Monday, September 1, 2008

Hair Dye: Foxy or Frivolous

As part of my musings during my recent “quarter-life crisis”, I’ve been thinking about hair dye. I’m joking about the quarter-life crisis—it’s no crisis at all, but a renewed desire to feel good about my physical appearance after several years of non-stop nursing and/or pregnancy. But the hair dye question is no joke. I figure I’m a couple years from starting to notice glistening grey strands, so it’s time to make some decisions.

For the gentlemen, hair dye is a no-go. Men look dignified as they grey. But how about for the ladies? Perhaps in some countries and cultures, grey hair, wrinkles, and dark circles under the eyes are no problem. But around these parts, I think a little touching up here and there can go a long way in making a younger mom look cheery and put-together, instead of giving the impression that she’s “let it all go”: modest makeup and jewelry, fashionable clothing… and maybe even some natural-looking hair color to take the grey away.

Hair coloring doesn’t mean selling out to the culture of perpetual adolescence or the obsession with youth—no thirty year old should get a navel ring or start dressing like the Olsen twins. But I do think hair coloring can be a nice complement to the youthful spirit that mothers blessed with several children tend to radiate naturally.

16 comments:

hilaron said...

Thanks for a great blog! When I read this post I came instantly to think of a sermon by St. John Chrysostom which our pastor told us. He said we should wear the wrinkles and the gray, since we ought to look more and more like our Resurrection Body and not trying to cover up reality. But that's easy for me to think as a male and not even 25 years of age. :)

/David

Mary Alice said...

Well, since I am the first builder to hit 30 I will say that I plan to not go gently -- I am pleasantly surprised that I have made it this far without going grey, but when I do I will dye my hair for sure.

I am making up for this future frivolity with the fact that I gave up highlights when I had my first baby and have been wearing my hair totally naturally for the past 7 years.

Hows that for rationalization!

Katherine said...

I won't spend the time or money on it. And I've had gray since I was 23. I'm almost 29.

Anonymous said...

I look at it from a Christian stewardship point of view -- as Katherine said, it takes time and money, both of which I need to take care of. So why spend them on something this frivolous? Shouldn't I spend that extra money on tithing, or that time on cooking a meal for a friend in need? I think of St. Rose who scrubbed her face so as to hide her beauty and not be a temptation for others. I think we women dye hair and do other such things more for other women, and that men don't care -- I am 31, have been going grey since I was 26, and my husband agrees and goes so far to say that he doesn't like to see women trying to look younger than they are.

Frances

Anonymous said...

I am 44 and have young children. While I don't color my hair during pregnancy--and I am totally grey--I color it normally. Otherwise my grey hair invites all sorts of compliments on my "grandchildren."

AWOL Mommy said...

Hey, JM, you are beautiful.

B-Mama said...

I'm all about women embracing their natural beauty (love the DOVE beauty campaign, btw), but if a little hair dye helps put some spring in a tired mother's step, I say go for it! :)

Anonymous said...

i don't think a 5 dollar box of hair dye is a big stewardship problem. have any of you ever bought 5 dollars worth of groceries that were not needed for nutritional sustenance... i just bought 2 packages of cream cheese and a carton of sour cream to make a cheesecake. I don't feel the least bit guilty about "wasting money"

4ddintx said...

I don't think the to dye or not to dye question is one of morals. I have a good friend where her hair care is her big "splurge"--both color and cuts. Her dh knew this going into the marriage and has his own share of expensive hobbies!

I worry about putting all that dye on my scalp and letting it soak in through the skin. I don't feel so great about that part of hair dying. If I decide to go that route in the future (I'm 35) I'll be checking out the brands in the health food store. Also, I have sensitive skin and my sister told me just yesterday that she broke out from her last salon dye job. Enough to make me endure the few silvers on top for now.

Jennifer in MN said...

You know, we don't take expensive vacations, I only buy clothes when I have to, we own used cars, I buy things on sale when I can AND I'm a 36 year old mom of 6. I think any reasonable and moral "splurge" that makes you feel good is okay. I recently started coloring my hair for fun and go to a nice place to have it done, they really pamper you. So every 6-8 weeks I get a cut but I only color, like once a year and I may not do it again because it is expensive. But it's fun to feel all girly and pretty, at least until I get home and have to fix dinner or put the kids to bed, lol.

