FROM around the age of 14 to the age of 25, I had no idea what my real hair looked like. It was dyed – usually jet black, but with occasional forays into purple – or permed, or both, or just generally gelled, tonged, backcombed and pouffed into oblivion, until its true nature was a mystery even to me.
Then, for some reason, I must have stopped messing about with it and, lo, after a couple of months there emerged a really nice crop of glossy, silky, chestnut locks. I was amazed to discover that this suited me perfectly, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise, because after all it was specifically designed for me by Mother Nature.
Ever since I learned to love my real hair, I’ve left it well alone. All it does these days is grow out of my head. However, odd strands of silver have begun to appear, so I’ve started wondering what I’ll look like when the white hairs start outnumbering the brown ones.
As of this week, though, it looks like I may not need to address this question at all, because an international team of scientists – including a UK contingent – have announced that they’ve conquered grey. Using a treatment that reactivates pigment in the hair, they can bring back the hair colour of youth.
Obviously, this is very bad news for the hair-dye companies, but the very good news is that the new procedure also works for skin-colour loss, so people who suffer from conditions like vitiligo will benefit.
But I’m not nearly so sure if the end of grey hair is good news at all.
Grey can be absolutely gorgeous and 99 per cent of people who try to get rid of it would look so much better if they would just give in to Nature and let their inner silver shine out. (The other 1 per cent would look better if they just shaved it all off.)
Having spent so many years in the Gothic wilderness, I know from experience that nothing looks lovelier on us than our natural hair colour of the moment. I probably gave up the hair dye because, even at the tender age of 25, I realised I couldn’t comfortably carry off deepest black any more. When I realised I looked less like Snow White than Marilyn Manson, the game was up.
As we age, our skin tone changes and usually becomes paler, so whatever shade your hair was when you were 18, chances are it will not look natural on you when you’re 48. Do you hanker after those mahogany tresses you had as a teenager? Don’t, because they won’t suit you any more. And if you’re still trying to recapture your youthful hue after the age of 58, chances are you look like Ronald Reagan.
Come on, let’s have a total ban on all hair dyes that cover grey. If we were forced to take a good, authentic look at ourselves, then we’d see that what we’ve got is actually best for us. After all, it’s what we’re meant to have, so what’s our problem?
Our problem is that we’ve convinced ourselves that grey equals old, when it simply doesn’t. An even worse problem is that grey is a feminist issue.
I have friends – both male and female – who have been greying since their twenties. Thankfully, all the men have allowed Nature to take its course and they look great. However, not a single one of the women has done the same, and even the likes of Helen Mirren can’t inspire them to put away the dye bottle. And I think that’s a shame, because I’m sure that beneath all that L’Oréal multi-tonal colour, there are some beautiful, gleaming-grey goddesses who are absolutely worth it.
Even when this new treatment is available to the public, I hope and pray that it won’t mean the end of grey hair. In fact, I know it won’t, because there will always be people who aren’t afraid to be themselves.
If you’re still not convinced, just ask yourself this: when you look at José Mourinho, what’s the first thing you think? Male, female, football fan, non-football fan, or even the CEO of L’Oréal, I absolutely guarantee it’s not: “He’s got grey hair. Yuk.”