I Dye: You Die

Home hair dye kits. Why are they so dangerous?

When I was young and happily grey-free, I thought nothing of going down to Woollies or Boots to pick up a pack of hair dye off the shelf, slathering it onto my hair and gambling with the results. It was fun.

Some results were hilarious (I remember creating a particularly vivid flame yellow and orange effect when I put Belle Blonde peroxide over deep dyed black) but the point is us 70s and 80s girls just went ahead and did it.

Back in the day dye day dye day

Back in the day dye day dye day

Now in my Crone-age, I have forsworn home hair dye in favour of superior salon techniques (and superior salon prices).

However, I recently considered giving home dyeing another go. When the money isn’t coming in but the silver grey is still coming out, you start to consider economy along with your vanity.


I excitedly approached the hair colouring aisle, feeling a nostalgic rush of remembrance for my DIY Hair youth.

But as I reached for each pack of Damson Damsel and Elvira Black, I was confronted by a list of dire warnings and frightening capital letter instructions. Underlined. IN BOLD.

Risky Business

How do Clairol, Garnier et al make money out of these things when they have to admit you are gambling with death every time you attempt to apply Chocolate Cherry to your tresses?

The inner instruction leaflets are even more frightening. You are ordered (on pain of death) to do a patch test behind your ear 48 hours before even thinking about dyeing you hair.

Got to turn and face the changes, I suppose.

Earn your patch, sister

So, I purchased my poison, got home, carefully re-read the accompanying 12-page instruction leaflet, and smeared the hair dye gloop behind my ear as instructed. And I waited for any ‘adverse reactions’.

After 10 minutes, in true paranoid Crone style, I asked MM to see if my skin looked ‘red, itchy or swollen’.

“Hmmm, oooh.” He said peering at my neck. “It looks REALLY red.”

I started getting panicky. CHOCOLATE CHERRY WAS GOING TO KILL ME!!!

I went back upstairs. I shakily re-read leaflet:

“If you notice ANY shortness of breath SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ADVICE.”

I began to feel a tightness in my chest. Was that a hitch in my throat? The stingy itchyness behind my ear seemed to grow hotter and hotter…

… of course I rushed to the bathroom to wash the flipping stuff off.

As I sat there on the edge of the bath, bedraggled and undyed (but wondrously alive!) MM wandered casually past the door and helpfully remarked,

“But it’s ALWAYS red behind your ear.”

What a waste of £9.45. You can’t get your money back, even if you survive.

Why have things got so complicated? So risky? All I want is ‘100% grey coverage with a natural looking sheen’, at home, in under 20 minutes.

But it’s back to the salon for me.