People who dye their hair hot pink or sky blue or neon green used to be seen as lone seditionaries, rebels against the grey torpor of quotidian life. Today, however, crazy colour has become part of the essential vernacular of pop culture, from Rihanna to Katy Perry, Lady Gaga to Charlotte Church. As a result, the current radical trend, at least as far as hair goes, is ... returning to your natural shade.
Make-up artist Alex Box, artistic director for make-up company Illamasqua, says: “If something becomes mainstream that was once seen as alternative, then people want the opposite – to retain a sense of ‘other’. So instead of colouring hair bright and brash, we’re seeing natural grunge roots and grown-out natural hair colour.” Indeed, even Rihanna and former X Factor contestant Cher Lloyd recently switched their colour back to what nature intended.
Parisian colourist Christophe Robin has recently taken Juliette Binoche, Kristin Scott Thomas, Laetitia Casta and Chiara Mastroianni back to their natural hues. “The ones that do it are the strong characters,” he says. But this movement is not limited to those in the public eye. Increasingly, according to high-end hairstylists such as John Frieda in the UK and Julien Farel in the US, bankers and lawyers and other professionals are also eschewing their “caramel blonde” or “rich brunette” locks for a return to reality.
“I’ve definitely noticed a trend in clients toning down their hair colour,” says Carmel Blackburne, a stylist at John Frieda. “One major motivation for doing this appears to be to save money – to get an extra month out of their colour before colour maintenance is required. However, most of these clients ask for more natural highlights to be pulled through their hair so that the regrowth isn’t as noticeable and the change isn’t such a shock.”
Farel says: “Woman go back to their natural colour for a variety of reasons. Some are tired of being a slave to their tresses or in today’s economy can no longer afford the maintenance required.”
Robin says: “They do the colour change for themselves, not to please a man. They are searching for authenticity.”
Actress Kiera Chaplin, a natural blonde, says: “I enjoy changing my hair colour but I always end up going back to my natural colour afterwards. I think it’s nice to change things up once in a while but blonde suits me best.”
EJ Gladstone, who helps run grooming pitstop Butterfly in the City of London says: “A lot of people said that my natural colour [brown] worked much better with my skin tone than the blonde highlights I used to have. I looked less washed out, as I have very pale skin.”
Emma Kate Miller, a communications executive, says: “My make-up was never right when I had dyed blonde hair, so I returned to my natural brown shade. I feel so much more like myself.”
Robin believes that returning to one’s natural colour can make hair “shiny and more dense”. This was the case for socialite Olivia Palermo, from US reality show The City, for example, who recently returned to her natural ash brown after being blonde for a year and says: “I enjoy my natural colour; my hair is at its healthiest.”
The process can be lengthy and costly. Some hairdressers, such as John Frieda, recommend you grow out your dye before returning to “virgin” hair, a process that can take months and even years. Others, such as the London-based Percy & Reed salon, will use a bleach. Yet others recommend dying hair back to a similar colour to the roots and then allowing it to grow naturally. Whatever technique, expect it to take at least a few hours and cost upwards of £70 with a head colourist in a top salon.
Some people who undergo a return to the roots are not always emotionally prepared for the reaction. Farel says: “Most people who try and go back to their natural colour go into shock because it changes their look completely.
“Also, they usually remember their natural hair colour as different from what it actually is and forget the reason that they started colouring it to begin with: they did not actually like their natural hair colour.”