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Changing hair color after a very long time of being the same shade ...

February 6, 2019
last modified: February 6, 2019

Has anyone here had the same color hair for many years and decided it was a time for a change so just took the plunge? If so, how did that go for you? I know quite a few here have decided to embrace the gray, but that's more of a gradual thing for most. I'm talking about being one color, then presenting yourself to the world the next day as a different shade entirely. I'm walking that path right now. (I think!) I waver a bit, just because I'm so used to the way I've looked for years. I was very blonde as a child and as my hair naturally darkened in my teens I colored it to a much lighter shade. I've had my share of hair coloring horror stories over the years (at one brief point I was accidentally bright orange -- ick!), but for the most part have been happy being a very light, sunny blonde. Over the past several years I've been a bottle blonde, using L'oreal Excellence or Preference that looked great -- lots of dimension and believable color -- but inevitably it would go brassy once it had been on long enough for my roots to start showing (and purple shampoo didn't help much). Oh well, just recolor with the same shade, right? Did that for years.

I recently had my hair professionally colored at a chain salon. I loved what the stylist did -- the color was a bit darker and seemed to suit my 50-something-year-old complexion better than the uber-blonde. A couple of things about that experience soured me, however: (1) Sticker shock when it was time to pay the bill. It cost close to $300, due to a couple of different processes and a glossing treatment. The stylist (who has become a friend over the past year) did not consult with me about cost ahead of time, nor did she tell me what she was doing each step of the way and give me the choice to decline. I think she just assumed she had free reign to do whatever she felt my hair needed. That said, I think she should have communicated transparently about the whole process, and it's every bit as much my own fault (more so than hers even), since I utterly failed to proactively ASK what she was doing and what it would cost. Not sure what came over me, as I KNOW better than that. (2) The color, while beautiful initially, lasted only about 3 weeks. I have no clue why the darker hue reverted to a light blonde that actually started to take on a sickly yellowish hue. So gross. With no desire to return to the stylist to correct the problem, in desperation I went to Target and bought a box containing a medium blonde shade. No more lightest-of-the-light, but one with a fair amount of brown to it. I applied it. I LOVE it. It’s probably the closest I’ve been to my natural shade in many years. I’d actually like to go a little darker – I understand that “bronde” is a thing now (think Jennifer Aniston’s brownish-blonde mix), and that’s exactly what I’d like to have.

I keep sneaking glances of myself in mirrors, like “who IS that chick?” And strangely enough, I feel more like “me” than I have felt in a very long time – all by the change of a color. Seems like a change of hair color calls for a change of makeup as well, and I need to figure out what suits me best now. As to going darker, I’m torn about whether I should just try a box containing a dark blonde shade (since the medium worked so nicely), or seek out someone new who can add some lowlights. I was up entirely too late last night watching YouTube videos on how to DIY lowlights, but that intimidates me some. Anyway, I’ll figure it out I’m sure, but in the meantime I’d like to hear from anyone who has effected a hair color change, practically overnight. How’d it go?

Comments (63)

  • amicus

    I had light blonde hair as a child, which went to a dark honey shade by my teens. In my 30's I decided I just wanted to try going red. But I unfortunately chose a red shade that while beautiful, did not suit my fair skin. My neighbor saw me and she actually said "Oh, I think you need to be blonde again" lol! I told her I wasn't ready to give up yet, but that I'd just need to find a more flattering shade of reddish, blondish, brown. I did, and basically kept the same color for the next 25 years, until recently, when I turned 60.

    I have too much grey now, so the roots coming in, necessitated touching up every few weeks. So I decided to go back to the light blonde I had as a child (exactly opposite of what you're now wanting to get away from) to extend the time between touching up. When I changed back to my light blonde, I asked for opinions from my family and closest friends, who could all be counted on for honestly, lol.

    Half said they thought the reddish shade I'd had since my mid thirties looked more stunning, and the other half said they thought the blonde hair looked more flattering. My niece is a hair stylist who specializes in color, and even she said she can't make up her mind which color she thinks suits me best. So since I clearly don't look any worse with my blonde hair, I'm planning to keep it until I'm too tired of coloring it, because of the less roots upkeep with incoming white hair. I did change my blush and eyebrow pencil/powder from what I used when I had my red hair.

