specialize in multi-colored dye jobs.
Basketball player Dennis Rodman and model Linda Evangelista have had more hair colors than there are in a box of crayons.
Are these just wacky celebrities? Maybe, maybe not...
"The hair color market has exploded," said Carlene Moffitt, spokeswoman for L'Oreal. Teenagers see hair color as "an accessory," she says, using bright funky colors "more and more." "Hair color has become something you can change as easy as lipstick."
By the year 2000, the hair color market is expected to increase to 55 million consumers, or about 1 in 5 Americans, according to L'Oreal.
It's pretty obvious why moms and dads would dye their graying hair with traditional colors: it makes them look younger. But why would teenagers and celebrities color their hair chartreuse?
"I like to dye my hair because it teaches me about other people. I watch them look at me and I can tell if they're uptight or not," says blue-haired Jessie, age 17, who's concentration is on painting at a private art school in Washington, DC. She adds that she wants people to know that she's different.
Jessie's classmate, Tom, also 17, doesn't agree. "I'd never dye my hair," he says. "It seems like such a desperate call for attention-- not as bad as a tattoo, but it's out-there."
John Robert Dale is a manager at Commander Salamander, a punk-flavored store in Washington, DC's Georgetown shopping district. Commander Salamander carries several brands of semi-permanent hair dyes, all in extreme shades with names like Vampire Red and Lagoon Blue. So while Dale would never dye his own waist-length blond hair, he knows the trends cold.
Girls are buying purple and red dyes, says Dale, and boys prefer the greens and yellows. Brands like Manic Panic and Punky Colours are the most popular. "A lot of people are doing assorted colors on the head," says Dale, putting in large stripes of two or more different colors.
Many kids come into the store with their parents, sometimes the parents are convinced... often, they leave with hairspray that washes out a day later.
Doing Damage: It's cool, but is it safe?
But don't you ever wonder whether that acid-green hair color might be as toxic as it looks?
Most hair-dyers have nothing to fear, says chemist Stan Pohl, Director of Product Development for Clairol. "There's no [vegetable-dye] product I've seen that has any dangerous ingredients," says Pohl. And all hair dyes, chemical and vegetable, must be tested for safety.
Safety testing is controversial though. Many companies test new products on animals. However, only a few new dyes are released on the market (just new packaging), so animal testing is not common any longer. Punky Colours, which sticks to the same colors year in and year out, does not ever test its products on animals.
Motivation: Why Dye?
For many teenagers, high school is a time with different pressures than those of adults. TJ, age 16 dyes his hair white-blond. He says that he can experiment now, because he won't later. "Now is my leisure time. If I went for a job with colored hair, they'd look at me and laugh." He plans one day to put on a suit and go to work. "Conformity will always be there," he says. "I will conform one day when it is time... conformity is a part of life to get jobs and other things you need."
TJ's hair used to be green, purple, and pink. He says at the time he wanted to shock people. Now, he's sticking with white-blond and black. "When I look back at the purple hair, I think it's stupid. I just wanted to be cool with a certain group of friends."
Nicholas, 17, dyes his hair in wide stripes. "No one's naturally going to have blue hair," he explained. "I wanted something no one else would really have. The average person wouldn't go out and get this hair dyed, or know where to look."
Aaron, 15, colors his hair with Kool-Aid for parties. It comes out after three washes, but there is the problem of sweating, or being caught in the rain. Kendra, 16 has also used Kool-Aid, but swears she'll never do it again. It "dyes your skin more than your hair," she says. Her motivation? "I was bored, and I hate my hair."
When asked whether he would ever dye his hair, 17-year-old John, brown hair, blue eyes, runner, guitar-player and editor of his school paper says, "If my girlfriend wanted to, I'd do it. It's a fun thing, but not a natural thing--I guess it's unnatural and that's why it's not me. I'd have to keep telling myself, it will grow out, it will grow out."
--Writer Sara Cormeny once dyed her hair bright pink. She's a web site designer and freelance writer.
attends Stanford University.