In the last few months white-gray hairs have been sprouting on my head like it’s going out of style. Hair color, and especially going gray, is a tricky topic for any clean girl. One we haven’t discussed in some time…
So what are the options? Dirty dyes, magic markers, or long meditations on acceptance? Here’s how I see it breaking down.
The Dirty Way: We’ve always said that this clean thing is an 80/20 game. Siobhan and I both get infrequent highlights, and I truly believe that if coloring your hair is making you happy then that’s worth a whole lot of something. BUT, we wouldn’t be us if we didn’t remind you (and ourselves) that several ingredients in hair dye are known to be carcinogenic in animals. According to current research, the risk that hair dye causes cancer in humans seems slim, but this type of research is notoriously difficult to conduct. That’s why our motto is to avoid these types of chemicals whenever we can. And given that dyes are created to last, even the semi-permanent ones, when you dye your hair you’re living with these chems for a long time.
Do you dye your hair despite the known risks?
The Natch and Semi-Natch Solutions: Rebecca is a big proponent of henna, though even henna has not entirely avoided controversy (most of it around black henna tattoos). Then there are the so-called natural hair dyes (are they ever really natural?), which Siobhan ventured to try when we were writing the book. The results sucked, but that was a while ago.
Has anyone here found a natural dye they absolutely love?
Beyond that, there are the true hippie tricks like using coffee and tea and lemon juices to change one’s hair color.
Does coffee color grays in brown hair?
Diet and Prayers: We believe that what we eat affects how we look at feel, but can certain foods actually reverse grays? I wrote about this a while ago, when I met a woman who had been dosing on kelp—and, lo and behold, her white hair had started growing in brown at the root. Donna Gates, the author of The Body Ecology Diet—who also eats a regimen rich in sea vegetables—is well into her 60s and doesn’t have a single gray. When I met her she told me it was the diet and the twice-weekly colonics she’d been getting for years. You can’t make this stuff up.
Have any of you experimented with diet to reverse or prevent grays?
Acceptance: And last but not least, it seems more and more women are happily rocking their grays. My mother does it, and I think it looks great with her eyes and skin tone. The 38-year-old woman pictured above also looks incredible.
For the moment, I’m practicing semi-acceptance and going to be upping my kelp intake. But I’m not ruling anything out. If these grays continue on their war path, I may just have to take up arms.
So, which camp are you in?
The last dirty product I ditched was hair dye. I loved the fun of coloring, but more than that I am very emotional about covering my grey. One day I hope to rock an edgy silver bob, but that’s a decade or two off still.
If you are one of those who embrace your natural aging process—and your grays—more power to you. But if, like me, you want to cover them and stay clean, henna is a great way to do it. It’s also a fun way to play with color, and easy too.
Almost everything I know about henna I learned from Henna For Hair and from experimenting on my own. I highly recommend checking out that site for recipes, techniques, and the chemistry of henna. They cover everything. And they sell the body art quality henna I have used for over a year.
Here are seven things you should know.
1. Henna, in combination with other plants known as cassia and indigo, can do any color from strawberry blonde, through the reds/auburns and browns to black. It cannot do a true blonde, and it cannot make your hair lighter.
2. High quality henna covers grey beautifully, and is permanent. You will need to do your roots as often as you would if you were using conventional dyes. Every so often you will probably want to pull the color throughout your hair, since, just like your natural color, exposure to the elements can fade color.
3. Real, pure henna will not damage your hair and is non-toxic. Sometimes there are boxes at the store that say henna on them, and it might be some version of henna mixed with other chemicals. I’ve never seen pure henna at any store.
4. Transitioning from conventional dye to henna is not as hard or scary as it seems. You can henna over conventional dye. There is a learning curve with henna, but once you get your routine down it is easy. Gorgeous, healthy hair is well worth it to me.
5. You have to plan ahead. The henna I use must be mixed up several hours before I use it to allow the dye to release.
6. Yes, it can be messy. But if you plan ahead and are careful it’s totally manageable. If you get henna on your skin or anything else, just wipe it off with some warm water on a paper towel. A proper mixture is pretty thick and won’t be dripping all over.
7. The color you end up with depends on your color to begin with, your ratio of henna to indigo or cassia, and how long you leave it on. Also, the color will deepen a bit in the few days post-application. The website has a chart with the basics, and many additional recipes. You can call them for advice (I did before my first time). Also, I did some experimentation with hair saved from my brush, and it alleviated my concern that I would end up with a weird color.
In Part 2 I’ll cover my personal recipe and techniques.
Have you tried henna? Do you want to?
Here we go again. Ever since Siobhan asked how everyone’s preparing for the heat, my brain’s been on a one track loop that goes: highlights highlights highlights…
It’s a serious conundrum for a clean girl this whole hair dye thing, one we’ve talked about here and here and here (and about ten other places). There are many reasons not to do it of course. Par example, much like nail polish, there’s just no such thing as a totally clean dye.
Specifically for moi, getting highlights means: 1. some toxic exposure; 2. getting my hair washed and living with the subsequent frizz for a month; 3. feeling like a bit of a hypocrite. On the plus side the place I go to is sorta-natch, the highlights I get don’t touch my scalp, and freaking-A, they’re pretty!
