The beauty world has gone wild for rainbow hair, and who can blame those who've fallen under the spell of this colorful and whimsical hairstyle? Its magical aura is hard to resist. But, is rainbow hair damaging to your tresses? It's worth knowing the potential pitfalls of this dazzling 'do before you go ahead and cause your hair any unnecessary damage. To achieve bright rainbow hair, you must bleach your locks first, before applying the colorful hues. However, bleach can be damaging, so it seems that the process of achieving rainbow hair might have some side effects.
Having said that, with non-natural hair colors seemingly on the rise — thanks Instagram for your myriad of beautiful hairspiration — new lines of brightly colored dyes are popping up. Hayley Williams' hair dye line goodDYEyoung, was released in 2016 and just this month, Lime Crime launched their Unicorn Hair Dyes. Both lines are vegan and cruelty-free and are paving the way for others to follow. The Lime Crime website states that their dyes work best on hair that's been lightened first, however their Full Coverage shades (like Chocolate Cherry, Blue Smoke, Leeloo, and more) will appear as more of a tint on dark brown hair, meaning you don't necessarily need to bleach your hair before using Lime Crime's dyes.
But if you're after the super bright, unicorn mane of your dreams, you'll want to know if rainbow hair is damaging to your tresses.
"Rainbow color is created by using specific products that lighten your hair," says Miguel Angarita, senior colorist at Mizu New York, in an email to Bustle. "You need to use bleach or lighteners to completely bring hair to the right brightness and blank canvas needed to achieve the look," he elaborates, "which can be extremely damaging to hair."
"The longer bleach sits on hair the more damage there will be," Angarita warns, which doesn't bode well for folks with very dark hair who are wanting to achieve rainbow strands.
But, if you've never dyed your hair before, the process of going rainbow could be less damaging. Angarita explains, "There is less risk if hair is ‘Virgin,’ however hair that is previously treated with any chemical service is at more risk for damage."
Although it's not all doom and gloom, "Companies have made additives like Olaplex or fatty buffers to allow longer application time and simultaneously protect [the] hairs’ elasticity, plus preventing breakage," says Angarita. While there is no product that will miraculously prevent all damage caused by lightening hair, these are pretty good options and you should ask your salon if they carry these or similar products.
In short — yes, bright rainbow hair is unfortunately damaging to your locks. The darker the shade you start with, the more lightening it'll need before applying rainbow tones and consequently, the more damage it's likely to take.
But if you're dead set on this magical trend, talk to your stylist about different, healthier ways to achieve the look that'll cause the least harm to your hair as possible.