Beth sitting on the bank of a river, dressed in all black with a wide-brimmed hat, her hair mostly black but showing some green at the ends
Beauty Iceland Travel Tips

That One Time I Almost Ruined My Hair in Iceland

Text "That One Time I Almost Ruined My Hair in Iceland" over a photo of Beth and Ellie in a natural spring

I’ve had fun-colored hair for almost 20 years. Lots of reds, orange, turquoise, violet, magenta, oil slick, peacock, lots of greens. I consider myself a bit of an expert about fun-colored hair upkeep since this has been my life for so long. I’ve had ombre from natural to fun-colored hair, highlights and lowlights, and full coverage. On top of that, I have really long, healthy hair that I’ve never had to cut off due to damage (other than normal trims), which I feel like adds even more to my credibility.

I’m really protective of my hair, because I want to keep it healthy.

I’m particular about product usage, heat applications, and especially the hair professional who takes care of my hair. I always need to make sure they have experience with Asian hair and they understand my desire to only use abrasive agents (like bleach) on my hair when absolutely necessary. 

I’d been traveling with fun-colored hair for a while before I almost ruined my hair in Iceland. I felt like I had the whole process down. How to wear my hair, how to take care of it, what I needed to bring. I guess I got pretty cocky about it all. Which is probably good, because it made me stop and really think about how I care for my fun-colored hair while traveling. But at the time? Man, was it stressful.

It was a beautiful summer day in Iceland. We drove 2 hours south of Reykjavik to Seljalandsfoss before heading over to our first geothermal pool visit. Icelanders love swimming and pools and so do I. Most of the time, though, I can’t partake because of the sun. I have lupus and extreme photosensitivity, among other challenges. While everyone else is frolicking in the Caribbean or lounging in the sand of the Pacific, I’m taking photos while safely under an umbrella and wearing a caftan with good coverage and a big hat (which is a mood, though). In Iceland, things could be different. The cooler conditions and cloudier days meant I could enjoy some outdoor water time without instantly getting sick.

Seljavallalaug is this absolutely stunning (and free) geothermal hot springs pool conveniently located right off the Ring Road in South Iceland.

It’s also one of the older pools in Iceland, having been built in 1923. It’s all over Instagram and blogs and Pinterest looking like perfection. Before visiting Seljavallalaug, I did a lot of research. I’m sure this is no surprise that I tend to overdo it a tad and go down the research rabbit hole. I looked at location, popularity, what time is best to visit, bathroom situation, changing situation.  What I didn’t find, though, was that this pool has a particularly high algae percentage that will essentially wreck my green hair.

During the summer months in particular, Seljavallalaug can get overrun with algae. It’ll cover the bottom and sides of this pool, making it quite slippery, as well. Excessive algae growth gives the water at Seljavallalaug that deep green color you see in photos. Additionally, the pool is only cleaned once a year, so keep that in mind if you have immune issues or are concerned about ph levels or bacteria. That being said, due to this pool being hot spring fed, the water is constantly circulating even if not rapidly. 

Typically, I put my hair in a bun when I’m going to be in the water.

This time, my hair was in braids which is a go-to for me while traveling. I have a lot of hair and wearing a high bun can often lead to a headache. That was definitely my first mistake. See, I had my hair in an ombre style with my natural hair at the top and fun-colored hair at the bottom. The same bottom of my hair that was pretty fully submerged in water.

Seljavallalaug was as amazing as the blogs say it is. Even when my daughter dropped one of my rings in the water and I totally thought it was lost forever but I magically found it. Yup, amazing. We took photos, met locals and other tourists and enjoyed being surrounded by glaciers and volcanoes in this hauntingly beautiful remote location. It was amazing even as I was taking a selfie, and saw some algae stuck in my hair that I couldn’t remove. It was amazing all the way to our AirBNB. And that’s when I saw it. Blue hair.

Just in case you forgot, my hair was supposed to be green. 

I called for my husband to look at my unbraided hair in the light. He concurred, I had blue hair. Shortly after a mini-freak out, because blue hair and me do not mix (and we had family photos scheduled for a few days later), I looked at how much Overtone daily pigmented conditioner I brought, but it didn’t seem like enough to turn blue hair green. I quickly learned that it’s very difficult to get fun-colored hair dye in Iceland. Especially outside of Reykjavik. One blue-haired clerk at a grocery store in South Iceland told me that he buys his dye in Reykjavik at this one store that sells dye but that he’s never seen green before. I looked on Amazon and found some options but they weren’t going to get to me in time. I checked in with friends in Europe but had similar issues. Either availability or timing. 

In the end, I had to try to get the most out of my travel-sized Overtone as possible because no other solution was possible. I only have enough to add pigment to my hair once so I let it sit for over 20 minutes and hoped for the best. It didn’t help that the entire bathroom was stark white and all the available towels were white. What did help, though? I used cold water and that pure glacial water was very beneficial to the process. My hair returned to green (well, green-ish) and I learned a few important lessons. Like no Instagram post is worth algae and hot springs water ruining my hair, but that’s a deeper conversation for another day.

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