I have been dyeing my hair since I was in the 6th grade. I was blessed with an awesome mother who was willing to let me express myself through my hair. I can still remember when I first got my hair dyed at the Seasons salon in Orem. I remember expecting this DRASTIC change and that I would look like a different person when it was done. I didn't know how bleaching worked and figured that my dirty blonde hair would turn to bright blonde. Unfortunately for me (at least I thought it was at the time), my mom had the foresight to have the stylist only add a few highlights and therefore I didn't notice much of a change. I can still remember the feeling of my heart dropping once my hair was dried and I noticed that my hair seemed to look the same, but after that point I was still hooked on dyeing my hair.
Over time, I was able to slowly convince my mom that I can gradually go blonder and blonder. My mom eventually became so accepting of my desire to express myself through with my hair, that she even let me dye my hair red in 8th grade-- see low-quality picture below. I remember all of my friends thought it was so cool that my mom left me dye my hair and I was always wondering why their mom's didn't let them. Looking back, I was pretty young, but I don't regret a thing!
You may be wondering why I telling this long story... but I there is a point, I promise! As you can probably tell, I don't have naturally blonde highlighted hair. I don't spend all day getting the sun to brighten my hair (they did used to do this... I'll get to that), and I instead spend three hours inside with bleach on my head instead to achieve this look. When I was getting my hair dyed today, I started to wonder what the history of dyeing hair was... so, here we are. I researched it and I am gonna tell you about the history of hair dye! Yeah I know this blog is about like fashion history and art history, but it seems like its gonna be more about any history I feel like sharing... sue me. haha
So the whole process of using chemicals to change your hair didn't really start until the 1800s. But, before that, like a long time before that, Ancient Egyptians would use natural substances to achieve a certain look. They actually used Henna to darken their hair to cover any grey hairs (yes people even cared about that back then), and would also shave their hair off and make wigs that they could dye with the more dangerous substances.
Ancient Greek and Romans used toxic lead to dye their hair for a long time until they realized the damage and changed the dye to a substance that was made from lead fermented leeches (YUCK). Also, during the time of the Ancient Romans, it was required that prostitutes had blonde hair in order to signify that they provided that service. This caused women to use plants to try to temporarily lighten their hair (with ashes from nuts and light plants), or buy blonde wigs made out of naturally blonde hair. So..... maybe I would want to dye my hair black before I go back in time to Rome??
We have all seen the movies where people from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries wear white powdered wigs. This all started because in 1580, they was a huge outbreak of syphilis (ew) that caused people to have patchy hair that literally required them to wear wigs called Perukes in order to look presentable. These wigs were typically made out of horse hair or human hair (isn't my picture with the horse so fitting now??). Syphilis also caused people to have terrible (and stinky) sores on their skin, and so scented powders like lavender and orange, would help cover any smells. At this point, it was more shameful and not stylish to have a wig (no surprise there).
|King Louis XIV Portrait by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701|
After the King of France started to lose his hair in 1655, the tide turned for wig wearers and it became a fashion statement (and of course the cost of wigs went up!). The King wore naturally colored wigs, and women didn't wear wigs for fashion typically but instead added hair to their hair styles to add volume.
Ok, back to the hair dyeing. In the 1700s Venice, women would achieve a lighter hair by soaking their hair in lye and sitting out in the sun. This was a toxic and uncomfortable method, but I guess beauty is pain... glad that I can sit in a comfortable chair indoors to achieve my desired look.
It wasn't until 1865 when a chemist named William Henry Perkin accidentally discovered the chemical that is still in the hair dye we use today. While trying to find a cure for malaria, Perkin accidentally created a mauve hair dye and discovered the color changing chemical para-phenylenediamine, or PPD.
In 1907, the founder of L'Oreal, Eugene Schueller, created the first chemical dye for commercial purposes. He called it Aureole - later changed to L'Oreal. While this was a great development, women still used bizarre practices to achieve a look and the actress Jean Harlow, in the 1930s, is suspected to have died young due to the dangerous measures she took to have white platinum blonde hair. She used peroxide, ammonia, soap flakes, and Clorox bleach (ouch!).
In 1950, they invented the first product that could lighten hair without bleach, and it was still embarrassing for women to dye their hair and the process was rather secretive. Women would use the product Clariol to dye their hair at home, and the company used the campaign "does she or doesn't she?" to market their natural looking hair dye. It wasn't until 1970s that campaigns changed and made dying your hair a more positive experience.
This blog post became wayyyyy longer than I expected. TLDR version can be watched in the video below!
I am super glad that hair dyeing is part of my life because I have so much fun doing it. It also helps that my best friend, Susie , does my hair and it is basically like hanging out with a friend for three hours. What do you do for your hair? Is there anything you are itching to try? Let me know in the comments!
P.S..... here is like my favorite scene of all time in any movie and I feel like it relates a bit.... OK?