When I was 12, I got a Jheri curl. I had to apply so many chemicals just to maintain the style. One day, as I was sitting at home, with the sun from the window beating down on me, my sister yelled out, “Your hair is smoking!” Thankfully, it wasn’t actually on fire.
Michele Agid Brock
I still cringe when I think about the spiral perm I got when I was 12. My mom took me to a salon in a shopping plaza, where I sat for four hours reeking of that awful chemical smell. I had envisioned big, beautiful, bouncy movie-star curls, but instead I came out with tightly wound ringlets. Even the stylist commented on my resemblance to a poodle! It took two years to fully grow out that look.
Back in the 1980s, I couldn’t get enough of this all-natural mineral bronzer. I’m not sure why: It would turn my skin a lovely (ha!) orange hue, and it would constantly rub off on my white turtlenecks.
When Farrah Fawcett–style frosting highlights were all the rage, I asked a friend to use an at-home kit to frost my brown hair. She inadvertently pulled too many strands through the bleach, and I instantly became extremely blond. I’ll never forget the awkward, stilted comments that I got at work the next day. (“Oh, it’s so, er, blond!”) The color just wasn’t me.
Sierra Vista, Arizona
In high school, I wore pigtails and purple glitter eye shadow in tribute to my favorite musical group, the Spice Girls. Oh, Ginger Spice, you sure led me astray.
Hoping to give my hair volume without having to tease it, last year I went out and bought myself a hair-volumizing insert. It made me look like I was (unsuccessfully) attempting to hide a banana under my hair. When I brought it back, the clerk gave me a sympathetic smile and a refund, no questions asked.
Erin Germain Sell
Back in the 1960s, I used a cheek rouge that came in a push-up tube. It was shiny and had a consistency similar to that of petroleum jelly. I would rub it all over my face—I must have looked like Bozo the Clown.
Mary Ann Revell
Mount Dora, Florida