By nature almost all Japanese people have black hair. So do I. However, if you come to Japan, you will see the majority of Japanese women dyeing their hair. I do not.
I do not have female friends who do not dye their hair, and I do not think I know any person who is around my age or more and has never tried dying their hair; everyone tries at least once. Except me. I have never dyed my hair in my entire life.
Accordingly, people often ask me the reason why I do not colour my hair, or do my nails and pierce my ears as well. The only time I did nails and wore earrings was when I happened to stand on the stage of a beauty pageant years ago. So, here are the reasons why I do not dye my hair.
Firstly I want to be natural and the way I am. When I was a little girl and watched Roman Holiday, I thought Audrey Hepburn is incredibly beautiful. And I imagined “what if I were beautiful like her…”. I questioned myself; if there were magic that can turn us whomever we want, or change our appearances, do I try it?
My answer was “no.” I dare not try. I thought beauty means nothing if it is truly myself. If I changed my looking and people said I am beautiful, it does not mean I am beautiful. It just means the magic is magnificent. Even if I was complimented, I thought all would be felt not the compliments for me. If a person would say I am beautiful, I want it to be said my true self.
It is the same for me with colouring my hair. If I dye my hair, I am not fully who I am. If some person complimented me by seeing my appearance dyeing my hair, I would feel it is not a compliment. Moreover, I think it is the denial of my true self; black hair is not beautiful, or I cannot look pretty with my natural hair colour.
When I was doing modelling, I noticed there are so many people I found more beautiful than me. If I change some parts of mine, I might be able to be prettier. But I will not. I want people to think my true self is beautiful, and I also think beauty is not an objective thing, it is in the eyes of the beholders. So, it is okay that many people think I am beautiful, or fashionable in the case of colouring hair. I just wish a couple of people fancied me as a beautiful woman. This is the first and the biggest reason why I do not dye my hair.
I was born with black hair, nails without colours, and of course, without holes in my ears. Therefore, it is natural for me to stay the way I am. I want to look well, not by covering my surface with foreign objects, but changing from inside; eat well, sleep well and live well.
The second reason is that I honestly do not think I can be prettier even if I change my hair colour, or I can be special or unique by doing so.
Firstly, I need to mention that most Japanese women do not dye their hair for self-expression as many western people try by dyeing hair with unique colours. Most Japanese women dye their hair brown, most prefer dark brown, some prefer a little lighter colours, but not blonde or reddish or purple. In fact, you cannot be an office worker or school teacher in Japan if you have colourful hair1.
Then, the question is; why do Japanese women dye their hair brown? First, many Japanese models and actresses are dyeing their hair brown, and it gives Japanese women an idea that they can be pretty like them if they do the same thing. Japanese hair salons and hair product manufacturers can earn more money when women are trying to dye their hair, so they might be making up the image that women are prettier with lighter hair colours. Advertisements have a strong force. I have seen it from my experience working on copywriting. It sometimes could be the level of brainwashing.
Japanese women’s taste for men is overall different from the western trend. In the west, strong, aggressive, masculine type men are popular. On the other hand, in Japan skinny, tender gentlemen are described as “handsome”. That is why Japanese men do not go to the gym so much like American or European people. I assume it is because Japanese people hear that the gentlemen type was said to be good-looking, and they hear it all the time from childhood, so they might believe it is the “role model”. Maybe having brown hair is the same thing.
I do not think I am influenced by Japanese advertisements. I do not watch TV at all (although I enjoy Netflix and Hulu). The only time I put on TV is when a big earthquake happens, and I need to know the latest information, which was half a year ago or so (I am paying not cheap Broadcast Receiving Contract…). I read a lot of books as well as magazines, but not fashion magazines, so I do not see these advertisements in them. So, I have not developed the idea that I do not favour coloured hair.
The third reason why I do not dye my hair is that I like the classy, elegant style. I like kimono because I think it is elegant, and I always feel I am like a princess in the Heian period or something when I wear it. And in ancient Japan, long black hair was the symbol of women’s beauty; the longer it was, the better it was.
I like history, I like ancient poems, and women’s beauty was always associated with long black hair. In the old days, no one dyed their hair, and still, they were considered beautiful. Therefore, I might have developed the untypical idea for a modern Japanese woman.
I do not feel like I need to dye my hair to be elegant. I do not think it is essential to wear earrings to be beautiful. These did not exist back in time, and still, beautiful people existed. Probably the Heian ladies’ figure had influenced me a lot so that I have long hair. Recently I cut my hair shorter, but I had really long hair. I cut it because it became the socially inappropriate length. I am a writer, and I want to look decent and trustworthy, which matters a lot in Japanese society.
For the record, I am influenced by western culture as well. I love curling my hair and it should be the influence of western culture. I used to love straight hair exactly like classy Heian ladies, but not anymore. I love the bouncy gorgeous elegant, curled hairstyle.
And the final reason that I do not dye my hair is that I am okay to be different from the majority of people.
I have written that Japanese people might have developed some particular ideas according to what we hear from childhood. In addition, “everyone has brown hair” can be a reason why the majority of Japanese women dye their hair.
If everyone is looking at the sky, you would probably do the same thing, even though there is nothing there. If you saw a review that is 5 started by 100 people, you might conclude the food should be good. And it goes the same with coloured hair. Japanese women might consider colouring hair as a nice thing or in fashion, because everyone is dyeing their hair.
Japanese women might be more likely to dye their hair because “harmonizing with others” is a part of Japanese culture. Also, recently I read that 70% of people in East Asia, including Japan, have a type of gene (SNP) that reduces dopamine levels, which leads to tendencies such as following instructions from others or being more in tune with them.2
Therefore, if a Japanese woman is in a group where everyone is dyeing their hair, she might have a tendency to feel uncomfortable. Do I feel uncomfortable? Yes and no. Since brown hair is the fashion, I am not a popular girl among Japanese men and a fashionable person among my female friends. But it does not bother me so much enough to colour my hair. I prefer being natural and who I am.
We are all influenced by someone or something. I do not think there is a good influence or bad influence. From the people and things I encountered in the past, I have developed my thoughts toward the way to think being natural is beautiful.
However, I am not trying to make people convinced with my opinions, nor recommending not to dye your hair, and for sure, to colour your hair black. Being good or bad is a subjective judgement or interpretation, and all things can be considered good and bad depending on the aspect and perspective we see things.
- Unique-looking Harajuku fashion is famous, but it is a small minority fashion even in Tokyo; we will never see a person in Harajuku fashion except in the tiny district of Harajuku, and I have never met a person who is into the fashion.
- Not only Japanese people, but also people all over the world are more likely to have this type of SNP, but for some reason, only in Europe the majority of people have the dopamine-retaining genotype.