    One thing I wanted to add, since you're familiar with L'Oreal hair color, is that I switched from their "Excellence" line to their "Age Perfect" line. I love it, as it has the same no drip formula, but I believe the application calls for a bit less time, and I feel it gives subtle glimmers of different shades and shine, that I didn't notice with the Excellence line. Good luck, I love the 'bronde' look too!

    IdaClaire thanked amicus
  • daisychain01

    idaclaire, I achieve that sort of Jennifer A. look (or at least I think I do) by alternating highlights and lowlights. Every couple of months, I do either lowlights or highlights. I do the drugstore boxes with a cap and hook. About every six months, it starts looking a bit brassy and my stylist does an Aveda toner which is pretty inexpensive. Every once in a while, I decide I should go get it fully coloured by a stylist and I am always disappointed. My current stylist has talked me out of having her do it - she says it looks great and seems happy to tone it for me every once in awhile.

    IdaClaire thanked daisychain01
  • pennydesign

    Just wanted to say, Ida, that I don't think you're to "blame" for that ridiculous (to me) 300 dollar bill...Nobody that I know has the funds to just go into a place without a budget they have to stick to...

    Your stylist should have told you upfront what the cost would be...

    I don't know if you've considered it, but I often had my hair cut at a school. Only the advanced students can do color, and they are very well supervised the entire time.

    It does take longer, but I never had any complaints about my haircuts and often I got a better cut there because they're super careful!

    I know coloring is different, but it doesn't hurt to see what services they offer...maybe you can just get the lowlights done..

    IdaClaire thanked pennydesign
  • IdaClaire thanked martinca_gw sunset zone 24
  • martinca_gw sunset zone 24

    P.s. I see I failed to say how my hair change made me feel. Great! I’ve always loved tawny colors and found I could wear more of a bronz blush, coral lipstick and and new shades of clothing. I did lose some, too. It was lots of fun!!

    IdaClaire thanked martinca_gw sunset zone 24
  • IdaClaire

    Not sure how long I'll leave these here, but this is uber-blonde me and dark blonde (wanna be more bronde) me. I think it's a rather marked difference in color (not nearly as extreme as a couple of you have gone though!) and now I'd love to have some deeper tones added.

  • gsciencechick

    I like the current color! It seems to flatter you.

    Like Aprilneverends, I've had everything except black, which is probably a surprise. I used to do hair shows for my stylist in the 80's, so I was not afraid to put it all out there. I did have the Annie Lennox short blonde hair, which I loved. No one cried--quite the opposite in that I got a lot of attention everywhere I went with that look. I never had so many guys ever come up to me. If I wanted to go somewhere like the park to walk, I'd have to put a hat on. Oh yeah, it fried my hair, so that was very short lived for a summer. But OMG I loved it. I remember walking into Gross Anatomy class after having it done.

    I was born with red hair and had strawberry blonde as a toddler. Then it got more blonde, then darker around age 10 to a medium brown. Now it is a chestnut brownish red.

    I do not have any digital photos of this, but here is Annie:

    IdaClaire thanked gsciencechick
  • IdaClaire

    Thanks to all who chimed in on this discussion! I appreciate all of the sharing and suggestions greatly.

    In an ideal world I'd have my own personal styllst, as I'm sure Ms. Aniston does, and they would know exactly what my hair needed and it would turn out perfectly each time. As it is, though, my hair remains a product of trial and eror as it has been from the very first time I spritzed Sun-In on it as a young teen (and turned it orange for the very first time -- yes, there was more than one orange episode in my life!), although it seems for many of us that occasional hair obsession is just part of who we are as women. I know with certainty that each of you is lovely wearing your chosen (natural or otherwise) shade.

    Would be fab if some of you would also share pics of your color. I'm particularly interested in those who are DIYers for the most part. C'mon ... be brave! ;-) You may very well be the inspiration for someone else wanting to make a change.

    Gorgeous pics you shared, martinca!

