Alice-Azania Jarvis: Pantene used to be enough for me, but now I'm dyeing to be Debbie

In The Red

There are few shopping trips I dread more than those to the beauty counter. I do everything I can to avoid them: continue using mascara long after it has dried up (or, more accurately, fooling myself into believing I'm using it. In fact, the effect is negligible), grind blusher right into the corners of its compact, substitute shower gel for shampoo and vice versa, remove my nail polish with vodka (yes, really).

You name it, I've tried it.

The thing is, toiletries are so expensive. And by "toiletries", I don't mean deodorant, loo roll and a bit of toothpaste. I mean make-up, moisturiser and shampoo. Girls' toiletries, mainly.

I used to use Pantene. I'd lather on their volumising shampoo, follow it with a liberal coating of conditioner and then – extravagance of extravagances – I'd massage in some volumising mousse. Nivea, too, was one of my favourites. Nivea Soft moisturising cream – suitable for face and body. Every morning and every night I would massage it into my pores, imagining the good it was doing to my complexion.

I even went through a phase of using face masks. It was only because they were so messy – so cumbersome to apply and remove – that I stopped. The price? Pff.

This, of course, was a long time ago. Long before I moved out of the parental embrace and started living alone. As a student, I rapidly became a fan of the cheapest product available – something that persists today. I genuinely don't think my hair is any less lifeless for being washed with Sainsbury's Basics shampoo. I honestly don't think my skin is any more lacklustre for its daily coatings in Johnson & Johnson baby lotion. It's a regime which I've maintained with rigidity.

I'm not even tempted back to the other side.

Until now. Now, after years of frugality, I'm considering pushing the boat out. Not on shampoo or moisturiser or face masks. But on hair dye. For years, I've yearned to experiment a little. My natural hue – a kind of mousy meh-ness – is fine.

It's safe. It's served me well, not clashing with any clothes and not inviting any jokes about my IQ.

But I've always wondered what it would be like to be blonde. Peroxide blonde. Full-on Debbie Harry white blonde. The desire has got more ardent of late. There will come a time, I realise, where I won't be able to wear silly hair colours any more.

So the other day I went to a salon. And I spoke to the colourist.

And then I looked at the prices: £100 for a change of colour.

How do people do it?