Hair Color FAIL – From Blond to Tortoiseshell to Brunette

You know how women are? At least most of the ones that I know. Sometimes we like to do something different, to make ourselves look pretty in a new way. That is what I was hoping to do with my hair last Friday. I didn’t realize it would become a hair color fail, a grand ordeal, and another lesson in expat problems.


I picked out a Tortoiseshell hair color because I was sick and tired of my bleached blond locks and my dark blond roots. My hair is a dirty blond and I thought Tortoiseshell would blend in well with my natural color. With the help of a friend I found a hairdresser. We showed her pictures of Tortoiseshell hair styles. She claimed she could replicate the look and blend it in with my roots.


I didn’t think anything of her location. Her shop is out of her home, like many small tiendas in Mexico. It is tiny, about 10 feet x 10 feet in size and has a slide up metal door for the entrance. This hairdresser seemed to have all the supplies and products needed for the job. Her price was very reasonable and she was well recommended. I made an appointment.

The Hair Color Fail

It was late evening and the lighting was bad but I could still see the lines around my head. Tortoiseshell color doesn’t have lines. It’s well blended. I asked her to fix them and she tried but it didn ‘t work. I asked her to fix them a second time and she tried again. At 9:30 I was done. I was exhausted after five hours in her shop and I could not see the back of my head clearly in the lighting. I paid her, apologized for the trouble, and gave her a tip.

The next morning I realized I still had a line where the colors changed and I had a large blond patch. I was miserable. There were tears. I didn’t know what to do. We don’t have 500 pesos in our budget for my hair. I was doing something special for myself. I haven’t been to a hairdresser for over two years. Brad cuts my hair at home. To get this fixed at another salon would cost another 500 pesos if not more.


My husband and I went back to the hairdresser with another Spanish speaking friend. I stayed in the car because I was embarrassed and worried. Our friend asked for our money back, at least part of it, and showed her the photo above. She made excuses, said it was my fault, and did not offer any solutions. Brad was defensive, he understands Spanish, and he told her it was a terrible job. (Apparently this was grosero (rude) even though she wasn’t taking responsibility.) Only after exchanging multiple words were they able to come to an agreement. She could not give us any money back but she would try to fix my hair with one solid color.

From Blond to Tortoiseshell to Brunette

I felt so weird sitting in that chair for another two hours. I was scared the hairdresser was going to mess up my hair even more! I am thankful that the color came out okay. I gave her a hug and told her “Thank you.” Now I am a brunette. It’s not what I originally intended but I like it. Almost anything is better then a vivid line and blond spot on the back of your head.


Learning a Lesson in Expat Problems

The real problems came later. Uruapan isn’t a “big” town. A few days after this went down, I start hearing things… rude comments, lies, and gossip. All of it stemming from the hair color fail. I don’t know who said what exactly because it’s all third person. Honestly it doesn’t matter. But it does hurt. Maybe I should have just let her have the money and went somewhere else to get my hair fixed. We would be taking a loss but it would have kept the peace.

This is an expat problem life lesson. This isn’t the first time that we have been “put in our place” because we expressed our feelings. From what I understand, we don’t know how to “correctly” express our feelings in Spanish and when we do it comes across wrong. This makes communication very difficult. As expats we are once again reminded to embrace change. We have to display humility especially when we are not fluent in the language and we don’t know the customs.

Isn’t it funny how a hair color fail can teach you a life lesson in change and humility. Life is weird like that. Signing off in Mexico and still loving it, Tina ;-)

11 thoughts on “Hair Color FAIL – From Blond to Tortoiseshell to Brunette

  1. Haley says:

    I once had a hairdresser who did my hair for years, and had been doing same highlights accidentally get red on top of my fresh blond highlights. Needles to say she seen it and laughed (which made me furious) and said it would was out. Needless to say that was the last time she touched my hair. If she would’ve owned up to fixing I would have never quit. And we both speak English! Lol. You look good as a brunette.

  2. Leslie Limon says:

    Oh no! Hair fails are the worst! But on the bright side, you look gorgeous as a brunette. And living in a small town, I totally understand about the gossip and the rumors. Try not to let it get to you, and enjoy your new gorgeous brunette locks.

  3. Debbie says:

    I’m sorry to learn about your ordeal. Unfortunately, I know all too well about how it goes, Tina.
    After more than 14 years here, I’m still “afraid” of going to places and talking to people for the first time. Besides, I live in a town known for “disliking” foreigners and I paid my dues with racists in college.
    The problem is that unless one has lived abroad, they don’t know how it goes. Even if you study in college abroad, it’s still different from packing your things and having to face the daily ordinary things on your own.
    Understanding certain nuances of the language helps, but really knowing enough to never make a mistake? That’s almost impossible. And then you also have to think of the people’s intentions.

  4. Orana says:

    I am so sorry you had to go through that. Before going to hairdressing school I did quite a few hack jobs like that line and spot. Tortoiseshell is one of the hardest and most technical haorcolor around. Foils and different bowls and different times and different washes. I am glad she managed to leave you with a nice chocolate brown. And about expat lessons ay ay ay, we are collecting experiences I can tell you that much.

  5. swapna says:

    We live in a world where people like to generalise…oooh gringas are like this, mexicans are like that …whatever… the real question is would she have re-done the job without extra charge if you were a local? ummm, maybe not! It’s just that if you were a local you would’ve known which hairdresser to go to and which ones to avoid!

    I spent a lot of money on a haircut because I wanted my hairdresser to speak gringa-english (we live in Chile). Although she didn’t screw my hair (i’ve got really short hair, so screwing my hair would mean looking like a clown for 3 months!) but she and her assistant were a bit harsh with my hair. like they were slapping my head around (well, kinna!). I now have a new found respect for my hairdressers back home (india), they are affordable, never screw up, have a light touch and give a nice head massage for free too!

    • Tina Marie Ernspiker says:

      That is true. I am glad she redid the color and I didn’t have to pay for another stylist. And hey! Now I do know one hairdresser to avoid in Uruapan, Mexico! Haha! Live and learn, right? I am glad your hair turned out nice. I have no idea what I will do when my roots grow out because I am a dark blond and something will need to be done! At least my hair grows slowly :-)

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