    Amicus - I have used the Age Perfect line before and really liked it. Unfortunately, I didn't find it at either CVS or Target when I was last shopping for color; in fact, the hair color aisle was grossly depleted at both stores. Target especially used to have a long aisle full of it, but it's shrunk considerably and I wonder why. Surely people are still buying the stuff. Ulta had the most pitiful selection of all, and most of what was on their one small shelf looked like it had been there for ages (after being run over by a truck).

    Penny, good thought to check into a beauty school for color. I've had my hair cut at a local beauty school before, but it's been many years. Have also gotten permed there back in the 80s when that was the thing to do!

  • IdaClaire

    (OMG -- Annie is fabulous in every conceivable way!)

  • pennydesign

    Stevie Nicks is in the house!

    (Surely I'm not the first person to tell you that??)

    I would share, but mine is white, currently--so it's rather uninspiring.

    IdaClaire thanked pennydesign
  • IdaClaire

    Stevie is my spirit animal. I love that woman.

  • terezosa / terriks

    Jen, your hair is gorgeous! In either color. I love the cut and texture of your hair. I can't believe that you had to pay $300 for color at chain salon. I won't complain (but only to myself) anymore about paying $117 for a cut and color every 6-8 weeks.

    IdaClaire thanked terezosa / terriks
  • Louise McCarthy

    And that sleeve looks fabulous.

    i have had every damn color. White blonde all the way to black. Bright crayola red and blue and green. My poor father would sometimes roll his eyes. And sometimes go yell at my stylist (he rented one floor down from where we lived. Poor poor John lol). Hair has always been one more thing to use as an accessory. Currently, it is now grey/silver. I don't have the money anymore for monthly touch ups and I really do like the silver. It is now longer than it has ever been since I first cut it all off when I was 13. It is in a very nice kind of A-line bob, almost to my shoulders. The cut has really grown out very well, it hasn't been cut since last October!

    That photo of Annie Lennox is very like how I wore my hair in my teens and on and off again through my adult life. The white blonde really really never worked for me. That was the one occasion my dad actually cried. And I was 40, lol.

    Color is there to ENJOY! Enjoy!!!!

    IdaClaire thanked Louise McCarthy
  • gsciencechick

    I was about 25 when I had the Annie Lennox look. I think I might have done it for my 25th birthday.

    IdaClaire thanked gsciencechick
  • aprilneverends

    IdaClaire, either I'm brave, or am easily convinced by passionate stylists..lol

    my pixie cut which I have for 20 plus years already also came at initiative of my then-stylist. Oviously was a very good idea since I love it, and when I had to grow hair, for whatever reasons(barefoot, pregnant, no decent stylists around), I always impatiently waited to cut it again.

    I think only the current red was completely my idea.

    I remember only the overall hair color number (not the highlights one), but don't remember what line they use..))

    It's "666"..I remember because it's the number of the beast or something.

    gsciensechick..yeah..my popularity was more than ever, in platinum blonde. It was like I checked stereotypes on blondes, and found them to be true))

    But I'd never forget how my poor kids freaked out the first minute. There were tears, and "you're not my Mommy!" and I had to calm them down and explain I'm the same Mommy. Just with different hair.

    Husband, my ex, on the other hand, was very pleasantly surprized..lolollool

    IdaClaire thanked aprilneverends
  • IdaClaire

    April - OT, but is your profile pic a photo of your own home? It's wonderful!

  • aprilneverends

    I wish:)

    I do have a thing for plants, fabrics, and for portraits -some go well with my family, some take convincing. Some, I'm afraid to buy because they'll be "it's too scary". Naked happy lady would be easier btw. To sneak in:)

    It's from the book " To Each His Home" which I highly recommend. Very unusual homes plus interviews with the homeowners. This interior is probably the most "what we're used to" there.

    IdaClaire thanked aprilneverends
  • IdaClaire

    I remember your "scary lady painting" that your family found objectionable! LOL! Sounds like a wonderful book. I'll have to check into it - thanks!

