14 Feb 2017
What’s the Deal with Grade School Kids Dying Their Hair?

A top hairstylist’s advice on navigating this trend with your child 👩🏻‍🎤

It wasn’t just my own kids begging me for a bleach, streaks and crazy colors. I noticed it in their school, too: kids 10 and under coloring their hair in shades that, when I was a kid, were mostly seen on London punks and Jem and the Holograms. So I asked my fantastic hair stylist, Lena Garcia of Steel and Lacquer, who’s been dying my hair for 2+ years, about whether this is indeed a thing, how parents could navigate these requests, and the level of harmful chemicals we’re talking about.

Hair salon owner and stylist Lena Garcia of Steel + Lacquer in San Francisco

Here’s what I learned:

Yes, it’s a trend—for young and old
“I love the fact that it’s becoming more trendy for kids because it’s a different form of expression. It’s been popular among teenagers for a while, but for sub-13 it hasn’t been popular until recently. I also love that vivid colors have gone into the market for older women—I’m talking 60+—in the last five years.”

It’s inspired by video games
Garcia doesn’t have a lot of kid clients and only a few whose hair she colors (in close collaboration with their parents, of course), but she says every request she’s heard from a child has its genesis in video games. “It’s always the main inspiration for what they want their hair to look like—and always bright, like the games and characters.”

Bleaching is not a great idea, but there are alternatives
Garcia is not keen on bleaching kids’ hair. “I’d rather put color on top of it, which is like putting food coloring on their hair. No extra chemicals and it eventually washes out,” she explains. “With kids, I try to focus on pieces rather than the whole head, such as a panel underneath, so it’s not a shocking, drastic color. For parents, that’s a happy medium. I still want it to look tasteful!”

On health risks and chemicals used
“If a child’s hair is already pretty light—I’m talking dark blonde or lighter—[the chemicals needed] are pretty minimal. If their hair is darker, we would have to pre-lighten it before we paint on any vivids colors. In this case, I would want to avoid any lightener on the scalp,’” she says. “Kids are resilient in general, so if I do a panel of bleach and I put a really beautiful lavender or teal green color on it, it’s not like their hair is going to be “ruined” forever. Even with adults, a lot of people still have the impression, to this day, that once you color your hair, it’s never going to be the same again. That’s not true because we re-generate. I think it’s a lot less scary than most parents probably think.”

Explore off-the-shelf products
If you want to look up ingredients and test some lightweight options, Garcia says the most mainstream option is Manic Panic. ”It’s good to play around with, but it’s messy,” she continues. “I don’t use Manic Panic here—I use Provana—but the idea is the same.”

Getting color without dye
Can it be done? Yes! says Garcia. “Hot water with Kool Aid will definitely stain your hair. If your hair is dark brown, it will just give it a hue if you’re in the sun, but it washes out. There’s also hair chalk that you can find at Sally’s or online that you can play around with. It’s basically makeup for hair, and it washes out. Another option are clip-in extensions. Those are easily found online and we do them here, too.”

2 Responses

  1. Jamie says:

    Hello. Quite different for kids with black hair — can you outline more about the effects of bleaching and how colouring that way has effects? You can’t really rinse a violet into very strong, dark hair

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