How Blue Became Old Ladies’ Hair Color of Choice



Long before Friends fans flocked to hair salons to ask for Jennifer Aniston’s “The Rachel” hairstyle, Jean Harlow popularized another head-turning hairstyle: locks so blonde they looked white. Hairdressers used hydrogen and ammonia to turn tresses pale yellow, but the secret to achieving that silvery shimmer was a blue chemical solution called a “blue rinse.” Almost immediately, beauticians and advice columnists started recommending blue rinses to older women as a way to restore luster to their gray or yellowish-white hair. Though it worked well when properly done, a botched rinse could leave hair looking anywhere from slightly blueish to decisively purple. By the 1970s, "blue-hairs" was a derogatory term that began popping up in reference to old ladies doing just about anything that annoyed the young. While blue hair might not be quite as popular among older women as it was a few decades ago, the fad hasn’t died out. Jean Harlow’s blue baton has been passed on to Lady Gaga, multiple Kardashian sisters, and just about anybody who wants to follow the latest style trends.