  • Feathers11

    IdaClaire, I have similar hair color to your pics--both, actually. I had the lighter shade for a long time. Last year, I was desperate for a root touch up to cover grays before a family event. I grabbed the "medium blonde" instead of light blonde and it turned out noticeably darker at the roots plus about 4 inches down where I had pulled down the color. I was mortified but didn't have time to fix it. I complained about it to my younger sister (who's way more "hip" than I am) and she said it looked great, like an ombre. I thought it looked like someone who miscolored her roots but my sister insisted I keep it as is. Now I feel rather on trend. ;-) It will eventually be the darker shade, though, as I'm continuing touching up with that.

    I like both colors on you from what I can tell, but the darker one, to me, looks more natural and youthful. You also have a great cut, btw.

    ETA I would share a pic but today's my work from home today and my hair is a mess.

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  • IdaClaire thanked whatsayyou18
  • PRO

    I have a (sorta) funny story about changing hair color.

    I was born a brunette, and as my hair got grayer I would color it brown and get
    highlights to try to blend the gray roots because they would appear within just a few weeks. My daughter is a very good stylist in NYC, and has been doing my hair for over 10 years. My husband died suddenly in 2011, and the morning of his wake, my daughter wanted to do my hair as it needed it. Of course she was upset at the death of her step dad, and somehow that day she went a bit too far with the highlights and I ended up blonde like Jen Aniston. There was no time to do anything about it (and I rather liked the look actually). That evening at the wake, many people came up to me and said “I’m so sorry about G, but my goodness, you look fabulous!” So I kept the blonde and I started a new life too.

    IdaClaire thanked Kitchenwitch111
  • whatsayyou18

    Oh my gosh, K/W, that is sad but funny!!

    My story is that my own mother told me when I was fifteen that my hair was mousy brown and I should color it (she was a narcissist and constantly putting me down). Of course she wasn't going to help me in any way so I was left to figure it out myself. What doesn't kill you.... ;)

  • IdaClaire

    Whatsayyou, your hair is GORGEOUS! I love the color and the cut -- so striking and I'll bet you absolutely turn heads! So sorry that your mom was not a beauty ally. I would imagine that is something that stays with you, even into adulthood.

    Kitchenwitch - definitely a bittersweet story! I'll bet you did look just amazing, and although it was surely a sad and somber occasion, it probably did your heart good to know that you looked your very best on such an important day.

    I have an appointment for later today to get those scraggly ends trimmed from my hair. I do think I'll ask for a longish angled bob, since I need to have the back trimmed up anyway. Wish me luck!

  • whatsayyou18

    Ida, thank you and I'm just seeing this: "...how much product would you say you apply to the roots? I'm thinking just a fraction of what's in the bottle, just enough to make a line following both sides of the part, correct?"

    I actually use about 3/4 of the bottle every time I color my hair, approx. every 2-3 weeks. I begin by applying at the roots all around the hairline, then the roots beginning at the center front part. From there, about 1/8" parts from the center down. I kind of wing it in the back using the bottle nozzle to make my parts. For the front I use a double ended bamboo knitting needle sort of like this for the parts: https://www.yarn.com/products/knitters-pride-cubics-double-pointed-needles-6?sku=KP-CUBDP6-25MM&gclid=CjwKCAiAy-_iBRAaEiwAYhSlAz5zgdGkFXhseiHRL4kmtJfn-s5UoyPNfFxc9wR1Ws1blZ0mr5pwBxoCWlAQAvD_BwE

    Again, I don't comb the color through every time; maybe 4-6 times/year. One last thing, which I suspect you already know, is to stay close to one shade. IOW, I stay with medium blonde shades. If I want to go darker, I'll use a dark medium blonde, lighter and I use light medium blonde, and medium blonde to maintain. I also have no qualms about combing shades in the same family just to mix it up a little or if the store is out of the color I'm looking for. I just don't go too far out of the medium blonde range.

    Good luck with your cut today. It looks as though you have great hair to work with!

  • IdaClaire

    Ok, just call me Long Bob! I lost several inches and now have a --- well, swingin bob I guess you could say.

  • Sheeisback

    Your new color and cut look very nice! It's very flattering. I prefer it over the blonde on you.

    For your old color, did they use a demi permanent toner? If so it will eventually fade/wash out. That could be why the color ended up funky. That and depending on your water.

