Then and now

The evo­lu­tion of the coloured mane through the decades

Hair - - Edi­tor's Let­ter - By Hena De­sai

Whether it is to cover greys or to make a style state­ment, colour has be­come one of the most sought af­ter salon treat­ments to­day. Walk into any salon and the first thing you will no­tice is the sheer num­ber of peo­ple get­ting their hair coloured. But hair colour’s pop­u­lar­ity is not re­cent; the dye fas­ci­na­tion has been preva­lent since cen­turies, even with­out the so­phis­ti­cated tech­niques that we see to­day.


It’s com­mon knowl­edge that an­cient civil­i­sa­tions like the Greek, Ro­man or even In­dian laid a lot of em­pha­sis on beauty. Face paint and or­na­ments were com­mon, and it shouldn’t come as a sur­prise that they may have ex­per­i­mented with hair colour as well. Plant ex­tracts and an­i­mal sub­sti­tutes were used to dye hair, most of which fell in the dark, black shade pal­ette.

Coal, henna, lard and, some­times, even dried an­i­mal blood was used to colour hair for a dis­tinct look. Be­lieve it or not, colour wasn’t just about hair fash­ion in that pe­riod. It was a mark of so­ci­etal dis­tinc­tion, where only peo­ple of a par­tic­u­lar strata were al­lowed to wear a cer­tain colour.

Closer to the mid­dle ages, wigs gained pop­u­lairty. Coiffed, bulky wigs were an eas­ier op­tion to get­ting your hair ser­viced. In the English em­pire, Queen El­iz­a­beth I’s red (or straw­berry blonde, to be pre­cise) hair was in the spot­light. And as em­u­lat­ing royal styles was al­ways a given, this be­came the pre­ferred colour choice as scores of women tried to get this look, some­times even treat­ing their hair with sul­phur and sun­light to achieve the de­sired re­sults.


As we moved on to the mid-1900s, bet­ter tech­nol­ogy and sci­ence lent the hair in­dus­try a cer­tain so­phis­ti­ca­tion. The early years saw the use of toxic chem­i­cals to treat the hair in or­der to colour it, which if ad­min­is­tered wrong, could be very dam­ag­ing. All of this was done in the quest to achieve lighter hair as blondes gained pop­u­lar­ity world over.

Hol­ly­wood sen­sa­tions such as Jean Har­low, and later Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, be­came the poster girls for per­fectly sexy blonde hair. Sil­ver-screen idols de­throned roy­alty as the trend­set­ters, and hair colour slowly moved on to be­com­ing more ac­cept­able. Peo­ple were more open about dye­ing hair, as op­posed to keep­ing it un­der the wraps as ear­lier.

Th­ese years also saw the in­tro­duc­tion of home hair colours, which made the whole colour­ing process con­ve­nient. As colour be­came more of a fash­ion state­ment, peo­ple tried ap­pli­ca­tion tech­niques such as high­lights and streaks, ex­per­i­ment­ing with vivid hues to cre­ate in­ter­est­ing looks.


En­ter the 21st cen­tury. Colour craze is all over and there’s lit­er­ally no es­cap­ing it. Look around and you’ll find most celebri­ties en­dors­ing colour brands—think Aish­warya Rai Bachchan and Sonam Kapoor for L’Oréal Paris, Disha Patani for Garnier Color Nat­u­rals or Ka­reena Kapoor for BBlunt.

Colour­ing hair has slowly seeped into our reg­u­lar beauty rou­tine, and the ways to wear th­ese are end­less! New trends are crop­ping up ev­ery day—pas­tel hair, opal colour, uni­corn locks and so on. Colour choices are bolder and now, ex­press­ing your in­di­vid­u­al­ity takes prece­dence over copy­ing a celeb’s style— more peo­ple now want cus­tomised colour ser­vices. An in­creas­ing num­ber of men are also sport­ing a head full of vi­brant hues. With the new in­no­va­tions that have cropped up, the process is also not dam­ag­ing any­more. You can strip your hair of all its colour and still end up with soft, nour­ished locks—who would have thought that’s pos­si­ble a few decades ago?

To­day, hair colour has be­come a boom­ing in­dus­try by it­self, bring­ing to­gether sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, in­no­va­tion, fash­ion and art. You can choose from per­ma­nent colour, tem­po­rary ones, spray ons, coloured ex­ten­sions—the list is end­less. Looks like hair colour is here to stay, and it’s go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing to see how it con­tin­ues to evolves.

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