I have always been intrigued with the idea of hair dying and yes I have even tried it before.  In high school I added some blonde and red highlights, and in college I semi-dyed my hair dark brown. Every time I did I felt like I wanted a change; I wanted something to be different about me. Maybe, not so ironically, these were all very transitional times in my life. Now, the thought of dying my hair seems silly, why would I want to change my hair color?

In the past when I worked for Aveda I had tons of hair stylists that wanted to dye my hair. “You would look so good with some golden highlights, or blonde!” This always confused me. What was so wrong with my hair color? Was my hair that bad that other women actually felt the need to ask if they could change it? I eventually told one stylist that I appreciated her suggestions, but I have decided I won’t be dying my hair, ever. She stopped after that.

I am especially unwilling to dye my hair because I have become increasingly aware of the long terms risks of the chemicals in dye. Now I have become aware that:

The chemicals in hair dye, which include peroxide and ammonia, may have adverse effects on health.

According to a University of Washington study published in the American Journal of Public Health, women who dye their hair have a 50 percent greater risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph tissue.

Another study by the Food and Drug Administration and the American Cancer Society hinted at an association between prolonged use—20 years or more—of darker hair dyes and cancer.

Despite these concerns, the reality is almost every woman I know colors her hair (men I won’t leave you out here, I have heard about beard dying too). Doesn’t anyone see that most old women in their 90s have little to no hair. Is this a correlation with hair dye, maybe? No women I know asks, why do I color my hair every other month? Why do I spend hundreds of dollars to change my hair color?

Psychologist Susan Quilliam provides some insight on one reason why women dye their hair, she comments :

“Hair dying is something you do when you want to either change your image or give yourself a confidence boost.”

“If you look at all the hair dye ads on TV, they’re about being confident enough to change your identity. Psychologically, when we hit a crisis, one of the ways to deal with it is to change who you are. “

Hair dye is an easy way to change something about yourself, without actually working on your feelings about a break up, an insecurity about your looks, or any emotional baggage you carry. Change your hair color and in an hour or so, without much effort, you can be someone else, emulate a celebrity, or copy someone elses version of beauty. All without asking your own self what is beautiful to you. Why not just cut your natural locks if you want a change?

The most interesting hair color change I see is women dying to platinum blonde. A tremendous amount of women decide to go to the platinum blonde color, while I don’t think this is anything new, I have started to ask, why blonde?  Every girl seems to “go blonde” at least once even African American women, such as Beyonce, give in to the white girl’s idealistic hair color. The color itself is actually pretty unique and only a very small percentage of women have naturally platinum colored hair. It’s even more peculiar that so many women choose platinum blonde because typically only very young children have natural platinum blonde hair. In a sense it is emulating the look of unobtainable youth.

Me as a young girl, with natural platinum blonde hair. It is long gone since then.

Marilyn Monroe is the celebrity who made the hair dye what it is today. She busted out as a blonde bomb shell at times wearing not much, but her blonde hair. Although Marilyn Monroe was not the first blonde, she was actually inspired by Jean Harlow, Marilyn became and still is today the idol for bleached blonde hair. She took the hair color of a 5 year old and labeled it as sexy. Now, posters and images all over America typecast the hair color blonde as a sex symbol. Youth and sexuality, they go together, right?


Marilyn Monroe with the youthful platinum blonde hair.

It’s truly amazing that almost every popular movie/music star I can think of has or had blonde hair at one point. Marilyn Monroe, Britney Spears, Scarlett Johnson, Rihanna, Jessica Simpson, and  Kim Kardashian have all been blondes at some moment in time. These are the women on front of our magazines, in the movies we watch, and are the ones at the front lines of what young girls will perceive as beauty. Try typing in “blonde celebrity” in Google, you will find every celeb on the market. When a girl goes blonde she wants to be seen as beautiful just like these women she sees with blonde, with highlights, and with the “unique” dye in their hair.

For each women deep down there resides some image, some role model, or some piece of culture that inspires her to look the way she does. It’s not just with blonde hair though. Women will highlight, low light, semi-dye, permanently color their hair in varying colors. Many will do anything to not go grey or to avoid their normal color at all costs. By doing this women completely defy the naturally unique and beautiful hair color they have. While some believe dying ones hair is an attempt to be an individual I will argue that it completely rejects the idea of individuality. Instead it caters to the companies, to the industries, and the magazines that tell us we need to be different then what we are.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do women want to be younger, blonder, darker haired, or anything but who they are? When was the last time you told yourself you don’t have to change anything about who you are? I believe women can be happy with the natural looks and hair color they were given. It is a matter of choosing to appreciate your own natural qualities.  We should be inspired by our own beauty and become aware that we define what beauty really is.

Do you dye your hair? Are you choosing to define your own beauty?

If you are interested in reading more about hair dyes and cancer risks you can look here.


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