How To Get Candy-Coloured Hair That Still Looks Classy

Over the 10 or so years that I experimented with my hair colour, I learned a lot. Now I am going to pass it on to you, because I never want to have children.
Publish date:
September 17, 2012
hair, hair dye, Hair Color

As Emsy (and a few others said) in my "How To Look Expensive" piece the other day, candy-coloured hair can absolutely look "expensive." (Or as some people say, "good.")

But there's an art to it, like anything else. I have had pretty much every hair colour possible, in my efforts to look like a human My Little Pony. Over the 10 or so years that I experimented with my hair colour, I learned a lot. Now I am going to pass it on to you, because I never want to have children.

Firstly, a warning: pink, blue, purple or green hair requires a lot of upkeep. It's kind of like going platinum -- it's a time and effort investment from the very start. If you're not prepared to maintain your colour, you should probably not do it. Otherwise, you will just look like a grumpy 15 year old from the mall, and I don't think that's what you want.

1. Pick a colour you can wear easily.

Your hair frames your face, so think about the colours you wear that make your face look bright & healthy, as opposed to sallow or sick. As much as I like yellow, if I put on a yellow T-shirt, I look like I'm dying. The same goes for pale orange. So if you can't wear red because it makes you look ruddy, or blue washes you out, don't dye your hair that colour! It will be bad times.

2. If you're going to add color to your hair, you need to lighten it first.

I know that this is really obvious to some people, but it's not-so-obvious to others, which is why I'm including it. If you have black hair & you want to add some green streaks, for example, you can't just throw some green on top & wait for a miracle. You won't even see it. You need to remove the dark pigment -- in this case, black -- from your hair first.

If you're a light brunette or a blonde, you can pretty happily do this with an at-home lightening kit. If your hair is dark brown or black, please go & see a hairdresser. Really. Trying to lighten dark hair is tricky to say the least, & will often require toning. When I lighten my hair, for example, it goes a terrible brassy colour. It then needs to be lightened again & toned, to remove the yellow. The reason you need to tone your hair is because if you want blue hair but it's kinda yellow, your hair will go green. Or if you want red hair, a yellow base colour will turn it orange. You want to start from as close to white as possible.

All of this toning nonsense can get complicated, and hairdressers go to school for it. Please go see one if you have dark hair and want to lighten it!

3. Use good quality hair colour.

Special Effects is the best: the colours are solid, they last 3 to 6 weeks, aren't tested on animals and are vegan-friendly. Manic Panic and Fudge are okay but I would only use them if I absolutely couldn't get my hands on any Special Effects. You can buy it on Amazon. Simple!

If you don't know what the colours will look like, check out these hair dye galleries. Very helpful!

Bonus for ravers (do ravers still exist?!): Special Effects' Atomic Pink, Nuclear Red, Cherry Bomb, Hi-Octane Orange, Joyride, Cupcake Pink, Bright as F#@$ Yellow and Napalm Orange glow underneath black light.

4. Don't use conditioner before you dye your hair.

It just makes it more difficult for the colour to "attach" itself to your hair. Shampoo it, COMPLETELY dry it off -- yes, use a hairdryer -- and then go in for the colourful kill.

5. Mix (at least) two colours.

While it's easiest to just use one colour and dump it all over your head, it will also give you one flat hue. I know that looking "natural" isn't really the goal, but your natural hair has highlights and lowlights. There's a reason for this: nature knows how to make you look good! So when you dye your hair, try to emulate this as much as possible.

You don't have to get complicated and attempt an at-home-ombre, just use more than one colour! When I had pink hair, I would combine Atomic Pink, Virgin Rose and Cupcake Pink (all Special Effects) to get a great colour with a lot of dimension and depth.

You don't even need to be fancy about it: I would just squirt some of each colour into my (gloved) hands and then splash it on my head. It's really, really easy to do, and I promise it makes a world of difference to your final result!

6. Rinse your hair with vinegar.

Once you've let your colour sit for as long as possible -- I like to leave mine on for about an hour -- hop in the shower, shampoo and rinse. Before you get out of the shower, pour a little vinegar into your hand and massage it into your scalp. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, then rinse it out with lukewarm to cold water. This will make your colour even more vibrant, and also keep it locked in there. It will soften your hair like mad, too.

7. Add a little colour to your conditioner.

Yep, just squirt a bit of dye into the bottle. Every time you shampoo and condition your hair, you'll be topping up the colour, which will prevent it from fading and looking manky. Not too difficult, right?

Have fun! And send me pictures to!