Platinum Hair: Maintenance and Care

April 21, 2016

kate wirth platinum hair with ace & tate sunnies

If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen that my platinum hair is already long-gone, but not because this color was anything less than fabulous (I just love change!). Before I took the white-blond plunge, I spent a lot of time on the internet searching for photos and tips, and honestly, a lot of what's out there is enough to scare anyone away from this risky shade. Scalp burns, hair falling out - sounds like fun! But I'm glad I went for it and was even surprised at how well my hair stood up to the beating it took to maintain this shade. After nearly two years of bleaching, it was still decently soft and shiny. To pay forward all my online research knowledge and more importantly, my own experience, I'm here to share what I learned after being a whiter shade of pale:

kate wirth platinum blond pastel hair colors

Get a good colorist

I'm all for doing hair color at home. Heck, the dark auburn I had for years was out of a 4€ box, done in my bathroom every 4-6 weeks. But platinum is another beast altogether. First off, it's bleach. The same heavy duty cleaner that wipes away any DNA after a homocide. It's no joke and used incorrectly, you can get burned or even cause all your hair to break off. Not to be dramatic, but those stories are out there for a reason. If you are lucky enough to have a friend who truly knows what they're doing and can help you out at home, then go for it. But if you're new to this process, it's best to go to a professional you trust. My colorist here in Berlin (Carolin at Friseurladen) took great care of my color, getting out pesky bits of pastel colors I had played with on my own - and with her - as well as toning to perfection. I actually started with another colorist, but she never could quite find that perfect balance between golden and grey, proving not all stylists are created equal. Also! Make sure to have your hair as dirty as you can stand it before every coloring session. The buildup protects your scalp from the burning and itching bleach causes, making it a much less painful experience.

Wash minimally, deep-condition regularly

Like every salon-achieved hair color, shampoo - and even water! - can strip that beautiful shade you just paid your hard-earned money for. Washing hair as little as possible is key, which can be a tough transition if you're a daily shampooer. Understand that it will take time for your scalp to adjust and you will be a greasy mess for a while until it stops overproducing oil. I wash my hair one-two times a week, and it took me several months to not look like a homeless person on this regimen. A good dry shampoo is key, as are the right shampoos in the shower (see my recommendations below). Whether you deep condition with an oil, like I did, or with a mask, do it often and for as long as you can manage to sit at home with your hair wrapped up. Trust me, your hair will thank you.

Hands (styling tools, hair elastics, etc.) off!

That gleaming white shade has been achieved by stripping all the pigment from your hair, including it's strength and a good deal of its volume. Even if you're lucky enough to have thick strands of hair to begin with (in which case, lucky you!), it's going to get a heck of a lot more delicate. Something as simple as running a brush through your hair can be met with a cacophony of snapping. This means wide-tooth combs only and minimal brushing, finger-combing in the morning should be your go-to. Hair elastics, bobby pins and the like will also strain your already stressed strands even more and should be kept to a minimum. Heat tools and blow drying are also torture for hair in this state, and should also be avoided. I was pretty stringent about all these practices and still suffered from a lot of breakage, though my strands were pretty fine to begin with. TLC should be the name of the game with platinum locks.

Protection, protection, protection

Platinum hair is so delicate, it needs more protection from the elements. That means keeping it under knit hats in the drying winter and under straw ones in the stripping summer sun. Additionally, what the sun does to make natural blondes blonder, will only yellow your hard-earned white hue, resulting in toning more often to keep the brassiness at bay. Don't forget thinning the structure of your hair with this process will also leave your scalp more prone to sunburn as well. I never tried any hair sunscreens for fear the ingredients would also yellow my hair, but if you've had any positive experience with this, please share in the comments!

best products for platinum hair care_ lush phyto clairol davines burts bees

Choose the right products

Speaking of products, it's important to remember this is another area that can kill the perfect white in as little as one use. These are the products that worked best for me:

  • Phyto Subtil Elixer: This pre-shampoo oil did great things for the softness of my platinum hair. While the directions recommend to leave on for 10 minutes, sometimes I'd leave it on for over an hour. True, the product is a pretty deep golden that's probably not the best for white strands, but the right shampoo counteracts any discoloring that might occur.

  • Lush Rehab Shampoo: What I originally bought as a deep-conditioning shampoo turned out to be one of my best weapons in fighting against the yellowing effects of the world on my white hair. Almost doing a better job of toning than Shimmer Lights, I was shocked at how one shampoo with this would restore my hair to the shimmering pale hue I left the salon with. It's important to note, this will not tone hair that was yellow to start with, it will only strip away the brassiness that has occurred between colorings.

