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Dyeing Your Kid’s Hair—What You Need To Know

Written by Mia Quagliarello

Photography by Photo Via Dear Lizzy

It used to be having pink hair was something that the punks did—not sweet 8-year-olds in second grade. But look around these days and you’ll see young kids with fun streaks or even all-over color boppin’ around grade school. Is this OK from a health and safety perspective? Hairstylist Lena Garcia, owner of the Steel + Lacquer Salon in San Francisco, answers our questions about this trend and the level of chemicals/products involved. So, next time your little one asks for a purple ’do, you can navigate this trend like a total boss.  

Vivid colors are where it’s at, for the young and old
“I love the fact that it’s becoming more trendy for kids because it’s a different form of expression,” says Garcia. “It’s been popular among teenagers for a while, but for sub-13 it hasn’t been popular until recently. I also love that vivid colors have gone into the market for older women—I’m talking 60+—in the last five years.”

It’s inspired by video games
Garcia doesn’t have a lot of kid clients and only a few whose hair she colors (in close collaboration with their parents, of course), but she says every request she’s heard from a child has its genesis in video games. “It’s always the main inspiration for what they want their hair to look like—and always bright, like the games and characters.”

Bleaching is not a great idea, but there are alternatives
Garcia is not keen on bleaching kids’ hair. “I’d rather put color on top of it, which is like putting food coloring on their hair. No extra chemicals and it eventually washes out,” she explains. “With kids, I try to focus on pieces rather than the whole head, such as a panel underneath, so it’s not a shocking, drastic color. For parents, that’s a happy medium. I still want it to look tasteful!”

On health risks and chemicals used
“If a child’s hair is already pretty light—I’m talking dark blonde or lighter—[the chemicals needed] are pretty minimal. If their hair is darker, we would have to pre-lighten it before we paint on any vivids colors. In this case, I would want to avoid any lightener on the scalp,’” she says. “Kids are resilient in general, so if I do a panel of bleach and I put a really beautiful lavender or teal green color on it, it’s not like their hair is going to be ‘ruined’ forever. Even with adults, a lot of people still have the impression, to this day, that once you color your hair, it’s never going to be the same again. That’s not true because we re-generate. I think it’s a lot less scary than most parents probably think.”

Explore off-the-shelf products
If you want to look up ingredients and test some lightweight options, Garcia says the most mainstream option is Manic Panic. ”It’s good to play around with, but it’s messy,” she continues. “I don’t use Manic Panic here—I use Pravana—but the idea is the same.”

Getting color without dye
Can it be done? “Yes!” says Garcia. “Hot water with Kool-Aid will definitely stain your hair. If your hair is dark brown, it will just give it a hue if you’re in the sun, but it washes out. There’s also hair chalk that you can play around with. It’s basically makeup for hair, and it washes out. Another option are clip-in extensions. Those are easily found online and we do them here at our salon, too.”

Making dyeing kids hair one of your summer traditions? You might also want to add some of these 40+ small holidays to your summer calendar, as well as these 5 easy outdoor summer activities for kids, and—on the beauty tip—the 15 best dry shampoos for busy mamas.


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