The last time I did any home hair coloring – which was the one and only time I did any home hair coloring – I was 18 years old.
Having pierced my own ears using the ice cube and thick needle method, I figured, what the hell. I can put a streak in my hair. Of course, I wasn’t going to spend any of my hard-earned Big Boy tips on a box of Lady Clairol dye. Not when there was already a perfectly good jar of peroxide (used to clean kid wounds) in the bathroom cabinet.
So, I sponged some peroxide directly onto the front hank of my hair, and ended up with a streak that, over time went from jolly olly orange to lemon yellow to shock of white.
After that, I let nature take its course. My dirty blond hair got darker. It lightened up when I was out in the sun. And darkened up when I didn’t.
At some point in my late forties, I started doing highlights. A slippery slope, if ever. I’m not sure when highlights turned into dye job, or when the greys really started setting in – probably a simultaneous equation - but at some point both those things started happening. Since then, I’ve left it all in the hands of a professional. (Rita: a color genius.) And my hair, I must say, looks pretty darned good. I maintain that this is because what’s one my head is a color that was, at one point (my late twenties), the real color of my post-peroxide streak hair: lightish-mediumish brown with blondish highlights when head hit sunshine.
But, having had that formative experience with a bottle of peroxide, I would no more try dying my own hair than I would take out my own appendix. Actually, I’d probably trust myself to do less harm removing that vestigial organ with an Exacto knife than I would dying my own hair.
Fortunately for Amy Errett, there are plenty of do-it-yourselfers out there. She left a career as a VC to found Madison Reed, an online (of course) business that sells home hair coloring kits. A former entrepreneur, she was looking around for an idea when she found one in her own home:
…she grew concerned about the harsh hair coloring chemicals her wife, Clare, was handling during twice monthly touchups. At dinner parties in their home, she began asking her guests the awkward question, “Hey, do you dye your hair?” (Source: NY Times)
Although my friends and I do on occasion talk dye job - and those conversations often include a nod to the lucky ones with beautiful silvery white hair – it’s generally girl talk: not for mixed company, as we used to say. I’d like to have seen some of the reactions to those awkward questions Asmy Errett asked her guests. Anyway, Errett proved a dogged researcher, and she went beyond asking dinner party questions, moving on to:
…observing 53 friends and acquaintances apply their own hair dye. She said she witnessed “all the mistakes and all the emotion” involved in the process, and she concluded that the industry was stagnant in terms of the products, distribution channels and the technology used.
She then did an assessment of her idea and concluded that she had a business.
About 56 million Americans dye their hair at home, and many opt for touchups or full dye jobs every two to six weeks. Like razors, home hair color is what Ms. Errett calls a repetitive usage product. “It’s embedded in the business model for a person to come back,” she said.
That’s for sure. No hair dyer that I know wants to see what’s actually under there. And if we don’t want to see it, we don’t want anyone else to see it either. (A number of years ago, I headed out on a day when the temperature was in the low single digits. My husband asked me where I was going, and I said ‘the hairdresser.’ He then asked why I didn’t just change the appointment. All I could think was: are you nuts?)
Anyway, so far so good for Errett. She’s raised $45.1 in funding. And Madison Reed is online and looking just great. Maybe if I had to touch up my roots every couple of weeks, I’d give it a whirl. But one of the benefits of lighter-ish hair is that the grey actually doesn’t show that much. Guess I’ll just stick with the every-eight-weeks-full-foil-whatever. And if I’m ever at a dinner party where the does-she-or-doesn’t-she question – which Clairol famously asked in its ads way back in the day - comes up, the answer is “yes.” But only my hairdresser knows for sure just what’s in that plastic squeeze bottle.