my comprehensive pink hair guide

I've been dyeing my hair pink on and off since 2011, so I thought I'd finally assemble everything I've learned in that time period and write a post about it! I am not a professional, so if you're unaccustomed to fooling around with your own hair I'd definitely recommend going to a hair salon if you want to dye your hair pink.

Deciding to go PINK!

If you're considering pink hair and haven't dyed it or bleached it before, I'd definitely recommend trying a wig first, or at least photoshoping a photo of yourself to see how you like it. In the first photo above I was wearing a pink wig that I bought on ebay. I just wanted to make sure that I'd like the color before I went and dyed my whole head. At the time I went pink, I was already bleaching my hair and then dyeing it red with a box dye. Switching to semi-permanent pink dye was actually healthier for my hair than the red I was using! Even though most people need to bleach their hair before applying fun colors, the actual fun colored dye is usually completely harmless (depends on the brand, but most are free of harmful chemicals) and when mixed with conditioner it's actually like a deep conditioning mask that also dyes your hair at the same time!

The Bleaching

I usually touch up my roots once every five weeks, and touch up my pink hair dye two times in between. If you aren't comfortable bleaching your own hair, you should definitely go to a hair stylist for this part. After years of doing my own hair I feel like I know what it can handle and how to treat it. I have really thick, dry, medium brown hair. I usually use one of the bleach kits that they sell at Sally's (like Beyond the Zone or Manic Panic) that comes with bleach powder and developer. The instructions say to leave it on for up to like 90 minutes, which seems insanely long to me. I usually rinse it off about 10 minutes after I'm done applying the bleach to my whole head. For pink hair, you really don't need it to get super light. Mine is usually a light/medium yellow after bleaching and the pink shows up perfectly vibrant and true to color. Some colors (like when I was dyeing my hair purple earlier this year) require more of a whiter base to start with, but pink is really forgiving.

The dyeing

I usually apply the pink dye right after bleaching, since I mix it with a ton of conditioner. It's ridiculous how soft and healthy my hair feels after I had just bleached it the same day! I usually go for a medium pink, not super light but not neon either. Pour a tiny bit of your dye into a plastic container and then add white conditioner until you get the shade that you're going for. Always start out with a little dye and then add more as needed -- I can't even count how many times I put in too much dye and ended up using a whole bottle of conditioner to try to dilute it down to the right shade of pink!

Keep in mind, dyes are a lot like paint -- you can mix them to get a shade that's perfect for you! Sometimes I've bought pink dyes that were kind of magenta when I really wanted more of a coral, so I'd mix in a little bit of semi-permanent red dye to get the color I wanted. I'm not a big fan of Manic Panic (it usually fades fast) but I keep a bottle of their Wildfire Red dye on hand for whenever I want to coral-ize a pink dye.

The products

My all-time favorite pink hair dye is nowhere to be found anymore (at least right now it isn't) Special Effects in Cupcake Pink was A DREAM. One bottle would last forever, the color would last for like 3 weeks, it was a perfect candy shade of pink -- not too blue, not too red. Perfection. Unfortunately, my last bottle ran out earlier this year and I set on the path of finding a substitute -- 

1. Manic Panic cotton candy pink -- Sally's usually has this, so I'll get it if I need pink hair dye IMMEDIATELY and can't wait for something to come in the mail. It's a pretty color but it fades really, really fast. This is great if you're trying pink for the first time, though, because if you don't like it it'll wash out in like 2-3 shampoos.

2 - Creative Image Adore pink rose - This is my current favorite. The consistency is more of a liquid than any of the other dyes I've tried, but it's the closest I've found to Special Effects cupcake pink in terms of color, longevity and how much you get out of each bottle. The color is really saturated, so to achieve the color I prefer I usually add just a few drops to a big heaping wad of conditioner. I bought one bottle in April and I'm still using it!

3 - Ion Color Brilliance rose - I feel like this one was kind of deceiving. I bought it at Sally's earlier this year. It's one of Ion's pastel shades -- they just look SO pretty on the shelf, all sweet and dainty with perfect pastel packaging. Well, the hair dye was like intense neon pink, even when I diluted it with conditioner. And it faded almost completely after one shower. I would not recommend this one at all.

