It’s one of those “alone on a Sunday” kind of rituals. The only thing you need to be aware of is that it usually takes two washes to wash out. In other words: don’t use on a day you have an interview.

I also swapped my hair brush for this more gentle one (and even then I only use it when I am fresh out of the shower and my hair is well conditioned). I no longer sleep with my hair up (to keep the elastic bands from damaging it), I let my hair air dry as much as possible, and wear it up as much as possible so as to avoid heat styling it. But all of this was only to keep my existing horribly damaged hair from falling out any further. What I really needed, was for my hair to grow as fast as it possibly could so the horribly damaged part could grow out to the point that I could finally cut it off (without having a pixie cut).

So I invested heavily in supplements. I already take MyKind Organics Women’s Multivitamin daily, and have ever since I developed major hormonal imbalances when I got off birth control in 2011. This one helps me maintain the thyroidal, hormonal, and vitamin and mineral support I need to support healthy hair. I also take Minami Fish Oil (because I’m of Norwegian descent and fish oil is basically the go-to for everything from minimizing depression to oiling up hair).

To support my hair even further, last year I added Reserveage Très Beaty 3 to my regimen. It contains collagen, keratin, and elastin—basically everything your hair needs to not break that it probably isn’t getting from your diet. But because I still haven’t decided which hair supplement truly helps my hair grow faster and stay healthier, I usually alternate that one with other options from the Whole Foods hair section (like BioSil) just so that I know I’m trying everything.

August 2016 the low point after all of my hair had broken off into short pieces

Then I got hair extensions (don’t judge me)

Finally, after doing all of the above for about 6 months, I started to become fatigued by it all. No matter how much I was doing to keep my hair healthy, it didn’t change the fact that day to day I looked like I had a mullet. Faced with reality, I knew it would take a solid two years (if not more) for my short, bowl-cut-length layer to reach my shoulders, when I would finally be able to cut my hair one length again.

Not to mention, I work in business and it is very important to me that I look put-together, elegant, and beautiful everyday at the office. It is part of what makes me feel powerful and accomplished at work. So despite the fact that I was wearing my favorite Vince sweaters and Ivanka Trump heels everyday, it didn’t help the fact that I was also sporting a bowl-cut and very noticeably going through Invisalign. No matter how much I tried to class-up my look, I just looked like I was going through that awkward high school phase again—and no one wants that.

So I did a secret thing and snuck off to Laced Hair—a celebrity favorite that just so happens to be in Utah (because I don’t know if you know this but Utah is pretty much the hair extension capital of the world). I was SO nervous walking in there. The very last thing I wanted was to look like I had hair extensions, and in fact, I have been personally against them for years. But I was also desperate for some kind of temporary save to hold me over until my hair could grow back on it’s own.

My stylist was so sweet and she found clip-in hair extensions that were a perfect match for my hair. She clipped them in for me then cut them to the length of my longest layer. When I looked in the mirror, I let out a deep sigh of relief. It looked exactly like how my hair used to look before the platinum incident thinned it all out and layered it all up. It was amazing. I went out with my friends that night finally feeling like myself again.

March 2017 with extensions

For awhile, I wore my extensions everyday that I wore my hair down—and I planned to all the way up until my shortest layer had reached the length of my longest layer. My stylist told me that she wore her clip-in extensions everyday for four years while her hair was growing out—and I figured I’d likely have to do the same. But it’s wasn’t as burdensome as I thought it would be. I didn’t wear the full set (because it made my hair too thick) so it just felt as if I had a couple of clips in my hair.

It took me less five minutes to put them in and that is all the styling I had to do for my hair. It saved me time, and it saved my hair because I didn’t have to heat style it anymore. The extensions sort of covered it all up and made it look beautiful no matter what. And once I had them in I felt like a million bucks. They totally restored my confidence and changed my whole look for the better.

March 2017 with extensions

Finally I cut off all the damage

For the longest time, my hair had three layers: the top layer was to my eye lashes, the middle layer was to my chin, and the long layer was to my shoulder. By the last time I went to my hairstylist, the middle layer had finally grown to the length of my shoulder and so I was able to cut off the bottom layer to match it. Now my hair is cut into a short bob that (finally) at least looks as if it is all one length. There is still a shorter layer that is to my eyelashes, but it’s a finer, far less noticeable layer that I can now blend in with the rest of my hair.

Now that the mullet is gone, and my hair is (mostly) one length again, it actually looks healthy for the first time in two years. All I have to do now is wait for it to grow out! On a day to day basis, I still take very good care of my hair, and am very gentle with it. I try not to blow dry it too often but I’ve also started styling it everyday again. I round brush it for day to day wear or use these hot rollers on a low setting when I want that Miranda Kerr body.

April 2017 after cutting the damaged hair off

And thats the overly traumatizing story of my hair these past two years. It’s been personally distressing to me because I’m a hair person. You know, everyone has their one thing that they think “if this one thing looks great, everything looks great.” For some people that’s their skin or their makeup or their svelte figure, but for me, just like my icon Jennifer Aniston, I believe a good hair day doesn’t need anything else to accessorize it.

Obviously if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t. There’s nothing I want more than to have that “before picture” again. Thankfully, things are looking up. I used to brush my hair and watch in horror as thousands of tiny hair pieces broke off from my hair and spilled onto my leggings. Now that doesn’t happen anymore. My hair used to feel like goo when it was wet (no other way to describe it) now it feels like healthy hair. So I’m trying to revel in the fact that my hair has finally passed through its lowest point and is now healing and on its way back to where it used to be. Like most things in life, from here on out its just about patience.