Ancient Egyptians were some of the first people known to have dyed their hair. They made hair dye from henna and various other plant extracts. In 1907, L'Oreal introduced the first hair dye for commercial use, and the rest is history. People began to use hair dye primarily to cover the gray as they aged, but dyeing hair has become as commonplace as cutting it. Some see changing one’s hair color as an act of vanity. Some may even see it as a sinful rejection of the natural color God gave.
In everything we do, including dyeing our hair, God checks our motives. He is far less concerned with how things appear than He is about why they appeared in the first place (1 Samuel 16:7). Those who are totally devoted to Christ have much liberty because their choices will be those that please Him (1 Corinthians 10:31). Christians are judged by “the law of liberty” (James 2:12). This law of liberty says that all things not directly addressed in Scripture are “lawful for me, but not all things are profitable” (1 Corinthians 10:23). Those declared “not guilty” through faith in the resurrected Christ need not fear the judgment of God. That judgment has already been poured out on God’s own Son (2 Corinthians 5:21). Although we are not under condemnation, we want our free choices to honor Christ’s sacrifice. Galatians 5:13 says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
When we come to the choice of whether or not to dye our hair, we ask ourselves, “What will honor the Lord?” One motive for dyeing hair may be to further a ministry. For example, a missionary moving to an Arab country may consider his fiery red hair a distraction from his mission and choose to dye it black in order to better blend in with the people to whom he ministers. A woman working with teenage girls may believe her prematurely gray hair gives her less credibility with that age group, and she may dye her hair to match her natural, non-gray color.
As far as we know, Paul never dyed his hair; however, he was not adverse to making changes to reach different people groups: “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:19–23).
Another motive for dyeing one’s hair is simply preference. Someone may believe a different hair color better showcases his or her features. Rather than desiring unnecessary attention, people with dyed hair usually want to look more natural, the way correctly applied makeup can enhance a woman’s natural beauty. As long as the hair color does not diminish a Christian’s testimony or reflection of Jesus, there is nothing in Scripture to imply we should not dye it.
Of course, dyeing one’s hair can also be done with improper motives. When dyed hair is used as a symbol of rebellion or defiance of social mores, it is communicating an ungodly message. Christians are to be known for their meekness, holiness, and love for each other, not their defiance. We are to do all things in a way that honors the Lord. First Peter 1:17 calls on us to “live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” That which is non-conformist in us should originate in the heart of God; we should not identify as rebels for rebellion’s sake.
If hair dye helps a woman enhance her beauty in a way that draws attention to her life message, there is nothing wrong with it. For men, if dyeing hair (while they still have it) helps them feel younger and more productive, then nothing in Scripture prevents them from doing that, either. However, if dyeing hair is used as a way to hide one’s true self, or if it detracts from the image of holiness that all Christians should pursue, then it is wrong (1 Peter 1:15).