The Colorful Evolution Of Hair Dyes
Although hair color and dyes seem like a relatively ‘modern’ and largely unconventional concept, people have been dabbling in hair dyes for as long as they have had hair. This can largely be attributed to the very human tendency of desiring to alter and enhance their appearance. Ancient man experimented with a variety of plant and animal-based products, and later even very lethal chemical concoctions to tint their hair. Coloring one’s hair served many purposes apart from looking aesthetically pleasing- It would be done to camouflage greys or even indicate social identity. Ultimately, changing one’s hair color served one of the two major purposes then, as it does today – To either blend in with the crowd and be socially acceptable, or stand out and indicate individuality.
Given Ancient Egypt’s fixation with appearance, it comes as no surprise that they would use henna to camouflage greys and often even dust gold powder on their wigs to give their hair a golden sheen. Ancient Greek philosophers often compared perfection of physical beauty with divinity, and switching up their hair color was considered vastly fashionable. On the other hand, Romans, who naturally had black hair, associated blonde hair with foreigners and ultimately Nordic slaves. In time, Romans came to associate blonde hair with sensuality and lasciviousness, and sex workers were required to have yellow hair to indicate their identity.
Ancient Greeks and Romans were eager to dye their hair darker, using a mixture of lead oxide and calcium hydroxide to give their hair a deep black tint. When this was discovered to be toxic, they switched to using fermented leeches.
Golden hair was mainly looked down upon by women of respectable households, but over time, they too desired sensual golden hair, largely to keep their men from straying. Roman women were known to use potent Scandinavian recipes to lighten their hair, leaving strong alkali mixtures on their heads for extended periods, which would often end up burning their hair or result in complete hair loss. It was also not uncommon to leave lightening mixtures in their hair and expose it to the sun (for an added bleaching effect)- In fact, some women would suffer serious sunstrokes and nose bleeds as a result of their extreme hair lightening attempt.
On the other hand, the Gauls devised a method to tint their hair a flaming red, using a mixture of beechwood ash and animal fat. Their fiercely red locks were meant to make them seem more fearsome in battle. Natural red hair wasn’t found until the Dark Ages, when a case of genetic mutation in Scotland leads to redheads. Even then, people with red hair were largely suspected of being witches, and red hair only started becoming acceptable when Queen Elizabeth I took to the throne and popularized it.
Until the 1800s, dyes continued to be plant and animal-based, or even toxic chemical compounds that were painstakingly tough to apply. This changed when William Henry Perkin accidentally invented the first synthetic dye while attempting to generate a cure for malaria. A lovely purple hue, he named it Mauveine, which later became the foundation for modern-day hair dyes. In 1907, chemist Eugene Schueller developed the first ‘safe’ chemical hair dye for commercial purposes and went on to name it L’Oreal.
In the early half of the 20th Century, stars like Jean Harlow made the platinum blonde look a raging trend, compelling women across the country to go blonde. Although, Harlow never officially admitted to having colored her hair, and hair dyes remained associated with vanity, a trait that was unbecoming on respectable housewives. For this reason, salons would provide back door entrances for clients wishing to color their hair. To make this affair even more discreet, at-home color kits gained popularity.
Eventually, in the 70s and 80s, stars such as Cyndi Lauper and David Bowie made it acceptable for one to flaunt fiercely colored hair, paving the way for different shades and techniques in the 90s. With the dawn of the new millennium, ‘fashion’ colors such as pink and blue started becoming commonplace, and were no longer just limited to ‘punks’. Fast forward to the present day, technicolor hairstyles like rainbow and mermaid hair are all the rage, with pop stars, and Korean musicians giving us new hair trends almost every week.
What started as a painful, complicated affair has now become easy, accessible, and hassle-free, with more options in terms of shades and styles than ever possible before.
Paradyes is committed to taking this revolution forward in India, in the safest, most caring way. We manufacture our pigments in our own specialized facility to bring you the best quality colors, while ensuring that they are completely vegan, cruelty-free and devoid of any harmful toxins. We believe safe, good-quality hair colors are an amazing way to express yourself and spark joy!