the stench of vanity

Okay, this is one of those embarrassing revelation posts. Okay, here we go… A couple weeks ago I was sharing one of my favorite lifestyle books, "Back to Basics", with a friend of mine and I noticed a recipe for an old time homemade hair dye for covering gray hair.

Now before I go further, I feel compelled to offer a bit of background for the record: I have always been someone who thought I'd be fine about turning gray. My mom turned gray in the most beautiful way–first a marked wide stripe of it against her dark chestnut hair and then a sprinkling throughout that looked like frosted highlights. I never thought there was anything unattractive about gray hair. Besides that, I so highly value authenticity and a natural/organic life, I couldn't imagine doing anything as "fake" as coloring my hair. Plus, the whole hair dying thing seemed like a really bad slippery slope–once you start, when and how do you stop? (At a certain point it starts to look ridiculous to be old and not have gray hair, right?)

Anyway, all those ideals were nice in theory until I started actually getting gray hairs. I was surprised to find I really didn't like it. I felt like I was looking prematurely old in a way that didn't feel right. So at first I'd just pull out the occasional gray straggler. But then this year they started coming in more abundantly and pulling them out wasn't really an option anymore. I felt really conflicted about what to do. So when I saw this recipe that used sage leaves to darken gray hair, I was intrigued. It didn't seem any more invasive or unnatural than an herbal bath.

The recipe called for steeping sage leaves in boiling water and then mixing with glycerine and "Bay Rum." Not being a connoisseur of spirits, at first I thought Bay Rum was some particular type of drinking rum (like dark rum, light rum etc.) but then I realized it was actually the name of an old type of aftershave. Of course none of my local drugstores carried such a thing but I was able to find it online at As soon as I saw the photo of the bottle I burst out laughing and knew I had to order it just for the ridiculous joke of it all.

Well it arrived in the mail today so I set out to brew up the concoction. The sage infusion was straightforward. Then I added the glycerin. But when I opened the Bay Rum I almost keeled over. The bottle described itself to be "As refreshing as an island breeze." No I don't know what island they are talking about, but whatever it is the breeze must have been blowing from the wrong side of town. The sickening spicy/sweet smell conjured up I don't know what image–a sleazy pimp?

Against my better judgement I mixed it in equal parts with the sage infusion and then applied it to my hair. After that I didn't dare leave the house so foul was the odor. Finally I couldn't stand the smell of myself and had to shampoo it out, of course without seeing any noticeable results. I don't care how vain I am, I'm not going to be trying this again. Luckily, I've since read a number of posts online that talk about using solely the sage infusion to cover grey hair. So I think I'll have to try that going forward.

2 thoughts on “the stench of vanity”

  1. LOL! Funniest thing I’ve read in a long time :>) Thanks for sharing your experience. I think I’ll stick to plain old sage or walnut hulls to color my hair…

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