4 - Pravana chromasilk pastel too cute coral - I've heard a lot of good things about Pravana so I decided to give it a try last month. The color is really pretty, kind of peachy pink and perfectly pastel. It faded kind of fast though, and one tube didn't seem like enough to totally cover my hair (and my hair is not that long.) I'd consider trying it again, but I'm so happy with the Creative Image one I don't think I'll be testing anything else in the near future.

5 - Kevin Murphy color bug hair chalk - This isn't a dye, but it's a lifesaver if you're maintaining pink hair. I like this particular color and how it's packaged, but basically any pink hair chalk should do. If you miss a big chunk of hair when you're dyeing it, or if one section is fading fast (the top back part of my head always fades quickest because that's where the shower head is pounding the most water onto my hair) one swipe of hair chalk and a quick brush-through will help disguise the blonde peeking through.

6 - Pink temporary hair mascara - Again, not dye but another lifesaver. When your roots are coming in and you're not ready to touch them up yet, this stuff is a little miracle worker. I had bright blue hair mascara when I was a tween and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Earlier this year I did a search on amazon to see if it was still available and voila! Pink hair mascara. This only really works if you're still touching up your pink in between bleaching, otherwise your hair will be practically blonde by the time the roots are coming in. I touch up my pink often enough that it's always relatively vibrant, and the hair mascara still matches the color. Bleaching isn't the healthiest thing for your hair (duh!) so anything that helps stretch out the time between touch-ups is worth trying.

Some things to keep in mind

In addition to making sure that you're going to like the color, you really need to consider the time and energy that goes into maintaining pink hair. I don't pamper myself with things like spas, massages, pedicures, etc. so I consider pink hair maintenance my one little beauty indulgence. It takes me a few hours pretty much every other week to work on the dye. I'll camp out in the bathroom watching Netflix on my laptop while the dye is taking. It's actually enjoyable me-time! But if you don't have that kind of time to spend on your hair, definitely consider that beforehand. Also make sure that you either cover your bathroom with towels or own a bathroom that can get dye EVERYWHERE. My  bathroom was basically an art project for me all through high school, with so many layers of paint on the walls it's probably impossible to find the original color. So I don't really care if dye is flinging onto the walls while I work. But I'm guessing most people don't want pink spots on their white tile, so keep that in mind lol.

Also, especially if your hair is vibrantly pink, people will talk to you about it. I'm really shy so it's not my favorite part of having pink hair, to say the least. A lot of people will joke "is that your natural color?" (to which I always just reply "yes.") A few people might want to touch it. That's always super weird. But no matter which colors I try, pink always feels the most "me-ish" so I keep coming back to it. I guess I'm not really lying when I say it's my natural color -- it feels the most natural to me, it just doesn't grow that way out of my scalp (unfortunately!)

Right now I have a more muted pink. I did this in September 2012 and absolutely loved it, so I decided to go back to it again. I use the same pink, diluted with conditioner, except instead of bleaching I started with Clairol Light Red-Neutral Blonde (8RN) mixed with 20 volume developer. It gives me a strawberry/honey blonde base instead of a bright yellow one, which results in a more muted pink. I love that it's more subtle, but still pink! And the 20 volume developer is healthier on my hair than the 40 volume developer that comes in the bleach kits (plus, no bleach!)

One last thing that I love about pink hair -- whenever I've decided that it's time to switch to another color, be it red, brown or even purple, pink has always gone away nicely. I'll apply conditioning masks, rinse it with hot water, and after 2-3 showers it's practically blonde again and ready for whatever color I want to throw on next. Purple was NOT that forgiving. It would not rinse out no matter how much I tried. When I attempted to bleach over it, my hair turned green! Basically my only option seemed to be dyeing it green or teal to make it look intentional. Then I did some research and read on a hair forum (don't remember which one, sorry!) that there was a color you could dye over green-stained hair that would still look amazing. Guess what color? Go ahead, guess!

Yup, it was pink. My beloved pink to the rescue!! Seriously, it's just the best color ever.