  • Clairol Shimmer Lights Shampoo: This American cult classic got it's status for good reason - it works! It's pretty strong stuff, both in color and old-lady scent, but it will tone hair all the way to lavender if you let it (which could be good, if pastels are your thing). It can also be diluted by mixing with regular shampoo. Keep an eye on how long you leave it on, as some more thirsty strands will hold the purple stronger than others. If you find it hard to come by or too expensive here in Europe, Lush's Daddy-O Shampoo is a solid alternative.

  • Davines OI Absolute Beautifying Potion: I discovered this through my stylist, first loving the scent when she'd spread it on my hair but then loving the non-greasy softness it left behind. A lot more than I normally like to spend on hair products, I was pleased to find that a very little goes a long way and even the small bottle lasts for-ev-er with short hair. I'd put this on wet hair after getting out of the shower and also for small, smoothing touch-ups to dry hair between shampoos. It is by far my favorite hair product discovery of the last few years. 

  • Burt's Bees Baby Bee Dusting Powder: After discovering my go-to dry shampoo left my new platinum hair a parched, crunchy mess thanks to all the alcohol in it, I knew I'd have to find an alternate way to stretch my shampoos and preserve my color - without turning it to straw. Enter Burt's Bees baby powder. It's talc-free, smells divine and soaks up hair oil well with it's cornstarch base. Frustratingly, it's one of the few items in the Baby Bee line not available in Germany, so I have friends bring me a bottle anytime they visit. (I've been a big fan of this stuff for a long time)

kate wirth platinum hair with ace & tate glasses

Whether you are already platinum or looking to try out this color soon, I hope you find some helpful tips for your best blond!  

The 5 Best Gluten-Free Things I Ate in March

April 12, 2016

The Sugar Hit's cinnamon-sugar buttermilk doughnuts made with gluten-free flour

Let's face it, sometimes it's hard to get excited about eating when you have celiac. It's not so bad getting a handle on satisfying things at home, once you have your go-to recipes and know where to get the best alternative ingredients, but eating out or with friends can be such a daunting task that you avoid it altogether. With so many celiac struggles, I figured it was time to focus more on the positives - all the great gluten-free things that I can eat!

I'm starting this new feature 'The 5 Best Things I Ate' every month not only to help remind myself of all the deliciousness I have enjoyed, but to share safe locations, delicious products and great recipes with you, too. Anyone who knows me can tell you I don't settle for mediocre food just because it's my only option. I always seek out the best, which is why I've also started a hashtag on Twitter and Instagram for further sharing with the gluten-free community: #celiacdoesntsuck. Sure, #celiacsucks a lot of the time (if Twitter's unending feed of the hashtag is any indication), but isn't there enough negativity floating around the internet already? Read on, and be inspired to eat better food, celiac be damned!

GF Jules Limoncello poundcake in bundt pan

1. GF Jules's Limoncello poundcake

I was searching for something bright and citrusy for Easter when I came across Jules's recipe for a limoncello poundcake. With half a bottle of limoncino (the regional version bought on our holiday in Cinque Terre a few years back) still in the freezer, I knew I had found the winner. Since I'm always in the 'go big or go home' camp, I doubled the recipe so it could fit in a fancy bundt pan, perfect for our Easter brunch with friends. Jules apparently was as impressed as our guests, since she requested the photo to add to her recipe post. Thanks again, Jules, for making our Easter that much sweeter!

Truffle pasta in parmesan bowl at Rudolph's in Hamburg

2. Truffle pasta in a parmesan bowl at Rudolph's in Hamburg

First off, finding a place that understands that gluten-free pasta can't just be thrown in the same water as glutenous pasta when feeding a celiac is next to impossible. Bless those Italians who know and understand this stupid disease. Add that safe pasta to some truffle and put it in a crispy 'bowl' made of parmesan, and this lunch special at Rudolph's in Hamburg was not only the best thing I ate last month, but perhaps so far this year. Decadent, but not too heavy. I would consider making the trip there just for this dish, no joke. (I'll be reviewing this place properly here on the blog very soon, so stay tuned because pasta is just the beginning of its gluten-offerings!)

Clementine Daily Instagram of my gluten-free buttermilk doughnuts

3. The Sugar Hit's Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts

I started making these last year when I went on a doughnut-making kick and they are still one of my favorite recipes. The best part? They're yeast-free, so they come together in no time. A few minutes in the oil, roll in some cinnamon sugar and bam, hot, fresh doughnuts! So easy and delicious. No wonder Clementine Daily liked the looks of them! I've tried a couple different gluten-free flour options (just the same weight as glutenous flour in the recipe) and so far, my favorite is the starch-heavy Rewe Frei Von flour blend. Do let me know if you try them and what flour/s work best for you!

