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1500 BC

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Henna was used by the Egyptians in order to cover grey hair. Later, the Greeks and Romans coloured their hair using plant extracts. They also produced a black hair dye that is permanent. Later, they switched to a mix which consisted and prepared with leeches only to learn that it was too poisonous to use.

300 BC

Most people wore wigs throughout the Roman Empire, but some also employed a combination created from the ashes of burned plants or nuts in order to get the colour. Other ancient civilizations, such as the Saxons and the Gauls, dyed their hair a range of vivid colours to signify their rank.

500-1500s AC

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The earliest recorded instance of a redhead who was born naturally took place in Scotland during the Dark Ages, when red hair first arose as a consequence of a genetic abnormality. People with naturally red hair have faced accusations of witchcraft for a long time. Red hair didn't become more popular until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.


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Until the 1800s, when English scientist William Henry Perkin made an unintended discovery that profoundly altered hair dye, not much had changed. In 1863, Perkins developed the first synthetic dye in an effort to find a malaria treatment. It was called Mauveine and was a mauve colour. Soon after, his chemistry professor August Hoffman extracted from Mauveine a color-changing molecule that is still the basis for the majority of permanent hair colours used today.


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Up until the 1800s, not much changed—until English scientist William Henry Perkin made an unintended discovery that revolutionised hair colour. Perkins invented the first synthetic dye in 1863 in an effort to find a malaria treatment. The shade was mauve and was aptly called Mauveine. A color-changing molecule was soon extracted from Mauveine by his chemistry professor August Hoffman, and it is still the basis for the majority of permanent hair colours today.


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Ever ponder the origin of the term "platinum blonde"? You may thank Jean Harlow and Howard Hughes for that. In 1931, Hughes made a movie named Platinum Blonde to capitalise on the hair colour of the young actress, Jean Harlow, in what may be the most effective public relations move ever. Many admirers instantly imitated Harlow's hair colour by doing the same. Hughes' team even established a network of Platinum Blonde clubs around the nation, offering a $10,000 reward to any hairstylist who could replicate Harlow's hue. (Harlow never acknowledged colouring her hair.)


Going blonde required bleach and significant damage before 1950. Although Lawrence Gelb developed formulae in the 1930s, the actual groundbreaking finding wasn't made until 1950. The first one-step hair colour that really lightened hair without bleaching it was released that year by Clairol, a firm Gelb created with his wife Jane Clair. Miss Clairol Hair Colour Bath, which allowed ladies to secretly colour their hair at home (essential since at the time, women preferred not to advertise that they coloured their hair), quickly gained popularity among the general public.


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The practise of colouring one's hair became widespread by the late 1960s, and 1968 was the final year in which Americans were required to indicate their hair colour on their passports. Since hair dye was so widely used, this information was useless. And by the 1970s, attitudes in the public towards hair colouring started to alter. L'Oréal's "Because you're worth it" and other such slogans promoted open usage of hair colour products. Clearly, the change in perspective was long-lasting.


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These days, it's impossible to watch television without seeing Sarah Jessica Parker, Eva Longoria, or another stunning celebrity attempting to sell you hair colour. Well, the 1980s, the decade of celebrity endorsements, is when it all started. As Hollywood starlets had been providing hair colour inspiration since the 1930s, brands began recruiting the greatest personalities in Hollywood (think Cybill Shepherd and Heather Locklear) to advertise their products.


While the majority of people were adopting ombré and other, more subtle hair colouring procedures in May 2014, celebs such as the likes of: Kylie Jenner chose the other tack and had her first significant hair colour change. The now-iconic teal blue tips let the eldest Jenner sister stand out from the crowd. We had no idea that Jenner would go on to sport a variety of vivid hair colours.


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According to the Atlantic, a "estimated 70% of women in the U.S. use hair-coloring products" as of 2015. And there are now a wide variety of hair colours. It is obvious that the future of hair colour will be just as diverse as its history, ranging from genuine appearances like lived-in colour to trendy methods like tortoiseshell hair to pastel concoctions like opal hair. Equally obvious? If we want to continue doing things this way, we all need to stock up on colour protectors.

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