Are You Addicted to Colouring Your Hair?

Last year, Kylie Jenner took to her website to discuss her ever-changing hair colour. “I’ve just had this addiction to changing my hair,” says the reality star–turned–business mogul. “It makes me feel like a new person. I love feeling different, and I love leaving the house knowing that nobody has ever seen me this way. It’s hard for me to go back to styles I’ve worn before; I don’t always like my normal short, black hair. That look makes me feel like I’m going back in time. It’s like I'm going back to that moment a year ago and I just don’t want to be in that space.”

The key word here is “addiction.” Having such a strong connotation, it begs the question: Can you actually be addicted to dyeing your hair? Jenner ends the quote talking about needing to change her hair to avoid feeling like she’s regressing, but can this need to be different be classified as an actual addiction? And for all other individuals who find themselves reaching for the box dye or going to the salon more often than not, is there an emotional link there to be aware of? We turned to two psychologists to find out.

Heather Silvestri, PhD, says that exhibiting an addictive behaviour is the mind’s desire for a reward system. Ready for some science? “The Mesolimbic-Dopamine system [the pathway in the brain where dopamine is carried from one area of the brain to another] is always on the lookout for rewarding stimuli. Any behaviour that trips these wires is likely to be repeated. And because the neurochemical reward is short-lived, the person seeks to engage in the behaviour again and again. This is the compulsive nature of addiction,” she explains.

So, can you become addicted to dyeing your hair? The answer isn’t definitive.

Says Vivian Diller, PhD, “I don’t think colouring hair can become an actual addiction unless it occurs with someone who has body dysmorphia, a serious mental illness defined by being unable to stop trying to change a flaw in one’s appearance. But, a constant need to change hair colour can be associated with self-esteem issues. Using hair colour to enhance one’s looks to improve self-esteem may provide temporary satisfaction, but constant use of hair dye for that purpose will likely have the opposite impact. Once the need for physical enhancement overrides the need for physical health, it’s headed toward becoming an addiction.”

Similarly, Silvestri adds that colouring your hair can work explicitly as a trigger for addiction—it just depends on your relationship with the behaviour: “Worth tabulating and remembering is the extent to which colouring your hair absorbs your time to do other worthwhile things. Further worth noting is whether you can easily tolerate any impediment to colouring your hair. Addiction is a combination of an innate predisposition toward compulsive behaviour paired with a situational inclination to engage in a certain behaviour. So, addiction to hair colouring would always have some element of situational triggering even though it would also likely index an innate predisposition to it.”

Dyeing your hair, whether you’re clinically addicted to it or not, has a drying effect on your mane.

Below, shop some of our favourite colour-safe products that revive brittle strands!

Ed. note: Quotes have been edited and shortened for content.

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Opening Image: Getty/Neilson Barnard/Staff