From My Little Pony in the 90s to Claire Boucher (a.k.a. Grimes) to Jem and the Holograms, Kelly Osbourne, poodles, the horse ladies in Fantasia and even Helen Mirren, all the best creatures of the world are going pastel — and you might want to follow suit! It's been nearly one year since I took the plunge and lightened my naturally brunette mane in the name of adventure, and I haven't looked back since. It hasn't always been smooth sailing, however, and there's a lot that can go wrong. There have been split ends a plenty, uncomfortable allergic reactions to homemade rinse-out treatments and the notorious hair dye that just will not budge.
And that, my darlings, is why I have created a tried and tested guide for you: Pastel Hair 101. I have spoken to several trusted hairdresser friends, searched the internet for tricks of the trade, and been my own little pale blue Guinea Pig, so hopefully you can learn from my quest for pastel hair enlightenment. With the trend for candy-colored locks growing ever larger — as mainstream celebrities and oddballs alike get their blue rinses out — there are so many products and treatments available on the market that it can seem slightly overwhelming to hair dye novices. Luckily, I have done all the hard work for you. So follow me on your path to your perfect pastel; let me be your sensei....
1. Don't Be A Beauty School Drop Out — Learn The Basics
For those of you who have little knowledge by the way of color mixing, you simply cannot color your natural hair a pastel shade unless you are pale blonde first. It's a cruel fact of life, but if you're not lucky enough to be naturally platinum, I am afraid you have to reach for the bleach to be able to achieve a true pastel shade. Don't freak out though! Here's a little low down on the chemistry behind hair lightening:
The molecule within your hair shaft that is responsible for its natural color is called melanin. Bleach works by oxidizing the melanin, therefore irreversibly removing its color. Eumelanin, which is responsible for dark pigments in hair, is easily removed by bleach, sometimes leaving a slightly yellow tone. Phaeomelanin, however, which creates red or golden tones in hair, is more difficult to conquer! That is why if hair is not bleached correctly it can turn an uneven, brassy orange color.
As you can tell, bleaching is a very complex process and best left to the professionals. I sincerely do not suggest you try this at home. (Especially if it's applied by your auntie, after several glasses of cheap rosé wine when you've had a stupid argument with your mom over an umbrella. Just saying.) Leave it to the professionals. Unless you want to look like Slim Shady circa 2000. Or Spike from Buffy.
2. Choose Your Color Wisely — Look At The Facts
Any color can be pastelized, and I'll show you how later, but before you decide on your first delicate shade, bear this in mind:
Some colors are like a brief fling, or holiday romance — they are wonderful while they last, but as quickly as they come into your life they will fade away, leaving nothing but a faint memory... These are the red tones. Pinks are notoriously flighty, making them perfect for a fashion color virgin, but a bit annoying to maintain. Luckily, Bleach London has the perfect remedy in the form of their Rosé shampoo and conditioner range — the first and only of its kind on the market. Lightly pigmented with their signature pink hue, this range helps maintain your pink color with every wash, and can help banish any unwanted green tones in blonde hair, too!
Other colors, however, just don't know when to call it quits! Despite copious shampoos, fading treatments and DIY stripping jobs, they simply will not go away, and will affect whatever color you put on top. I know this from experience.
My first foray into the world of pale hair was with Bleach London's Washed Up Mermaid. I loved the color, but unfortunately I was after more of a duck egg blue shade (which I managed to achieve by layering their Blullini color over my faded green). I am currently trying to fade my hair to blonde so I can try some new pink/lilac hues, but I am having a very hard time! Green pigment is infamous for its longevity, which is amazing for a more permanent result. However, if you are afraid of follicular commitment, I would stay far away from green shades!
3. Buy A Quality Product
Peaches-and-cream stylings are decidedly more mainstream now than a few years ago (with high street pharmacies such as Boots or Walgreens adding more daring dyes to their shelves). Salon professionals seem to give a synonymous thumbs up to longstanding fashion color brand Crazy Color. With 27 shades to choose from, Crazy Color has been on the scene since 1977 at the height of the punk movement. Sold at a variety of independent retailers, Crazy Color can also be purchased directly from the brand's website, at just $6.50 for a 100ml bottle. You can also submit a selfie of your result to their gallery!
