How I became a Raspberry Rebel

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mirren afp AFP British actress Helen Mirren, 68, was the celebrity most admired for her youthful appearance.

London - Some of the ends are brighter than candyfloss, various streaks are a dark beetroot, and there are a few definite deep-rhubarb hues in there, too. But - cut to the chase - my hair is pink. Bright pink.

It has been for three weeks now, since - in a fit of rebellion against the winter blues and my encroaching greys - I decided to inject some colour into my life and dye my hair this most cheering of shades.

And when Helen Mirren stepped out at the Baftas on Sunday with her cute pink “do”, I felt immensely relieved to have some company. At least I’m not the only lady of a certain age who has been seduced by the sunny optimism of pink hair, I thought.

Until that moment I’d found myself asking, somewhat surprised: what kind of a nutter dyes her hair pink at the age of 42? Especially one who’s a Surrey housewife with two children, a school run and a hamster.

But just as Dame Helen was driven by a frivolous impulse to emulate a contestant on America’s Next Top Model, my adventures in pink came from a crazy whim.

It all started as I drove the children home from a music lesson late one Friday evening last month. The woman looking back in the rear-view mirror just didn’t seem to be me any more.

goldman sxc Jonathan Ross's wife Jane Goldman has also dared to go pink. Here, the couple arrive at the British Academy Television Awards in Central London on April 26, 2009. AFP

I’m used to looking pale and exhausted - that’s just January and the juggling act of being a working mother for you. But I was utterly shocked by my hair - which I hadn’t dyed for more than two years.

Trimmed at home with kitchen scissors and falling in two lank curtains around my whey face, it made me look old and sad. Little grey strands frizzed up around the crown. I looked even older than I felt.

I’d imagined until then that I was following the “ombre” trend - also known as growing out your roots. In happier moments I’d even been pleased with the style, taking some pride in my hair’s enhanced condition.

I’ve been dyeing my hair relentlessly since I was 12 - when I would experiment with buckets of household bleach at boarding school. I’ve tried many colours since then, many of them accidentally.

The evening before starting a new job, when I had been longing to present myself as a ravishing Liz Taylor brunette, I’d turned my locks khaki green. Then there was another memorable home-dye that sent me an uncompromising Duracell orange and had to be corrected by Toni & Guy in Wimbledon - at a cost of more than £100.

Finally going dye-free meant my natural mousey blonde tresses - now streaked with grey - felt shiny and healthy thanks to the break from chemical abuse.

osbourne lib Kelly Osborne has had her hair in every colour. AP

But there was no getting away from the sheer awfulness of it.

That’s when the idea floated into my head: instead of following the herd and masking the grey under a dark-blonde rinse, why not go pink? Not any pink, because I know deep, berry colours don’t suit me. I really fancied a Mrs Slocombe pink. A gutsier version of Kelly Osbourne.

Maybe that’s what Dame Helen thought, as she looked out of her hotel window at the sleet- splattered, gun-metal grey London skyline the night before the Bafta ceremony. There’s too much grey in life already.

When I asked my husband for his views, however, he blanched, raised his hand as if I was waving a gun and said: “No.”

So I did what any sensible girl would do: I sought counsel with my friends on Facebook. A surprisingly overwhelming proportion advised I should go for it.

My friend Murray, who PRs Kylie and Lily Allen, urged: “Do it.” Another pal, who organised Peaches Geldof’s wedding, suggested using food dye for a trial run “like they do on poodles”. Only my two best friends were unconvinced. “Since your name is not Katy Perry, big no,” chided Ruth.

Reader, I Googled and Googled. I read every word of the three Mumsnet threads devoted to dip-dyeing and pink-and- purple hair – I am definitely not the only middle-class mom who wants to go bright. I briefly entertained the idea of purple, but wasn’t feeling quite that brave.

So I finally settled on going pink underneath, with cheering blonde highlights on top. The colour, I reasoned, would brighten up my face and, if it was a complete disaster, wouldn’t be so bad as a future all-over colour.

As my husband left for work, I didn’t tell him what I was going to do. I still wasn’t sure if I was actually going to go through with it. I did mention to my sons, however, that Mom “might have pink hair at pick-up time”, which seemed to intrigue them.

In Boots, I chose Schwarzkopf Raspberry Rebel. It’s a semi- permanent dye that lasts for a few of weeks. But its name is so embarrassingly teenage, I couldn’t catch the cashier’s eye as I paid.

Back home, I tackled the blonde highlights first, a procedure I have done dozens of times. A plastic cap goes on your head, you pull strands of hair through with a crochet hook then coat them in hydrogen peroxide.

Once the blonde was finished, I pinned up a section of hair on the top of my head that I wanted to keep blonde, then squirted the pink goo over the hair underneath. I wasn’t nervous - I’ve always been gung-ho when it comes to home dyeing, hence the various disasters.

As I washed it off, the water ran a wonderful, Calpol pink. When I dried my hair, the colour was so vivid it actually made me giggle. The children pronounced it “brilliant”, while my husband conceded that although he still found the colour choice “perplexing”, it did make me look younger.

Now three weeks have gone by, and I’ve had mixed reactions. Mostly, I get the raised eyebrows and silence. Perhaps, those people are thinking, there’s been some kind of a ghastly accident. Best not to mention it. One little boy at my son’s posh private pre-prep was so open-mouthed that he couldn’t tear his eyes away - and walked into a puddle.

“I like your hair,” one mom said on the second day, while the teachers looked on, politely and mutely astonished.

Since I went pink, I’ve spotted other pinkies creeping out of the closet: Jane Goldman, Jonathan Ross’s wife, is the latest, with her full-on ink dip-dye, which looks very pretty on her.

My experienced eye tells me, however, that Helen Mirren may not be as brave as we think. Years of home-dyeing kits have taught me that if you add a blob of conditioner to the dye and work it through your hair, leaving it for between one and five minutes, you will get a non-permanent pink rinse that will fade after a few washes.

This works only if the hair you are starting with is white or a very pale blonde, like Helen’s. So I suspect she may be resigning from the pink ranks very soon.

I’m now thinking of an all-over pink rinse. Why? Why not! It will cheer me up for a few weeks and, although this may be utter delusion, I think it adds a bit of youthful glow to my tired old face.

As the divine actress Debbie Reynolds once said: “Being normal is vastly over-rated.” And now that I am a Raspberry Rebel from tip to toe, I couldn’t agree more. - Daily Mail

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