Quarantine guide to dying your hair like a pro(duct designer):
The one with personas, double diamonds and other fluff
50 shades of double diamonds , courtesy of The Internet
In a nutshell
Have you ever heard about procrastination? To be honest, it’s the main reason for this case study. But on top of that, this is a story of how basic design techniques and some luck can help you to go crazy in real life and still expect better outcomes.
...It also shows my questionable sense of humor and how you can make a case study out of ✨ anything ✨
In December 2020, 8 months deep into the San Francisco lockdown and WFH, I had 3 major issues: quarantine hair + boredom + urge for something new.
Initial problem statement: client (aka myself) is unhappy with her hairstyle and bored.
Learn something new
Fix hairstyle issues
Phase 1. Understanding the problem
Digging a bit deeper
Luckily I was immediately available for the user interview, and we quickly discovered the roots of the problem.
Just before the lockdown I had a surprisingly good haircut that actually grew out very gracefully. Yet as soon as local authorities briefly reopened salons, I went for a cut just to support my stylist. Apparently I used up all my hair luck in the pre-quarantine session, and the new cut was just not that great.
Digging even deeper, I was able to deduce that most of my unsettlement stemmed from a very severe hair layering — I had sections of hair of very different lengths — a thing I usually try to avoid.
It’s worth mentioning that as soon as I was able to identify the core of my unease, all salons were closed again.
Phase 2. Exploration & Inspiration
Wait for it, here comes the persona
This is me failing to make fun of how seriously we treat our UX-personas sometimes
The initial plan was to fix the haircut only. Then I remembered that I really enjoyed having neon pink hair and didn't mind having some pop of color and diverged my search for possible solutions.
Secretly, however, I wanted to avoid bleaching my entire head and would love to have something easily maintainable as a result.
Finally I found my inspiration offline. I saw a beautiful girl with black wavy hair and neon-green tips. I was too shy to take a picture. Thank God for Google, Pinterest and Instagram.
Images found on The Internet
Phase 3. Strategy & Trade-offs
To start, I had two obvious paths: seek professional help or do an at-home job. My main assessment criteria and estimations:
Effort & Mess
Being a bored adventurous person who doesn’t really feel a strong attachment to her hair (I even tried being shaved at some point and it wasn’t that bad) I decided to take the high-risk, high-effort, low-cost and super-accessible path and do the thing myself.
Also, I do enjoy learning new skills. Even weird ones.
The moment I added bright color to my desired outcome the stakes got way higher. DIY hair bleaching is a terrible terrible idea roughly 99 times out of 100. If you ever google ‘quarantine hair disaster’, you’ll see that the most terrible cases were caused not by scissors, but by bleaching.
Phase 4. Research & planning
Because I chose the riskiest path, my execution strategy was all about risk mitigation.
Set clear expectations → mentally agree to lose all the hair you are trying to ‘upscale’ for the sake of having some fun and learning
Minimize total risk → bleaching and dying hair tips is less risky than dealing with the whole head, yet still achieves the desired look (plan B would be to cut off the destroyed tips)
Gain the minimum domain expertise to avoid the most common and manageable mistakes → do your homework, educate yourself
Don’t make it harder on yourself → get decent tools
Leave some wiggle room for the imperfect execution → plan for mistakes
Mandatory photos of sticky notes and a team brainstorming, courtesy of The Unsplash
Step 1. Online research
Unfortunately, it turned out that most googlable materials on DIY hair coloring looked like SEO content for websites or salon promos.
Most sites blah over dozens of screens about the subtle difference between shatush and balayage techniques and then jump directly to the ‘draw the rest of the fucking owl’ part. Disappointing.
Also, almost every single source shared the consensus that you probably shouldn't do it yourself anyway (and it does make a lot of sense).
Step 2 . Talking to experts
At this point, I lost all shame and asked my beloved hair stylist from Moscow for help. As a professional who has to deal with DIY-induced disasters quite frequently, she said all the right things and really tried to stop me before sharing some professional advice and relevant sources of information.
I deeply appreciated it.
Step 3. User interviews
I also interviewed a talented friend of mine who somehow managed to turn her dark brown hair into the prettiest peach-pink all by herself.
It helped me to learn a few things to be aware of
I got more advice, more links, and more accounts to follow
Step 4. Repeat steps 1–3
Hours of videos and dozens of posts later, I was more or less ready for it.
Phase 5. Execution & Validation
Being well aware of my lack of skills and experience I decided to utilize some of my product skills to minimize risks. I used A/B testing and an iterative process.
I literally did test strings to figure out the following:
if I need to use foils while processing the bleach (yes)
the development time (more)
exact color proportions (less yellow, more green)
These photos are pretty low glam, but you should've seen me with an ASOS bag on my head
Iterating,✨ the holy grail of any product development process✨, was hard to manage here but it was crucial for the final outcome.
I underdeveloped the bleach on my first application. At this point, it took a lot of discipline to stick to the plan:
Do a proper assessment → = wait for daylight
Come up with a test to confirm the hypothesis → expert opinion + one more test string confirmed my initial assumption that I washed the bleach out too soon :(
Come up with an improvement plan → wait for two weeks, apply the treatments, redo the bleaching with another developer and even more precise application
Execute → Assess → Reiterate if needed
Long story short: iteration two is considered to be a huge success among our target audience (me, myself and beyond). I enjoy my stupid green hair, get a lot of complements all the time + it’s very easy to maintain as reapplication only takes 30 minutes.
Poor hairstyle → fixed (the client is happy, no haircut needed)
Qarantine boredom → fixed (sooo fixed)
Urge for something new → fixed (new skills unlocked)
Me right after the first application, after a month, 6 months & 1 haircut later
Design thinking & product practices can help you minimize some risks, but let’s face it, there is a hefty portion of luck involved unless you have actual experience managing things when they go sideways.
My result is improbable. If you want to have a successful outcome, don't do it at home. Trust the professionals.
Don’t make it harder — use proper tools. The difference between hand-cut foil and professional foil is totally worth the price. Twice.
RTFM. I ended up with a bottle with a very fancy hair treatment that can be used only during one very specific step and is useless otherwise. Now I have a salon-size bottle to donate.
Neon slime green turned out to be not the most zoom-friendly color. In the warm indoor light it looks way more yellow than I’d like it to. On the upside, it has just the right crazy shade when I’m outdoors.
I should’ve spent this time writing an actual case study