Live and let dye- from Matrix Magazine

Sarah had been on a waiting list for three weeks for an appointment with Alison, our notorious colourist extraordinaire. “I wouldn’t see anybody else”, a friend told her. They had been trying for years to persuade Sarah to have a colour, without success. But with a small patch of grey coming on in her late twenties, Sarah had decided to bite the bullet.

Alison had the ability to push her clients — and the boundaries of chemistry. ‘The same as last time’ was not in her vocabulary. She would make clients go from red to blonde to black as she wished. Her favourite saying was “we’ll do it my way or you can go somewhere else darling”. And judging by her devoted followers, who kept her booked solid for weeks on end, her way, was indeed the right way.

“What are we doing today?” Alison asks a sheepish Sarah, while simultaneously fixing her own hair and make-up in the mirror.

“I was thinking of going a little lighter, for summer, but I still want to look natural.” Sarah says. “What do you think?”

“We don’t do natural here. I’ll tell you what I thinking. Blonde bombshell. Darling you’ll look stunning!”

Sarah looks horrified but before she can utter a word, Alison interjects with: “You’re a colour virgin, so I must warn you it will hurt. Beauty is pain darling, beauty is pain. First we bleach-bath you then we place foil all over your head and let you cook for an hour. Then we’ll have a look because we may have to do this all over again before we tone your hair.”

“Um, I’m not sure, will my hair feel the same after? I don’t want to look like a Russian prostitute,” Sarah stammers.

“Well darl, you have to break some eggs if you want to make an omelette.” And with that, Alison saunters to the backroom and mixes up a potent cocktail of bleach and peroxide.

Let’s have a brief history lesson. Extreme hair colouring rituals go way back.

Renaissance women enhanced their flaxen hair by mixing black sulphur and sulphate of aluminium, which they got at the local sulphur merchant, then they would apply the crude mixture into their hair, spreading their tresses over a brimless hat until the sun helped them achieve the shade they desired. Honey was then poured over the head to cover the stench.

Ancient Roman women used Mineral quicklime to give their hair a lustrous, red-gold-carrot tinge. However, they found that if you get quicklime on your skin it will severely irritate. And prolonged exposure will see the quicklime starting to eat right through your skin.

While Alison worked her magic Sarah sat stunned like a rabbit in the headlights unable to get out of her chair. After hours of lotions and potions, six coffees and an endless supply of magazines Alison finally said “ready”.

By the time Sarah got to my chair for the cut and styling I could see through the straw-like hair that her scalp was slightly red and blotchy. But judging from her big smile, it didn’t seem to bother her.

Alison hollered out across the salon.


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