How to Get & Keep Pastel Hair

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mermaid unicorn pastel hair
It seems like cotton-candy hued, unicorny, mermaidy, pastely, beauteous hair is everywhere lately and it is hard to not want to join in the fun! Maybe it’s because a lot of dolls and toys we grow up with have fun colorful hair, or because in nature we naturally delight in rainbow colored fruits and flowers. Whatever the case, you only live once, so why not have fun hair!? This article aims to answer questions you may have about attaining your dream Jem hairdo, with the help of a licensed salon pro, of course!

(*Disclaimer- I am a licensed cosmetologist of 20 years, so you are reading this info straight from the cartoon horse’s speech bubble.)

The first step to achieving a pastel hue is to lighten your hair. Basically, think of a coloring crayon and a white sheet of paper, versus a tan sheet of paper. Obviously, the crayon will look much nicer on the white sheet of paper. Hence, the lighter your hair is, the more pure and true your pastel color will show. How difficult this process is varies, depending on if you have previous color in your hair and if it is a permanent hair color, and how dark your hair is.

Your stylist will assess your hair by asking you questions about your history of coloring, and inspecting the health and porosity of your hair by sight and touch. Porosity means how well your hair absorbs water and color. Normally it is an indicator of damaged or pre-lightened hair. Virgin hair (hair that has never had a chemical process such as coloring) tends to have a flat, tight cuticle, which gives the hair a glossy appearance and water has more of a tendency to roll off. Hair that is porous has a more open cuticle, which allows water and color to absorb into the hair. If you are curious about your own hair’s porosity, you can do an easy test right now. Take a strand of clean hair from your head or a brush, and drop it in a bowl of water. Wait for a couple of minutes. If the hair floats, it is less porous, but if it sinks, it means water has absorbed into the hair, and it is porous.

During your consultation, your stylist will determine what appropriate product to use to lighten your hair. If your hair is very dark, they may have to lift your hair in more than one session. For example, if your hair is a level one (one being black) and the desired level is a ten (being the very lightest blonde which is ideal for pastel colors), your stylist may only be able to get you to a level 5 or 6. on the first session. This all depends on if the hair has color that needs to be lifted out, which can be challenging to remove. Another possible scenario with colored hair that is being lightened, is achieving an even lift. Sometimes hair will lift lighter in some spots than others, especially when you are removing old color. Your stylist will know how to properly apply the lightener to achieve an even lift. If, you do need more than one session- let’s say you got to a level 5 but you still need to lighten 4-5 more levels, your stylist will communicate with you that acheiving your pastel hair will be a multi-session process before you begin. This is in the interest of not destroying your hair, and sometimes it’s just not possible to go immediately from dyed black hair to platinum blonde.

Natural Hair Color Levels and Underlying Pigments Chart

This image shows the levels of hair color- from darkest to lightest. When lifting from a darker color to lightest, the hair must pass through each color phase.

Since lightener (or bleach) works by removing melanin from the hair, it can be very drying and damaging to the structure of the hair strand, so usually your stylist will choose to use a bond strengthening product such as Olaplex, which works to restore hair damage- and prevent it! These types of products are wonderful and make it possible to achieve high levels of lift without frying your hair. Some salons charge an additional fee to use it, but it is well worth it.

Once you and your stylist achieve your desired lightness, the fun part of adding color can begin! This is usually the easiest part, unless you are getting a multicolored look, which is more labor intensive.

Once you have your perfect shade, your stylist will let you know what products they recommend to keep your color as long as possible. One thing that is a drawback of pastel color, but is also an advantage at the same time, is that they fade out of the hair faster than other colors. Good if you get bored and like to try different hues, but not so great if you don’t want it to fade away for a while.

If you want to make your color last longer, try to go several days between shampoos- a week if possible, and use dry shampoo instead in the interim. Dry shampoo is great because it soaks up any excess oil in your hair, to make it fresher. I like to use Bumble & Bumble Dry Shampoo. The smaller travel size is great for throwing in your purse or overnight bag if think you might need to liven up your hair but won’t have the luxury of shampooing and blowing it out.

Bumble and Bumble Dry Shampoo

Another must is to use a gentle, color-safe shampoo that won’t strip the color right out of your hair. These types of shampoos are sulfide free, and moisturizing. This Caviar Anti-Aging Infinite Color Shampoo & Conditioner Set even has UV protectants in it to minimize color fading. Most likely your stylist will have recommendations for you as well, and it is good advice to foloow their instructions for maintaining your look. After all, it’s an investment and you want it to last as long as possible!


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