Walk down the hair color aisle in your local drugstore and it’s pretty clear that hair color trends are going way beyond blonde, brunette, and red shades these days. There’s a rainbow of bold and bright shades to choose from, ranging from pastel pinks and blues, purple-blacks, and metallic bronze colors. Once a trademark of punk culture, these edgy hues have now gone mainstream. The reason? Look no further than your Instagram feed. “Celebrities and social media have catapulted colorful hair into our everyday lives,” says Min Kim, master colorist at Butterfly Studio Salon in New York City. “More than ever, there's a craving for diversity and change,” she says. That means we’re now playing with hair color like it’s makeup, she adds.
So, can you really pull off one of these rainbow hues? Absolutely. We got the inside scoop from Kim, including everything you need to know before you dye, how to get the best results, and which of these bright shades are right for you. Come on; we know you’re dyeing to try one.
Before You Go Bold, Know This
Most of these bright shades are temporary.
Called semi-permanent color, the dye molecules don’t penetrate the hair shaft, but instead, sit on the outer layer of the strand. “Most formulas are designed to fade with each shampoo,” says Kim. That means you won’t get obvious roots, but your color will only last a few weeks at best. However, some at-home brights do come in permanent formulas. That means they’ll last longer and grow out rather than fade away. Be sure to read labels carefully, so you know what you’re getting.
They work better on lighter hair.
Soft pastel shades (such as pink, lavender, or baby blue) won’t show well unless hair is lifted to a pale blonde first, Kim says. “You can apply these shades to virgin hair, but you’ll get more vibrant color on hair that’s already been bleached or highlighted,” she says. On virgin hair, the color results will be less visible and more smoky-looking—although, it will take a little better on natural blondes or those with sun-kissed ends. Some at-home boxes do make specific shades just for dark hair. So, if you’re a brunette, check out L’Oréal Colorista Semi-Permanent Hair Color and Garnier Nutrisse Ultra Color.
Some colors fade faster than others.
While your starting color and porosity (basically how damaged your hair is) plays a role in how long your color will last, Kim says you can expect lighter pastels to fade the fastest, while vivid shades like deep blue tend to linger the longest.
Try before you really dye.
“My best tip is to do a test strand before committing completely,” says Kim. And she’s not talking about an hour before; rock a streak for a few weeks before you apply it to your whole head. “This way you can street test the color and see how long it takes to go away,” she says.
Gather some supplies.
These bright shades can get messy. “Wear gloves, a smock, and stay away from your scalp,” Kim suggests. These intense colors will stain your skin. To prevent that from happening, apply a layer of Vaseline or lip balm to the skin surrounding your hairline.
Even with temporary color, you want to swap out traditional shampoos for those made for color-treated hair. These tend to be gentler, formulated without harsh detergents that strip color, and include UV filters to protect against sun fade. Try Kérastase Bain Chromatique Riche Multi-Protecting Shampoo.
Nail Your Shade
Now for the fun part. Find the bright hue that works for you. We asked Kim to create a cheat sheet broken down by skin tone.