Bravo for Paleo plantain nachos

4. Bravo for Paleo's Plantain Nachos

Since my health has been a bit of a struggle lately (any other celiacs go through this regular roller coaster of wellness? ugh), I figured digging back into some of my favorite paleo recipes couldn't hurt, as any time I cut grains altogether (along with coffee and alcohol, which, let's face it, is a lot tougher), my gut feels much, much better. Monica's super easy nacho recipe (I use Fed + Fit's plantain chip recipe, since it's not so easy to come by the ready-made ones here in Germany: easy, but a bit more time-consuming than opening a bag) is such a great weeknight dinner in front of something like The Bachelor. I add cheese (not paleo), avocado, fresh coriander and a good douse of hot sauce - and try not to feel so guilty for eating nachos for dinner.

Lakrids Easter crispy mint licorice candies

5. Easter Lakrids

I first discovered this flavor of one of my favorite candies last year on a sale shelf and have been waiting for Easter to come around again to see if they would be re-released. Thankfully, they were. Lakrid's Easter flavor, with crispy peppermint coating and a layer of milk chocolate around sweet, blissfully gluten-free black licorice, are my favorite way to satisfy my sweettooth. Plus, they're expensive enough to keep me from inhaling a whole jar in one sitting.

Don't forget to tag your positive gluten-free food photos and experiences with #celiacdoesntsuck - and help spread the gluten-free goodness!

On losing a friend

April 6, 2016

Bailey dog in Berlin photobooth

We always had cats. Those independent creatures that come and go as they please, really only caring that you feed them, and pet them (but only when they feel like being petted). To make matters worse, we moved so much, all our cats ran away, eventually discovering new, stable homes nearby, homes with people less nomadic than we were. Bonds with those pets were easily broken, or so they taught the much younger version of myself. With those finicky felines and one brief stint with a family dog that lasted about a week of barking all through the night before my mother relegated her to my father's business as a shop dog, I never got attached, really attached to an animal - until Bailey.

Bailey dog getting treats at the amphitheater at Mauerpark

Wanting that connection to a family pet I saw on sitcoms, I kept regular tabs on the new dogs taken in by a Boxer rescue organization, as I grew up with my grandparents' Boxers and they were what I knew. They were sweet, playful and good with families (there is a photo of a one-year-old me 'riding' my grandparent's ever-patient Amber), and I felt this was the four-legged friend I was meant to have. After meeting my now-husband, he too kept tabs on the rescues taken in by the group, until one day he sent me a photo of a pup born of one of the pregnant dogs surrendered there. So small in the photo, the shiny black coat of her rolling stone, black lab father and trademark Boxer splashes of white on her nose and toes, with hints of pink puppy skin peeking through... and I fell in love. We decided to jump into dog ownership mere months into our relationship.

Family photo with Bailey dog on steps of Sellin Pier on Rügen

Bailey grew up a master of her backyard domain while we worked long, American work hours and spent most of our time together curled up on the couch, with us too exhausted after long commutes and countless hours at our respective offices for much more. Sure, we took weekend trips to the dog park, the beach and to swim in my mother's pool, but it wasn't until we made the seemingly crazy decision to move overseas that her doggy life really blossomed. With me at home to walk her multiple times a day, nearby forest and mountain trails to explore and a generally slower pace of life meant we could all spend more quality time together. While she never quite mastered the art of being a good German dog - laying quietly under the table while we all enjoyed a meal out or proudly carrying her own bag home from a morning run to the nearby Bäckerei - she had a zest for life that none of those well-mannered pooches could touch. Even after being attacked by a neighborhood dog, she never feared other animals - only worrying over my resulting tension every time we passed another dog while on a walk.

Russ and Bailey dog on Sellin Pier bench at Seebrücke Rügen

Four years of forest hikes and vineyard strolls became urban exploring and warm-weather swims in the many lakes once we moved to Berlin. Slowly, Bailey's fear of the street cars turned into reluctant ambivalence, accepting that they would never jump to curb to attack her, as she seemed to fear. While she never took to riding the U-Bahn, we took countless car trips out to parks, canals and lakes all over Berlin, a city we chose in part for how green and canine-friendly it is. By now, we both worked at home, so we enjoyed more time together, and she was even more a part of our daily life than ever.

