Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Won't Miss #531 - dyed hair

When I was growing up, I didn't see my maternal grandmother with gray hair until the end of her life when she was too ill to leave the house to do anything except go to the hospital. I recall her as having extremely pale skin which got paler as she grew older and very black hair. Compared to my paternal grandmother, who let her natural aging process run its course, my mother's mother always seemed a little unearthly in appearance. Even as a child, I felt she never looked "right".

As we age, it is natural for things to go south as gravity drags us down and for things to get paler. This is because the number of cells which contain pigment is reduced and skin gets thinner. Seeing pale skin with dark hair is just weird-looking to me. Lighter hair, by virtue of graying, goes hand in hand with lighter skin. I'm sure that has been the natural order throughout the history of mammals with fur or hair. When older folks dye their hair black or a dark color, it just feels "wrong" and is one of the clearest indications that someone is rejecting their age rather than settling into it gracefully.

Like my granny, many Japanese women (and some men) dye their hair black or a very dark color as they age. Since the overwhelming majority of Japanese people have black hair and don't dye their hair lighter colors as they age to match their skin tone (an option which is more palatable to foreign people with their greater genetic diversity in skin, hair, and eye color), I constantly saw people (again, especially women) who rather obviously and sadly tried to hang on to their youth.

I don't miss seeing so many women with unnaturally black hair and pale skin and thinking about what it said about how they regarded themselves as they aged.


  1. Then there are the old women with dark blue or purple layered over their graying hair. I never quite understood--surely they aren't trying for the young-punk look. If they were looking for attention, they got it!

  2. Thanks for part 2. This rounds out the picture more fully....at least from your Western point of view, which I happen to agree with.

  3. I always was repulsed by the blue-haired old ladies that didn't keep up on their roots. It looked like they had cradle cap to me when I was a kid and didn't know any better. I have yet to sprout my silvers at 33 and when they come, they can stay. I dye my hair from time to time and it's usually unnatural colors like pink, purple or teal for fun not to cover what I have. My mom and aunt both rock their silvers and have long flowing hair. I think they are accepting age most gracefully.


Comments are moderated and will not show up immediately. If you want to make sure that your comment survives moderation, be respectful. Pretend you're giving feedback to your boss and would like a raise when you're speaking. Comments that reflect anger or a bad attitude on the part of the poster will not be posted. I strongly recommend reading the posts "What This Blog Is and Is Not" and "Why There Were No Comments" (in the sidebar under "FYI") before commenting.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.