With 34 shades to their name from Apricot all the way to Alpine, Directions is also a household name in the fashion color world. At $6 for an 88ml tub, it's the cheapest choice.
La Riche Directions Pastel Pink Semi Permanent Colour, $7, AmazonNew kids on the block Bleach London are also a trustworthy source of pretty semi-permanents. Their range is not as extensive as Crazy Color's or Directions', with just 12 shades (in both creme color and crayon form), but they are gaining a cult following, and now have themselves a salon in the basement of Topshop's flagship Oxford Circus store. Colors are $8 for 150ml bottles.
Rose Semi Permanent Hair Colour, $6, B leach London WARNING: Many home hair coloring products contain metallic salts that react violently with many professional products. A reputable hairdresser will do a strand test if they suspect such a product has been used in the course of a consultation if you are to re-color your hair at a salon.
4. Mix The Perfect Color
You Will Need:
- Mixing Bowl
- Tint Brush
- Conditioner or hair treatment. (For amazing results, try Philip Kingsley's Elasticizer if you're feeling flashy! It intensely repairs your hair post bleach, and improves the life of your color overall.)
- Hair color
- Shower cap
The actual process of giving yourself a mermaid makeover is very simple. Most at home creme dyes are the color that will come out on your hair. (However, I find Bleach London colors appear slightly different and develop once applied.) To get your preferred intensity of pastel, add color bit by bit to a generous blob of conditioner in your mixing bowl, stirring with your tint brush, until you have the perfect saturation.
Once you have your color mixed, apply to white blonde lightened hair, section by section using your brush, until your entire head of hair is thickly coated. Cover your head in a shower cap and leave for the amount of time stated on your hair color packaging. (Usually between 15 and 30 minutes.)
Fashion color cremes do not damage your hair, especially when mixed with conditioner. In fact, your color will actually improve your hair quality, much like an intensive treatment. When your time is up, simply rinse your hair until the water runs clear and there is no product left. Do not shampoo!
5. Look After Your Locks
Unlike our lovely friend the centauress above, not all of us have three sweet cherubim to look after our colored hair. (Boo, hiss.) We have to call on the help of a few hair products instead. To prevent your color from fading, always use a shampoo designed for colored hair, as other shampoos may be too harsh. My stylist friends recommend Chroma Sensitive by Keratase, or any containing low or no sulphates. Over-washing your hair also strips your now porous hair of its natural oils, and speeds up the fading process. Try not to wash your hair more than two times a week.
Chemically lightened hair also needs regular TLC. Try to do a hair treatment once a week to keep your parched hair from losing elasticity and shine. Bleach London's Reincarnation Mask is both inexpensive and works wonders at reviving damaged hair with the help of wheat proteins and sunflower seed extract. Avoid blow drying, unless absolutely necessary. Minimizing heat styling will keep hair in optimum condition.
Another top tip to prevent colored hair breakage is to ditch all hair ties with metal joins. If you often wear your hair up, it's worth investing in some velvet elastic hair bands.
6. If You Change Your Mind, It's Not The End Of The World
At the end of the day, it's just hair. It will grow. If you decide you want to try a new shade, fade to blonde, or go back to what nature gave you, the first thing you will need to do is shift your pesky pastel.
Depending on whether you have a stubborn pigment (see above), most pastel shades will fade very quickly when not maintained. However, if you want a quick fix there are a few solutions that don't involve a bottle of peroxide. Washing your hair with a harsh shampoo, such as an anti dandruff product, should shift your color in a couple of washes. Failing that, dish washing soap will do the job, but be sure to nourish those locks post Fairy Liquid to avoid looking like the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz.One DIY wash out treatment I would not recommend, however, is the infamous mix of Vitamin C powder and anti dandruff shampoo. It didn't fade my color significantly, but it did leave me with inflamed skin on my neck and jaw and a nasty, itchy rash. Ouch!If, like me, you can't shift your headstrong color, take a trip to the salon for a bleach bath. (Which sounds a lot more sinister than it actually is!)
And there you have it. Happy Mermaiding!
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