On Jan. 31, junior Sabrina Edelen came to school wearing a hat. Her long, dark hair extended from underneath and gently rested on her shoulders. No one paid particular attention to Edelen as she walked to and from her classes, her hair waving behind her.
But the next day Edelen had everyone’s eyes on her when she arrived. She walked on campus with nothing covering her now vibrant, cobalt-blue-green hair.
While having colorful hair drew curious eyes from the students, Edelen was used to it. After all, she has been dyeing her hair since seventh grade.
Edelen was originally a brunette, but didn’t like how plain her hair was.
She first dyed a red streak in her hair, and gradually moved onto other colors such as lavender, blue, blond and purple.
Through the 11 times that she’s dyed her hair, Edelen has found it to be a time-consuming and expensive process.
Dyes can be used directly over dull colors, but hair must be bleached first to get vibrant shades, Edelen said.
For her blue hair, Edelen had to bleach it twice, use a toner to get the yellow hues out of the hair color and then apply the blue dye—a process that took approximately four hours at a salon.
The process takes even longer if one wants to dye from a dark to light color.
Hair must be bleached over several weeks or it will become dry and brittle—a lesson that Edelen learned the hard way.
To avoid repeating her mistake, Edelen usually goes to a salon to ensure proper treatment, though a visit can cost $200-300.
“If you do it yourself, it can cost as little as $30,” she said.
However, for Edelen the cost and the time are well worth it. Dyeing her hair changes it up and makes her stand out, she said.
“It makes me feel more complete about myself.”
Edelen said the social networking site Tumblr has served as an inspiration for her to “be courageous (and) to do something different.”
Freshman Marisa Ortiz also uses Tumblr. Ortiz’s dark-brown hair is now black with turquoise tips.
Both girls follow hair blogs on the site and often borrow ideas from them.
But being different sometimes comes with social costs.
At her former school, Ortiz said she was isolated because of her different hair color.
Edelen had a similar experience.
“Some will like it, but some people really frown upon it,” she said.
“At Folsom (High School) and Vista del Lago (High School), lots of people isolated me because of it.”
While she tends to just ignore those people, the animosity she attracted had gotten to a point where she was purposely dyeing her hair to defend herself and retaliate against insults.
“If someone doesn’t like me because my hair is purple, then I don’t want to be their friend anyway because that’s a very shallow way to judge someone,” Edelen said.
In fact, freshman Hunter Edelen, Sabrina’s brother, was intimidated by what his sister went through and didn’t dare dye his hair until he came to Country Day.
Still, Sabrina has had thoughts about dyeing her hair less frequently.
“I don’t want to (have) this school think badly of me,” she said.
Edelen said she had been approached by teachers commenting on her hair.
Although they never asked her outright to not dye her hair, “I get the feeling that they don’t appreciate it,” she said.
“I don’t want to upset the school; I don’t want to get to the point where they want me to dye my hair back.”
Brooke Wells, assistant head of high school, said Country Day does not have a dress code when it comes to either hairstyle or hair color.
“We’ve had pink mohawks before,” he said. “I do not recall a single disciplinary discussion regarding a student’s hair.”
Rio Americano High School also has no rules about hair dyeing, but those rules are different at some local Catholic high schools.
“Dyeing, bleaching or tinting hair to an unnatural color or having severely contrasting colors is not permitted,” according to St. Francis High School’s student handbook.
Jesuit High School does not permit unusually dyed hair either, and students in violation of this rule may be suspended until the hair has been re-dyed to its natural color.
Senior Marisa Kindsvater recalled causing a slight problem at Country Day when she first dyed her hair in second grade.
“My mom told me that when I was little and dyed my hair, the school was worried about it, which is when they enacted the ‘No crazy all-hair (dyeing)’ rule,” she said.
But neither the middle nor the lower school currently has any rules about students dyeing their hair.
Kindsvater said no teachers had ever stopped her from dyeing her hair, either.
A natural brunette, Kindsvater now has purple hair and has experimented with black, auburn, orange, blond, red, pink and blue.
She thinks dyeing her hair signals people that she likes to try new and different things.
“It makes you very approachable and gives out a vibe to let (people) know that you’re very open-minded. It lets them know who you are,” Edelen said.
Both Kindsvater and Edelen plan to change up their hair color even more when they go to college.