Hair color may seem like a recent invention. To some extent, that’s true. After all, the first synthetic hair dye was only created by L’Oreal founder Eugene Schueller in 1907. Meanwhile, the first product you can use to color your hair at home, “Poly Color,” was released by Schwarzkopf only in 1947.
But ancient civilizations also had this form of treatment too. And while they used some ingredients that we still have on our shelves today, the sources of some of their dyes can be quite odd.
For starters, early humans during the Paleolithic period used iron oxide—rust—found in dirt to color everything, including their hair. Meanwhile, the Ancient Egyptians would shave all their hair off, dye it using different plant materials, then put it back on as a wig to protect their heads.
The Romans had something more drastic. While they used henna to get black hair, the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder suggests using “leeches that have rotted in red wine for 40 days.” They also used lead oxide and calcium hydroxide to create permanent black hair dye. Of course, lead being lead, it was toxic.
And things didn’t get any safer for years. A 1600s book “Delights for Ladies” suggests using Oyle of Vitrioll to create chestnut-colored hair. That substance is now known as sulfuric acid. Meanwhile, Venetian women in the 1700s used corrosive lye solutions to get blond locks.
With all that said, aren’t we thankful that today’s hair color solutions are safer and easier to use? While there are fears that traditional dyes still contain harmful substances, there are now many alternatives out in the market. Brands such as Manic Panic have released PPD-free, vegan-friendly colors that’s sure to brighten up your look without putting your health in danger. And they’re available here on BeautyMNL.