    I've been different colors but got carried away and it was beyond my ability at the time to color correct. I'm happy I was able to find someone skilled enough to fix it (and I ended up getting really nice highlights and a cut in the end) but the whole thing was very costly. I enjoyed the all the different changes. These days I'm pretty boring with color.

    IdaClaire thanked Sheeisback
  • Bunny

    Very cute, Ida. How do you like the color?

    IdaClaire thanked Bunny
  • westsider40

    Love the color. It’s really pretty. Warm and sexy, if I may say so, dear Jen.

    IdaClaire thanked westsider40
  • whatsayyou18

    Oooh, pretty!!

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  • martinca_gw sunset zone 24

    Love, love love it!!!

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  • pennydesign

    That looks just lovely on you, IdaClaire...

    And the color, would you call it stawberry blonde? I think I see freckles on you so I imagine it's the color you're supposed to be ;)

    IdaClaire thanked pennydesign
  • neetsiepie

    LOVE the new look.

    I was looking for a photo recently and saw that over the past 10 years my hair has gone from chin length dark (natural) bob to voluputuous golden blonde wavy mid back all one length deep side parted to natural with 3 colors of highlights/lowlights with bangs, to grow out with that baiolage look and about a half dozen silver strands visible in my dark roots, to finally a punky pixie with my very dark bottom with silvery blond highlights.

    I've gone from blonde to dark to blonde to red to blonde to dark---ad nauseum. Some natural, some out of a box, some with a great colorist and some with a bad colorist. The color that seems to fit my coloring is a warmer blonde highlight with a slightly auburn base-a warmed up brunette.

    When I was blonde I'd try rinses for a temporary color change. I can't advise on semi-permanent box color use-I gave up on that when I finally started seeing a pro.

    As to changes-most people didn't really react that much with the color change. I'd usually get a bigger reaction with the cut change. Only DH would comment about color-yes to blonde, no to red. No comment other than 'you look like your mother' with it dark-maybe because it was too dark for my skin tone?

    The change you're going for is subtle, but a BIG improvement. I think it'd get the same reaction as a well done nip & tuck-you still look like you only better. Fresher. You start to feel a little happier-you're more lively, dress a little more carefully, change up the outfits a bit or the jewelry. It's always a welcome boost.

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  • ctlane

    Just wanted to tell you the new cut and color are really beautiful How do you like it?

    IdaClaire thanked ctlane
  • 3katz4me

    No experience with dramatic color change but I wanted to weigh in on your fabulous new look! I love it and much better than the previous blonde in my opinion.

    And that horrendous $300 hair bill would put me over the edge. I got mine cut, colored, highlighted last night for $80 plus tip - she gave me a discount because she didn't think she cut it quite right last time. Normally I think it's about $100. I've been to much more expensive salons but fortunately found a fabulous lower priced stylist after I moved - five minutes from my house. It did take a bit of trial and error before I found someone I liked.

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  • amicus

    I love this 'bronde' on you! it has nice variations of shading, giving it warmth, but still enough lightness to the color. Doesn't hurt that you have such beautiful thick hair to work with, either!

    IdaClaire thanked amicus
  • IdaClaire

    What kind, sweet, generous comments! Thank you all so very much. I'm still trying to get used to "the new me" -- although, admittedly, it's not a HUGE change. I do like the darker color and now that I have the new cut to go with it, I feel fresher and more "with it" than before. The longer hair sometimes felt a bit outdated, especially when I'd add curl and end up with something rather 70s-retro (on someone who was a teen in the 70s, 70s-retro is not entirely a good thing!). I'm sort of toying with the idea of going a little bit shorter with the bob in back. It hits right at the place on my neck where it tends to slip inside my suit jackets (which I must wear for work), and that bugs me.

    Shee - for the old color, the stylist did indeed use a demi-permanent toner on me, and I don't know that I've ever had that done before. She did mention that I may want to have it redone when I next came in for a cut (scheduled for early next month), but it didn't last anywhere near that long. I've since canceled my scheduled appointment with her and am going to shop around. The woman who cut my hair yesterday was ok, and I may go back to her if I decide to go a bit shorter, but I'm not sure she's "the one" that I want to commit to at this point. And seriously, finding a good, trusted stylist IS a bit like finding a good, trusted spouse or partner, isn't it? They absolutely have to be a great fit.

