My transition from chemically permed tresses to naturally curly ringlets was a smooth one. No, I did not undergo the big chop. Instead, I grew out my relaxer by wearing box braids and trimming my hair very often. After two years, I said goodbye to the last of my straight ends, and I didn’t turn back.

My hair became one of my favorite accessories. From wash ’n’ go’s to Bantu knots, I loved to experiment. Ultimately, I settled on two go-to styles: the twist-out and the puff.

I hardly ever switched it up—minus the annual holiday-season press and curl—and for a while, I was content with that. Honestly, I was thrilled to finally find something I could execute successfully each time. I had seen my fair share of disastrous ’dos, and I had no intentions of following suit.

But after three years as a member of the naturalista nation, I became bored. I imagined my coif talking back to me after a daylong process dedicated to refreshing my look. “Really?! Again?! Another twist-out? Yawn!”

My coil was suddenly a real snoozer for me, and I was in desperate need of some spice and pizzazz. Cutting it was out of the question, and I had already tried a handful of protective styles.

What to do?!

I started my search with my own beautician and owner of The Hot Comb Salon, Jacinta Appleton. Although she sported a low fade, her short ringlets could easily outshine any ’do.

Her special secret: color.

Purple, platinum or red, my stylist was fearless and fierce in her exploration of the rainbow. I wasn’t quite ready to rock such bold shades, but I decided to seek her counsel.

After picking her brain for months, I eventually scheduled an appointment for a color treatment. When I arrived, we decided on a custom auburn and blonde color combination that would compliment my skin tone and easily fall in line with my profession.

I nervously sat in the chair as she mixed the dyes in her bowl and prepared the aluminum sheets. Although Jacinta had clearly explained the process, my heart still pounded and my thoughts continued to race.

“What if I didn’t like it? What if the change was too drastic?” I feared.

Then, I envisioned my coif communicating to me again. “Don’t be a coward. Do it for the both of us.”

So I quietly sat through the hour-long procedure that entailed her brushing on the concoction and waiting for it to set. I purposely avoided glancing at the mirror.

When one of Jacinta’s co-workers suddenly whispered something into her ear before the product was to be rinsed out of my hair, I panicked.

I had no idea what she murmured, but it prompted Jacinta to carefully inspect the foil plastered on my hair one last time. After a few seconds, she smiled and gave a thumbs-up to indicate her satisfaction with the result.

What was most important was my own opinion though. Before I plopped down under the dryer, I snuck away to the bathroom to assess the outcome for myself.

It was perfect! I couldn’t have predicted a better experience. The color was radiant but not overpowering. It was subtle but striking. I felt confident, and “boring” was no longer a proper description for my curls. They popped, exactly as I wanted.

Now when I show off one of my signature looks, my coif is happy. She speaks positive thoughts. “That’s what I’m talking about, Najja. We nailed it!”

Thinking of adding color to your mane? Here are Jacinta’s top five tips.

1. Explore your options. “If you don’t want to color your entire head, you can ombré, highlight or do half and half,” she offers. “For those who want to avoid something permanent, try spray color.“

2. Up your hair care regimen. “After you change your hair, you have to make sure you get it moisturized. Get steam treatments if possible, and keep it deep conditioned,” she advises. “Use sulfate-free products. One of my favorites is Elucence.”

3. Trust your stylist. Jacinta says, “Let the hairdresser use their best judgment. Customers should have an idea of what they want, but they should trust the hairdresser above all.”

4. Retouch as necessary. “Applying another color treatment depends on how fast your hair grows. Consult your stylist for the best timeline,” she suggests.

5. Don’t forget your eyebrows. Leave your eyebrows alone if you’re getting summer pastel colors like pink or green. If you have a less drastic color and you don’t want a major contrast, then dye your eyebrows. It shouldn’t be as light as your hair, but the shade should soften the look,” she explains.

Check out Jacinta’s work here.