Hair to Dye For

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What’s your natural hair color? Do you even know anymore? It’s not as silly a question as you might think. According to an article in, approximately 75 percent of American women dye their hair on a regular basis, up from around only 7 percent in 1950. With modern advances in hair color techniques and products, getting the color you want, at an affordable price, with the option to change pretty much at will, your hair color isn’t too far from being just another fashion accessory.

It wasn’t also so easy, or as pleasant. In ancient Rome, for example, it appears the concept of ‘blondes have more fun’ had already taken hold. Roman ladies used pigeon poop as the primary ingredient to change their naturally brunette hair color to fashionable flaxen locks. Ancient Egyptian women used henna to cover their gray hair, and ancient Greek fashionistas achieved a permanent black hair dye by fermenting leeches in a lead vessel for a couple of months.

As with many scientific breakthroughs, the great leap forward in commercial hair color for the masses came by accident in 1863, when British chemist W.H. Perkins attempted to discover a cure for malaria and instead developed the first synthesized hair dye, known as Mauveine (because it changed hair color to a lovely shade of mauve). August Hoffman built on Perkins discovery, producing a color-changing molecule called para-phenylenediamine, or PPD, which continues to be foundation for most permanent hair dyes today. Eugene Schueller is credited with creating the first chemical hair dye for commercial purposes in 1907. Schueller dubbed his new product Aureole, but later changed it to L’Oréal – and the rest, as they say, is history.