“Color is a power which directly influences the soul” —Wassily Kandinsky
Looking around the salon on a bustling Saturday, there is certainly no shortage of color, excuse me, colors— radiant reds, soft pastels, cool silvers and honey blondes. While my own new hue marinated on my mane (say that three times fast) I began to ponder the origins of coloring hair…
Evidence of humans coloring hair dates back to the Palaeolithic period. And leave it to the Egyptians to take anything to the next level. Ancient Egyptians dyed their hair, but rarely did so while it was on their heads. They shaved it off, then curled and braided it to fashion wigs to protect their bald heads from the sun. Black was the most popular color until around the 12th century BCE, when plant material was used to color the wigs red, blue, or green, and gold powder was used to create yellow. Egyptians were also big fans of extensions (we are too, stylist Nicole is a master!)
Ancient Gauls and Saxons dyed their hair with different vibrant colours to show rank and to instil fear in enemies on the battlefield. Babylonian men sprinkled gold dust on their hair. By the time of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, plant and animal extracts were being used on a regular basis to colour hair. The very first mixtures could only darken the hair, but later different methods were found to bleach the hair blonde, often by exposing the painted hair to sunlight for hours.
Delights for Ladies, a recipe book of household essentials published in the early 1600s, recommends using “Oyle of Vitrioll” to color black hair chestnut. The book cautions to avoid touching the skin—sound advice given that today we know “Oyle of Vitrioll” as sulfuric ACID. Yikes.
Thankfully, fast forward a couple hundred years and we have evolved past the sulfuric-acid-on-scalp situation. In 1932, hair dye was refined by chemist Lawrence Gelb, who created a hair dye that actually penetrated in the shaft of the hair.
His company was known as, “Clairol.”
I can only guess what another couple hundred years will reveal about the timeless art of chameleon tresses. Until then, disco babes—color, condition, selfie, repeat!
xoxo Meghan H.