Pastel hair colours

The good, the bad, the damaged.

Way back in the early 2000’s, highschool hallways always had the distinct smell of Axe body spray, Manic Panic and teenage angst. It was the time when (nearly) every girl and boy decided to become an absolutely non-professional hair stylist. Well, colourist.

Oh gosh.. high school days when these pics were cool on MySpace

As for myself, I definitely fell into the emo kid life back in high school, which inevitably turned scene. My wardrobe mainly consisted of overly worn-not washed enough band T’s, ripped jeans (which weren’t even bought that way) and every colour of Converse / Vans shoe that was available, and that my teenage minimum wage wallet would allow. …actually come to think of it, I think my wardrobe is still the same..

Let’s not get into those overly obnoxiously neon coloured studded belts, bracelets, ironic pins and the 100’s of kohl eyeliner pencils I blew through.

     I’d love to say this was high-school, but this was 2013. I didn’t choose the emo life, the emo life chose me okay?!

A major staple for any emo kid – potentially the BIGGEST (sometimes literally) was their hair. The fastest way to tell if someone’s stereotype fell into the emo/scene genre; was based on how teased, coloured, striped, leopard printed, swooped, spiked and unevenly chopped their hair was. For the most part, one of the loudest forms of self-expression was how vibrantly unnatural your hair was – and how did we achieve that? Mainly Manic Panic (or koolaid for those posers)

I remember being 14 and 15, begging my mom to let my buy a box of store-bought bleach so I could absolutely sabotage my hair in order to have luscious neon-pink locks. Well, that didn’t last long – after losing most of my length to what we emo kids and lover of bleach blondes call “chemical cuts” I just rocked the spiked-in-the-back and swooped-in-the-front look (think Billie from Good Charlotte)

                                   Before chemical cut

                                    After chemical cut

It was worth the risk. Pink, blue, purple, green, fire engine red, orange and high lighter yellow – it was like the cast of my little pony just threw up all over the early 2000’s.

It’s hard to tell but my hair has slight green tint from bleaching out vibrant colours.

I tried going back to the fashion colour days by dabbling in Splat!, Manic Panic, Joico, Ion, Arctic Fox, Punky Colours and so on, over the years. A few things I learned are:

  1. Always wear gloves, because that shit stains.
  2. Don’t do it in a nice bathroom or at least cover everything and be ultra careful. I can’t tell you how many dye stains I’ve had to clorox-bleach out of my moms bathroom.
  3. Never use nice towels to dry your hair or clean up mess. Even days – weeks after dying your hair.
  4. Have a pretty decent budget set aside for resting your hair because fashion colours don’t last – especially if you aren’t taking care of them.
  5. Be prepared to always damage your hair if you want to change colours because fashion dyes are really really hard to fully strip from your hair.
  6. Also be prepared to have a hard time having your makeup and your outfits match your hair without making you look like a neon-mess / clown. (I think this one mostly applies to me – I’ve never been good at coordinating with my hair without looking like a crazy person.)

The last 2 points I think were the hardest for me to deal with. I always got so bored of my hair colour no matter how rad which resulted in many chemical cuts and corrective colour treatments – and matching my outfits was also impossible. …so I started wearing more black since that was the safest bet.

I wanted to still have fun-coloured hair but without as much commitment and stress over what I’m going to wear or what lipstick will clash – so I opted to try pastel colours, and boy was that a good decision. I started with pastel purple -which was a tad harder to achieve since it shows any warmth in your hair which sticks out like a sore thumb. I then went to grey, then coral, then pastel pink, then a mauve colour, back to blonde then straight back to pink again. Best part is? Super easy to transition between colours.

I’m going to include a list of pros to having patel hair, as well as some tips on how to achieve it and maintain it.

  • First of all, you have so much creative freedom when it comes to pastel hair colours. You can dilute pigments and mix them to find your ideal shade – if you don’t like it, just shampoo (clarifying shampoo works best) in hot water for a week or so, then try again.
  • It’s really conditioning for your hair! Since the main way to dilute the pigment to be pastel is to add conditioner, it’s like a deep conditioning treatment every time you touch up your colour.
  • Soft colours tend to not drown out your features, so to say.
  • It’s easier to find outfits and lipstick that go with pastel shades!
  • More low commitment than vibrant colours.
  • You save money! Unless you’re buying already packaged pastel dyes, you only need to add a small amount of dye to conditioner to make it a pastel shade. You could get 5-8x the amount of use out of a single container of potent dye, than if you just used it directly on your hair.
  • It’s interesting and not a lot of people opt for pastel shades. Heck, I even go to hair salons and the stylists are actually baffled at my hair and ask where I get it done, how I do it and what I use. Which is weird, because they should already know this?
  • They’re cuter and more kawaii 🙂

Kawaiiii (Halloween)

Now on how to achieve pastel hair, maintain it and also the cons that come with the territory.

