“Gray hair is a crown of life.”—author Lailah Gifty Akita

Much to my surprise, I recently became a trend setter. A couple of months ago I made a decision to go au naturel…hair-wise, so to speak. It happened because I missed a color and cut during Hurricane Dorian and as an inch of white grew out I started contemplating what my brownie locks would look like had I not covered up a white streak, ala Morticia in the Addams’ family, 30 years ago. My how that streak has grown.

            Coloring one’s hair in bright florescent shades of pink, purple, blue, green, orange and red is a fad that has caught on in the past few years. But the process of dying one’s hair has been around since 1500 BC when Egyptians used henna to darken their graying locks. Early Greeks and Romans used leeches fermented in a lead vessel to create black hair dye. Around about 300 BC Roman prostitutes were made to dye their hair yellow as a sign of their profession. Some wore wigs, but others mixed ashes from burned plants and nuts to lighten their hair. Medieval women bleached their hair with a mix made from horse urine.

 “If youth was sold in a bottle, we would all get in line,” author Jan Rogers said.

Thanks to a discovery by English chemist William Henry Perkin, youth is sold in a bottle. While looking for a cure for malaria, Perkin accidentally created the first synthesized dye in 1863. The hue was mauve, and it’s the basis for most dyes used today. Eugene Schueller made the first commercial chemical dye in 1907. He called it Aureole. It later was named L’Oreal. Today coloring hair is commonplace; in 2015, 70 percent of the women in the U.S. use hair-color products.

Dyeing one’s hair is not reserved for women. In some ancient civilizations, men dyed their hair to intimidate opponents on the battlefield. Viking warriors lightened their hair and turned their beards red with a lye soap made from goat fat and ashes. Dyeing hair bright colors indicated a person’s rank; it is said Roman Emperor Commodus powdered his white hair with actual flakes of gold.

“It’s great to have gray hair, ask anyone who’s bald,” comedian Rodney Dangerfield said.

  Men, more often than women, tend to go bald before contemplating hair color. Today, many young men shave their heads. My spouse the Binmeister started losing his hair in his 30s, so in my eyes he never ages. Bald is beautiful.

The final word…I’ve been apprehensive about going au naturel and can’t quite get used to this blended silver gray, brown, blondie look. Every time I pass a mirror I think, what have I done? Then one day the young receptionist at my chiropractor’s office noticed my color change and remarked: “I like it…silver is a new trend.” What? I’m in fashion? I looked it up on the internet and sure enough “ashy silver” topped the list of hair colors in 2019. I’ve never felt so in vogue.

            In any case, it beats the alternative, as author P. G. Wodehouse said: “There is only one cure for gray hair. It was invented by a Frenchman, It’s called the guillotine.”