Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Simple Suggestion #148... Go natural

This won't be a popular moodling, but I'm not out for popularity. After seeing a hair colour commercial last night that almost made me gag, I'm done with tippy-toeing around this topic. You're getting my real feelings here today. And if you colour your hair, you might not want to know my real feelings, so you've been warned. I guess I've lived long enough that I can be an opinionated woman on certain subjects...

Before I get any further, I'll be honest about my past hypocrisies. I have coloured my hair -- twice. My first grey hairs appeared when I was the tender age of 23. I pulled the two of them out. But then I thought, why be so vain? Greys are a sign of character. I'd always admired salt-and-pepper girls my age. Unfortunately, the that didn't last. Not long after my third child was born, my sisters and I had a girls' party with a box from Clairol. My hair was very salt-and-pepper at that point, so we picked up a rich brown that wouldn't make the change seem too obvious, and, voila, a "new me." (Not really, though that's one line with which marketers make their money.)

Every time I washed my hair during the weeks following, I watched chemical colour run down the drain. Seeing the sullied water bothered me, but as I wasn't too concerned about our environment at that point in my life, I ignored my unease. Years later, when my sister-in-law and I turned forty within two weeks of each other, we went to a snazzy salon in Le Marchand Mansion and spent an outrageous amount of money on colour -- with highlights -- and a cappuccino on the side. My hair never felt so soft and manageable or looked so fantastic, and the salon's coffee service was good, too.

So why do I have issues now with the hair colour industry? Well, for the same reason that I have issues with anything that complicates life, consumer culture in particular. It has a way of manipulating us (and sometimes, those around us) so that we think we need to change just for the sake of change (and for the sake of consumerism's bottom line, but it never mentions that). If I had the time, I could dismantle just about every beauty boon, cosmetic craze, or fashion fad there is, but today I'm picking on hair dye. When a larger portion of the world's women every day are subjecting themselves to unpronounceable chemicals (ever try to read the side of a hair colour box?) in order to spice up their lives by spiffing up their locks, is that really a good thing?

I wish you could meet my dear neighbour, back alley Mary, who died of lung cancer (she was a smoker) in the summer of 2009. She was a funny and delightful woman that I just loved to talk with whenever I saw her. We chatted about everything and anything over our respective fences, shared gardening tips, and she taught me to make pickles, perogies and pie crusts. She was like an extra grandma to my youngest daughter, and overpaid my kids for shovelling her sidewalks. We all loved her and the pies and pizzelli she brought to our back door. You'd be hard pressed to find a better neighbour or friend.

Several times during our over-the-fence chats, Mary commented on my salt-and-pepper hair and how lovely the grey looked. I thanked her, and commented that if she would go natural she'd be even lovelier than she already was. She pulled at her perm- and dye-damaged hair, saying, "Oh, I could never do that. My hair is already white -- see the roots? I'd look so old." And I'd look at her outrageous strawberry blonde or brassy brown with those white roots showing through and think, "Who has done this to you? Who has made you think that white hair isn't beautiful on a 74-year-old?"

We know darn well who has done it. Who can't name several hair dye brands without even trying (men will know Grecian Formula if they watch hockey, right)? We've all seen the commercials featuring stunningly beautiful women with incredibly shiny coloured tresses flowing around them like cascades of riches. The one I finally saw last night (my girls tell me it's been around for a while) featured an adorable Aussie or Kiwi actor saying "Kate's more beautiful now than the day I married her." I have yet to meet a real human being married for 15 years with two kids who has hair that looks like Kate's, and I have yet to see a hair product advertisement with a model who has unevenly greying hair like mine. Of course, marketers won't make much of a living if they encourage people like me to love the hair we have. Their reason for existence is to create artificial needs, so they tell me I should be like Kate perpetually and "wash that grey right out of my hair" until the day I die. Like dear Mary did.

But if you know me by now, you know I'm a rebel who can't stand that kind of conformist blather. The last time I wrote on this topic was in October 2010. Today I went looking for fresh stats, and couldn't find any, which makes me wonder if the hair colour industry doesn't want us to realize how much of our lives' hard work goes toward paying for colour-in-a-box. According to an undated article I found in 2010 on the Marie Claire magazine website, in 2008, 1.6 billion dollars were spent on home hair colour in the US, $490 million in Mexico, $180 million in India, and $400 million in the UK (Canada doesn't register on a New York magazine's radar). Increases in sales of in-home hair colorants from between 29% in the Middle East to almost 180% in the Eastern Bloc countries were reported since 2002. I'd love to have a penny for every dollar we spend now.

Of course, not a word in the article about the chemicals in hair colour, lovely sounding things like 6-Methoxy-2,3-Pyridinediamine, 2,3-Naphthalenediol, N-Cyclopentyl-m-Aminophenol, and Acid Red. Try repeating those 5 times in under a minute. If unpronounceable chemicals with numbers attached don't scare us, just the smell of them combined should. In 2010, the David Suzuki Foundation released a report on some of the toxic substances in our personal care products, and hair dyes were the second thing singled out because some colourant chemicals have the potential to cause cancer, or contain heavy metals that are toxic to the brain.

But let's put concerns about chemicals messing up our bodies aside because nobody believes in them anyway... let's guesstimate... let's just pretend that out of 34.5 million Canadians, a fifth of us (or 6.9 million -- I'll bet that's a modest guess because a lot of guys are into this racket, too) buy six fourteen dollar packages of home hair colour per year (gotta keep up with those roots, right?) to the tune of about $85 dollars a year. That would mean that Canadians spend about $586 million on nearly 42 million do-it-yourself dye jobs per annum. And if we use a modest twenty litres of water to wash the chemicals away each time... that's 840 million litres of dye-polluted water. When you take into account the fact that the average person needs five litres of clean water per day to live in a moderate climate, and you realize that about 780 million of our brothers and sisters in the developing world don't have access to drinkable water (data from http://www.unicef.org/wash/ ), it doesn't take a genius to see that all the good water we waste colouring our hair could go a long way...

If you want to argue with my stats, guesstimation, or math skills, be my guest. I never was very good at those subject areas. But water issues are becoming critical in a lot of places in our world due to climate change, and the needless use of chemicals contributes to the pollution of land, air, oceans, and us. Do we need to dye our hair? Do we have to buy personal care/beauty products that contain toxins? Must we follow fashion trends? Or is there any way, any way at all, that we can live more simply?

Going natural is one way. I have a deep respect for those women in my life who have never felt the need to colour their hair, but who accept themselves as they are and take aging as it comes, with grace and humility. They're the ones who inspired me to post the video below a few years back (excuse the poor sound quality -- I don't actually have a lisp), and since then, several other friends have joined me in living more simply in this regard. If it inspires you, or you want a copy of my poem to share with friends, my email address is under "profile" on the sidebar, and I'm happy to share, especially if it gives others the "permission" they need to truly be themselves.

Naturals of the World, Unite! And share the news with all our "dyeing" sisters and brothers -- free them from the idea that they have to hide those greys or improve their tresses at the expense of their health or our world's diminishing freshwater supply... because today's suggestion to go natural is just another small step we can take to make the world a better place.

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

1 comment:

Laeli said...

I like it when we sync up Lady M!

That commercial makes me nuts too. It hurt my heart to read about your beautiful neighbour friend because I know the emotion and motivation behind the hair dyeing. I always wish for others to be free to...just be.

I loved your poem! I was cheering throughout, you're so awesome. And you know, it was you and your moodling last year that really helped push me into the natural direction. XO