But everything came to a screeching halt late last summer when some simple warning signs turned into the diagnosis that would change everything: Cancer. I'd been here before, with many friends and family members, and the end result was always the same. Worse yet, basic internet searches told us that Bailey's cancer, adenocarcinoma, was 'aggressive', really the last word you want linked to an already damning diagnosis. We moved forward with surgery to remove the tumor and then chemo to make sure whatever was left was destroyed. Only, after just one treatment, the cancer was still spreading. When the more aggressive treatment options left were beyond our budget - or required temporary relocation across the country - we instead stretched our bank account for a concoction of pills that did all they could to make things easier for her. And for a while, they did.

Photo by the talented and generous Zoë Noble for our New Year's card
Family holiday portrait with Bailey by photographer Zoë Noble

After one last great Christmas together, there was a notable shift in Bailey's well-being. It was a swift decline that we could not ignore, that told us her quality of life was dwindling. Her body was giving up on her and her spirit was finally showing signs of the struggle she had hid behind her happy disposition and unending curiosity for so many months. When things came to head around her 10th birthday in mid-February, a tearful visit to the vet was met with a gentle prompting that it might be time to let her go. So we took the week off and traveled up to the coast to take her for one last trip to the sea, a place she had always loved. Even the restorative effects of being seaside were no match for the agonizing realization that these were our final days together.

Bailey dog watching the sea on beach on Rügen at Jasmund Nationalpark

There is both a comfort in being able to plan for the end and a desperation that permeates those last days and hours. Though knowing the day was approaching didn't make it any easier. After all, how do you prepare yourself to say goodbye to someone who was a constant companion, confidant and family member for nearly a decade? On her final day, she got spoiled with a meatloaf cake - complete with mashed potato frosting, bacon crumbles and strips of her favorite thing: red bell pepper - to belatedly celebrate her birthday, when she had been too sick to eat anything. We finally got ourselves into a photobooth for some family photos. She finished off the last of her bags of treats and we took our final walk in Mauerpark. We tried to keep the mood light for her sake, and while she could never comprehend what was to come, I'm sure she felt the heaviness in our hearts. Walking to the vet, every cell in my body wanted to scream and run the other way, but knowing that selfishness would do nothing for her pain and deteriorating spirit was the only thing propelling me forward. It was over so quickly, proof that her body was even closer to the end than we had thought, the weight of her collapsing onto me once the drugs took over a sensation that will remain forever burned into my memory.

Bailey dog getting a piece of her Lady and Pup's meatloaf birthday cake

Walking home with our bag of her things, without her, was a numbing experience that continued for many days afterwards. I couldn't eat much of anything and I was haunted by the decision we had to make, wavering back and forth whether it was the right one, whether we really did all that we could. Some days I'm grateful the cancer moved quickly and that she didn't have to suffer through years of pain and slowness, or have that ever-present youthful exuberance fade. Other days, I'm just so angry that she was taken from us at what could have been only the halfway point in her life. But as with any loss, there are only so many days of regret and anger before you have to just let go.

We took our time cleaning up her things, a few final items that are still sitting in bags or boxes, waiting for the heart to throw them out. It is true what they say, it does get easier. Expecting to hear the jangle of her tags and click-clack her toenails on the hardwood, or waiting for the barks that don't come when there is a troubling noise in the stairwell or on the street below has faded, replaced instead by a sadness at the quiet these absences now bring - and often a smile at how her arduous barking to alert us to a stranger outside our door would transform into an equally passionate session of tap-dancing and face-licking when it turned out to be friends. She was truly one of the sweetest and best dogs I have ever known.

Bailey dog watching Berlin from a photobooth
Bailey dog's paws in Berlin photobooth

Most days pass with only a few reminders, fond memories that bring a smile to my face, but there are others when a deeper sadness settles in, one I can't shake and usually requires a good cry to satisfy the greedy needs of grief. I'm also can't help but think of my negative feelings towards all the people I've watched swap out their departed pets of notable breed almost immediately with a cookie-cutter replacement, scoffing at how they could just bring in a new one as if the old had never even been there. But now I understand. I understand the hole these animals leave in our lives when they go, and how amazing that unlike people, pets are generally plentiful and new ones can be added into a family with minimal effort. After grieving Bailey, I feel that pull towards other animals stronger than ever before. But there will always be time, a time when I am perhaps more ready. For now, we will focus on the things we have missed during all these years of illness, first mine and then Bailey's, like travel plans repeatedly pushed off and budgets swallowed up by numerous treatments. We are reminded to live a life as happy and curious as Bailey's, one that is full of all the things and experiences that bring great joy. Her absolute love of life will be her greatest legacy, one that we can honor by living in the same way.

And so we will remember Bailey as the most perfectly imperfect dog we could have asked for. We are so grateful she was able to join our family for as long as she could. Thanks for being ours Bailey-dog, we love you!

Photo by Zoë Noble
Family Portrait with Bailey by photographer Zoë Noble