When it comes to taking care of my hair, I was always far from a model citizen. For years and years, I subjected it to every kind of abuse: bleaching, perming, monthly dyeing. Frankly, I’m a little surprised my follicles didn’t just quit on me. After about 12 years of upkeep, split ends and serious $$$ — I was done. For the past three years, I’ve taken a hands-off approach to my hairstyle — a trim every six months or so and ZERO coloring.

Of course, the moment I quit coloring my hair, a slew of hair trends hit the internet: succulent hair, tiger eye hair, phoenix hair, oh my. Hell, there’s even a pumpkin spice latte hair. (Um, what?) I wanted in. But the fear of going back to thirsty, lifeless locks curbed my enthusiasm, until I heard about a miracle product for hair dyeing that the Kardashian-Jenners swear by: Olaplex. Olaplex, which you can only find in a professional salon, has three different formulations, and they’re each applied at different times during the hair-dyeing process. So I decided to jump back into the fray (hopefully without frayed ends).


I booked an appointment with Marlena at Paul Labrecque Salon in the Upper East Side of Manhattan and ask her to do something dramatic. I chose an ash gray balayage because I’M LATE TO THE GAME, OKAY? I haven’t dyed my hair in three years.


Marlena had to lift my natural black hair to blonde, then dye it ash to get the gray balayage I was hoping to achieve. That means a lot of bleaching. She mixed Olaplex No. 1, known as the Bond Multiplier, directly into the color. It rebuilds disulfide bonds that break during the process and restore elasticity to the hair. Then, she used No. 2, called the Bond Perfector, after she rinsed out the dye to continue healing my hair.


The end result? After seven hours of sitting in various chairs, I had a gorgeous ash gray balayage. But after the salon comes the upkeep. Here are all the products I’ve added to my arsenal to keep my dramatic hair change looking fresh.


1. Olaplex No. 3 ($28): I purchased some No. 3, the Hair Perfector, which is the only product from the Olaplex system you can use at home. It works as a weekly touch-up treatment and bond builder. You only have to leave it in for 10 minutes, according to the directions, but I like to leave it for a few hours. Some people even sleep in the stuff. Trust me when I say the difference is so noticeable — in fact, if this stuff was around in the late aughts, I might never have stopped dyeing my hair.


2. MorrocanOil Treatment ($44): I use this stuff post-hair washing, pre-blow dry, as a flyaway and frizz tamer and pretty much whenever I want a little bit of shine. Plus, it smells SO GOOD. You don’t even need a whole lot of it — just two or three pumps for long hair will do the trick.


3. Label.M Dry Shampoo ($22): One tip Marlena gave me to make my hair color last was to cut down on how often I washed my hair. I used to be an every-other-day kind of gal, but now that the weather is colder and I really, really like my new color, my goal was to do like Kim Kardashian and make my hair last up to five days without a wash. This is nearly impossible without a quality dry shampoo. Luckily, Label.M makes my fave formula, which manages to get my hair clean without making it gritty.


4. Amika Silken Up Dry Conditioner ($24): Here is yet another product I wish existed when I was coloring my hair way back in the day. By cutting down on shampooing, I’m also cutting down on conditioning — and with each passing day, my bleached ends get more and more thirsty. Amika’s Dry Conditioner effectively moisturizes my ends without the wash and keeps ’em from splitting.


5. Biolage Hydrasource Mask ($23): Even though it’s technically a hair mask, I use this Biolage Hydrasource Mask as a conditioner. So, full disclosure, Biolage’s hair mask is not a new discovery. It’s a product that’s carried over from my days of constant hair processing. I’ve tried several other brands of conditioners and I always return to this one. It’s seriously my desert island product.

What products do you swear by? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Kimberly Wang/Brit + Co)