CARRIE STEELE has thrown away the toxic hair dye, and it feels good to go silver.
In addition to following a vegan diet, in my ongoing efforts to lead a healthier lifestyle I’ve made a lot of other changes. Many of these I’ve shared in some of my recent blogs, and if you’ve read those, you’ll know that I no longer think it’s just swell to slosh around in pesticides or spray and rub chemical-based creams and lotions all over my good self. Acceptance of that fact is what led to me make another big decision, which although it may sound shallow to say so, was traumatically difficult.
Over a year ago now, I was sitting in my hairdresser’s chair, wrapped in a cape with a magazine in hand, ready to sit back and relax while the fumy stuff I’d just had plastered onto my head to cover those annoying white hairs worked its magic. As I sat there, I had what can only best be described as a panic attack. I felt almost overcome by the fumes of the hair dye, and the more I thought about it, the worse I felt. The smell was overpowering, and I could feel my scalp tingling.
I sat there for the next 45 minutes trying to calm myself down and rationalise what was actually going on with me that day. I’d been putting myself through this process for years, nothing had changed with the procedure, it was my thoughts and beliefs that had changed. It was at that point that I questioned for the first time why I was subjecting myself to this form of chemical exposure every four weeks.
With all the changes I had worked so hard to make in my life over the past six or so years, why was not letting my hair go grey still more important than limiting my exposure to yet another toxic substance? Subterfuge, conformity, vanity? I couldn’t think of any other reasons, and I didn’t like any of those.
Since that traumatic day in the hairdressing chair, I’ve learnt that about 400 of the 456 hair colours ranked in the Skin Deep Cosmetics database of the Environmental Working Group are considered ‘high hazard’, meaning that they ‘contain toxic ingredients linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, organ toxicity and allergic problems’. Clearly, colouring my hair had become yet another thing that no longer deserved any place in my life, if I was going to be brutally honest with myself.
Letting my hair go grey hasn’t been easy from a superficial point of view. I’m sure a lot of people maybe still think that I’ve lost my mind, allowing this to happen at my age, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I myself still sometimes have that same thought. When I look in the mirror, I do sometimes feel as though I’m looking at a faded version of my former self, like a really old photograph that only hints at what was there before.
But the thing is, this is me now, I’m real. At other times I look in the mirror and think that my silvering hair is quite lovely, and that it gives me a certain distinction and softness that wasn’t there before. It’s a work in progress – the hair and the mindset.
Interestingly, a year into my transformation, the only hurtful ‘feedback’ I’ve had came from an elderly gent who I see when I walk to work most mornings. One morning, after his usual “Hello Dear”, he said “your hair is getting whiter and whiter, you used to have such shining black hair, you really stood out”. That really hurt. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but in effect he was telling me that I no longer stood out and never would again. I thought about that morning a lot. And probably for the first time in my life, I paid some kind thoughts to myself, and I try to hold onto those. I beg to differ that I can no longer ‘stand out’ because my hair colour is different. If I ‘stood out’ before, then why not now? I have always taken pride in my appearance and have my own sense of style that is never going to change.
I simply won’t accept that a woman can no longer be thought of as elegant and stylish just because she chooses not to colour her hair. My long silvering tresses could well turn out to be the precise thing that makes me ‘stand out’ at this stage of my life, rather than vanish into the shadows, as my walking acquaintance insinuated.
Every one of us must do what we need to do to feel good about our appearance. I don’t consider that vanity, I think it’s an important aspect of maintaining self-esteem. It hasn’t been easy walking the path from cover-up towards natural. However, I can thoroughly recommend the liberated feeling that is gained from walking away from the dye bottle. I like think that I’ve stepped out of the shadows, not into them.