Popular Hair Colors for Women Then and Now

Today, more than 75 percent of the women of the United States and Europe are regularly changing their hair color. Some wish to appear more fashionable or youthful. Others imitate the hairstyles of their favorite celebrities, the trendsetters of the modern world. The "graying of America" remains unpopular with middle-aged women and men, and today's easy, do-it-yourself home kits are an ideal solution. Still others try to restore original hair color that has been damaged by illness, medical treatments or other causes. Whatever the reason, it has never been easier to permanently adjust your hair color or to try a temporary new look.

Changing your appearance by changing the color of your hair is not a new idea. The Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used animal or plant matter to alter their natural tresses. The ancient Gauls and Saxons dyed their hair and skin startling colors to instill fear in their enemies on the battleground. By the Middle Ages, red hair had become associated with witchcraft and was a condition to be dreaded and hidden. Elizabeth I, with her long curly red tresses, changed all that, and henna treatments suddenly became popular and fashionable hair treatments.

Henna is still a popular, chemical-free choice for today's woman. Since naturally red hair-color occurs in less than one to three percent of the population and is generally limited to natives or descendants of Australia, Ireland, Scotland and the United Kingdom, everyone else must resort to products such as Rainbow Henna, Natural Expressions Henna or Clairol Professional Jazzing in Red Hot hair dye. Unless you are Katy Perry, "carrot top" red is out, but copper, bronze, strawberry blonde and auburn are popular choices because they add warmth and gentle color to the area around the face.

Katy Perry and Lady Gaga may be today's trendsetters when it comes to unusual hair colors, but during the Baroque period of European history, powdered wigs were often dusted or dyed pastel pinks, blues and yellows or bleached blonde. Manic Panic is a natural, vegetable-based hair-color brand that is safe for sensitive skin and yet can deliver rock-star shades and startling effects. For those who want this look temporarily, non-permanent formulas shampoo out before Monday morning arrives. Dyed hair extensions are another popular special-occasion option.

While black is the most-common natural hair-color, chestnut brown is currently the most popular. Not only are brunettes seen as more stable, intelligent and competent, but surveys repeatedly show that men find brown-haired women more attractive. Since women still tend to believe that "blondes have more fun," this perception raises an interesting contradiction. Blondes tend to be perceived as flighty, scatter-brained and irresponsible, especially in American society. Could it be that many men would rather date a blonde but marry a brunette? Natural blondes represent less than two percent of the population.

Until the 1950s, the only way to lighten your hair color was to expose it to bleach or peroxide. However, repeated treatments weakened and damaged the hair. Applying lemon juice and sitting out in the sun for prolonged periods were also options, but not suitable ones for many busy women. When Clairol and L'Oreal introduced bleach-free and DIY kits, women quickly began experimenting with new looks. Today's hair-color products offer gentler dyeing processes. Improved conditioners further minimize any damage to the hair shaft. If you have always wanted to try being a blonde or a redhead, or if you simply want to cover those persistent gray hairs, finding the perfect hair color has never been easier.