  • justerrilynn

    You sure do have great hair Ida! Although I can’t see your skin tone it appears you can easily wear a few different tones.

    I have have tried a few colors over the past few years. I was born with black hair that turned into dark brown as I got older. Now I have a lot of Gray especially at my temples and around the hair line. I think I finally have a color stylist that colors my hair in a way that allows some in between growth gray without looking stupid. My hair grows fast so unless I have the highlight color just right it needs weekly touch-up’s of chemical on my head. The trick for me is light non-yellow highlights. I look hideous in light yellow blond highlights. I didn’t realize how bad it looked until I saw myself in vacation photos. I had another stylist who said I needed some red...very hideous on me. At one point I decided to do my own color in a medium brown, a bit lighter than my norm. I didn’t look hideous I just looked very boring and washed out.

    This is me with my oldest son at Christmas. I like this hair color because the light (non-blond in real life) color highlights allows me to go almost a month and a half before a trip to the salon. It also can’t be too chunky or too blended highlighted either. If I can’t wait I just do a little medium natural brown on my temples myself. Lately though, I’m just leaving the gray till the next appointment. For me this is about as much maintenance as I can stand.

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  • jellytoast

    IdaClaire, do you mind telling us what color/brand you used for your new color? It's very pretty, as is your haircut.

    IdaClaire thanked jellytoast
  • IdaClaire

    Jelly, I used L'oreal Excellence Medium Blonde.

    Thanks so much for the kind words. I'm actually going for another cut today. The back of my hair just isn't quite right. I found a salon very near my house that's open today. I called earlier this morning and was surprised when the owner answered and said he'd be happy to work on my hair today. I explained that I wanted a long, messy(ish) bob, and he said, "Let's get it, girl!" LOL. Hopefully this time is the charm. I'm tired of obsessing over this darn hair.

  • IdaClaire

    JT and Daisy, you both have gorgeous hair! Beautiful colors. Natural yet obviously carefully tended!

    I think I've found my new stylist. The guy I saw today worked wonders with just a few highlights for dimension and a great cut. He really knew his stuff and was just generally enthusiastic and fun to be around. He tweaked my cut so that it has movement and falls into place nicely. I'm pleased.

  • daisychain01

    Beautiful! I can see why you like it. It still seems to have the warmth of the new darker colour, but a bit more kick with the highlights.

    IdaClaire thanked daisychain01
  • westsider40

    Exactly what Daisy said!

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  • Yayagal

    He got it right! You look marvelous!!!

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  • Rita / Bring Back Sophie 4 Real

    Your hair looks amazing! I love the color and you can see the movement in the cut.

    IdaClaire thanked Rita / Bring Back Sophie 4 Real
  • IdaClaire

    Thanks so much for the very kind words! I swear, I felt like quite the glamour girl when I left this last stylist's chair. Of course, when I attempt to recreate the curls myself, it doesn't quite go as when he did it -- but that's ok, because the cut is every bit as good worn straight (simply blown dry), and that makes me very happy. Finally.

  • IdaClaire

    Well ... I've just had another damn haircut! Went back to the guy who cut it last week when I was attempting the messy bob, but found it took too long to get it right before work in the mornings so I was just blowing it out straight, and it was a bit too long to lay right. I'm now shorter on the sides and in back, and very pleased with how simple it is to style this baby into a swinging little bob. I'm done with the changes for now. Only took a month of multiple stylists and entirely too much money to arrive at a style I'm loving. (Eeek. Entirely too much obsession over hair here!)

  • eld6161

    Hair is everything. When it's not right, you don't feel right.

    Love your new cut and color!

    IdaClaire thanked eld6161
  • jellytoast

    I love it! So much so that I may go in that direction with my next cut. I finally have enough length to attempt something different after growing out my last too-layered cut.

    IdaClaire thanked jellytoast
  • Feathers11

    I love it, too! It's modern and updated, but isn't trying too hard.

    IdaClaire thanked Feathers11
  • IdaClaire

    Thank you all! Oh, Feathers - that is exactly what I was hoping for!

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