Hair chalk is exactly what it sounds like: It’s chalk, for your hair! So unlike hair dye, which penetrates the hair cuticle, the best hair chalk merely deposits color, so the pigment washes out with a few shampoos. It won’t damage your hair either, assuming you’ve applied it properly (more on that next). Thus, hair chalks are a great way to feel out a color you’ve been eyeing before committing to it permanently.
Onto application: First, put on a pair of gloves and a cape, or wear a shirt you don’t mind staining. If you have dark hair, you’ll want to dampen each section of your hair before applying the chalk, which allows the pigment to cling better, so have a spritz bottle handy, too. (You can also do this if you have light hair and want a more intense color payoff). Then section off your hair, dampen it (or not), and scrub the chalk into your hair using downward strokes, rather than pushing upward — the latter can damage the hair cuticle. Twist each section off and let the chalk air dry. Once it’s dry, brush out each twist and blast it with a blow dryer. Finally, spray on a heat protectant and run over each section with a curling iron, flat iron, or hairspray to seal in the color.
Experience a temporary transformation with one of the best hair chalks featured below, depending on your preferred vehicle — stick, compact, comb, or spray.
1. The Best Sticks
Best suited for the most absolutely bored among us, this highly rated hair chalk set contains 10 colors — five brights, five metallics — so you can itch all your rainbow-colored scratches at the same time, if you’re so inclined. It’s marketed for kids aged four to 18, which I’m choosing to interpret as underscoring how easy these chalks are to use, rather than blatant ageism — they’re basically crayons for your hair. Also like crayons, they won’t stain or bleed all over your pillows/sheets/life.
Here’s a useful tip from one Amazon reviewer: “I highly recommend that you bribe a friend to help you, because you do need some pressure to get the color on well. We also used a small cardboard piece behind the strand we were coloring and this made it so much easier. I tried to get the most use out of the color so I didn't wash my hair for 3 days, and the colors stayed really nicely!”
2. The Best Compact
A hair chalk in compact form, like this one from Splat, is a slightly less messy option than using a stick. The compact is designed to fit snugly in the palm of your hand, so you can just slide the pigment onto your hair with minimal staining. (You’ll still get some chalk on your fingers, but not nearly as much as you would with a stick applicator.) It’s also pretty easy to modulate how much pigment you deposit, depending on how subdued or intense you want the shade to be. Both the Dusty Rose shade pictured above and Violet Sky have a hint of glitter in them, so these are ideal if you’re going for an intergalactic-Barbie look.
3. The Best Combs
Next up on the “messy and tricky to use/relatively cleaner and easier to use” spectrum are hair chalk combs. This set of 10 from Arteza is the best-rated on Amazon. For obvious reasons, combs rate higher than sticks and compacts on that scale — you’ll just brush the chalk straight onto your hair, while still making sure to rub it in so it deposits properly. All the hair chalks on this list are totally safe for kids’ hair, but these mess-free combs are a particularly good choice if your kid wants to do the application process on their own (chaperoned, of course). On the downside, these combs allow for slightly less precision than a compact or stick.
4. The Best Spray
Finally, for the least labor-intensive option, go for this spray-on hair color from L’Oreal. It's admittedly not technically a chalk, but it accomplishes the same job.To apply, shake the can, hold it 4-6 inches away from your hair, spray it onto your desired sections, and follow it up with hairspray to lock in the pigment. Keep in mind that the pigment intensifies when it’s dry, so if the color doesn’t show up at first, resist the urge to overdo it; spraying on too much can make your hair crunchy and matted, too. These sprays wash out immediately, so they’re a great choice for a costume party or other one-time event — or if you’re just intensely commitment-phobic (no judgment). Take your pick among eleven fun colors, which range from hot pink to mint to silver.