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  • The world is a sort of medieval era place with very widespread trade, so the character would have access to a range of materials from different climates
  • The current colour is a blue-ish hue, but that's definitely not permanent- It could be any unnatural hair colour
  • It could be clothing dye or any other sort of material accessible to commoners
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  • $\begingroup$ Semi-permanent, or wash-in wash-out? If the latter then coffee/red wine works fine. Welcome to the site Lotte, we invite you to take our tour and read-up in the help center on an as-and-when basis when you need guidance as to our ways. Enjoy worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ Jul 23 at 2:12
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! It would probably be semi-permanent. $\endgroup$
    – Lotte
    Jul 23 at 2:39
  • $\begingroup$ Wikipedia lists a few plant-based hair dyes that may work for your scenario: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hair_coloring#Plant-based_dyes Henna in particular has been used as a dye since ancient times. $\endgroup$ Jul 23 at 2:45
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    $\begingroup$ You specify unnatural colors that will eliminate most known hair dyes from medieval times, there were quiet a few known. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 23 at 3:45
  • $\begingroup$ Found another, mushrooms - yellow, green, orange and brown, who knew? Sorry it's not an answer, I'm busy. $\endgroup$ Jul 23 at 3:57
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Pick your color, if it can dye wool it will dye hair just fine.

Here is a great photo showing a list of known natural dyes, all are possible with medieval technology. several were not available in the real medieval era because they come from the Americas. You can also have things link woad, henna, and saffron for blue, reds, and orange respectively. Keep in mind as hair grow they will have to re-dye periodically no matter what, you can't dye something that does not exist yet. And of course bleaching your hair was a well known technique at the time.

Purity and boldness of color will be affected by cost of course, these would represent the more expensive dyes. keep in mind a commoner probably cannot afford expensive dye so they would be mostly limited to earth tones, nothing unnatural. These would be Henna (red/brown), Madder(red), onionskins (yellow), alderbark (orange), walnut (brown/black)

For an unnatural color at low cost your best bet is green which can be achieved with a variety of homemade dyes, although far fewer than you think. known ways to achieve that are.

Heather and alum

green lichen

Iris leaves

Pivet berries and salt (this can also produce a purplish red so may not be the best choice.)

enter image description here

These are also the ones that are not downright toxic, using lead (black) or lye bleaching were common at the time but were also toxic.

Note also depending on your initial hair color you may have to bleach it before dying, dye can't do much to black hair for instance.

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    $\begingroup$ Just to add, indigo is a common and still available plant dye that also works well on hair. It will make dark hair darker and lighter hair blueish purple. $\endgroup$
    – Ivana
    Jul 23 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ Woad grows as a weed in Europe (and is considered a noxious/invasive weed in the Americas). It's not quite as blue as indigo (doesn't have as high of a concentration--technically it is still indigo), but it's still definitely blue, and if you bleach first it will definitely be an unnatural hair color. You need to get the chemistry right to prepare it, but it was very common in the medieval era. (Source: I watched a YouTube video where someone went out and harvested her own woad from random roadside plants and used it to dye stuff blue.) $\endgroup$ Jul 23 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ I second woad. Woad-based dyes produce a range of colours from blue to turquoise. However, the dying process can be somewhat complicated and require several sessions to achieve deeper hues. The hair will have to be bleached prior to the application of the woad dye. One thing I am not sure about is the condition of the hair after all this processing. PH of woad dye is not 7. According to the fabric hand-dyeing manuals, some formulations are harmful to protein-based fibres. I am not a chemist, so someone needs to verify this part and see how woad dye would interact with human hair. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jul 23 at 21:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Ivana yes indigo is another good choice, there are literally dozens of other plant based dyes, I couldn't list them all. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 24 at 2:45
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In medieval times dyes could be very expensive for certain tones, while being pretty common and cheap for other.

My grandmother (well past medieval times) used to dye her hair using walnuts and remembered that, while doing laundry with the old method (stacking layers of clothes and ashes, then pouring hot water multiple times), one should be careful to not use the ashes of a certain tree which would have dyed all the laundry with an unwanted color (I am not 100%, but I seem to remember it was rhododendron).

So, some dyes are surely pretty common, but don't expect any flashy or bright color: the reason why purple and red are colors associated with nobility is that in the past they were pretty expensive, so only well off people could afford paying for getting it. Unless your character is rich, they will have to settle for more dull/common ones.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting! What are tree "hashes"? $\endgroup$ Jul 23 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexanderNied a poor typo for ashes $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jul 23 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, got it! That makes sense-- I had read that lye for soap could be made with hardwood ash, so it is probably the same or a similar process for cleaning of clothes. Thanks! $\endgroup$ Jul 23 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ I'd challenge the complete inability to get a dye without being rich. Someone has to be the creator and seller of the dye - if MC can create their own, there is no need to purchase (although if they can create their own, they could become rich anyway, by making additional and selling it) $\endgroup$
    – TCooper
    Jul 23 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ If you apply henna on bleached hair you will get very bright hues ranging from yellow (similar to banana) to orange. Other dyes will also produce much brighter colours than you are expecting if the hair is prepared by bleaching. Blue and green are not out of the realm of possibilities. Red, orange, yellow are very much possible and rather easy to achieve. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jul 23 at 21:13

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