  • Your hair has to be platinum blonde, like – ultra blonde. So if you’re naturally a brunette or already have a lengthy hair-history of dyes deposited to your hair, have fun stripping that build up.
  • Toner! One thing you’ll want to use frequently is toner to keep those pesky brassy tones at bay. Especially if you’re looking to do any cool tones like purple, blue, silver and mint.
  • This won’t happen over night! It will take a lot of time to be able to achieve the level of blonde you need to be, and as nice as it is to see all of these beautiful Pinterest-quality hair goal pics, they aren’t always realistic. Get your hair professionally lightened and listen to your stylist – don’t rush the process, take it slow and remember to take care of your hairs integrity.

  • Deep conditioners and coconut / avocado oil will be your best friend – since your hair has to be fairly stripped in order to achieve pastel shades, you’ll want to repair and replenish your poor, damaged hair. I recommend applying coconut oil every so often, at least to the tips. I personally do hot oil treatments every month, put coconut oil in my hair every other week and touch up my hair colour every 1-2 weeks (which is 90% conditioner) leave-in conditioner is also great!

  • Now, if your hair is stripped, toned and ready to go – all you’ll need is: a mixing bowl, a tint/application brush, gloves (they aren’t mandatory though, I never use them and never get stained since it’s so diluted) a dye of your choice and a big bottle of white conditioner. I recommend Tres Emmé – it’s thick, white, smells nice, moisturizer and more importantly; it’s cheap.
  • I brush out my hair before hand and apply it to dry hair – you can do it wet, though. Whatever you prefer.

  • Squeeze a generous amount of conditioner into your mixing bowl, then squirt in a small amount of the dye you’re using. Think like, half a tea spoon. Mix up the dye and see if the colour is remotely want you want it to be in your hair – remember, you can always make it more vibrant and add more pigment if it’s not the shade you ideally want. If you go too dark, just add more conditioner.
  • If you find the colour isn’t quite what you’re looking for even after diluting – just add other colours to it! For example, if your pink is turning out more coral, then just add a very VERY tiny amount of purple. If the green you’re using is more of an alpine green, add some yellow. If your pastel purple is too grey, add a small amount of pink. Get creative and just think of basic colour theory!
  • With pastel dyes, I recommend leaving them in your hair longer than vibrant dyes. So make sure you’re doing your hair on a day that you have available time and no big plans – or perhaps at night. Hell, I’ve even slept with it in my hair under a shower cap.
  • A good, quick way to upkeep your hair colour is to also add a dollop of dye into your everyday bottle of conditioner – so every time you shower and condition your hair, you are depositing a bit of colour back in. There are also some conditioning colour masks available at and some colour-depositing shampoos available at Cosmo Prof.
  • If you want to ensure your colour lasts longer and leave more time between colour-touch ups, then you’ll want to think about washing your hair in cold/cooler water and shampooing it less.

    • Dry shampoo will be your holy grail.
    Through trial and error, you will find what dyes last the longest. In my personal opinion; The Good Dye Young ( Hayley Williams of Paramore’s colour line, available through Sephora for $23.00 CAD ~ ) Pravana hair dyes (I bought mine in Amazon for $15.00 CAD~) and Arctic Fox. (The easiest to get your hands on and probably least expensive. I believe they also have more colours available)

  • A downside to having pastel hair is having to do a bleach bath in your hair every so often to strip out colour residue and get rid of those pesky brassy tones that tend to sprout randomly through out your hair. (A bleach bath, also known as a ‘bleach cocktail’ is the mixture of lightener powder mixed in with shampoo, than you lather into your hair to provide a more gentle, subtle colour stripping result. You can also add conditioning oils and small
    amounts of developer if need be.) I do this every few months – probably every 5-6 months. I just lather up the bleach concoction and quickly froth it into my hair, let it sit for 5-10 minutes and then rinse, followed by either a toning shampoo or Wella T18 lightest ash blonde toner – available at Sally’s Beauty for under $10.00.
  • Root touch ups also tend to suck, especially if you either lift too much or too little. I struggled with this a bit until I found the perfect developer volume and perfect length of time for it to develop. If you bleach your hair to basically white, you’ll find that your roots will end up looking more vibrantly pastel than the rest of your hair, if you have existing build up. If your roots don’t lift enough, then you can risk having the pastel dye not even stick to your roots, which will leave you back at square one again in the root-touch up process. **its best to just go to a professional for this, even to save the hassle.More importantly – just have fun with it. You want crazy, fun coloured hair? Do it. I’m almost 30 and I can’t imagine myself not having fashion colours all up on this.
    If you have any questions or more advice to add, feel free to leave a comment! I’d love to hear back from you.