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History Of The Blonde

by Kathie Rothkop

Jean HarlowThe mystique of the blonde has been eternal with both men and women since the beginning of time. Poems and myths have been written about the golden haired woman. The word blonde comes from the Latin blondus (yellow).

It has been recorded throughout history that women have agonized to achieve blonde tresses with bad results. Highly alkaline soaps were applied to the hair and then the women would sit in the sun for hours to bleach it. An easier way was to Mae Westpowder the hair with pollen and crushed yellow flower petals. Costly wigs were made from imported blonde hair from the Netherlands.

It wasn't until 1907, that a French chemist named Eugene Schueller began manufacturing hair dye in his Paris flat. His main chemical ingredient was called paraphenylenediamine. He called his company L'Oreal, which is still a leader in it's field today.


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The blonding process was quite dangerous at this time, with the chemicals inflicting headaches and scalp burns. It was not unusual for the hair to break off during the process. A common formulation for bleach was peroxide with ammonia, added to ivory soap flakes to make a paste. This formula was used into the 1930s.

Hollywood soon realized how great a blonde looked in their black and white films and conceived Mae West and, soon to follow, Jean Harlow. Jean Harlow died in her 30s and the rumor was that she died because of her hair dye. The truth is she had kidney problems.

In 1931, an American chemist, Lawrence Gelb, introduced the first oil shampoo tint. After eight more years of research, he established the first home purchased hair dye. He named his currently famous company Clairol.

Up until World War II, a woman who dyed her hair was considered "fast". Hollywood depicted the blonde as being dumb, naughty, and immoral. Because Clairol wanted more women to purchase their home hair dyes and also frequent the beauty salon, they came up with some of the most famous advertising slogans of all time.





Naming famous blondes could go on forever. Marilyn Monroe certainly is at the top of the list. Blondes sell more merchandise in TV commercials and are employed more in commercial print. Forty-five percent of people, including men, prefer to be dyed blonde.

Is it true blondes have more fun? The ageless brunette Cher is now seen sporting a blonde wig. Shall we venture to ask?

Copyright by Kathie Rothkop of Hairrific. Reprinted at, February 2003, with permission.

For more information about blonde hair in cultures past and present read the feature length review of Joanna Pitman's On Blondes here. recommends the following books from


forum has brand new forum and chat facilities. Find out what others around the globe think about beauty in cultures past and present here.


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Awakening BeautyAnthony Napoleon, the author of Awakening Beauty: An Illustrated Look at Mankind's Love and Hatred of Beauty, is a psychologist who has spent many years studying beauty and its impact upon both individuals and society. He has worked with both cosmetic surgery patients and beauty pageant contestants as well as conducting original research into the field. Awakening Beauty is an unprecedented exposé on the subject of beauty. It is both entertaining and thought provoking, a combination that is as unique as it is telling about the author's approach to the subject of this book. The reader is taken backstage into the worlds of beauty pageants, plastic surgery, trophy wives, murderous rage, wardrobe, makeup, Bill Clinton, the events of September Eleven and other provocative topics where beauty has had its effect. Awakening Beauty invites the reader into a world that is as interesting as it is frightening. Readers are transformed as the author shepherds them from their world into his unique perspective and expertise on beauty. Awakening Beauty includes over one hundred tantalizing photographs and illustrations. Awakening Beauty is a compendium of some of the most interesting facts in print. The subject matter of the book along with the author's unique approach to it makes this book a "must read." Get ready to re-think everything you thought you knew about beautiful women and physical attractiveness.

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