Kat said...

JM, I was laughing as I saw this topic :) I'm surprised that your dh would even let you entertain the idea of coloring your hair :)

On a more serious note, I always think of my mother-in-law when this topic comes up. She and my father-in-law are some of the most thrifty people that I know - they have never had cable, they still drive a minivan, they mix Eight O'Clock coffee in with their Starbucks in order to "cut coffee costs," and they almost never go out to eat. They do all of these things NOT because they are financially constrained, but because they just aren't people who indulge themselves that often. BUT, my mother-in-law did start coloring her hair when her first daughter was married, and now she says that she will probably continue to color her hair for a while because she would look strange to people if she went back to her full gray head of hair. I definitely agree with her - she would look different, it's amazing to look back at pictures of her 15 years ago with all gray hair.

I'm not sure what I'll end up doing, but I do think that "everything in moderation" is a good saying to remember when making these types of decisions. I heard a priest today put it very nicely - "One day, indulge yourself, the next day don't, and alternate like that". He was talking about making little sacrifices each day, but the principle can be applied to many decisions.

Anonymous said...

if your worried about the chemicals try henna. It's what all the ladies in the middle east do

Juris Mater said...

I love the way you've all put this: if it's a refreshing treat that boosts the spirits of an otherwise-run-down mom, fine!

Kat, funny. My husband wholeheartedly supports hair coloring if I'm up for it : ) And my lovely, very frugal mother in law with a huge family colors her hair--her natural color plus I think sometimes highlights--and I'd be hard-pressed to think of a prettier 60 year old woman.

I don't think it's a waste of time or money, or bad Christian stewardship, to dye, as Katherine and Frances suggested. While we're all called to emulate St. Rose's holiness, she was a recluse and then a nun; in contrast, our vocation is in the world. Frumpiness/"letting it go" doesn't connote the kind of engagement with the world that we as Christian apostoles are trying to communicate to our friends. Looking nicely put-together is an extremely valuable use of time and resources for a Catholic mom.

Anonymous said...

I think we should look at every non-essential expenditure from a Christian stewardship point of view! I'm not saying it's a sin to dye one's hair, I'm just saying that it is a luxury -- just like the Starbucks habit I've been trying to break this year -- and should be considered in the light of using one's resources wisely. Further, I don't think it's constructive to call those who choose to not dye frumpy or accuse them of letting it go. My mother has always let her hair stay grey and I grew up hearing people compliment her all the time. And I certainly don't believe I'm letting myself go or look frumpy!
Frances

Mary Alice said...

Well, I am not gray but I am letting myself go! It has nothing to do with money. I have a closet full of attractive clothes and I am wearing sweats most days. I have a bathroom full of lotions and potions and I am often sweaty and dirty!

I know that this has a negative impact on both my apostolate as a mother and friend and on my own self esteem.

It is not that I am using the time that I don't spend on these frivolous things on better aims like serving the poor, or even being with my family, instead I am usually frittering it away on other important things like watching TV.

Our time and money are ours to use well, and this does involve a certain amount of service and care for others, but I think that if we have a generous spirit and are basically living within a budget, some luxuries can be part of that -- we just have to make choices, we can't do everything, and also make sure that there is a certain amount of detachment, after all vanity can be a real fault and can self perpetuate if one falls into the hands of the wrong stylist -- when I indulge in a salon haircut I am often told how great I would look with highlights, do I want to try this certain make up, etc.

My grandmother was a model who never allowed her hair to go gray, and I can say for sure that her fashion sense and style played a large role in her apostolate -- she spoke and wrote on modesty for young women and people looked up to her because she was attractive, and she did it on an extremely limited budget, a black turtleneck sweater, cinched in waist belt and attractive skirt was her uniform in winter, she used Noxzema and vaseline on her face everyday and always wore lipstick and she looked like she just dropped in from a Paris runway, even in her 60s.

Magazines like Real Simple and Domino have great tips on what to scrimp or splurge on -- the cosmetics aisle can be full of wasteful traps!

Juris Mater said...

Frances, I didn't mean to automatically equate not coloring hair with frumpiness. I was going for a more general principle--and was getting a little out of control on my soapbox. Sorry!! After all this bold talk I'll probably wake up tomorrow with a head full of grey hairs.