Hair dyeing may seem like a modern thing, but you might be surprised how very ancient it is.
First of all, I found it interesting that only 2% of the population today has natural red hair. I think it’s positively gorgeous. Prior to the reign of the red-haired Tudors, however, those with red hair often lived a difficult life. During the witch trials, many perceived red hair to be a sign of witch craft or devil worship and many red heads were put to death either in proving that they weren’t a witch or after having been condemned (doubtless through some barbaric “trial”).
Red heads were diagnosed historically as being highly sanguineous – meaning they had an abundance of blood where the four humors (blood/sanguine being one of those) were supposed to be balanced. The abundance of hot blood meant they were lusty and/or quick to anger.
Red hair was highly sought after during the time of the copper-haired Henry VIII and even more so during the reign of his daughter, Elizabeth I, whose red tresses inspired many a sonnet. During this period in history, women tried to mimic that beautiful, sought-after red through henna concoctions or bathing one’s hair in a warm wash of crushed marigold petals.
Blonde hair didn’t have so fortunate a history either. In early Rome, women typically had brown or black hair. As slaves were brought in from more Slavic/Germanic regions, they began to see more and more blondes. Unfortunately, many of the slave women ended up in brothels. At one point, blonde was so synonymous with prostitution that a law was actually passed that any women who worked in a brothel had to have blonde hair to denote herself as such.
Noblewomen in Rome suddenly began dying their tresses a very dark brown so as not to be accidentally mistaken for one. In fact, there was even a hair dye recipe located from 100AD for black hair that, when recreated modern day, was quite effective! All of this came to a crashing halt when it was discovered that some noblewomen donned blonde wigs in the evening and left their homes for a bit of naughty fun. Now that would make an interesting book!!
After a while, the rule fell away and blonde hair rose in popularity throughout the noble ranks. Many people found it so beautiful they tried to replicate it or would make wigs of their slaves hair or even powder their styled hair with gold dust. Well, the rich would use gold dust – their less wealthy counterparts would use pollen.
There have been all kinds of ways to dye hair through history – lemon juice and sun on hair pulled through wide-brimmed hats, lye, bleach, henna, roots, nuts, berries, pretty much anything that might stain was applied to the hair. Many times this resulted in a chemical haircut, leading to the popularity of wigs throughout the ages.
I personally have had several crazy hair debacles in my life with the safer chemicals afforded to us today and can’t even imagine what stories I might have had were I to live several centuries ago. (let’s be realistic – I probably would have been one of those to attempt to dye my hair, even then LOL). What about you? Any hair horror stories to share?