In Santa Monica, the price of having your hair colored professionally can run anywhere from $55 for a root touch-up at Ocean Park Boulevard’s The Cut, to more than $220 for a full head of highlights with a blow dry at 10th Street’s Auburn. That’s not to mention tipping your colorist.

There’s always the option of doing it at home. A box of Clairol’s Nice ‘N Easy seems like an inexpensive alternative, but when you factor in the price of another ruined towel, and repainting your bathroom because you inexplainably splattered a black glob onto a very white wall (in a very conspicuous location right above the sink, and inadvertently made the stain larger when, in an attempt to wipe off the wall, you spread the glob over a larger surface area, creating a gray Rorschach test), you might be better off going to a salon.

People have been coloring their hair (and bodies) for thousands of years. During the Roman conquest of Britain, Julius Caesar reported that the Saxons dyed themselves blue, using woad, a plant with bluish-green leaves.

According to Teresinha Roberts, you too can make your own woad dye, just like a Saxon — with urine. On the Web site “Woad Fermentation Dyeing,” Roberts writes, “Collect enough urine to fill a five litre container. Any urine will do, but make sure you store it in a well marked container and keep the lid on.”

Any urine will do.

A friend of mine dyed her hair blue once. I’ll call her Jenn, because the last time I saw “Jenn,” she still hadn’t told her parents about her run-in with the Munich Polizei. We were in high school, on “The European Kaleidoscope,” a student tour of six countries.

I believe we were in Switzerland when 14 year-old Jenn, with her sweet waist-length blond hair, began her transformation from angelic freshman to punk sophomore. She pulled out a pair of safety scissors and asked me to trim her hair.

As I snipped Jenn’s hair shorter and shorter, trying to get it even — an impossibility with children’s scissors — Jenn asked, “How does it look?”

“Um, it’s getting there,” I hedged. Don’t let me cut your hair. I will turn your enviable waist-length tresses into a bob only suitable for workhouse orphans.

I’m fairly certain we were in Florence when Jenn showed up back at the hotel with Manic Panic hair dye in After Midnight Blue. I suppose that if someone hacked off all my hair, making me look like an abandoned Barbie doll after a game of let’s-play-beauty-parlor, I, too, might think, “Well, I can’t exactly make things worse …”

We were definitely in Munich when Jenn got arrested for shoplifting a music box from a department store. The story Jenn told was that she was looking for a souvenir for her mother, when she noticed two men following her.

Freaked out, she tried to find the two friends she had gone shopping with.

After searching the store, and not being able to find our friends, Jenn thought maybe they were hanging out outside, and headed to the exit.

Just as Jenn stepped over the department store’s threshold, one of the men grabbed her arm. She was still holding the music box.

That evening after dinner, after my high school German teacher bailed Jenn out of jail, Fraulein marched Jenn down the hallway, gripping a plastic bag. When Jenn came back to our room an hour later, her hair was wet — and blond.

That’s the great thing about hair dye. For $10, you can become a whole different person. And for $10 dollars more, you can go back to being yourself. You don’t even need urine.

Mariel Howsepian digs black coffee, fairy tales and a man in coveralls. She lives in Santa Monica and can be reached at

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