I’ve struggled with growing out a pixie cut for a year and a half now (spoiler alert, it’s not grown out) but it’s been a blessing in disguise. Not only do I have an excuse to buy as many headbands as my little heart desires, but I’ve been able to dye my hair all the supernatural, super damaging colors I’ve ever dreamed of. #1 on the list: pastel hair.
We’re talking colors that conjure up images of fairies and mermaids. And, like these mythical creatures, pastel hair just doesn’t occur in nature. So that means lots of time, effort, and (most likely) damage. It also means beginning with a very light bleached base. I swear up and down, promise promise promise: you have to bleach your hair at some point to get pastel hair. Unless your last name is Targaryen.
And if you’re an olive skin girl with an Italian heritage and insanely stubborn dark hair, it’s going to be a long, arduous road. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned. Trust me, you little darkhaired dreamer. We can get through this together with our locks in tact and hopefully lightened by the end of it.
- GO TO A PROFESSIONAL. I wish I was one of those beautiful DIY divas who effortlessly shortcut every beauty hardship known to humankind. In fact, when I was pouring over resources to begin my pastel journey, I watched tons of Youtube videos of vloggers who bleached their hair at home. Alas, it was not so for me. Overeager as always, I bought all the same products from Sallie’s and skipped class to haphazardly apply the bleach mixture. And surprise! I suddenly remembered all about the black box dye I’d applied to my hair six months ago… you know, when my ends turned orange. I like to think I can work any style but maybe not a random mixture of blonde/orange/brown. When I finally slumped into my stylist’s chair like a shameful puppy, he was able to walk me through transforming the effects of box dye. Secondary moral to the story: NO BOX DYE EVER. So many horror stories. If anything, just go for the initial overall dye and try the roots on your own in the future.
- COCONUT OIL = EVERYTHING.You can eat it. You can use it as a moisturizer, lip balm, or even dental treatment. Basically, this shit is magical. And for all you future bleach heads, coconut oil helps protect your scalp and hair, while also speeding up the bleaching process. For real. After my first round at the salon, my hair actually felt fine… but my scalp felt like the equivalent of a Civil War movie battlefield. I spent the new two weeks trying not to scratch away whatever skin remained. Thanks to the wonderful wisdom of the internet, I went into my root touch-up much more prepared and it paid off. On Friday night, I applied a generous amount of extra virgin, organic coconut oil (fancy pants Kroger brand in the oil aisle) from root to tip, and gave my scalp some extra oily lovin’ too before wrapping my head in a hair towel. Saturday morning, my stylist (who I had given a head’s up to, FYI) went right to work WITHOUT rinsing out a bit of oil. Yes, there was still some burning, and yes, I’ve experienced some minimal itching but my hair and scalp are both in great condition for having just survived yet another round of bleaching. Halleluiah, coconut oil!
- PATIENCE, PATIENCE, PATIENCE. Whenever someone tells me to be patient- whether it be with my hair, work, school, traffic- I scream internally. I’m a big fan of forcing action in situations that don’t call for any, simply because I find myself unable to just be patient. So when I read online that it’s highly unlikely to go from dark brown to platinum blonde in one sitting, I scoffed. Yeah… maybe for some people. Some people who don’t possess an unhealthy amount of determination. Oh, but how true it is. If you want your hair to be an even blonde with any kind of length, you’ll need to realize that it could take awhile. I’m no hair whisperer. It’s going to vary from person to person. With my history of box dye and desire to retain length, I’ve progressed from a dark brown to an all-over blonde parade that varies from white to yellow over the course of about two and a half months. It could be longer or shorter for you. Heck, it could even just take you one salon session, you lucky jerk. Just give yourself time to get to…
- “A SHADE OF INNER BANANA PEEL BLONDE.” I saw this term thrown around umpteen million times while researching home bleaching. All I could think about was Mario Kart. It’s taken me several attempts of throwing pastel dye over brassy-ass hair to realize what this terms refers to and why it’s important. Your base has to be paler than whatever pale color you want to deposit on. And if you’re a dark-haired gal like me, that can be damn near impossible with just bleach. Which is why the next step is imperative to side-stepping the Vitamin C look.
- TONING. Let’s say you’ve gotten your hair past orange and to a nice bright yellow (lucky you!) Put down the bleach and grab some good toner. While bleach sucks color out of your hair, toner actually deposits very light shades of blues and violets on your hair to combat yellow and red tones. Picture the color wheel. My recommendation (and really, the only one I’ve used at home) is Wella T18 in Lightest Ash Blonde (formerly known as White Lady, which I prefer simply because it sounds like equal parts Game of Thrones and drug euphemism.) You’ll also need 20 volume developer, gloves, a mixing brush, and plastic dye bowl, all of which can be found at your local Sallie’s. And toning (as long as you read the directions, kiddos) is something I feel comfortable doing at home. I had to after my last salon visit when my hair was a lovely shade of platinum blonde… except for the bright yellow roots (I know, contain your jealousy.) Now, toner utilizes peroxide so while it’s not as damaging as bleach, it can still dry out your hair. Mine went to straw, much to the horror of my unsuspecting boyfriend. After my most recent date with White Lady, I planned a 12 hour coconut oil mask. When I washed in the morning, my hair actually felt like, well, healthy human hair.
- AFTERCARE. Fun fact, your hair is actually a bunch of dead skin cells. Pretty. That means that whatever damage you do to your hair is cumulative, unlike your regular skin which continuously heals itself. That’s why it’s never really a great idea to think “frack this” in terms of bleaching your hair. Err on the side of caution. Exercise restraint. If only one round of bleaching got you a patchy orange and yellow, wait that extra 2-4 weeks to process your hair again. In the meantime, you now owe your hair some serious love and affection. Or let’s say as a hypothetical Italian-French gal who’s always dreamt of Sleeping Beauty blonde hair, you’re kind of in awe of your new shade and want to hang out here for a day or two before going pastel. COCONUT OIL COCONUT OIL COCONUT OIL. Okay. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, you’ll also want a leave-in conditioner (I use Soya Want It All 22:1 Do It All Leave In Treatment after I jump out of the shower,) some gentle shampoo and conditioner (I use sulfate-free, color friendly shampoo and conditioner, currently Rite Aid brand because the conditioner smells lovely,) and maybe something for your poor, battered ends (Redken Anti-Snap is a godsend for growing out hair.) HOWEVER, if you are jumping straight from bleaching to pastel dye in the same day, simply take some notes and let your dry, damaged hair be, as that will work to your advantage with direct dye.
The next section (Part 2 Pastel) will take you from blonde to mermaid. Keep practicing your siren song until then!
Disclaimer: This is a personal blog. As the writer, I may mention, discuss, and review products but I have not been paid or sponsored for any of my opinions. My opinions reflect only my personal feelings and experiences, unless otherwise specified.