How Dyeing My Hair Pink Helps With My Depression

“You’re back to your natural hair color!” my friend Rachel said to me in the middle of our diner date. She was right. However — plot twist — she was referring to my recently-dyed pink hair and not the dark brown locks I was actually born with. It made sense — pink is sort of my signature shade. Almost everything I own, from my kitchen table, to my vacuum, to my microwave is in the rosy hue, and when I had pink hair a couple of years ago, it not only felt natural, but made me feel good. For these reasons, I thought dyeing my hair back to the color might be a good idea. I had been dealing with depression and thought going back to pink might help lift me out of the sadness fog.

To be transparent, writing about, and even admitting to people that I’m depressed is extremely difficult for me. While I’ve always admired people who are open about their mental health, I never felt I could do the same. I was raised to always be strong, to not complain, and I hated the idea of being perceived as "weak." I also tend to compare myself to other people’s situations in order to convince myself to get over my feelings: “Why should I feel this way if so-and-so has it a lot worse?” But I do believe talking about mental health is crucial in destigmatizing depression, and sharing our stories with each other can be a positive and helpful thing. After all, there are a lot of us who go through this. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 17 million adults in the U.S. experience depression at least once in their lifetime.

Now, I’m not trying to say that dyeing my hair pink, or any color for that matter, isn’t some kind of magical anecdote to my depression, but taking the time to dress up or put on makeup, especially when I’m feeling low, has always helped me feel better. We can make a million arguments against the self-care industry and consumerism, but if putting on a new lipstick or booking a massage makes someone feel a little better during this hellscape we live in, I’m all about it.

Still, dyeing my hair was just a small, first piece of the depression puzzle, but something I intuitively knew would help me. Now was the time to return to my roots, so to speak. I also wanted to find out if there was anything meaningful to my decision to dye my hair pink, beyond my personal preference. Would it really help to better my mood, or was I just being biased? I decided to talk to a few color experts.

I reached out to Dougall Fraser, psychic, intuitive color expert, and author of Your Life in Color: Empowering Your Soul with the Energy of Color. “You picked the perfect color with pink. Your intuition was right on target,” he tells me, explaining that he defines pink as the color of self-love. “One of the things that I always say about pink is that it’s the color that reminds us of the way the universe sees us, and that’s absolutely perfect. Typically, I’ll see pink around people who give a lot of energy. Maybe they’re involved in a charity organization, or they have a cause that they’re really interested in and want to make a difference in the world in some way, but what they forget about is self-care.” Dougall also says that pink is a good reminder that we have to nourish ourselves first in order to be there for our family or friends.

Dougall pointed out the gender stereotypes behind the color pink, and how culturally we’ve been trained to think of pink as a feminine color. “If we look at feminine energy and what that means, it is about self-care. It is about nourishment, lifting us up, and making us feel good,” he explains. “The simple gesture of you wanting to get back to yourself in a moment of depression and dyeing your hair pink — which I call a color prompt or a sort of bold [statement] — it’s sort of a reminder of, ‘I need to take care of myself right now’ and is right on target.”

Leatrice Eiseman, the director of the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training, color consultant, and author of More Alive with Color, also tells me that I was “spot on” with my hair dye of choice. “It is a great color to get you out of the doldrums — it casts a rosy glow to the face, making you looking healthier and more vibrant,” she shares. “So even if you are not at what you consider your best, people will respond to you as if you are actually in an ‘up’ mood and that kind of reaction will lift your spirits.”

As I began planning my appointment, I was curious to see if there were hairstylists who specialized in this kind of thing. That’s when I came across Roxie Darling, a New York-based colorist who offers a service called Vibrational Hair Color. As she describes it, the service allows clients to align an inner energetic shift with their outer hair color, whether it’s a nuanced, beachy lightening or adding in playful colors.

“It’s an opportunity to use our hair color as an intentional investment in ourselves,” she explains to me. “I decided to start combining the two — energy healing and hair coloring — as an opportunity to bring more depth to the work I do with my clients, and bring intention into my everyday work experience.”

Roxie says that the main benefit of her service is for clients to be able to intentionally change their hair and aura to reflect the intention that they are working towards. And when it comes to pink, Roxie says that you should dye your hair that color if “you are looking for a little ease and tenderness in life,” which is exactly what I needed.

With support from my army of color experts, I was now ready to figure out exactly which shade of pink to dye my hair. Instead of the hot pink magenta I had before, I decided on a pastel, bubblegum pink that leaned more towards my ideal shade. After searching a bit on Instagram, I found that Guy Tang’s Mydentity range had the pinks I loved, which I showed to hairstylist Gina Atkinson. On one try, Gina took my hair from dark brown to my ideal pink hue (using the shades Pink Possession, Pink Diamond, and Cosmic Coral). I was in love.

In the weeks that followed, it faded out perfectly, too. I used the MyRefresh Rose Gold Color Depositing Conditioner to help retain the color longer, plus a Collagen Repair spray that made my hair super soft when I washed it. Sometimes the aftercare that comes with heavily processed hair can be difficult and annoying — the last thing I’d want to deal when I’m feeling low with is something high-maintenance — but this made it a lot easier.

While dyeing my hair my favorite color did help boost my mood, it’s not the be-all-end-all to my mental health. Treating my depression is not a straight line; there are going to be ups and downs. And it’s going to take time, a power combination of therapy, exercise, getting enough sleep, eating well, and being in nature, as well as the little things that bring me moments of joy. But at least looking in the mirror and seeing my pink hair helps the days feel a little lighter. And as a result, it ended up being the first step I needed to take to start working on myself again.

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