My hair isn`t really black.

This mess of curly tresses has strawberry blonde choking on onyx pigment.

I wish black was my natural color. It makes my blue eyes pop.

Plus it would prove much cheaper and a lesser pain in the ass. Light roots with dark hair sucks. Every damn three weeks.

(But if it was really black, I`d totally go blonde or something. Damn erratic rebel.)

I haven`t seen my real color since high school, and boy do I hear it from my mom. At least once a month.

"Christy, your natural hair is like flaxen strands of gold."

Yeah, yeah mom. I`m a chick. That means I experiment with dye.

Dozens of colors in college worked their way into a bleach blonde disaster for years. The past two years, the mane has slipped into the current dark phase.

Since this mess of hair has survived many a disaster, here are some tips from a seasoned pro. Pro? Fine, experimenter:

1 Shades

The pros advise to stick within two shades of color (lighter or darker) to enhance the skin tone. Whoops. This non-tanning Irish skin went to the opposite end of the spectrum. Eh, whatever. That`s what fake tan lotion is for.

2 Follow instructions

There`s a reason it`s called "ash" blonde. A box-color mishap occurred when the bleach-blonde phase was in need of a tone down. It turned gray. Like George Clooney gray. Follow the box instructions and recommendations. I didn`t.

3 DIY highlights

Doing a one-color job, box colors suffice (although the pros will tell you they damage the hair, but not everybody has a trust fund). Personal experience will highly advise against highlighting with a box. Especially when attempting to pull long, tangled, curly hair through a cap. Oh dear.

4 Brittle hair

If your hair is damaged and brittle, don`t use box dyes too often. They dry out the hair. Sure, roots suck, but would you rather look white trash or have your hair break off? I`ve seen it happen. It`s not pretty.

5 Color shampoo

I always thought color care products were a sham. But they really do work. Luckily, our state sees more sunshine than most, but sun can be damaging to the hair. Most color shampoos have sun-protecting agents as well as color-holding technology. No need for expensive salon products. The cheap stuff at drug stores works just fab.