The Semi-Complicated Reality Of Maintaining Pastel Hair -- My Tips, Tricks, and Advice

There’s nothing worse than dishing out hundreds of dollars for something that only lasts a day.
Publish date:
July 29, 2015
lavender hair, blonde hair, pastel hair, hair color

“Big change today,” was the first thing my stylist said after sitting down to begin my hair transformation from dirty blonde to lavender.

That was an understatement – deciding to change my hair in such a drastic way involved a lot of research into what would be happening to my hair and how I would maintain it, because there’s nothing worse than dishing out hundreds of dollars for something that only lasts a day.

But, having had lavender hair for the past three months, I’ve got some tips and tricks on how to not only get pastel hair, but how to take care of it for maximum awesomeness.

The first thing you have to do is decide on your color – and that is definitely the most fun step. I have a very confusing skin tone, and have never been able to figure out if I have warm or cool skin (I’ve done all the tests of vein colors, jewelry tones, etc., and I go back and forth).

Some columns advise that if you have tan or darker skin tones, that pastel hair colors won’t go well – and I think that’s totally false. I have more of an olive-pink skin tone, and I get nothing but compliments for the color.

So, regardless of skin tone, the process I used to decide which pastel I wanted (typically people go for lavender, rose, mint, or ice blue) just meant Photoshop. I took a picture of myself and used photoshop to tint my hair different colors, and decided that lavender looked best.

For added measure, I also just looked at all four colors and asked my girlfriends which color I wore best. That way, I knew at least I was choosing a color that complemented my complexion.

The next step, and maybe the most important, is choosing the right stylist. If you decide to go pastel from any hair color other than very light blonde, the process is going to be an expensive one. From my dirty blonde, I had to be bleached and processed twice in order to get to the achieved silvery-lavender.

The entire process took nearly four hours, and I paid extra for a hair protecting treatment to re-nourish my tresses with all the damage I was doing – all said and done, this cost me $200.

I went to a stylist I knew had done many color transformations in the past, including her own, at a salon that was very highly regarded in my area. With such a powerful hair change, I didn’t want to risk a salon that might botch it. Once your hair is bleached, there’s no dancing around taking care of it – pay the extra and get the real thing.

Right off the bat, my stylist explained that the purple would fade in the next week. She advised that I purchase a semi-permanent dye (in this case, Manic Panic’s Electric Amethyst), and mix it into my conditioner. This would keep my color vibrant, and would replenish it regularly. I had never thought of this technique, and it has worked WONDERS for me.

She also explained I’d need to use shampoo and conditioner that was made for bleached hair, and could keep it from getting brassy and let it stay silvery. I use Shikai’s Color Reflect in Platinum for my shampoo and 2chic’s Blackberry and Coconut Milk Ultra-Repair conditioner.

Now, after my hair was initially dyed, it looked very much like Elsa from Frozen (awesome). The blonde was silvery, and the purple was very, very light, almost difficult to notice. This was great for me, as I was still making my transition, and really didn’t want to be so purple that I didn’t recognize myself.

But my stylist was right – I didn’t purchase my Manic Panic until later, so after about two and a half weeks, I was Gwen Stefani style platinum blonde. My hair had started becoming brassier than it was, and the purple was all but gone completely.

That was when I sought out the Manic Panic – while I couldn’t find Electric Amethyst, the color my stylist had advised for me, in stores (I went to Hot Topic), I did find “Ultra-Violet,” an extremely rich and intense purple.

I figured that, since my purple was completely washed out, if I was careful and only added a very little bit to my conditioner, I would have great results. This process became a very deliberate sort of experiment.

The Ultra-Violet ended up creating a color more like indigo – a sort of blue purple hybrid. Logically, the more dye I add to my conditioner, the more intense the color. Also, the longer I leave it on, I see the same effect.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that Manic Panic is semi-permanent. Typically, after I put in the color, my hair will last about two more washes before being very faded. Also remember that the Manic Panic is still dye, and it will turn your shower purple if you fling it onto the walls, so dye carefully!

I keep mine in the cup I use to mix my color to keep it from leaving purple water rings, and I use plastic gloves when I apply it to my hair (but if you don’t, it’ll only keep your hands purple for about 8 hours).

Because I’m doing this in my shower with my own concoction, each time I dye my hair, it looks different. That is something anyone seeking pastel hair should be aware of – your hair will never look the same two days in a row.

The color is always fading (especially the more time you spend in the sun), and your roots are always growing out. Each time I re-dye my hair, I mix the dye + conditioner beforehand in a small plastic cup. That way, I don’t have to commit to dying it every single time I shower (if I were to pour dye into my conditioner), and I can also sort of navigate how intense I want the color.

Even though this sounds like a lot of work, it’s been my favorite part of this hair. Week to week, my hair is always different, and the more intense color became a transition I could make myself.

Pretty generally now, I use almost equal parts of conditioner and dye, and I only use the amount of conditioner I would wash my hair with anyway.

Another thing I found was that when I did try to premix my conditioner and dye, the dye’s effect was minimalized. I’m not sure if the dye sort of dyed the conditioner itself and then didn’t work much on my hair, or if I just had the balance wrong, but I don’t advise it.

When you’re actually washing your hair with the dye mix, remember that the first place you touch will have the dye applied to it the longest, which means the color will be most intense in this area. If you touch the top of your head first, which I often do, it means the color will be richest near your roots and fade out to a lighter, almost blonde by the ends of your hair.

It’s also key to get the dye in between your layers, or else you’ll end up with hair that is pastel on top and platinum everywhere else (a strange look, trust me, I’ve done it by accident).

People ask me a lot if I do hair treatments, and I don’t. Luckily, the supplement I got when my hair was first dyed has kept it very healthy, and I treat it just like I treated my undyed hair. I use heat protectant before I straighten/curl/blow-dry, but other than that, I keep it up very normally.

So, I know what you’re wondering – the roots. I haven’t had my roots treated since I had my hair dyed three months ago, and they’re pretty noticeable (my hair does grow fast, but still). However, given the nature of the color being so different each week, and the sort of dimensional effect achieved by mixing it into the conditioner (i.e., my hair isn’t an all over purple blob), my roots don’t bother me at all.

I plan to have them fixed in another month or so, but for now, they’ve been totally tolerable – much more so than if I were all over blonde.

I know it’s growing in popularity to have pastel dyed as a sort of ombre about halfway down the hair’s length, but I didn’t do that for two reasons: One, my hair is shoulder length, so I don’t think it would’ve worked well, and two, an ombre from my dishwater blonde into purple just wouldn’t have looked right, in my opinion.

But if you really hate the idea of having your roots redone often, that might be worth exploring for you!

If you’re thinking about going pastel, the only thing in your way is you. It is a lot of work, but for me, it's 100% manageable, and it’s the most fun hair choice I’ve ever made. If you put in the time, your hair will be as vibrant on the outside as you are on the inside! Have fun!