A bit of a late bloomer on this, highlights were something of a revelation when I finally tried them last spring, lightly painted on in places where the sun would naturally lighten (if I surfed, like everyday). For a thick mop like mine, a little caramel color can go a long way in making my head look like less of a curl-helmut, as I’m sure some of you can relate.
And while I know I’m a grown woman who can make her own decisions and all that, S and I have really taken to asking you guys for your (strong, ahem) opinions and advice! So let’s hear em.
More interesting still: What do you do with your hair? Highlights? Au naturelle 4life? And how weird is this picture choice?
Oh man. Here we go again.
I’ve been going back and forth for months now about whether or not I want to ever color my hair again—or at least if I want to color it again in the foreseeable future, and it basically changes week to week. It’s been 10 months. Sometimes I think it looks better than ever. Other times I think it looks blah.
And it should go without saying that when Alexandra colored hers recently, I had pangs of envy. It looks so pretty!
More recently, I’ve taken to neurotically crowdsourcing my friends about it: “Am I even blonde anymore? Like, objectively speaking. If you saw me on the street and you didn’t know me, would you be like, There goes a blonde girl? Or would you be like, There goes a brunette? Or maybe a dirty blonde, would you say?” Like a crazy person. And in the event I have to describe myself physically, like if I’m meeting someone in public for the first time—for a work thing, thank you very much—I’ve preemptively sent the “I have dark-blonde hair and I will probably be wearing black” email, whereas I used to say simply, “I’m blonde.”
This is a whole lot of navel gazing, I realize, but there is weird stuff wrapped up in hair color—not to mention we live in a world where people love to play the “Which one are you” game, which usually comes down to looks. Are you Betty or Veronica? Serena or Blair? Carrie or Miranda? (Or…Samantha?) Silly as it all is, there’s IDENTITY stuff (and stereotypes) that go with every hair color—even for a girl who has never felt particularly, well, blonde.
I’ve felt freed, though, is the truth. Shampoo, conditioner, the occasional trim, and that’s about as high maintenance as this mane gets. I feel good about it, in a weirdly deep way. It feels good that this is how it comes out of my head. That I’m not wasting money and upping my chemical exposure. That I’m saving bucks. And yet.
As if to torture me, an email just popped up in my inbox, from my beloved colorist, who righted my hair when it went horribly wrong that time I tried to get “nontoxic” highlights (see the hair chapter in the book, if you have it). This email was from the guy who fixed me. Who attended our book launch party. Who I have a total and complete friend-crush on:
“How are you? Hope you are healthy and safe after this crazy August.. I have moved into a great gallery/salon space! I know you’ve really weened down the hair color… however, when you’re ready to make an appointment, or if you’re in the area, stop in for some champagne! I would love to show you around the space and catch up!!”
Oh man. Seth. Highlights. A beautiful art gallery-salon. Champagne.
What do I dooooooooo?
You know how when you’re shopping you tell yourself: I’ll sleep on it, and if I’m still thinking about it tomorrow then maybe I’ll get it? I try to apply that to most things in life: the personal, the professional and the completely inane.
So that’s what I’ll do with this. I’ll sleep on it. Again.
Anyone else been there?
Last week my sweet Siobhan bared her soul, telling you guys about the dirty products still in her medicine cabinet—and then she signed me up to do the same! It’s funny: some of you seemed surprised by her honesty but I’m not sure why: We’ve always maintained that women shouldn’t sacrifice their absolute favorite products, especially if you don’t use them daily, and most especially if they bring you pleasure. Because pleasure is a big principle here, in No More Dirty Looks land.
But here’s the thing about my list: Other than waterproof mascara (Laura Mercier), which I’ve mentioned in the past, and my new sorta-natural highlights (update: I love them SO much, and my hair is getting dirtier by the day!) my cabinet is clean. It’s not out of any obligation though: I did have this amazing Bobbi Brown concealer a little while back, but once I discovered the Jane Iredale Active Light one I forgot about it.
But not one to leave my friend alone in her confessions—and besides, we’ve got a nice circle of trust going here—I’m going to reveal some other dirty secrets of my own.
For us, health and beauty are synonymous. And we all do things that we shouldn’t if we want to look our best. Maybe you skimp on sleep, suck back martinis, work on the weekends, or binge on sugar. So let’s have at it, shall we? And just to prove that no vice is too vicey, I’m going to come forward with my absolute worst:
1. I think I’ve made it pretty clear that sometimes I drink too much. This generally wreaks havoc on my face in the form of pimples and/or some patchy redness. But here’s the real doozy, and I can’t even believe I’m copping to this, but in the name of transparency, here it is: Sometimes when I’m tipsy I’ll have (ahhhhh, the shame, the shame) a cigarette. As vices go, it doesn’t get much worse for your health or your skin. The irony isn’t lost on me, of course, and the sheer guilt of it is probably doing some damage too. How often does it happen? I’m not great with consistency, but it’s only been about a month since my last slip.
2. I often forget to take my omegas. Sounds like nothing after my first admission, I know—but seriously, omegas are the truth.
3. I probably drink too much caffeine, but since it’s not keeping me up at night, literally or figuratively, I’m going to let this one slide for now.
OK, you’re up. I implore you not to leave me out here in the cold.