I peroxided my hair for the first time a few weeks back, with one of those kits you can buy from the chemist for a fiver.

I called into a high street salon first, for advice… but my idea – bottle-blonde with dark roots – was met with thinly-disguised horror.

“But you’re so ashy!‘ the stylist wailed…

Nobody knows what that means… I should’ve asked… but I was too distracted by her outrageous plan to charge me £60 to dye my hair Silver! Apparently numerous celebrities are currently “rocking the grey/gray trend”.

“But I’m already grey!” I protested at her vexed reflection.

(How is it that when you’re next to someone and you both look in the same large mirror, the two of you can make eye contact? I’ve drawn a diagram to try to understand this but I still can’t.)

The stylist’s own hair was beige-pink and looked like nylon-fiber. It was her least attractive asset, raising fundamental questions about the quality of her style advice which I found myself unable to ignore. I made an excuse and left.

My usual hair cutter Nikie at Barberella has effortlessly-cool, messed-up, peroxided, dark-rooted hair, which is what I’m after, but she only does cuts, not colour. So I had to content myself with her advice (dispensed during several haircuts in response to my quizzing) which was: look for a box with a powder kit; it should be about a fiver; there’ll be a plastic cap with holes in it to protect your scalp but you probably don’t need to bother using it; just brush it in using an old brush; leave it in for as long as you can bear it (?!) And there are also some percentage strengths which I can never remember.

Half an hour after exiting Niki’s barber shop, I’d find myself lingering in Boots, keenly aware of my hair-product ignorance. I would enter a tharn state in the bleach and dye aisles (exciting security staff interest) before giving up and buying a lipstick.


Surely the pressure to suspend belief in the aisles of Boots is more overwhelming than in any theatre? And the daunting choice. How is a person supposed to use logic to decide which set of lies to temporarily believe and act upon? It’s like voting!

At last, I found a straw to grasp… Squinting at some packet instructions I noticed advice not to embark upon bleaching without having petroleum jelly and an old towel to hand. I thought – if this product exists in the same universe as Vaseline and old towels then it might actually work… unlike its many shelf-fellows which owe their continued presence to blatant lies and our inability to return cosmetic products once opened.


I had to rope my husband in to mix and apply the powder and solvent because I was too frightened to do it myself. He was very relaxed about (a) the process (having done it previously to himself, old girlfriends and various family members) and (b) the potential outcome. I have to give him credit. He isn’t a laid-back person as a rule, but he is remarkably forgiving when it comes to my appearance… and I am grateful… though perhaps I should be worried?

Applied using gloves, the peroxide solution looked like conditioner and had to be covered with plastic to work effectively. It felt uncomfortable at first but this didn’t get worse… I just got used to it… so that in the end it was him who was saying “I think it’s time to wash it out!”

But we bailed too soon. The first attempt turned my dark brown, greying hair very yellow and Eminemish. (I like him but I don’t want to look like him.) It looked cheap and clueless. I wore a woolly hat for a couple of days while I decided what to do.

Second time around, my hair emerged as the bleached-out blonde I was after! And it looks OK – kind of Annie Lennoxish.

I’d prefer ageing Debbie Harry but my hair-care skills are too rudimentary to manage anything longer than a crop.

Debbie Harry described hair as "just external protein".

Debbie Harry has described her hair dismissively as “external protein”. I was going to say “famously described” but I can’t find the quote anywhere!